House of Cards: S3 – How to (Not) President

House of Cards: S3 – How to (Not) President


House of Cards has finally played out its hand. I kept waiting, with bated breath, for when it would happen. The rise of Francis and Claire in season 1. Their struggles, deception and continued success in season 2. The house of cards was being built, but it had to come down. It had to fall.

Actually, bad guys never win.

In a show where the hero is the villain, I felt conflicted. I wanted Francis to succeed. I wanted him to grasp the White House. I wanted Claire to empower his mind and body. I wanted the villain to win. I wanted evil to triumph. That’s the beauty of House of Cards. It’s twisted and doesn’t hide it. Francis and Claire use any wicked means to achieve their goals, and you’re taught to sympathize with them.

But the show kept telling me it couldn’t last. It’s in the title. So as I finished season 3 and realized the intent of the entire season, I felt a struggle between my shared hunger with Francis and the realization that the fall had finally happened. Season 3 systematically pulls apart every relationship, every foothold, every power struggle that Francis and Claire have fought to manipulate and control. In each episode, another card of dominion is cleaved from the Underwood’s tower. But one relationship is slowly and meticulously pulled apart: Francis and Claire.

Throughout the series, Francis will use and abuse any relationship on his quest for world power. Even his marriage to Claire is a tool in his arsenal, and Claire plays the wife loyally. Season 3 started picking at that relationship, teasing the fear early in the season that Francis and Claire would break apart, but then bringing them confidently back together. Something’s amiss, though. Claire begins to realize that her goals and hopes are mere pawns in Francis’ schemes. No relationship is out of bounds to be twisted into Francis’ conquests, not even theirs. And then with Michael Corrigan’s death, so also dies their fragile commitment. In a moment of shocking human empathy, Claire realizes the wickedness of their pursuits, and the show pulls out the one remaining stable card. The closing scene, as Claire defies Francis and leaves, completes the fall.

The house will crumble.

But how will the king respond? I can’t wait for season 4.