House of Cards: The Complete Third Season DVD Review

     Actors: Michael Kelly, Kevin Spacey
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 U.S. and Canada only
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: July 7, 2015

  •         Although “House of Cards” is a show about politics, the structure of the popular Netflix series often has more similarities to a gangster narrative. These crime narratives contain illegal activities which catapult the antihero to a position of fame and/or fortune, which is what we witnessed from Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) in the first two seasons of the show. At the end of season two Underwood had manipulated, lied, and murdered his way into becoming the President of the United States. If the first two seasons resembled the rise to the top paralleled in the gangster genre, season three is the beginning of the inevitable fall. President Underwood may not go out in a blaze of gunfire like Scarface or Walter White (unless assassination is in his future), but instead becomes a victim of the very system he used to obtain control.


            Now that Underwood has achieved his position of power, many of the show’s early elements must be dismissed as unrealistic. He no longer has the type of freedom which allowed him to carry on extramarital affairs with reporters, not to mention the deviously calculated murders. Perhaps it is this inability to connive and control that takes away Underwood’s edge, because he begins to show a great deal of weakness within the thirteen episodes of season three. Part of this seems to stem from the destabilized relationship with his wife, Claire (Robin Wright). When we join him and his equally deceitful partner at the beginning of season three, they are already amidst marital troubles and sleeping in different beds. As we have seen in the earlier seasons, Claire is as self-serving as her conniving husband, and doesn’t enjoy playing the role expected of the first lady. She wants more, which spells trouble for the end goals of President Underwood.


            The other major way that Underwood loses control as president comes from the actual political process. This is where the series suddenly becomes far more interested in parallels to real-world politics than it has been in previous seasons. Underwood has big plans to save the country’s economy, but finds that it is much more difficult to accomplish when he can’t murder those who stand in his way. In a massive plan that is clearly meant to resemble Barack Obama’s health care initiative, Underwood attempts to pass a bill called America Works in order to resolve the unemployment problem. This is met with expected resistance from the opposition, as well as his own party. In a sad commentary on the real trouble with politics, any big changes are seen as secondary to the task of preparing for re-election.


            At the same time that Underwood is meeting resistance at home, he must simultaneously handle sensitive international issues. The Russian leader and dictator named Viktor Petrov is meant to be loosely based on Vladmir Putin, though not so loose that the comparison is not blatantly obvious. As well as casting actor Lars Mikkelsen who shares similar facial features, season three includes a cameo from real Russian political activists/punk rock band Pussy Riot. They have a few scenes openly disparaging Petrov, though it is clearly a transparent commentary about Putin. The show still has an edge unlikely to be found on a network station, but these ripped-from-headline political subplots often resemble narratives I might have expected from “The West Wing.” The show mostly manages to keep the edge by throwing in a few random sexual encounters that rarely do much for the overall storyline.


            With each season containing 13 episodes, many have theorized that the fourth season may be the last, so that there would be an episode for each card in a complete deck. This would make for a nice symmetry between the title and the number of episodes in the series, but more importantly would allow the show to end while still somewhat ahead. There are episodes and scenes within the third season which are as strong as anything in the first two seasons, but much of the show seems to be slipping further from what made it great in the first place. The fact that this is the first season David Fincher has not returned to direct an episode says a great deal about the decline of quality.


            Though most fans of the show have likely already watched this season on Netflix, those without an account now have the benefit of seeing the show on home video instead. Depending on how strong the internet connection, this may be preferable to streaming anyway. Even on DVD this has always be a polished looking series, mimicking Fincher’s style from the pilot even in his season three absence. The special features include only a single behind-the-scenes featurette, though it is one more perk for encouraging fans to add these thirteen episodes to their DVD collection.


    Entertainment Value: 8/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10

    Historical Significance:  7/10

    Special Features: 4.5/10

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