Friday, March 6, 2015

House of Cards 3: Frank, Claire, "Putin," and superb

I half binge-watched the third season of House of Cards this week - my wife and I wanted more time to savor the episodes on Netflix - but there was nothing half-hearted about this third series of 13 chapters. Indeed, this season was rear-end-over-teakettle volcanic political drama, with aspects that exceeded even the first two extraordinary seasons.

In many ways the best part in this third season was Victor Petrov, the Russian premier our President Underwood has to contend with, a dead ringer for Vladimir Putin in looks, style, and attitude, and masterfully played by Lars Mikkelsen.   This character was so well drawn and acted that what we get in this season of House of Cards is a portrayal of Putin that will stand as the definitive rendition of the real Russian leader in fiction for years to come.   In addition, we get a brutally charismatic character who is more than Underwood's equal in hardball politics, a rarity indeed in this powerhouse series.

The parts of the plot involving Underwood and Petrov exemplify the shift - at least, to some extent - from domestic to international politics, as befits Underwood's ascension to the Presidency.  But Petrov also figures in the pivotal event that sets Frank and Claire on a collision course - indeed, Petrov sets it motion.

Or perhaps Claire did, first with her unreasonable demand that Frank appoint her UN Ambassador - to which he accedes - and then her righteous denunciation of Petrov at a press conference, after a negotiation to free an American prisoner in a Russian cell goes very badly.  Her denunciation was morally justified but politically ill advised, and Petrov makes her and Frank pay for that, with his demand, later, that Claire be removed as UN Ambassador - a demand to which Frank, somewhat surprisingly, also accedes.

In our real world, it's difficult to image Putin or any Russian leader ever making such a demand, let alone the U.S. President agreeing to it, all the more so when the demand concerns the First Lady.  But it's just about believable in House of Cards, since Frank values success - his - about all else, including Claire's dignity.

This in turn sets up the stunning ending, which I saw coming as soon as Claire was fired, which I guess means was not so stunning, but I still much enjoyed.   Kevin Spacey's performance as Frank Underwood was better than ever - if that's possible - as Robin Wright's as Claire was also even better than in previous seasons.   The supporting cast, including Molly Parker as Rep. Jackie Stamper and Elizabeth Marvel as Helen Dunbar were especially superb.

See House of Cards 3 any way you want it - all at once, over a week, or a month - and it still adds up to one of the high water marks of television viewing.

See also House of Cards Season 1: A Review ... House of Cards Season 2: Even Better than the First, and Why

Jeff is traveling back in time to stop the Challenger
from exploding, but arrives in November 1963


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