House of Cards season 3, episode 1-3 review: Drink! Woodka!

Netflix hit series House of Cards returned for its third season on Friday, and this time Frank Underwood has lied, schemed, and murdered his way into the Oval Office! But President Slimebag barely has time to revel in his achievement before his party declares that they won’t support him in the upcoming 2016 Election. What will he do??

Episode 1 and 2 highlights:

We see some of the usual stuff — Frank being a bastard, literally pissing on his father’s grave, scheming of how to dupe voters, etc. And of course, there’s at least one foot-fetishy close-up of Claire Underwood removing her platform high-heels. But now it’s revealed that Claire has greater ambitions than being First Lady. She’s planning to one day run for office and, eventually, become the president herself! You can’t help but root for Claire on that, even though she’s totes evil.

Meanwhile, Frank breaks a lamp and then curls up in a ball sobbing because he might lose the presidency in 2016. After a late night power-run, Claire returns to find the sniveling puddle of husband on the floor and promptly drops her spandex pants. She scoops him up and reassures him of his masculinity and power, sexually, like a dutiful wife. Frank then realizes that his predicament isn’t a setback, but an opportunity. It’ll just require even greater sneakiness and dishonesty!

Thoughts:

So far, it looks like a strong enough start to the season for this over-the-top Whitehouse drama. Something about the atmosphere of House of Cards is addicting, with its important people in crisp suits and nice houses, where everything seems to be the colour beige. It fittingly lends itself to binge-watching, and even though it involves complex, dastardly plots and political talk, you don’t need to pay too close attention in order to be able to follow along. It’s fun; complete with Zack Morris-like time-freezes where Frank Underwood explains directly to the audience what’s going on. Episode three, however, took the cartoonishness of House of Cards into a qualitatively different direction with its ideological US vs. Russia storyline.

Episode 3 – Putin and Pussy Riot come to dinner:

Pussy Riot comes to dinner.
Pussy Riot on Capitol Hill.

The President Victor Petrov character (played by Lars Mikkelsen) is an obvious Vladimir Putin parody, played by an obviously non-Russian actor with a horrendous accent. Although his weird, gaunt face has an eerie resemblance to Putin’s, the actor is so bad that the native Russian speaker in our viewing group could barely make out what Mikkelsen was saying when he tried to speak in Russian.

More believable were the characters of the two members from Pussy Riot, playing themselves. Frank Underwood invites Petrov and Pussy Riot to a big dinner with everyone on Capitol Hill. Underwood wants to push Petrov to aid in Israel/Palestine peacekeeping, but Petrov will no doubt drive a hard bargain. During dinner, the members of Pussy Riot raise a glass to toast President Petrov in Russian: “To [our President], whose loyalty runs so deep he’s given his friends half of the country, who’s so open to criticism that most of his critics are in prison.” They then dump their champagne and heroically storm out of the dinner to go rally the people in protest.

Petrov spends the rest of the evening playing up Russian stereotypes. He has brought “the finest woodka” from Russia in gold bottles, costing $750,000 each, and orders everyone to drink shot after shot. The show cartoonishly illustrates how not only is Petrov’s country a corrupt empire, but Petrov himself is a slimy bastard, shamelessly hitting on Claire and even kissing her on the mouth — without her consent — in front of everyone.

Frank takes Petrov aside for cigars and real talk. Petrov reveals that he will not aid in peacekeeping unless Frank agrees to dismantle the US missile defense system in Europe. Frank balks at the suggestion, but says he’ll sleep on it.

Claire later warns him: “Francis, he’s a thug. He smart, but he’s still a thug. Don’t cower to him.” And so, the next day, Frank announces to the country that the “true patriots” of Pussy Riot have inspired him in their protests against Petrov, and that he will not be working with him. The US is victorious in resisting the power of Russia, and comes out on top. We’re number one! Whoo!

Final word:

Bleh. This episode just makes you feel gross because of how blatantly ideological it is. House of Cards often mirrors our own reality: Frank Underwood appears on the Colbert Report, Israel and Palestine have conflict, a Hillary Clinton-like character is Secretary of State. It feels like our world, but everything is in black and white and exaggerated in caricature so you know exactly how you’re supposed to think at all times. There is no confusing nuance or complex issues. Watching House of Cards makes you feel like you’re politically in touch without having to actually try. You’re given an ego boost for cynically knowing the power-hungry games of politicians. But Frank Underwood is a good guy compared to that ass-hole Petrov, because… America is just awesome like that.

This episode also made me gag in its unbridled celebration of Pussy Riot, the “feminist” Russian punk band. They are elevated to the level of political heroes, and we all know what paragons of feminist excellence these members are. They have such powerful messages like: “Down with the sexual repression of the Catholic Church! Down with the censorship of porn… I mean, free speech! Let’s protest by having anal sex in public. Better yet, by having sex with a dead chicken in public. Go female empowerment!” The episode closes with Pussy Riot performing to tons of fans rocking out in colorful balaclavas.

Let’s hope this “stand-out episode” of House of Cards remains that way — an outlier.

 

Susan Cox An American expatriate who fled to the wonderland of Canada, Susan Cox spends most of her time writing, reading, and cooking. Follow her @BLASFEMMEY.

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Susan Cox
Susan Cox

Susan Cox is a feminist writer and academic living in the United States. She teaches in Philosophy.

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