As we begin what appears to be one of the most cutthroat seasons of politics in recent memory, perhaps now would be a good time to check in on one of the few political figures both Republicans and Democrats support: now President Frank Underwood (Golden Globe and SAG Award winner Kevin Spacey), the unforgettable politician that has spent the last two seasons clawing his way to power on Netflix’s brilliant series House of Cards.
The political landscape is particularly rough for the President as the series begin. His popularity ratings are at an even lower level than the President that he unseated last season. He can not get traction in Congress with his new America Works program with the very people he whipped into shape. In fact, in the second episode of the season, the leadership told him as one that they don’t want him to run for reelection next year. The money people have been equally cold. And even though, he managed to work around it, the Senate has just rejected his choice for UN Ambassador—- his wife, Claire (Robin Wright, finally beginning the machinations that we have suspected she is capable of.)
Of course, anyone who has watched the series for this long knows that the worst thing you can try to do is put Frank in a corner. He gave a national press conference that he will not run for reelection, a move that the leadership seems to have swallowed, but those closes to him haven’t.
Frank is trying very hard to win allegiances, but his ranks of his supporters have changed significantly. His former Chief of Staff, Doug (Michel Kelly) survived the attack that he endured in the second season finale, only to find himself on the outs with the President in favor of Remy Denton, the lobbyist who caused him so much grief in Season Two. Doug is trying to survive, knowing that the prostitute who can untangle things for the administration is still alive, and that the FBI agent he utilized before is now under investigation. Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker, demonstrating once again what fools Emmy voters can be) has begun some machinations of her own, both with the President (saying she wants to be on the ticket in 2016) and with her former lover, Remy. The midterms have been a disaster for the Democrats, leading key Republicans like Senator Mendoza (American Crime’s Benito Martinez) trying to charge at the office Frank has worked so hard to win. And lying before all of them is the possibility that another inquisitive journalist Kate Baldwin (Kim Dickens, the third Deadwood veteran to grace the series) might yet find the loose card that could undo the whole administration.
Despite all the brilliant performances around them, Spacey remains the focus, as he finds that trying to hold on to power is a lot more difficult than getting. Considering all of the horrible things that he does, it’s rather impressive that he remains one of the more empathetic characters in TV today. When he was at his lowest point in the series second episode, it was a level of poigniancy we had not seen on the show so far. And even though his wife has been nothing but a figure of support so far, Claire has made it very clear that she has political ambitions of her own, and she has demonstrated more than once that she will be as ruthless as her husband at getting them. How long until their positions clash?
Certain quarters were not as welcoming to House of Cards this season, and having watched the first three episodes, I can’t for the world see why. It’s still one of the most thrilling and dramatically aware shows on TV, and considering that the political atmosphere is going to become just as charged in real life as it on the series, one can hardly argue that it’s any less relevant. It’s certainly far more exciting than any New Hampshire primary. With great power, we see that Frank is still not willing to take much responsibility. Can he lead the nation and retain our interest? I can’t wait to see him try. He’s certainly more interesting a politico than anyone running for office on either side. God knows Fox and MSNBC are in rare agreement about that.