Season three of House of Cards hits Netflix Friday, and I will bet you a plate of ribs you can hardly remember where things wrapped up at the end of season two. The show tunneled into some seriously wonky stuff to get Frank into the Oval, and there’s no shame in brushing up on it before you hunker down with a luscious crop of new episodes.
Exactly how the action ended:
Frank is President. Two knocks on the desk.And how did that happen, again?
It’s the final piece of fallout from the China/PAC scandal that stretched throughout season two. With impeachment brewing, poor sad-eyed President Walker (Garrett to you, Tusk) resigned, resulting in Frank’s swearing-in.
Yeah, I’ve completely forgotten what the Chinese thing was.
Basically, egged on by Frank—who’s great at stabbing everyone in the back without getting a drop of blood on his hands—Walker’s administration got caught taking money from the Chinese (foreign campaign donations are illegal). Feng—the guy who was into nice gardens and kinky stuff—oversaw a laundering operation that sent rich Chinese guys over to an American casino, where they’d spend lots of money. Then the casino would funnel that money into a Democratic Super PAC. Incentivizing Feng to participate was his business relationship with Tusk, who enjoyed major off-the-books influence in the White House. Under pressure to avoid harsh punishment, Tusk threw Walker under the bus during a congressional hearing, saying that the president knew about the scheme when he actually didn’t.
In more straightforward and pressing matters…
Doug is dead. And I loved Doug, so I’m very sad about it. But what did he expect when he drove Rachel out into the middle of nowhere and refused to say why? Anyway, when the finale wrapped, Frank was vaguely aware that Doug was missing, but we’ll have to deal immediately with the business of his body being found and Rachel going on the run yet again.
What’s the latest with Claire?
Claire was a snow queen before Frozen made it cool, but even she is starting to crack. We saw her bawl—for the first and only time, I think—in the season finale after talking to tearful ex-First Lady Tricia Walker. (Claire facilitated the Walkers’ marriage counseling, setting up the leak that helped mar Walker’s presidency.) I’m sure having an office in the West Wing will cheer her up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Claire begin to turn on Frank this season—he’s been testing her trust for two seasons, and it would take so little to snap their bond at this point.
Speaking of Claire and Frank: Remember that crazy night with Meechum?
I do. But in case you forgot (and I don’t know how you could), they all made out! Not exactly the kind of thing you want floating around when you’ve just taken over the Oval Office. Meechum’s faithfulness to the family seems genuine—but in season three, it’ll also be a requirement for staying alive.
Let’s check in with the media.
One of the more frustrating parts of House of Cards is how close various journalists get to the truth, only to be brutally foiled. Zoe got hit by a train. Lucas did his damnedest to carry her torch, but he’s currently languishing in jail after the FBI’s hacker pet (Gavin Orsay, the one with the guinea pig) tricked him into committing a cyberterrorism offense. Janine, who just wants to wash dishes for her mom in Ithaca for the rest of her life, put the nail in his coffin by (under pressure from the FBI) signing her name to testimony more or less called Lucas crazy. Then we’ve got Ayla Sayyad, who made a name for herself by implicating Tusk in a story—information she got from Frank. I cannot watch another reporter become beholden to the Underwood camp, so here’s hoping she hits on something big herself in short order.
So who should the Underwoods be afraid of in season three?
First and foremost: Jackie. She whipped dem votes to get Walker out of the White House and Frank in. Now, she’s going to want some payback. And the closer she gets to Frank, the more ammo she’ll need against him—rest assured this woman has her eye on Commander in Chief. From a personality standpoint, Frank should fear her because she’s the only person in this world more ruthless than him. Frank, at least, wants to get what’s his and still have people like him. Jackie doesn’t waste energy on saving face. She’s a machine—and if we could hear what’s going on inside her head, it’d make Frank’s voice-over sound like Carrie Bradshaw.
What other loose ends should we keep our eye on?
Don’t count out Linda Vasquez, who finally got fed up with Frank’s crap and left the White House. But I’m thinking that after a perfectly pleasant family trip to Atlantis and a half-hearted attempt to enjoy gardening, she’ll be recharged and ready to reclaim the power she deserves. Remy too is on the verge of reinvention—his strategy of shuttling loyalties between Tusk and Frank didn’t get him anywhere, and he’ll have to think creatively about how to remain a player. (Hopefully only in the job sense—I want to see him and Jackie get back together.) It’s hard to say what Christina’s next move is, and don’t forget Megan—Claire’s military rape problem poster girl—who’s all but catatonic but still very aware that she hates Claire. Finally, there are the Walkers. Once they’re done nursing their wounds, it’s probable that anger and clarity will take over, and should they decide they want to blow the whistle on Frank and Claire, they’ll have one major advantage: They’re far more likable than the Underwoods.
What does the season-three trailer tell us?
That we can count on some crazy action surrounding Claire—we see her getting kissed at a party and (this is what it looks like, anyway) being comforted in a morgue. That Frank’s potentially in over his head with international affairs (note the delay when he offers some head of state a handshake and what I assume are the coffins of American soldiers). That Gavin Orsay worked his way into an office job, and creepy Doug underling Seth Grayson is still around. And that, potentially, the ghost of Peter Russo is blowing through town (“We’re murderers, Francis.”)