“House of Cards” can be addicting, but it usually doesn’t make any sense. That was my takeaway from the first couple of seasons and I’m definitely not alone in noticing the maddening, convoluted and glacially-paced political plot lines.
Yet when Season 3 debuts on Friday? Count me in! Yeah, I can’t explain it, other than wanting to be in the loop as everyone else in D.C. binge-watches the show over the weekend.
If you watched Season 2 a year ago and have no time to re-watch the madness, here’s a quick reminder of what you need to know to be up to speed for a third season.
* Yes, Frank is president, and yes, the way he got there was insane.
Ah, Frank Underwood. If an evil plan doesn’t have at least a hundred intricate steps, what’s the point? He put his plotting power to good use last season as vice president, really playing the long game as he manipulated everyone around him. Frank wants to run the world, and the best way to get there (after clawing his way up the ladder to VP in Season 1) is to become president of the United States. So he just had to sabotage the current one, the super-lame President Walker. To refresh, here are the steps, as best as we can figure out:
- Turn the president against his best friend, St. Louis energy company billionaire Raymond Tusk.
- Manipulate the secretary of state (Catherine Durant) and majority whip nominations (Jackie Sharp) to become people that would owe him favors down the line.
- Discover that Xander Feng, a Chinese billionaire, had spent the last decade shuttling funds to Democratic political action committees through Tusk and a St. Louis casino. Destroy a deal that Feng had that involved building a bridge. Make Feng mad enough that he switched his funds over to the Republicans, who were running attack ads against the president. Convince Feng to put the bridge deal back on the table and stop attacking the president.
- Make it all look incredibly suspicious and like the whole scheme links directly to the White House, then leak the details to a reporter.
- After the story runs implying that the White House and president are involved with foreign money laundering, convince Feng (by granting him asylum in China) to testify against the president.
- Make Tusk blame the whole thing on the president.
- Get the secretary of state and majority whip to turn on the president.
- Just for fun, trick the president and his wife into going to therapy, so when it’s revealed that the president has been seeking help, the nation will wonder if he’s on medication and therefore not fit to run the country.
- Force the president’s impending impeachment.
- Become president! Celebrate by exchanging a cold, calculated hug with your equally evil wife, Claire.
- Rescind Feng’s asylum to get favor with China and look like a hero — hopefully without anyone realizing that you did it by essentially sending a man to his death.
…That’s the gist, anyway. Again — completely insane.
* Doug, as far as we know, is dead in the woods somewhere.
The tragic, gross case of Doug Stamper really started in Season 1 when he enlisted a prostitute, Rachel, to help trip up Rep. Peter Russo, whom Frank later murdered for his own political gain. (That was the last move in his plan to become vice president.) While hiring Rachel, Doug also enlisted her for a few “favors” of his own, which was disgusting. Anyway, Rachel became a key player when she was the last person to see Russo before his death (before Frank finished him off). So Doug’s job was to stash Rachel away at a house in Joppa, Md., check in on her occasionally, and make sure no one found out she existed.
Except, oops! In Season 2, he falls in love with Rachel and became weirdly obsessed, visiting her apartment at weird hours and demanding she stop her relationship with her new friend, Lisa. Except, oh no! A hacker named Gavin (who is usually sitting by himself in the dark, staring at a screen and petting a guinea pig named Cashew) discovers Doug’s connection to Rachel and Rachel’s connection to everyone else. So after a threatening meeting with Gavin, Doug grabs Rachel and goes on the run. She smartly extricates herself from the situation, by escaping from the car; running into the woods; smashing Doug on the head with a rock, stealing his car and frantically driving away. RIP, Doug?
* Frank will probably get away with murdering Zoe Barnes — unless things take a turn.
Oh yeah, remember how Frank pushed that annoying reporter Zoe in front of a Metro car when she discovered he murdered Rep. Russo? Well, all of the people who are connected with that case are dead or in jail. (Like Lucas, her fellow reporter who dug into the case and was sent away for 10 years for attempting to hack Zoe’s AT&T cellphone records as proof.) The only remaining link is Rachel, sort of, and Gavin — but we’re not too sure what he knows.
* Claire might have a crisis of conscience.
Although new first lady Claire is just as devious as her husband, it started to look like she had some human emotions last season. She spent most of the season trying to get a bill passed to allow civilian oversight to prevent sexual assault in the military. Claire revealed on a live CNN interview that she was raped in college by a man, Dalton McGinnis, who’s now a general in the Marines — and during the program, another young woman named Megan called in and said that McGinnis raped her, too.
So in trying to get the bill passed, Claire leaned heavily on Megan — to the verge of a nervous breakdown — to testify in public. But when things go awry on the political side and it’s clear the bill won’t pass, Claire bails on Megan. Even though Megan, clearly in need of help, had finally gained the courage to share her story on TV, to her own detriment. Soon, Claire gets a call that Megan had tried to kill herself. She flies to Megan’s hometown to help, but Megan coldly tells that everything that happened is her fault. Last we saw, Claire broke down crying as she realizes that yes, she ruined a young woman’s life for her own gain. Will anything change in Season 3?