A Fragile House
Be careful what you wish for.
The missus and I recently finished the third season of House of Cards and are already ready for more. The show consistently brings to the screen the best (or worst) of what people like about political dramas. Frank Underwood is calculating, manipulative, power-hungry and ruthless. He is, in many ways, to politics what Sun Tzu was to military strategy—equal parts philosopher, strategist, and tactician. He believes that power is more important than money–a concept he thinks most people in Washington still don’t get.
Claire is the only person on the show who even comes close to matching Frank’s combination of ambition and ruthlessness. Theirs is a relationship unlike what we are accustomed to seeing from fictional power couples. One of the things that really stood out in the first two seasons was the ease with which they accepted relationships outside their marriage. We’re accustomed to seeing wives of powerful men grudgingly endure their husband’s infidelity but we’re certainly not used to seeing the openness with which the Underwood’s share their extramarital affairs. In fact, the couple’s affairs prior to season three were shown to be both physical and strategic in nature.
Sex and sexuality were key themes in the first two seasons, and not just for the main characters, but season three was much different. Sex didn’t seem to play nearly as important a role, especially for the main characters. The Underwoods’ relationship in season three is characterized by distance–both literally and figuratively. If the first two seasons were characterized by people looking to acquire things–power foremost among them–the third season seems to be more about people trying to hold things together, whether party unity, sobriety, self-image, or relationships. Frank and Claire spent the first two seasons trying to get where they are in season three, but they demonstrate that sometimes the things we want in life bring problems we don’t anticipate. The third season of House of Cards proves that scaling the mountain requires a different set of strategies than staying on top of it.