House of Cards: The Complete Third SeasonOverview -
In Season 3 of HOUSE OF CARDS, President Underwood fights to secure his legacy and Claire wants more than being the first lady. The biggest threat they face is contending with each other. This original thriller series stars Kevin Spacey as ruthless, cunning Francis Underwood, who will stop at nothing to conquer the halls of power in Washington D.C. His secret weapon: his gorgeous, ambitious, and equally conniving wife Claire (Robin Wright).
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
The first two seasons of 'House of Cards' were all about Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) obtaining power. Season 3 is all about his effort to keep it, which – as it turns out – may prove to be more difficult than all he went through to get it in the first place. Through it all, star Kevin Spacey once again gives a wonderful performance as Underwood – a guy viewers love to hate, because he does such dastardly things, but with such a malevolent charm that you can't help but like him. He's like a political version of J.R. Ewing, so much so you wonder when this series might have someone plug him with a bullet or two.
Season 2 of 'House of Cards' ended with Frank finally reaching his goal of becoming President of the United States. However, Frank quickly learns that just because he's the most powerful man in the world, it doesn't mean he's going to stay in that position for very long. Since Underwood has gotten the Presidency because the former President had to retire, Congress makes it very clear to him early on that they have no intention of supporting him and won't even be sending him any bills to sign into law. Not having been elected into office, Frank isn't seen as a legitimate leader by those he has to work with. Likewise, the Democratic Party tells Underwood that they won't be supporting him as a candidate when the next Presidential race begins.
With his public approval numbers also low, Underwood realizes that his days in the White House may be numbered. Worried about what legacy he might leave behind, he becomes obsessed with the passage of "America Works", a jobs program that he believes will provide almost universal employment to the nation. The problem is he'll have to get Congress to agree to slash every major entitlement program (including Social Security) to get it to pass. Knowing he'll need a way to show both Congress and the American public that he isn't just playing politics with his new idea, Frank goes on national television and tells the country that he won't be seeking another term in the White House. Don't worry, like real-life politicians, Frank has no intention of keeping that promise.
Frank's wife, Claire (Robin Wright), isn't willing to sit on the sidelines as just the First Lady, either. She gets Frank (after some political fervor) to appoint her as an ambassador to the United Nations, a role that eventually leads to some major turmoil between U.S. and Russian relations, as well as a big rift in the marriage between Frank and Claire. Prior seasons have shown Claire helping Frank out with some of his devious plans, but this season establishes Claire as just as strong and powerful as Frank is, and she may…just may…wind up the biggest adversary he has to face as this series moves into its fourth year.
Many of the supporting characters from previous seasons (assuming they haven't already been knocked-off) are back for Season 3, including that of Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), a character many fans of the series no doubt thought was as good as gone after being attacked and left for dead by Rachel Posner (Rachel Brosnahan), who Stamper has had a tumultuous and complicated relationship with (he paid her to frame a Congressman and then started paying her to have sex with him) since the series began. Stamper spends much of Season 3 both recovering from his injuries and trying to reestablish himself in politics, all while being obsessed with finding out where Rachel has disappeared to. When he finally does catch up with her (in the season finale), viewers may be shocked by the results (and anxious to see what's next for his character in Season 4).
So how does Season 3 stack up to prior seasons of 'House of Cards'? I believe it's a natural progression from Season 2, although I'm not sure the series has ever been able to recapture the fun that the very first season gave us (much of it due, no doubt, to the fact that it was our introduction to these characters). I think it's fair to say that this third round of episodes is 'more of the same', although it was perhaps just a little more enjoyable to watch Frank manipulating to get power than it is watching him manipulating to keep the power that he has. Still, fans of the show shouldn't be disappointed with what they get here.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'House of Cards: Season 3' deals out its deck on Blu-ray in a four-sided cardboard foldout, each side of which has a slot cut into the cardboard to house one of the four 50GB dual-layer discs. An insert with a code for an UltraViolet digital version of Season 3 is also included. The foldout slides inside a sturdy cardboard slipcase. Unattached on the back of the slipcase (held on only by the shrinkwrap) is a cardboard card that gives a synopsis of the series as well as the set's specs. However, while this is the type of card most people just toss in the trash after opening, buyers may want to hang onto this one, as the flip side of the card gives a list of Season 3 episodes (and which disc they are on), along with a short synopsis of each. The card is also just small enough to slide inside the slipcase for storage (or even inside of the fold out, for extra protection). As far as the packaging of the discs themselves, I am not a fan of this fold-out design, as the discs are packed pretty tightly and some so far back that it's virtually impossible to get the Blu-rays out without getting fingerprints on the discs and/or risking ripping the cardboard.
There are no front-loaded trailers on any of the Blu-rays, whose main menu consists of black and white shots of the series' White House set, with menu selections running across the bottom of the screen. One of my biggest issues with the menus is that they list all of the episodes (as well as the two bonus features) on every disc, rather than just listing what is on the particular disc you are using.
The Blu-rays in this release can be watched on either Region A or Region B players, but not Region C.
Like the two seasons that proceeded it, each episode of 'House of Cards' is shot digitally on Red Epic cameras. The series maintains its established looked (heavy on the blue/gray tint) in this third season, and the transfer by Sony is comparable to the prior season set as well. Since Season 2, the series has been shot in 4k, so even this 1080p transfer doesn't reflect the total quality of the image, but Blu-ray buyers can be assured they'll be treated to the best possible picture on Blu-ray.
Details in each episode are strong throughout, with facial features especially noticeable, as every crease, wrinkle, and pore in Frank Underwood's (and other characters) aggravated expressions are visible on screen. Depth and sharpness is also top-notch, with almost every shot in the series providing the kind of high-def "pop" one wants to see. Although the series retains that rather bluish look throughout, colors can be vivid at times, particularly during scenes shot outdoors and/or off standard studio sets. Black levels are inky deep and viewers should have no problem distinguishing things during the darker scenes in the series.
If there are any glitches on this release, I didn't spot them – as to my eye I didn't see any evidence of aliasing, banding, compression, or the problems that typically pop up in a less-than-stellar high-def transfer. This is a great-looking release.
Each episode of 'House of Cards' is given an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, which is more than enough for a series that still very much focuses on "talking heads", although there are a number of moments of action in this third season. The rear speakers are primarily used to pump up each episode's soundtrack (the opening theme still sounds great), to provide some noticeable ambient noises throughout, and give viewers/listeners just enough directionality to make them feel somewhat immersed in the scene that is taking place. The audio works its magic in subtle rather than bombastic ways, but it's well-rendered and free of any obvious glitches.
In addition to the English 5.1 lossless main track, each episode also includes a French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
- Backstage Politics: On the Set of 'House of Cards' (HD, 25 min.) – A rather entertaining look at how this series is shot, including comments from Writer/Executive Producer Beau Willimon, Director James Foley, Director Agnieszka Holland, Script Supervisor Robb Foglia, "A" Camera Operator Gary Jay, Director of Photography Martin Ahlgren, Gaffer Robert A. Driskell, Key Grip Tony Marra, Stand-In Actress Marla Aaron Wapner, and actors Michael Kelly and Rachel Brosnahan. This featurette doesn't just cover Season 3, but talks about all three seasons of the show. As you can tell by the list above, this featurette really dives into all the different contributions the crew makes to produce each episode, which makes this a really educational featurette for television and film buffs.
Fans of 'House of Cards' can rest easy in knowing that Season 3 is more or less on par with previous seasons of the show, and this Blu-ray set is also on par with what we've seen from Sony in prior releases. As was the case the first two times around, Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood is just plain fun to watch, and seeing him as President of the United States this season brings on a whole new angle to his character. Recommended.
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