House of Cards is back for its third and potentially last season. What better way to celebrate than by seeing what could happen in season 3 now that Frank is president?
Read on only if you have finished season 2, folks. This is your first and only Spoiler Warning.
Having been denied a promotion in the first season, Frank Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey of Usual Suspects fame) has smeared, killed and obliterated everyone on his path to presidency. The problem is, there’s only one way to go when at the top and the stakes are higher than ever.
Will we see the house of cards come crashing down? Can anyone really go up against Frank and live to tell the tale? We dissected the most prominent plot lines from the last season to guess what becomes of one of TV’s most fascinating, ruthless and likable villains.
Doug Stamper is alive
Frank’s Chief of Staff is happy getting his hands dirty and is loyal to Frank, but from the outset he has been dangerously close to derailing Frank’s political train. Having been left unconscious in a forest after his obsession with waitress and former prostitute Rachel Posner got out of control and she smacked him with a brick, we have a sneaking suspicion he comes back and his past ends up being a major thorn in Frank’s side. Replacing his recovery from alcohol for his attraction to Posner, this odd relationship that includes her reading a book to him, like his mother used to, can only become more bizarre.
A lover’s tiff
Frank and Claire only love each other (“I love her more than sharks love blood”, Frank admits), but the three-minute season 3 trailer reveals their relationship is under strain (again) as Claire is seen kissing another person – and it’s not photographer Adam Galloway she had an affair with. There’s also an awkward scene in the trailer that shows Claire afraid of Frank when he puts his hand on her shoulder for a presidential photo. No doubt the guilt of Peter Russo’s murder will play a role in their uncoupling and result in fewer shared cigarette breaks, but it would be foolish to dismiss her own ambitions. The thing is, Claire is seen crying towards the end of season 2, so it’s fair to assume she will crack. It’s a matter of when, not if.
Lucas Goodwin gets out of prison
There’s absolutely no way this plot line is as dead as Peter Russo. Having walked into a trap laid by Underwood and Stamper to keep him quiet, resulting in a ten-year jail sentence for cyber terrorism, journalist Lucas Goodwin has absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain from continuing the work of his now deceased friend and journalist Zoe Barnes for revenge purposes. It would be odd for this dangerous character to remain behind bars.
Ayla Sayyad becomes Frank’s nemesis
Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Sayyad was instrumental in exposing billionaire Raymond Tusk’s money laundering scandal with Chinese billionaire Xander Feng and his ties to the Chinese government, which led to president Garrett Walker stepping down and Frank taking his place. So if anyone is going to start digging around, knowing Zoe Barnes is dead and Goodwin is (or at least was) in prison, it’s definitely her. Ignoring the fact she went from Strong Female Character in season 1 to total weakling in season 2, Frank has in Ayla an enemy who can put all the pieces of the murderous puzzle together.
Remy Danton and Jackie Sharp conspire
Lobbyist Remy Danton and House Majority Whip Jackie Sharp are romantically involved but it appears each person wants something different from their relationship (the latter wants to keep it “professional”). Given Danton is Frank’s protégé who later represents Tusk and that Jackie Sharp is happy going against Frank even though he put her in a position of power, it could be bad news for Frank if they conspire against him. That or Frank exploits their affections for his own good.
That creepy PR dude does something creepy
Stamper’s underling Seth Greyson is a PR master that has shielded Frank from trouble during those times Stamper stalks Rachel Posner. But it’s always felt like he has some sort of hidden agenda, which is highlighted by Stamper’s general disdain and lack of trust for the guy and the fact he was originally hired by Tusk to dig up dirt on Frank’s wife. Even though their relationship improves, you just can’t shake the feeling there’s more to the man who could have easily undermined Frank with the evidence he acquired on Claire’s abortion.
Edward Meechum becomes less two-dimensional
Each season of House of Cards has one really weird and slightly jarring episode. The first involved Frank and his schoolmates and what was clearly a gay relationship. Then there is the strange threesome between Frank’s bodyguard, Edward Meechum, his wife Claire and himself. Getting so personally attached to the dangerous couple sets the scene for a more prominent role in the show, especially as he seems to be trusted by the couple.
Claire Underwood is murdered
When we see Frank mourn the loss of Peter Russo, who he put out of his misery like a dog, you see a rare moment of remorse beneath his cold, calculating persona. Given that wife Claire Underwood appears to be questioning what they have done for power and that she has the most dirt on him, it could leave Frank in “hunt or be hunted” situation. On the flipside, what does Claire have to gain from throwing in the towel? Like Macbeth, she is “in blood stepped in so far” that doing so would be pointless.
Hacker and his guinea pig sidekick start causing trouble
Having been squeezed for information by the FBI, hacker Gavin Orsay (and his guinea pig Cashew) flips the tables on his handler. Unfortunately his plan to obtain freedom from Doug Stamper hit a brick wall, quite literally. Obviously the hacker knows something is up and his ability to access data would make it easy for him to join the dots. Plus the world of the digital is something Frank rarely enters (beyond his not-so-subtle product placement, sorry, gaming sessions) and is therefore a potential weakness. Assuming Stamper dies, Orsay will be forced to make contact with either Frank or someone at the White House and that is unlikely to end well.
America and Russia get into a fight
In the trailer we see a leader who looks very much like Vladimir Putin ignore a handshake from Underwood. We have rarely seen House of Cards pick apart a current political situation beyond the general way American politics seems to work, but it seems that will change. Most likely this will be a side plot designed to make the show seem more real, given that Russia is flying planes over the UK for reasons unknown, Ukranian discourse and that Putin seems to be annoying just about every country on the planet, but the fallout of the relationship could add to the pressure on Frank during his reign as president.
Frank Underwood dies
Shakespeare is a clear inspiration for House of Cards, including the breaking of the fourth wall in Richard III and Underwood’s unrelenting thirst for power like Macbeth. In both cases, the sometimes likable villain goes toe-to-toe with madness stemming from guilt, leading to their undoing. The question, then, is who is the Macduff to Frank’s Macbeth? Who will hold up his severed head to Malcolm?
In the original House of Cards, Frank Underwood’s equivalent, the Conservative MP Francis Urquart says: “Nothing lasts for ever. Even the longest, most glittering reign must come to an end some day.” Death seems fitting for a man who lets nothing stand in his way.
The show goes on
If the wheels really do come off the Frank Underwood bus and all hell breaks loose, there’s little doubt he won’t go out quietly. The list of enemies he has created reads like a weekly shopping list. If season 1 was getting to vice-president and season 2 was his rise to presidency, there’s a chance season 3 focuses on maintaining his power and dealing with the fruits of his endgame. A fourth season could see his fall from power. Given the popularity of the show, we may see this stretched over another season to keep Netflix ratings high. We would rather see the show wrapped up beautifully and succinctly, but then the deck could always collapse more slowly and still be entertaining.