REVIEW: House of Cards – “Chapter 39”

I'm Jeffrey Rex Episode Review - Netflix - House of Cards 39The following is a review of the thirteenth and final episode of season three. Expect spoilers in the plot description.

One final hour until the end of the season. What is Claire saying? Will Frank take Iowa? Come and find out! At the end of the post, I’ll also gather some thoughts about the entire season, though that won’t affect the episode grade. Let’s get to the plot description:

The episode opens with Rachel Posner – there she finally is. She was indeed alive, like Orsay had told Doug a few episodes ago. She has multiple jobs – helping out at a bar, at a grocery store. Meanwhile, Doug is flying to Caracas. What exactly does this mean for the final hour in season three?On the Air Force One, Claire backs out – she doesn’t finish her sentence – she doesn’t reveal what they’ve been lying to each other about. Meanwhile, Orsay is living his life abroad – when he suddenly hears something. Doug is there! He attacks Orsay, and demands to know where Rachel is. Doug procures the information Orsay has on his laptop, and then throws it in the river. Meanwhile, Rachel gets ahold of a new ID – Cassie Lockhart.

At the Underwoods’, Claire is upset – she screams for Frank to take her with force. Nothing happens. These people are not close anymore. Meanwhile, Doug has found Rachel – he’s keeping an eye on her. Though, isn’t it weird that the chief of staff is nowhere near Washington? This doesn’t make a lot of sense.

In a beautifully symbolic shot, Claire closes the door on the campaign – she’s not in Iowa with her husband. She’s home. Staying away from the madness. Meanwhile, Doug is out purchasing tools and such – he buys acetone, bleach and a shovel. He waits for Rachel outside the grocery store, but doesn’t engage. He follows her home. Waiting to make his move. The next night, Rachel spots his van. Doug comes up from behind, and chloroforms her.

In the White House, Claire meets up with Tom Yates. Tom tells her what Claire said when she blacked out. Back in Doug’s van, Rachel starts to sing – and Doug is agitated by it. Rachel sees the shovel, and puts two and two together. She questions if he’ll be able to live with himself – Doug won’t hear any of it. The van stops, and Doug starts to dig a hole in the middle of a desert. When he’s finished, he starts to have second thoughts. Eventually, he decides to let her go. Only to then turn around, and finally take her down. Bury her. And end it.

Underwood won Iowa, and he looks onward to New Hampshire. Though he needs to talk to Claire. They meet in the Oval Office. Claire finally explains herself – she thought they were in this together, but she doesn’t see it that way anymore. She doesn’t believe they’re as equal as he thinks. She wants to be independent, free of his rule. She hates how much they need each other. How he needs her to win, how she needed him to be an Ambassador.

They used to make each other stronger, but she now believes that they only ever made him strong. She’s gained nothing. She is not satisfied with him. Frank is angered by her defiance:

“Without me you are nothing. You’re right. This office has one chair. And you have always known that from the very beginning. And if you now can’t stomach that, then I’m a fool for having married you in the first place.”

He takes charge – violently. Demanding her obedience.

As the episode ends, Doug returns to the White House and says that it is done. As they prepare to go to New Hampshire, Claire stuns the Commander in Chief. Claire is leaving Frank. She walks out on him.

Great performances by the two stars of the show – when these two argue, you are in for a treat. This season has been huge for Robin Wright – not only did she direct two episodes, but she also ended up being the one to knock down Frank’s house of cards. Without her, he’s doomed in New Hampshire – and Netflix simply has to show what’s next.

We need at least one more season. Even if he loses the Presidency, I want to see him react to being little more than a placeholder, I want to see how he acts when he’s rottening with disgust. Show us what happens with a broken man fearing oblivion, fearing the weight of his legacy.

The opening of the episode was rather odd, the music – the location – it almost felt like I was watching Better Call Saul. I’ve gotten too comfortable with seeing Washington it seems. I mentioned how I thought it was weird that you’d send your chief of staff straight to Santa Fe – then again, however, he hadn’t been made public yet. This was a good episode, not because of Rachel, Doug, Dunbar or even Tom Yates – but because they once again highlighted the two best actors on TV right now.

As I look back on this season, I am very pleased. My biggest criticism of the second season was that it all happened too fast, it was too easy. Suddenly he was the President. Now this season has been about the weight of the Presidency – managing peace – and keeping your wife happy. We saw last season how marriages crumble in the White House, and the Underwoods are now falling apart as well. This isn’t the best season yet, but it’s not the worst either. It might have been tedious for some, but I thought it was brilliant.

Kudos to Spacey, Wright, Parker, Kelly and Mikkelsen – they were perfect.

B+

I’m Jeffrey Rex

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