Blu-ray Review Drama

'House of Cards: The Complete Third Season' Blu-ray Review: Is this the beginning of the end for all-American anti-hero Frank Underwood?

July 8, 2015Ben MK

After two seasons of scheming, conniving and, of course, murdering, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) has finally done it. He's finally added the coveted title of President of the United States to his resumé. Now with 18 months to go until the 2016 elections, the challenge for Frank shifts from gaining power to holding onto it. But with his approval ratings in the toilet, an ambitious but politically unpopular jobs program in the works, and his marriage to First Lady Claire (Robin Wright) potentially on the rocks, not even good ol' Frank may be able to pull it off.

Welcome to season three of Netflix's House of Cards, the trailblazing show from creator Beau Willimon and executive producer David Fincher that's been mixing ruthless Washington power plays with venomous personal grudges since 2013. The result? Thirty-nine of the most compelling hours of drama this side of broadcast television. And though season three's thirteen episodes turn the focus more towards the strife that's been brewing within power couple Frank and Claire's relationship, there's still no shortage of political infighting and backroom double-dealing to keep viewers invested.

From Frank's presidential power struggle to Claire's bid for U.N. Ambassador, not to mention the return of Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), who was left for dead at the end of season two, House of Cards fans have had plenty to chew on since season three premiered earlier this year. But in the event that you're not fully caught up, here's a rundown of what you can expect to find on the Complete Third Season Blu-ray set:

  • Chapter 27 - A rocky start for the Underwood Presidency. Frank wants to introduce an ambitious jobs program, while Claire sets her sights on the United Nations.
  • Chapter 28 - Claire's U.N. bid runs into trouble. Frank fights off mutiny with a bold address to the country.
  • Chapter 29 - The Russian president's state visit becomes a cold war of wills, and some punks heat things up.
  • Chapter 30 - Claire bypasses Russia at the U.N. Frank tries to outmaneuver a potential challenger and ends up face to face with a higher power.
  • Chapter 31 - Frank declares war on Congress to jump-start his jobs program. Claire spars with the Russian Ambassador.
  • Chapter 32 - Frank and Claire travel to Moscow to negotiate the return of an imprisoned U.S. citizen. Claire takes a stand that jeopardizes their plans.
  • Chapter 33 - The damage is done and the Underwoods must repair it. But deep wounds don't heal fast, and sometimes not at all.
  • Chapter 34 - A hurricane endangers more than just the entire East Coast and Frank must make a difficult choice.
  • Chapter 35 - The Jordan Valley erupts in chaos just as Frank's campaign is picking up steam. Claire gets disturbing intel and counsels him.
  • Chapter 36 - Frank needs to deal with Petrov one on one while Claire tries to preserve the peace-keeping mission. Sacrifices must be made.
  • Chapter 37 - Things turn ugly when Frank, Jackie and Heather square off during their first debate. Tom joins Claire on the campaign trail.
  • Chapter 38 - Heather Dunbar goes for the jugular, forcing Claire to confront her worst fears. The rift between Frank and Claire widens.
  • Chapter 39 - In the midst of the Iowa caucuses, Frank and Claire must confront hard truths about each other.

Season three of House of Cards maintains the same general look and feel of previous seasons, which is to say that the show can get quite dark at times, and not just in a figurative sense. Still, this hi-def image stands up to scrutiny quite well, besting the quality of Netflix streaming with crisp, clear and razor-sharp detail, bolstered by colors that, while serving a limited palette, are robust and satisfying. On the downside, however, murkiness can be an issue from time to time, due to less-than-stellar contrast and shadow detail. As for the program's audio, once again it's a largely dialogue-driven affair, something which is easily handled by the clean and superbly balanced DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack provided for each episode.

Sony's four-disc Blu-ray release includes an UltraViolet digital copy, plus the following Blu-ray extras, all of which can be found on disc four:

  • Backstage Politics: On the Set of House of Cards (24:59) - A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the show, touching on some of this season's key story arcs, the collaborative nature of the creative process, the cinematography and lighting, as well as the new blood brought on-board to direct season three.
  • A Death in New Mexico (17:01) - A look at the filming of scenes from the season finale, in which a character meets their end at the bottom of a shallow grave in the middle of the New Mexico desert.

House of Cards: The Complete Third Season is available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment as of July 7th, 2015. The Blu-ray features English and French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish. The total runtime is 11 Hrs. 31 Mins.

* Reviewer's note: Episode synopses above provided courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

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