Feb 27, 2015 · 2 minutes

When Netflix flipped the switch on the third season of House of Cards Friday morning at 3 am, I was up -- bleary-eyed but game -- to watch and recap each episode. You can read all thirteen recaps from my sleepless marathon in one article here, but for convenience's sake we also split them up into individual reviews, all of which you can find right here.

“Chapter 27″

For a show that kills off characters without mercy, I must admit I’m a little disappointed that Doug Stamper is still alive.

At the end of last season, Stamper was driving poor Rachel — the final loose end in Frank Underwood’s bloody rise to power — who finally becomes fed up with living in fear of the Underwood Murder Machine. So she takes matters into her own hands and murders Stamper with a rock in the woods — or so we thought. Early on in “Chapter 27″ we see recovering addict Stamper hospitalized and eventually rehabilitated, sent packing home with pills and morphine. And while I’m sure that will lead to plenty of drama, this show is much better at keeping viewers on their toes than it is as a character study on the human condition. In other words, kill ‘em all.

(As an aside, Stamper comes home to a refrigerator stocked by Frank and Claire with a perfect smattering of essentials to help him readjust after his injury. It calls to mind another scene from Fincher’s body of work when the refrigerator belonging to Edward Norton in Fight Club, full of little more than condiments, is a reflection of the character’s empty existence which lacks any real substance. Is this a recurring theme in Fincher’s work? For Stamper, the fridge might as well be full of mustard and mayonnaise, as he’s subsisting largely on a diet of bourbon and painkillers).

But why are we talking about Doug Stamper’s refrigerator? House of Cards is all about Frank, and as much fun as he was to watch as a homicidal Congressman and a homicidal Vice President, now he’s the homicidal leader of the free world.

So what do we make of President Frank Underwood?

With nowhere else to ascend to, and with his status as the most powerful person in the world officially codified instead of existing in a de facto state, the man actually has to do some governing. And as a leader, Underwood serves as a canny commentary on how far to the Right the Democratic Party and the country as a whole has shifted. Underwood goes about cutting entitlement programs and whatever still exists of the social safety net — that is, when he’s not greenlighting assassinations on the other side of the world. Underwood is a Reaganite in sheep’s clothing, going about the business of being President with the same ruthlessness that put him in the Oval Office.

In short, America under Frank Underwood is probably not going to be a very happy place for senior citizens and those living in poverty. Of course this is what happens when we live in a country that allows a man with so few scruples like Underwood to ascend to the highest ranks. For two seasons, we’ve watched this man ruin the lives of a litany of political insiders. Now his insidiousness is affecting everyday Americans, and what’s always been a relentlessly cynical show is even more dispiriting and depressing. Welcome back, House of Cards. And fuck you, America.

Grade: B+

[illustration by Brad Jonas]