Let’s be Frank: if you come to House of Cards series three without refreshing your memory of the previous episodes, you’re going to have no idea what is going on. Even we struggled sometimes.
There is no attempt to explain who anyone is, what they’re doing or why this man keeps looking at the camera. It’s baffling, and gets in the way of one of the most histrionic dramas out there, so read our handy cheat sheet before knocking on the door of the White House.
1. Frank is President
First he was Chief Whip in the Senate. Then he was Vice President. Then he implicated the President and his friend Raymond Tusk in a Daedalian funding scandal involving casinos and China, forcing POTUS to resign. You don’t have to know the ins and outs, the important thing is: Frank is now Commander in Chief.
2. Doug Stamper might be dead
The last time we saw Frank’s main henchman, he was face down in the middle of a forest, his head stoved in by a rock. He didn’t look peachy, it must be said, and we don’t know if he survived. Who attacked him? Well…
3. Rachel Posner is still out there
This is one of the more tangled backstories in a show full of knotted plots. Rachel Posner is a former call girl. She was hired by Doug Stamper to send Congressman Peter Russo off the rails. Frank later killed Peter, and Rachel knows. She was promptly carted off to a flat in Nowhereville U.S.A and kept prisoner by Doug.
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Stamper developed a fixation on the unlucky young lady. He stamped down on a relationship she had with another woman named Lisa – mentioned just in case that happens to be important – and he demanded she read him bedtime stories. Doug panicked when her location was discovered (more later) and bundled her into a car to start the entire process again. Realising there was no-way out, she clubbed him over the head and took off for parts unknown. Unfortunately, she’s too big a loose end for Frank to leave hanging.
4. Claire is vulnerable
The Underwoods went through a rough patch last series, when Claire restarted an old affair with a photographer. It involved a creepy, Sleeping Beauty style portrait and she was forced to abandon her own career for the good of Frank’s public image.
As well as her own frustrated ambitions, another aspect of Claire’s past might come back to haunt her. She previously lied about the timing of an abortion, claiming it had followed her rape by an army general. While Doug was supposed to destroy a Doctor’s notebook that proved otherwise, he didn’t. Whether she knows it or not, that journal is hanging over her head.
5. Gavin Orsay still works for the FBI
Remember this guy? The superhacker/computer magician was instrumental in bringing down Zoe Barnes' old editor Lucas Goodwin, in a sting too stupid to recap. He was the one who discovered Rachel, and attempted to use this information to blackmail Doug into releasing him from his enforced servitude at the FBI. With Doug dead or dying, he is one of the few people who knows this dark secret.
6. Frank has an election coming up
Other than the good people of South Carolina, no-one has actually voted for Frank at any stage of his rise to the top. Having replaced the former President midway through his term, Frank will soon be facing the polls for the first time. Before that, he’ll have to secure the nomination of his part. Bad news Frank...
7. Democrats hate him
Frank has few mates, but he has really annoyed his fellow Democrats with the brutal way he secured the White House. Among his frenemies are Jackie Sharp, an ambitious former soldier and ally who is now Assistant House Minority Whip, and Heather Dunbar: a lawyer who attempted to prosecute Frank for his part in the President Walker funding scandal.
8. Meechum is still in the Secret Service, still a boy toy
One third of the Meechum/Underwood threesome that caused thousands of spit takes and soaking laptops last series, the bodyguard has joined the Underwoods in the White House. Worth flagging as a reminder that the Underwoods have an unconventional marriage, and Frank has a history of bisexuality stretching back to his time at military college The Sentinel.
9. Freddy no longer makes ribs
Freddy’s Ribs, Frank’s favourite shack, was forced to close after the chef’s gangbanger past was revealed to the press.
10. Zoe Barnes is still dead