The third season of Netflix’s hugely popular flagship drama was finally released in all its 13 episode binge-watching glory on Friday, but how does the latest series stack up?
Following on from last season’s finale in which Frank Underwood, played with unnerving focus by Kevin Spacey, finally secured the helm of the highest office in the land, House Of Cards focuses mostly on President Underwood’s attempt to win over everyone from the public, congress and his own staff to win the 2016 Election.
Underwood must contend with numerous stubborn obstacles at home and abroad in the form of Russian leaders, his own dubious and in many instances his own wife , Claire, played by the scene-stealingly good Robin Wright, to win over his challengers.
For the most part House Of Cards continues to charm, adding more layers to a series caked in depth and profoundly relevant storylines.
Its strength has always relied upon its patience in storytelling told through a handful of beautifully well-constructed characters.
Due to the nature of the shows format in which all episodes are available to blast through at once rather than waiting an agonisingly painful 7 days for a weekly fix, House Of Cards has the luxury that most shows do not.
It can afford to take its time to tell a story, the writer’s don’t feel the need to have massive explosions or melodramatic “moments” to keep the audience tuning in week after week.
Instead the show can lean back and focus on the big picture, taking its time in creating an addictively fluent chronicle of politics and power in Washington.
The result is an elegantly well realised setting with a host whole of very well drawn out plots, sub-plots and characters.
Aided by the terrific performances of its duo leads (Spacey and Wright) and a well picked supporting cast including Michael Kelly, Molly Parker and Derek Cecil, House Of Cards continues to add to its rising, Emmy award winning stock as one of the hottest shows of recent years.
The third season brings Robin Wright’s character into a much sharper focus, with the show doing a splendid job of highlighting the pressures and struggles of being Frank’s first lady without giving off the feeling they are pining for sympathy for a character who is far from an angel herself.
The show does however have a nagging sense that it is playing its cards, so to speak, close to its chest and is perhaps holding off for a more action packed fourth instalment, with the third acting as a sort of filler season.
Some critics will point towards the absence of obvious explosive drama. There aren’t any unexpected encounters with a subway trains or coerced congressman killings that the first and second season brought us but maybe that’s not a bad thing.
Frank Underwood is the president after all so he must rein in the more hands on approach to politics and this therefore allows the show to focus much more on character.
Frank and Claire have reached the top but rather than indulging and enjoying this feat too much, the writers do a great job of exploring what this triumph has did to both of the central characters, particularly Claire.
The thing that makes House Of Cards so enjoyable is its ability to run so closely alongside reality. It has crafted a wonderfully well considered universe in which everything from the politicians, their crooked motivations and the ordinary lives they lead feel genuine and tangible.
The shooting of the show has always been a triumph but particular praise this time should be directed at the set design for creating such an authentic and immersive white house setting, one that more than outdoes rival counterparts such as The West Wing.
Despite huge chunks of this third season being set in the white house however, audiences will be in a shock if they are expecting a West Wing type of show. House Of Cards in its third chapter is a certainly more controlled affair but its bite is just as sharp as ever.