The great mind of David Fincher has steered the most popular show on the streaming giant Netflix to its third season, which was released in its entirety this past week. “House of Cards” is back, and based on the first episode of the season, the show has maintained its sultry political tension and high-class style with Kevin Spacey’s character Frank Underwood now sitting in the Oval Office. Underwood worked tooth and nail in season two to get to the presidency and now after anxiously waiting, viewers will see what he will do with his new power as commander in chief.
In true “House of Cards” fashion, the opening minutes contain the breaking of the fourth wall by Underwood, who tells the audience that as president he must maintain a certain image. In this case, that image is visiting his father's gravesite. Interestingly, episode one focuses less on Underwood and his wife, Claire (Robin Wright), and more on the largest cliffhanger of last season, Doug Stamper’s (Michael Kelly) physical condition.
Stamper, Underwood’s loyal press secretary throughout the show's first two seasons, was seemingly killed at the end of season two. Much of the season three premiere is dedicated to his recovery. It is learned through lengthy hospital scenes that Stamper will suffer decreased motor skills and, as a recovering substance abuser, will have to take a host of medication to fully recuperate.
The audience is refocused to Underwood during a surprise segment in which Stephen Colbert makes an appearance, as himself, on his own show, in a wonderfully meta moment. Colbert tears the new president’s policies, which Underwood recognizes as crooked and not even fully formed.
The opener also touched base with Gavin (Jimmi Simpson), the skittish whistleblower from season two, who is now being forced to work for the FBI against his will, giving fans a look inside a different branch of the federal government. The Underwoods have a mutualistic relationship as opposed to a loving marriage and it is revealed in this premiere that Claire has presidential ambitions of her own, which Frank largely shrugs off.
The series has seemingly made strides to pick up the ferocious pace in the past season, but judging by this first episode, it appears that Fincher is slowing it down, giving breathing room to some storylines that were glossed over. The thrilling political tension of ladder climbing seems to have come to an ease, which is effective for recap purposes, but will lose the interest of hungry fans if it continues this way. Waiting is not in the vocabulary of “House of Cards” fans, as the entire series is online and ready to view at one’s convenience, but the new season is riding on past success so far.