Apr 20, 2019
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Photo courtesy of Netflix / Kevin Spacey (left) stars as ruthless politician Frank Underwood alongside Robin Wright (right) as his wife, Claire in the Netflix series House of Cards.

‘House of Cards’ returns with a secret agenda

Power has not been kind to the Underwoods.

Photo courtesy of Netflix / Kevin Spacey (left) stars as ruthless politician Frank Underwood alongside Robin Wright (right) as his wife, Claire in the Netflix series House of Cards.

Photo courtesy of Netflix / Kevin Spacey (left) stars as ruthless politician Frank Underwood alongside Robin Wright (right) as his wife, Claire in the Netflix series House of Cards.

The third season of the Netflix political drama “House of Cards” debuted on Friday with a slow trudge through the monotony of political life.

Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) rose from congressional leader to president of the United States in the first two seasons through shrewd political moves, back-alley deals and several murders. Frank’s wife, Claire (Robin Wright), was a willing participant and adviser every step of the way.

As season three begins, Frank has pounded the oval office into a triangle. Nothing is going right for the devious power couple. Frank’s approval ratings are in the basement, and Claire, who plans to use the First Lady position to catapult her own political career a la Hilary Clinton, faces opposition to her appointment as ambassador to the United Nations.

What follows is about an episode and a half of Capitol Hill boredom. Frank is furiously trying to grease rusted wheels, Claire is making Senate house calls and side characters are getting a whole lot of screen time outside the White House for some reason.

I’m not too discouraged by season three’s beginning, as the series’ first online installment was peppered with filler episodes that insulated the really juicy ones.

However, I am a little concerned about the show’s twisted nature.

“House of Cards” has always been a dark series – both figuratively and literally. I have to turn off every light in my house and hope for a new moon outside in order to make out the details in its shadowy presentation. But several scenes in these first few episodes were odd, overly graphic or just plain weird.

I am not sure why it was important for us to watch two catastrophically awkward sex scenes, but hopefully “House of Cards” showrunner Beau Willimon has a plan that I don’t yet understand.

This year’s season has massive shoes to fill. Not only did the first two seasons receive plenty of critical acclaim and 22 combined Emmy Award nominations, but it also spawned a TV series arms race among streaming services.

Amazon Prime and Hulu swung into full gear by acquiring new shows, scooping up discarded ones and farming old pop culture mainstays for reboots. Even video game companies PlayStation and Xbox formed production studios dedicated to providing new shows for console streaming.

“House of Cards” finds itself in an interesting position. Both the series’ characters and creators face similar challenges.

The Underwoods broke every rule in the book to reach the presidency. They burned bridges and buried lesser folk along the way.

Willimon and his legion of crew members did the same in the traditional television arena. They spawned a new medium for TV shows that will almost certainly outlive aging cable and satellite formulas.

Each has reached the mountaintop, but the next step is staying there. We’ll have to wait and see what both sneaky teams have in store for us.

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