Ahead of the release of all 13 episodes on 4 March, we ploughed through the first six episodes of House of Cards season 4 over the weekend to give you a taste of what to expect. Obviously, we don't want to ruin anything for you - and haven't - you'll find only light spoilers ahead.
Having enjoyed a staggeringly consistent run since 2013, House of Cards was the show that really kickstarted the Netflix revolution, showing just how committed the service was to making quality content.
Season three ended with President Frank Underwood (still played with masterful gusto by the Golden Globe-winning Kevin Spacey) in a place we hadn't seen him before: on the backfoot with no plan - as well as facing a worthy challenge in the form of fellow Democratic Primary candidate Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel). The season's closing moments saw Underwood left to ride it solo, his wife - First Lady Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) - leaving him.
Below are some spoiler-free pointers on what to expect from the first half of season four.
1. This is Claire's season
While Robin Wright has been there every step of the way, House of Cards is deemed Spacey's show. Well, no longer.
The unfairly criticised third season served as an intriguing breakdown of a complex marriage via Claire's realisation that her dreams were being disregarded to further her husband's gain. As Claire, she's always been a dependable force. Now that her ice queen has left Frank, Wright becomes Spacey's match in every sense of the term: for the first time - well, in the first six episodes at least - she accumulates just as much screen time as the President or more.
2. There's an influx of even more strong female characters
The show has never shied away from inducting new characters into its murky universe - Congresswoman Jackie Sharp... Underwood's biographer Thomas Yates... And this season the new additions are led by Neve Campbell (Scream) who showcases the most staying power as Leann Harvey, a headstrong political consultant caught in the Underwood's cutthroat battle.
The Oscar-winning Ellen Burstyn takes on a meaty role as Claire's formidable mother while The Help's Cicely Tyson adds spark to the otherwise banal Texan congresswoman Doris Jones. Joel Kinnaman also makes an appearance, but we'll leave it to the final half of the season for the Suicide Squad actor to make his mark.
3. ...as well as the return of some old familiars
Having introduced a crop of characters over the past three seasons, House of Cards is now in a position where it can pick and choose who to write back in, if even for a single scene; season four does this with aplomb and, as a consequence, the show (somehow) feels more believable than ever, a firm fixture to your viewing schedule boasting a repertoire of creations up there with TV's best.
Returning regulars naturally include Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) and former White House Chief of Staff, Remy Danton (Mahershala Ali) but intriguingly the first six episodes feature two reappearances you certainly won't be expecting.
Netflix originals to look forward to in 2016
Netflix originals to look forward to in 2016
1/14 House of Cards - Season Four - 4 March
Last time we were in Frank Underwood’s White House things weren’t looking to great for the President, his first Lady having just walked out on him. What will happen next in the critically acclaimed show is anyone’s guess.
2/14 Daredevil - Season Two - 18 March
Back in Hell’s Kitchen things were seemingly getting better. Kingpin is in prison and the crime syndicates should have dispersed - for the meantime at least. Unfortunately for Matt Murdoch, there’s a new anti-hero in town: The Punisher.
3/14 Flaked - 11 March
According to Netflix, Flaked is set in the insular world of Venice, California. It follows the “serio-comic story of a self-appointed 'guru' who falls for the object of his best friend’s fascination. Soon the tangled web of half-truths and semi-b******* that underpins his all-important image and sobriety begins to unravel. Arnett plays Chip, a man doing his honest best to stay one step ahead of his own lies.
4/14 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Season Two - 15 April
Following the story of 29-year-old Kimmy Schmidt on her journey through New York, season two is set to start right where the last left us. The Tina Fey created sitcom has already been renewed for a third season, so you know this one has to be good.
5/14 The Ranch - 1 April
A comedy starring Ashton Kutcher. Based on a failed semi-pro footballer who returns home to a Colorado ranch. It also has some of the producers from Two and a Half Men behind it, which just happens to be one of the most successful shows of all time.
6/14 Marseille - 5 May
Netflix’s first French language original is a tale of ‘power, corruption and redemption’. Sounding like it could very well be the next Narcos.
7/14 Grace and Frankie - Season Two - 6 May
The tale of a retired cosmetics mogul and a hippie art teacher living together was a hit across the world, especially in the US. Starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, the show has already been renewed for a third season.
8/14 Orange is the New Black - Season Four - 17 June
Another Netflix powerhouse, Orange is the New Black will see us returning to Litchfield Penitentiary. Prepare for more Piper, Alex and Red come June.
9/14 Stranger Things - 15 July
Eight-episode series starring Winona Ryder that follows a small community as they look for a young boy who has seemingly vanished. It all sounds quite scary.
10/14 The Get Down - August 12th
"Told through the lives and music of a ragtag crew of South Bronx teens, The Get Down is a mythic saga of the transformation of 1970s New York City.” Directed by Baz Luhrmann, this is sure to be as stylish as anything he’s done before.
11/14 The Crown - Spring
Starring Doctor Who actor Matt Smith, the period drama ”reveals the political rivalries and romance behind Queen Elizabeth II's reign and the events that shaped the 2nd half of the 20th century."
12/14 Luke Cage - Fall 2016
First appearing alongside Jessica Jones in her Netflix series, Luke Cage will pic up the pieces, seeing Cage come to terms with his super-strength and impenetrable skin. It is unknown whether Kathryn.
13/14 Narcos - Season 2 - Fall 2016
It’s back. The Netflix series hyped to match Breaking Bad was an astounding success around the world, apparently watched more than Game of Thrones. We’ll find out what happens to Pablo Escabar now he doesn’t have the protection of all his men.
14/14 A Series of Unfortunate Events - Fall 2016
Netflix is set to revisit the much-loved children’s novel, putting Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf in a show that looks so much creepier than the 2004 film. Not much else is known - i.e. casting - but Lemony Snicket is on board as executive producer, so get excited.
4. This is the most ambitious season yet
Stylistically, the opening episodes posit season four as the show's most ambitious yet - a big statement considering it's risk-taking previous. While there is no moment to rival season two's Zoe Barnes shocker (they give it a good go), the most lingering moments subtly emerge from the script's focus on Frank's inner psyche.
Until now, House of Cards has centred on the character's outward expression of power - not to mention his hunger for it - but the writers have shrewdly stripped that back, instead focusing on the character's internal fears in a way not dissimilar from Tony's dream sequences in The Sopranos.
You'll never root for Frank more than you do by the end of these six episodes.
5. A rewatch would be beneficial
Past moments are reflected upon - hell, in one instance, reenacted - in a way that'll make more casual viewers scramble their way onto Wikipedia. For the rest of us, this works in the show's favour, providing the show with an intrinsic history that, arguably for the first time, makes the show feel like an assured body of work.
As somebody who struggles to binge watch television shows, House of Cards has always been one I've been able to flit through without ever being sure why. I now have an explanation: season four bears the hallmarks of a TV series that finally knows exactly which directions it's headed in. Perhaps this is why showrunner Beau Willimon has decided to hand the baton over.
Either way, season four is an enticing step in a new, albeit firm direction for the original Netflix drama. Knock knock, indeed.
House of Cards season 4 will be available to watch on Netflix from Friday 4 March