When you’re the President of the USA, with the eyes of the world upon you, it can be hard to find time to pursue the hobbies you once enjoyed. Like pushing nosy reporters under trains, having kinky three-ways with the new bodyguard, or arranging for the “suicide” of a junior congressman.
Last year House of Cards’ thrilling second season opened with then-Vice President Frank Underwood committing cold-blooded murder. In series three, which arrived on Netflix in full today, he can only manage some light criminal damage. Urinating on his father’s grave during a visit back to Gaffney, South Carolina isn’t polite, but it’s hardly malevolence worthy of the presidential seal. Has Underwood gone soft?
Judging by the first episode of the new series, yes he has — and not for the reasons you might imagine. Frank (Kevin Spacey) and his equally ambitious wife Claire (Robin Wright) have attained the highest office in the land, but that doesn’t mean their joint thirst for power is finally sated.
She is seeking the senate’s nomination to become ambassador to the UN, and expects Frank to make good on his end of their Hilary/Bill style power-sharing deal. And what of the President himself? Having vanquished all comers in previous episodes, what’s his next move? Surprisingly, he seems to actually want to govern.
Best Netflix originals to watch in 2015
Best Netflix originals to watch in 2015
1/11 Orange is the New Black (Season 3)
Aussie model Ruby Rose has confirmed she will be the next star in stripes at Litchfield Penitentiary when OITNB returns on 10 July.
Marvel's new Netflix series will be released on 10 April (all 13 episodes), starring Charlie Cox as blind lawyer by day and masked vigilante by night Matt Murdock.
3/11 What Happened, Miss Simone?
Music legend and civil rights activist Nina Simone is the subject of this film from Oscar-nominated Liz Garbus. Expect unheard recordings and rare archival footage.
The French port city of Marseille will be the focus of a new drama about the local mayor, who is forced to face the man he chose as his heir in the elections.
5/11 Grace and Frankie
Jane Fonda will arrive on Netflix on 8 May in this show about two rivals brought together after their husbands announce they are in love and plan to marry. Also starring Lily Tomlin.
No not The Matrix - but directors Andy and Lana Wachowski have created a new sci-fi drama series involving eight strangers from around the world who suddenly become mentally and emotionally connected after a tragic event.
Ten-episode series Narcos will see Brazilian actor Wagner Moura play notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.
8/11 Dreamworks Dragon
This will bridge the gap between How to Train Your Dragon 2 and the third film. Storylines include Hiccup's new flight suit, the secrets of his dragon blade and the young Viking's budding romance with Astrid.
9/11 Better Call Saul
The Breaking Bad spin-off series began in February starring Bob Odenkirk as sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman. The drama documents the trials and tribulations of Goodman before he moves to his strip-mall law office in Albuquerque.
10/11 House of Cards (Season 3)
Kevin Spacey is back as the conniving Frank Underwood on 27 February for the third season of this hit White House drama.
11/11 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend
The sequel to this Oscar-winning martial arts epic hits Netflix on 28 August - the same day of its cinematic release.
Underwood’s new focus, the America Works programme, is the sort of idealistic, national anthem-humming panacea-policy that President Bartlett might get misty-eyed about in The West Wing. What’s more, Frank’s only ulterior motive in seeking to end unemployment for millions is the hope that this will help him when it comes to securing the presidency for a second term (via an election this time).
This is no more power-hungry or conniving than your average politician’s five-year plan, and maybe that’s exactly what writer Beau Willimon is getting at. If so, we’ll soon come to miss the more flamboyant political satire of previous seasons. This is as disconcertingly subtle as the show’s David Fincher-approved palette of muted grey and neutral beige.
So even though the major plot twist of this opening episode is really only a reversion to the season two status quo, it’s welcome. Keeping Frank’s former Chief of Staff Doug Stamper and Christian call girl Rachel (Rachel Brosnahan) in the picture, means Frank hasn’t got away with murder just yet, however secure he’s feeling. It’s also another opportunity to explore the endlessly fascinating quasi-homoerotic bond between Frank and his right-hand man.
Doug won’t like it, but the inner-circle has been expanded. Frank now has a whole squad of mini-Machiavellis on his speed dial, including new chief of staff Remy (Mahershala Ali) and press man Seth (Derek Cecil). What he really needs, however, is a worthy opponent. In episode three he gets one, when Danish actor Lars Mikkelsen turns up as Russian President Victor Petrov (those ‘VP’ initials are no coincidence).
If you remember Mikkelson from his Sherlock, cameo, you’ll know what a good line he has in chilling yet charismatic villains. Until then, House of Cards third season seems content to be a twisted take on The West Wing. Even down to the addition of some familiar-sounding military drums as the credit sequence rolls.Reuse content