Make way for President and Mrs. Underwood because this weekend House of Cards returns to Netflix with season 3. As with past seasons, Netflix will make available all 13 episodes of season 3 to its subscribers tomorrow, kicking off what will no doubt be a nationwide weekend of binging.
Frank Underwood's (Kevin Spacey) journey from majority whip to leader of the free world has been a bloody one, but don't expect Frank and his wife/partner-in-so-so-many-crimes Claire (Robin Wright) to soften their tactics anytime soon. Besides, as the trailers have hinted, we may soon see the duo questioning each other, which suggests that this may be the season of House of Cards that tests the Underwoods' strange but powerful partnership the most.
In these last hours leading up to the official premiere of House of Cards season 3, early reviews have begun trickling in online. While reading through them, one observation seems to have been had by just about everyone - holding power isn't nearly as exciting taking it.
Collected here are a sampling of what some critics are saying about the political thriller's third outing:
Variety - House of Cards returns, and in terms of classy actors in a high-stakes setting, it’s solidly entertaining. Still, the series that set Netflix on the path to programming prestige also feels played out, as if it should have retired without seeking a third term. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright remain splendid as the central couple, but with their quest for power having succeeded, series architect Beau Willimon seems forced to resort to unconvincing contortions to maintain the drama. Even then, the first half of Season 3 feels flimsy, having essentially morphed into an inordinately ruthless version of 'The West Wing.'
The New York Times - And policy is not nearly as sexy and exciting. As a result, the series, whose new episodes all debut on Friday, gets off to a surprisingly sluggish start. The pace picks up and the subplots thicken by the fourth episode, and by the fifth the series recaptures some of its early panache, but given that there are only about 13 hours per season, that’s quite a slow windup.
Vanity Fair - As some other, earlier reviews of the new season have mentioned, there is a distinct air of 'West Wing'-iness to the first six episodes, the show now less about beguiling long-con power grabs and more about daily political process. Which, sure, is engaging enough, a peek behind the curtain or whatever. But it’s also a completely different show. Characters now have to ask Frank questions like “What have you got planned?” to remind us that, oh right, this is a series about a shrewd, unscrupulous, murderous political operative, not just some frustrated president.
The Hollywood Reporter - However, the worry remains that now that they have the ultimate seats in politics, Frank and Claire won't go down without swinging and, in true 'House of Cards' fashion, will hit and destroy everything they swing at. If that unbelievable sense of dramatic stakes returns, 'House of Cards' will find itself in a scandal about how good it really is.
Well, this is certainly not the universal praise the pioneering Netflix series has been met with in the past, now is it?
Should audiences worry that House of Cards has lost its political mojo? Probably not, because as many of these reviewers noted, these first six episodes are but a tease of what's in store for season 3. House of Cards is a show built on misdirection and unexpected twists and turns, there's no telling where season 3 will take the Underwoods in its final episodes.
Yet, it is disheartening to hear House of Cards may have lost a little bit of its luster. The comparisons to The West Wing are amusing and enlightening, because where House of Cards began as the polar opposite of the Aaron Sorkin drama - more nihilism in politics than anything hopeful and uplifting - it appears that once elected, the business of the president remains the same, no matter how ruthless the route to the White House.
Are you worried that House of Cards may have worn out its premise? Will you still plan on binge watching the whole series this weekend? Let us hear what you think in the comments below!
House of Cards season 3 premieres tomorrow, February 27th on Netflix.