Though slow to start, the new season of House of Cards is as compelling as ever.
House of Cards is back for its third season and, with Frank’s rise to the presidency complete, it is changing its tone somewhat. The opening few episodes seem more like a dark version of The West Wing than the heady thriller-esque style that last season began with. It is slower, but that makes it no less compelling.
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright dominate the screen with their presence as always. Wright maintains her cold, calculating control in her portrayal of Claire Underwood, while continuing to develop the faint glimmer of a conscience that we saw in the second season. Spacey remains the undoubted star, his aggressive physicality and the dry wit in his asides to the camera forming the backbone of some of the most captivating acting around at the moment.
The beginning of the season sees Frank and Claire having to struggle with the power that they have gained, under attack by the public, the media, and political rivals. Unlike the whirlwind of political manoeuvring and power-grabbing that characterised the show’s first two seasons, the new episodes move at a slower pace. That’s not to say that the season lacks movement at all. Instead, the show is changing to match the different nature of the challenges that face Frank now he has been made president. The change is good: House of Cards remains as absorbing as ever, it’s well-written, it looks as sleek and polished as it always has, and it is superbly acted.
Any worry that the show may stumble at this point, with its change of pace and direction is unfounded. Though the season’s opening may lack the immediate punch of the second season, it is already clear that, as the third season continues, it will reach the same thrilling peaks from the previous seasons. Plotlines begin to emerge even by the third episode – Doug and his strange relationship with Rachel have not gone away; Frank is struggling to assert control over congress and the senate; Claire is pushing for ever more autonomy rather than having to remain hidden in Frank’s shadow. Add to this the introduction of a new major character, Russian President Petrov (played by Lars Mikkelsen, who last year featured as the villain in the BBC’s Sherlock). All of this makes the third season of House of Cards look set to be as breath-taking and enrapturing as the last two.
House of Cards is broadcast on Netflix