In Review

House of Cards season 3: what can we expect?

A hostile First Lady, Russian punks and ghosts from the past keep Frank busy as House of Cards returns to Netflix

Fans of the TV drama House of Cards are eagerly awaiting the third season of the dark political drama on Netflix tomorrow. The series, starring Kevin Spacey as conniving politician Frank Underwood and Robin Wright as Claire, his ambitious wife and partner in crime, takes a cynical behind-the-scenes peek at government.

Series 1 and 2 have followed the rise and rise of Frank, who has connived, schemed and sometimes even killed to further his political career. We take a look at what viewers can expect in the third season, but beware of spoilers from the first two seasons if you haven't watched them all yet.

Frank hits roadblocks?

At the end of Season 2, Vice President Frank Underwood had successfully schemed to bring down the sitting president, and taken over the role of commander in chief. But while House of Cards may have begun as a "fun-house-mirror-reflection" of politics, says Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times, its outlandish send-up of politics gets more serious in the new series. "The first several episodes of Season 3 are weighed down with the same burden that bedevils real politicians when they come to power," says Stanley. "After all the campaign high jinks and manoeuvring come to an end, it's time to actually govern." As a result, says Stanley, the first three episodes seem "surprisingly sluggish" and its not until the fourth episode that the pace picks up and the subplots thicken.

Bring on the Russians

While this season may lack the colour of Zoe Barnes, prostitutes, corrupt lobbyists and dissolute members of Congress, it does feature an old US enemy: the Russians. Just when things begin to look dull, a Putin-esque Russian president and two members of the Russian punk activist group Pussy Riot make an entrance.  The Daily Telegraph reports that the new series will feature a dinner scene in which a "thinly-disguised" Putin figure, Viktor Petrov, is interrupted by a tirade from Pussy rioters Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.

Will Frank be assassinated??

In Esquire, Paul Schrodt speculates on whether Frank Underwood will meet a sticky end in this series. Schrodt points out that in the UK adaptation of House of Cards, on which Netflix have based their show, the Francis character is assassinated by his own wife to preserve his reputation and retirement fund. Schrodt notes that US creators say they will diverge from their source material, but so far they have followed similar plot points. "Given the deep chasm between Francis and Claire this season, could she be plotting his death?" asks Schrodt.

The season of Claire

In his review on Deadline Hollywood, Dominic Pattern, says that while past series have all been about Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright has her moment in Season 3. Now First Lady Claire Underwood is carving out an increasingly independent role for herself, says Pattern, "carving it sometimes right out of her husband's political hide". Wright is "fantastic as Claire" says Pattern "one of the best things about this season, also a surprise on many levels". The rise of Claire's own political ambitions are also timely, as Hilary Clinton is expected to run for the presidency in 2016.

What happened to Doug??

In Season 2 of House of Cards, Frank's right-hand man was protecting Rachel Posner, the call girl they used to set up Congressman Peter Russo, and the one person who can tie Frank to Russo's murder. But Doug's romantic longings for Rachel undid him when Rachel, fearing for her life, hit Doug on the head with a brick, leaving him seemingly lifeless. Is Doug really dead, or will he make a surprise return in the new season?? 

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