SPOILERS SPOILERS RUN AWAY IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED ALL OF SEASON THREE
Ahhhh, so much promise was held. Hope and excitement hung in the air - the anticipation at what was to come. When it was all released in one delicious wave at 8am Friday morning, I not-so-silently cursed the fact I hadn't booked a day off to binge.
But delay can be a most tasty aphrodisiac; so it was with near salvation I bunkered down on Friday night to devour the first episode of season three of House of Cards - and it wasn't just because of the plates of ribs in front of me as snack accompaniment for viewing.
By Sunday evening, I had watched all 13 episodes. But alas, the high I had expected, craved, believed in for the last several months, was never delivered. Because as much as I wanted to, S3 just didn't completely deliver. I can't believe I'm stating this because the truth hurts oh so much - but it was a bit of a let down.
Don't get me wrong, season three was not a dud. There were moments (which I'll go into soon) that were brilliant, beautiful, and heartbreaking. But the whole season feels like a series of "moments" with a thin string connecting the inbetween.
There wasn't the punch that we got with Season One. At first, I was curious and optimistic. The choice to centre so much of ep1 on Doug was a brave choice. I imagine some viewers were a bit like "Get back to Frank - Doug later!" but the choice for me made me think "Right, this is the narrative tone were going with. Cool."
The journey of Doug's recovery was one of the better done storylines of the series - wrenching between searing honesty (the physical limitations of recovering, his slip back into alcoholism) teamed with the question of who's side he was really on as he - Underwood or Dubar? Also - round of applause to actor Michael Kelly who plays Doug for keeping that secret under wraps.
We then jump quickly into an issue that will eventually become "The Issue" of the season - Claire's attempts to define her own shape outside of Frank's shadow.
There were a lot of attempts to deal with big plotlines - the US relationship with Russia and Frank's chess moves to mount a Presidential campaign for 2016 to name a few - but there were times when it just felt stretched. Threat of WW3 with Russia? In a story that was uncomfortable at times for it's similarity to reality (*cough Putin cough*), some of it was thickly fabricated. Threat of WW3? Never gonna happen - if only for the fact it would kill the series. That whole episode with the hurricane analogy and America Works? Again, it felt a bit thick - an easy way to kick the balls of Frank's baby.
But then there were things these storylines did really well - Petrov grabbing Claire for that kiss after the state dinner; his and Frank's psychotic show-down in the Jordan Valley, Freddie returning via Frank's job scheme and his cut-throat honesty hour moment with his grandchild - but it was the pad surrounding these that felt, well, padded. And as a side note, as much as I enjoyed Frank and Petrov's ding-dong in Jordon, how IMPLAUSIBLE was that!? Two heads of super-nations in a violent and volatile region, at the same time, in a bunker? And the idea that Frank is willing to sacrifice his own life to sort this deal out - and leave his completely ridiculous VP leading? No.
As I ploughed along towards the twilight of the series, I just felt like the whole thing was a bit lacklustre. The fizz of S1 and to a lesser extent, S2 was gone. Then with a bit of contemplation, I found myself wondering if S2 was as good as I had thought it was - has the rosy after-glow of S1 seeped into it's follow-up, making me think it was better than it really was.
What I think it did get right was the ending. Seriously, #TeamClaire - and a really strong set-up for S4. The complicated dynamics of the Underwood's marriage was laid bare - touching on a variety of questions we all had. But that very final scene? Beau-ti-ful.
But how will it manage the rest of the plot? I'm not so confident anymore after this offering.
Perhaps 13 hours of binging has gotten to me. I refer to the characters as if they're close friends of mine and speak with an authority on their actions like the intimates we are. Perhaps with a bit of time and consideration (and distance to get over the fact there wasn't enough Cashew in this season).
Perhaps a bit of time will be kinder than I'm being right now. But to sum it up in one word, S3 has currently left me feeling "meh".