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“House of Cards” Season 3 sags (a little), bogs down in wonkiness

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As the third season of House of Cards launches this week, the delightfully devilish take on Washington and insider politics starts to sag, ever so slightly.

While the hit Netflix series may not be entirely realistic, the first few episodes of Season 3 does reflect the burdens of real politicians when they assume office: After machinations and intrigue of a political campaign, now comes time for nuts-and-bolts governing.

As such, the first three episodes appear mired in policy wonkiness, something that is decidedly unsexy, says Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times. Although the fun does arrives, what we expect from HoC, she says it doesn’t pick up until at least the fourth episode, and regains its signature style by the fifth.

For a show with only 13 hour-long episodes, that is a slooooow start.

In the final episode of Season 2, Vice President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) becomes commander in chief after a series of connivances help unseat the sitting president, with the aid of his equally devious wife, Claire, played by Robin Wright.

However, the intrigue central to Underwood’s ruthless ascent to power — and much of the fun of the series — does not translate as well once he’s in the Oval Office. Many of the policy proposals, intended by the writers to be “game-changing,” often fall flat and one-dimensional.

Stanley writes: “And that’s true of too much of the first four episodes, in which Frank has to have an agenda, make decisions, push legislation and generally attend to all of the mind-numbing details that come with the presidency, including an appearance on ‘The Colbert Report,’ which went off the air in December.”

She suggests that it might have been a good time to introduce a handful of interesting subplots, mirroring Underwood’s new circumstances, as a way to “pique viewer interest.”

Without the sundry characters dotting the House of Cards landscape for the first two seasons — Zoe Barnes, corrupt lobbyists, prostitutes, and various dissolute members of Congress — Stanley reviews the initial episodes as feeling “monotonous” — just a little.

“Netflix streams the series all at once, but this time there is no instant gratification,” she concludes. “Binge viewers get the government they deserve.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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