It sounded so good: Frank Underwood is the new Beyoncé! Alas, the 10 episodes of House of Cards’ third season that appeared on Netflix on Wednesday afternoon, more than two weeks ahead of the official release date, weren't part of an innovative stealth-release strategy. “Due to a technical glitch some Frank Underwood fans got a sneak peak,” the service’s representative Karen Barragan said in an email. “He'll be back on Netflix on Feb. 27.”
Accordingly, the episodes went offline quickly. But for some people who'd started in on the first installment, the stream remained viable for long enough to finish viewing. That was the case for me. The fact that I’m writing about any of this could signify that Netflix’s purported screw-up is actually a publicity stunt; if so, it’s worthy of Underwood. After the occasional slog of the second season, I wasn’t super-psyched to dive into the new one. But the general air of leaked state secret changed that.
Below are some general, not-too-spoilery thoughts on the first hour for anyone curious where the show could possibly go after anointing the ever-climbing backroom dealer Underwood as president. He knocked on the Oval Office desk at the end of last season, then the screen cut to black—not so much a cliffhanger as a turning of a book to find a blank page. One of the show’s biggest problems is that Frank’s deep motives have never been all that clear; power for power’s sake is the assumption, but even that hasn’t ever been made explicit. Which means predicting what happens once he gets in office is basically impossible.