Update, 10 a.m. Monday: Binge complete. Top-line verdict: The season starts extremely slowly, but gets pretty good, starting in the third episode. It never reaches the dark, dramatic heights of previous seasons, but it's also a little more focused and intelligent than they were. If you've enjoy this well-crafted yet ridiculous show in the past, these 13 episodes are worth a watch.
Spoilers ahead; don't scroll farther than you've watched.
Episode 1 (Chapter 27)
How, um, interesting that the two most memorable moments of House of Cards' third season premiere involve the emission of yellow liquids. On any other drama with Emmy aspirations, you might read some deeper meaning in the fact that the hour’s basically bookended by Frank's graveyard pee and Doug's syringe whiskey—motif: relief?—but House of Cards isn’t any other drama with Emmy aspirations. Which is to say, it’s pretty shallow. One suspects that the writers put these two particular WTF moments into the episode because it would otherwise be entirely lacking in conversation-causing material. It’s a tactic they’ve used before; when the action drags, why not throw in a threesome?
It’s maybe not a great sign, though, that they’ve resorted to such superficial shocks in a season premiere. Then again, few premieres of any show will measure up to Season 2’s opener, a symphony of mounting dread that crescendoed with the show’s most loved/hated character beneath a train. The tentative, mostly unflashy nature of Season 3's start hints that the plan here is not to open with a bang and then survive on the afterglow; it’s to turn the heat up slowly, and then … who knows?