What can we expect from 'House of Cards' this time?
Two favourite fictional US vice-presidents have now made it into the Oval Office, but whose would be the safer hands in which to put the nuclear codes: Veep's hapless Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, pictured) or the scheming Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) from House of Cards? And, more importantly than the possibility of Armageddon (after all, box-set addicts will presumably be very content in their bunkers) is the question of how their respective creators are going to keep Veep and House of Cards on the boil, now that Underwood and Meyer are in the top job.
Don't expect Veep's Armando Iannucci to become more reverential now that he is dealing with the presidency. For House of Cards showrunner Beau Willimon, however, the problem is different: after all, reaching the top has been the raison d'être of Spacey's Machiavellian South Carolinan.
Willimon remains understandably tight-lipped, but a 45-second trailer for the forthcoming third season features a Putin-alike Russian leader refusing to shake Frank's hand at a press conference, and later forcefully snogging Frank's wife Claire (Robin Wright) at an official function. (The Russian leader, Petrov, is played by the Danish actor Lars Mikkelsen, from The Killing and Sherlock.)
Season three of House of Cards is returning today, and Netflix's three-minute teaser for it suggests that there will be marital discord between the First Couple, when Claire recoils from Frank's touch during an official photoshoot. Could Petrov be the cause of this disharmony?
Frank and Claire always seemed bound more by the co-dependency of serial killers than by any powerful physical attraction, and that threesome with the bodyguard suggested that Frank might swing both ways. A more brilliant possibility than Claire seeking mere physical solace elsewhere would be to have her outgrow Frank. Now that he has escorted her to the top, is she, with trademark ruthlessness, about to shed her husband?
Frank, however devious, usually shares his innermost thoughts with the viewers, while Claire is the enigma of House of Cards. But she drops a hint in a line from episode one of the new season, leaked by The Hollywood Reporter: "I'm almost 50 years old," Claire says. "I've been in the passenger seat for decades."
The Hollywood Reporter was one of the media outlets that were alert last week to the accidental early online availability of season three - an error that Netflix rectified after only 20 minutes, but not before some nimble account holders had glutted on episode one, along with Netflix's descriptions of all 13 episodes. These synopses are sketchy and brief, but those who wish to avoid spoilers should still stop reading…
As glimpsed in the first trailer, Russia is this season's China; the big geopolitical bogeyman.
"The Russian president's state visit becomes a cold war of wills, and some punks heat things up," one synopsis reads, leading to the hope that Pussy Riot will put in a special guest appearance. Two members of the anti-Putin band were indeed spotted on set in Baltimore last August.