House of Cards returns for a fourth season on March 4, and it is more or less the same show it has always been. If you enjoyed the first three seasons, with all their twists and turns and underhanded Underwoodery, you will probably enjoy the fourth, at least through the six episodes that Netflix released to critics. If the first three seasons made you tear your hair out a bit, well, the fourth will probably do that, too. Sometimes House of Cards plays out like a more serious version of Scandal, and sometimes it plays out like a version of The West Wing where everyone has been replaced with their evil doppelganger, but at this point it’s mostly just its own animal. House of Cards is House of Cards. For better and worse.
(Quick digression, regarding the bizarro West Wing thing: If you need to burn 10 to 15 minutes this weekend, imagine an Underwood vs. Bartlet Democratic primary battle with Doug Stamper and Leo McGarry pulling the strings for their respective candidates. Imagine Claire Underwood and Abbey Bartlet sizing each other up. Imagine Josh Lyman jumping ship to work for Underwood and then making the Josh Lyman face — the original Jim Halpert face — once he realizes what he’s gotten himself into. Hell, let’s throw Selina Meyer from Veep in there, too. I would watch this show.)
Season three ended with Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) in a tough primary battle with Heather Dunbar after ascending — possibly descending — to the presidency through his usual bag of devious tricks. And at the very end of the season, Frank’s wife, Claire (Robin Wright), announced that she was leaving him. (Also, the Doug/Rachel thing happened, but let’s all agree not to talk about that.) Netflix would very much prefer I not give away specific information about things that take place in season four, but here’s something I think I can tell you without getting into trouble: Season four picks up just after that, with Frank out campaigning and giving speeches and Claire nowhere to be found.