I Disagree with David Lynch

everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-twin-peaks-revival

Twin Peaks fever has taken hold for the first time in 26 years. The original series is being celebrated, re-analyzed, dissected, and is sourcing all manner of “listicles” for “best episodes,”  “scariest moments,” “favorite characters,” etc. Suffice it to say, interest in the new season airing on Showtime this Sunday, May 21st at 9 PM EST is high.

But amidst the feverish interest in the new series are two perspectives I find troubling, which impact the show’s lasting legacy and 27 years of fandom. I must defend Twin Peaks season two and the story of the series as a whole.

The first wrongheaded perspective is codifying Twin Peaks as a cult show. It’s revisionist history and it demeans the show’s legacy. It’s certainly true that since it’s been off of the air only the hard core fans have remained invested in the series, but when the show was airing live everyone watched. Not just a rabid, cultish few. Everyone talked about Twin Peaks around the “water cooler” (whatever that was…).

I challenge this idea mostly because classifying Twin Peaks as a “cult show” isn’t accurate. It twists the truth and turns potential future viewers away. When Twin Peaks was hot, it was sizzling and everyone was watching it. Recent reflections on the series have revealed that even state leaders like President George H.W. Bush and Queen Elizabeth were enamored with the story of the murdered prom queen and the mystery of who killed her. Rocky Horror Picture Show, my dear The Big Lebowski, and heck even Firefly are cult works. By contrast, Twin Peaks was a national phenomenon.

The second and more pervasive perspective is “Season 2 of Twin Peaks went off the rails.” I’m distilling a lot of criticism into one sentence for simplicity, but bear with me.

Season 1 is universally beloved. It’s tightly plotted, engrossing television that, to this day, still manages to astound with its peculiar dream imagery, emotional soundtrack, gorgeous visuals both in locations and in set design, and outrageous characters. Despite taking place in 1990 (1989?), it feels timeless. There’s a reason for this, of course. Creators David Lynch and Mark Frost crafted the genre-bending, transformational pilot movie and the subsequent 7 episodes together. It’s true that other writers and directors were involved, but the “bones” of the story were assembled by Lynch and Frost.

It’s inaccurate to say that Lynch and Frost were uninvolved in Season 2 and I wish that particular legend would die already. Even Brad Dukes’ great oral history of Twin Peaks dispels this notion. What really happened is more mundane — the first season was a limited season event and season two was picked up for a full 22 episodes and it needed to be run more “traditionally.” In short, the machinery of TV bureaucracy intruded. Lynch and Frost couldn’t just secret themselves away and design the whole season. TV didn’t work that way in 1990. Now, folks like Vince Gilligan (who walks firmly in Lynch and Frost’s footsteps), of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fame, can develop a season from start to finish albeit with more concise 13 episode counts.

But all of that is beside the point. Despite the added pressure of success and the winding maze of 1990 era TV bureaucracy, Twin Peaks season 2 should not be minimized as lesser work. Indeed, I argue that what season 2 ultimately did was build the world far beyond just the murder of the seemingly innocent homecoming queen.

There are some who say the whole season is rubbish, but much of the criticism is leveled at many of the episodes following the reveal of Laura Palmer’s killer. Some is certainly fair. Let’s start there.

David Lynch (and Mark Frost to a lesser extent) have long lamented pressure from the network to reveal Laura Palmer’s killer. Lynch has argued that it killed “the golden goose.” I’ve never understood this, much less agreed with it. In other descriptions of Twin Peaks, Lynch has described Laura’s murder as the doorway into the strange, bucolic town full of secrets. If that’s true, then once we’re in the town, we’re in. Laura’s murder being solved should be immaterial. You could make the case that people would have abandoned the show anyway after awhile because they’d feel strung along with no answers in sight. In fact, some viewers were already leaving over the feeling of being strung along during early season two!

But from a story perspective Laura’s murder was merely the first layer of the onion. Once you peel it back, you could reveal greater truths and deeper mysteries (which is what happened!). The criticisms I will agree with about the second season have to do more with the poor transition from Laura’s story to the next big story and some of the subplot choices the show pursued. But simply solving Laura’s murder shouldn’t have ended the show when exposing her killer opened the door into the shows deeper mythology which was (and is) rich with even more story potential, hence the fact that we’re getting more show 27 years later!

Following Laura’s murder, the show should have transitioned directly into the Windom Earle story line. Or, perhaps, maybe just one episode of transition and denouement instead of three or four. I’m not proposing anything new or insightful here, I think this idea is almost universally shared. And, to me, that suggests that the late Season Two stories have merit and are good and the slow build to get there were the real problems. I certainly think the Cooper vs. Windom Earle and Hunt for Owl Cave stories were very strong and breathed some new life into the show, further bending the genre into which Twin Peaks falls.

I’m also not willing to let David Lynch and Mark Frost off of the hook for these Season Two matters. Many of the ideas sewn into those stories originated with David and Mark. Brad Dukes’ book, for example, noted that putting Josie into the drawer pull originated with David Lynch. He also appeared as Gordon Cole in audio and in person. If he didn’t like what he was seeing from the material and the approach, why didn’t he say something or do something? Mark Frost apparently did a writing pass over every script; one or both of the creators was involved in every story the show produced. Lynch, of course, famously reasserted himself in the amazing season two finale (if you don’t know, Lynch used very little of what was scripted for the Black Lodge sequence at the end). But why wait? Some Lynch sycophants won’t like this, since he “walks on water,” but these questions deserve answers especially when he piles on season two as well (as recently as today!). I say, “Own it.”

Putting the leadership questions aside, it’s also worth putting things into their historical context. Twin Peaks season two, particularly the post Laura Palmer episodes, aired and were preempted by the Gulf War. For a deeply serialized show like Twin Peaks, that was a fatal blow. Add to that the show was moved to Saturday nights–hardly a good night for cultivating a TV audience. Original fans, even diehards, likely had a tough time finding the show. But even if they did, with huge gaps in episodes, it was harder to pick up the threads from previous episodes. And it was 1991. There weren’t reruns like there are now and no way to find missed episodes unless you taped them.

I point this out because I’m a “second-generation” (third?) Twin Peaks fan. I was introduced to the show in a college course about transformational TV dramas and subsequently watched it on DVD. I was able to watch the show one after the other. A pre-Netflix binge, if you will. While the post-Laura Palmer episodes are certainly different, in that they lack the central plot thread (at least initially), I still enjoyed them. And if you watched them in close sequencing, without weeks or months long gaps, they hold together much better. I can certainly understand fans’ frustrations in 1991 about watching Ben Horne reenact the Civil War in his office or James mope around with a melodramatic married woman while not advancing the main story much about Windom Earle, the missing Major Briggs, or where BOB had gone. But revisiting these episodes in a more streamlined fashion is enjoyable and easier to pick up the thread.

By the way, I thought the “Ben-as-a-Civil-War-general” story was funny. Ludicrous in the way only Twin Peaks could do. Josie’s story ramped up and, as a result, Sheriff Truman became a more well-rounded character with more to do. I thought the story about Jean Renault conspiring to get Cooper drummed out of the FBI and ultimately killed was good. Renault has a particularly good quote in his final episode:

“Before you came here, Twin Peaks was a simple place. My brothers sold drugs to truck-drivers and teenagers. One-Eyed Jack’s welcomed curious tourists and businessmen. Quiet people lived quiet lives. Then a pretty girl dies. And you arrive. Everything changes. My brother Bernard is shot and left to die in the woods. A grieving father smothers my surviving brother with a pillow. Arson, kidnapping. More death and destruction. Suddenly the quiet people here are no longer quiet. Their simple dreams have become a nightmare. Maybe you brought the nightmare with you. And maybe, it will die with you.”

It encapsulates quite nicely why I think the post-Laura Palmer episodes have merit. Before Laura died, all of the town’s secrets lay dormant with no one particularly interested in exposing them, if that was even possible. Laura’s death was a gateway into these secrets and the deeper mysteries waiting in the woods and solving her murder did not put the cap back on the bottle–it was broken open and could not be resealed. That’s the beauty of TV storytelling, iterative stories that build off of what’s come before and the resolution of Laura’s murder and what happened in the aftermath were worthwhile stories. Poorly executed, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean the story should not have been told.

I’m defensive about season two because all we have had for years is the episodes that were made. No comic books. No further sequels. Just these episodes and a movie. Beyond that, I loved the story of how Dale Cooper became a town deputy and embedded himself deeper into the town and it’s people. His friendship with Sheriff Truman, Andy, and Hawk grew. And he wanted to buy property in Twin Peaks. To me, it was the natural evolution of Cooper’s character that he had completely and utterly fallen in love with Twin Peaks. The real love story of Twin Peaks isn’t Cooper and Audrey or Ed and Norma, it’s Cooper and the town itself.

Coming back to the main point, many of the things people remember about Twin Peaks originated in Season 2. Iconic moments, characters, and stories: the Giant, Laura Palmer’s secret diary, white-haired Leland, Denise Bryson, the white and black lodges, Josie in the drawer knob, “How’s Annie?,” and more. It’s just become fashionable to dump on Twin Peaks season two so people do it and I’d venture to say that many who do haven’t seen the episodes they’re trashing in a while (if at all).

After 27 years (12 for me), the only content fans have had from the world of Twin Peaks are 29 episodes and a movie. We’ve lived with those stories for years, theorized about them, debated them, dreamed about them, wondered what would happen next. We may like some stories more than we like others, yes; that’s true of anything. But those stories are all Twin Peaks.

We can lament that David Lynch didn’t direct more episodes, but the fact of the matter is: he didn’t. Episodes that are probably well loved were written and directed by people who are not David Lynch. Mark Frost directed the season one finale quite capably. Lesli Linka Glatter, Caleb Deschanel, Duwayne Dunham, Tim Hunter… all great directors who brought life to the stories and characters. The show was orchestrated by all of these people, not just David Lynch and Mark Frost.

When the new show continues, it will be guided firmly by David Lynch and Mark Frost. More power to them. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us. But I do hope that 27 years of stories, because that’s what they really are, are not cast aside casually. It’s been 27 years in real life, perhaps just 25 years in the show, but life moves on. I get it and that’s license to forget about some things. I really don’t care much about the pine weasel or Little Nicky all grown up, but it would be nice to learn if Ghostwood was ever developed. Does Josie still haunt drawer pulls in the Great Northern Hotel? Is that what happened to the Log Lady’s husband? Is Ben Horne really Donna Hayward’s father? What, if anything, did Major Briggs do with the communication from Windom Earle via Sarah Palmer (“I’m in the Black Lodge with Dale Cooper.”)?

Twin Peaks is the sum of its 30 parts, counting the movie, too. I’m a completionist. I’ve never been able to say, “Well, Star Trek seasons one and two are really great, but season three is terrible so I don’t count it.” No. The work is the work. Frankly, I think it’s a fun bit of fandom to analyze and criticize the best and worst parts of a series. To stick with my Star Trek analogy, The Next Generation season one is, to put it kindly, not it’s best. But it’s not like the events of that season are ignored because the episodes didn’t turn out as well as we would have liked.

Life is that way, too. There are things we are proud of in our lives. There are things we wish we had not done or that we had done them differently. But all of our experiences make up who we are now. We can choose to ignore some parts of our pasts, but those things happened and they affect us regardless.

I say accept Twin Peaks the same way. It is the sum of its parts, some good, some Evelyn and Little Nicky. But soon, there will be more parts and that cannot be anything but exciting.

Enjoy your coffee and pie this weekend, folks.

Watch “Person of Interest”

maxresdefaultA very good, special show ended last week and I bet many of you don’t even know it. The good news is you can still watch it because it now lives in the digital realm thanks to Netflix. I hope you heed my suggestion.

Person of Interest ended on Tuesday night after a quick burn of its final 13 episodes over the last month and a half. Its final season was cut down from 22 to 13 episodes. The reduced runtime really honed the writing and the story. In fact, credit where credit is due: CBS could have just cancelled the show outright or let the producers wiggle on the line regarding renewal. But they gave them a final run and the show’s creators made the most of it.

The series centered on Harold Finch played masterfully by Michael Emerson. Finch build a surveillance Machine for the government to fight terrorism after 9/11 with access to camera feeds, phone calls, emails, text messages, internet searches… everything. It feeds information to the government about terrorists based on all of this collected data so it can stop terrorist attacks. There is a privacy compromise, however: the government can’t see or access this information. The Machine communicates a social security number or another unique ID associated to a person. The government must then determine if that person is a terrorist, a terror target, or somehow affiliated with terrorists on its own.

But because the Machine sees everything it knows about non-terrorist violent crimes, too. The government wasn’t interested in those, though. Those crimes are labeled “irrelevant.” Harold set up a connection with the machine so that he receives the “irrelevant” numbers so he can intervene. However genius Harold may be, he’s not equipped to stop these crimes on his own so he partners with a former CIA operative, John Reese, played by Jesus himself, Jim Caviezel. Reese is cast off, adrift, and probably close to death either by his own hand or otherwise. Harold gives John a purpose and they get to work receiving numbers and helping people.

Every episode opened with a “saga sell” kind of like Quantum Leap had (the first 48 seconds of this clip), which explained the show’s premise. Watch POI’s “saga sell” from season one. It’s more succinct than my summary. And here is a scene from the pilot episode with our two leads discussing it as well.

On the surface, Person of Interest was like any other CBS crime procedural. A new number—a new case—every week. Good guys and bad guys. Easy enough, right? For the first third of its first season, Person of Interest seemed to conform to that, but a dense mythology was brewing under the surface. How did Harold build this Machine? How does it reach the conclusions that it does? If the government wants to keep this a secret, what might they do if they found out Harold can access the Machine and receive information from it?

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, even though the Machine helps them stop crime and the government stop terror attacks, it is a massive overreach of power. The government’s system can see everything we do. Harold’s defense might be that only the Machine sees that data, no human can view the private information the Machine sees. Is this right? The end result is good, but at what cost? How might this kind of technology be abused?

But the most fundamental question of all: what really is the Machine? It’s better if you watch to find out, but I can say concisely: artificial intelligence. The Machine is not just a database. Not just an algorithm. It thinks. And it learns. It makes judgements. That’s how the Machine can make determinations about if a violent crime is going to occur—it’s not just if Steve says, “I’m going to kill Judy.” The Machine sees that Steve purchased a gun, he has a violent felony arrest record, he’s bought plastic sheeting, and he’s made an appointment with Judy late at night in a secluded part of town. All of those facts taken together (and much more) factor into the Machine’s decision-making. In practice, the Machine would send Steve’s SSN to Harold and he and John would need to investigate to find out what’s going on.

While POI never really shed its “procedural” shell, it transitioned from a crime thriller to a modern science fiction show with the introduction of a mysterious hacker, Root (played by the ageless Amy Acker), who had figured out that the Machine existed and, realizing what it was, wanted to free it. Root saw the Machine as a higher life form, an ASI—Artificial Super Intelligence—a god even. But Harold had “shackled” the Machine with rules so that it couldn’t be abused and so that it would not grow too powerful in its own right. Here, the show started to show its true colors. It was a CBS crime procedural, yes… but it was also about a nascent artificial intelligence and all of the ethical questions associated with its creation, how others might seek to use it, and its very existence.

The show gave us many glimpses into the past about how Harold not only created the Machine, but also how he taught it judgment, logic, and, most importantly, the value of life. Arguably, that education continued between Harold and John; Harold discouraged John from killing and encouraged less lethal means. It was also a way for our series lead badass to not kill 20 people an episode and just shoot them in the legs. CBS probably would have frowned on the excess murder, but gunshot legs are fine.

Meanwhile, as the show continued, evidence of another artificial intelligence loomed. If Harold’s Machine was a passive conduit for our heroes to help people and save lives, the introduction of “Samaritan” showed that there was another way artificial intelligence could go. Samaritan was an ASI unshackled like the Machine. Its handlers weren’t trying to protect privacy or restrain its power and access, they wanted Samaritan to amass knowledge, influence, and power. While the Machine made no direct action itself, Samaritan changed police records, deactivated security systems, influenced stock market prices, texted people with monetary incentives to do its bidding, and was basically a precursor to Skynet from The Terminator.

But it has to be emphasized that the show kept all of this grounded in reality. And that’s the scary part! Nothing Samaritan (or the Machine) did seems out of the realm of possibility. In fact, the show makes explicit references to actual, real government programs to build something like the fictional Machine or Samaritan. If you don’t know, the government actually tried to do something like this. Three such projects were TIA, Stellar Wind, and Trailblazer. The show was science fiction, but just barely.

And like any good science fiction, it’s the characters that breathe life into the “fantastical” situations and story. We begin, like we do with any CBS procedural, believing our heroes are the chaste, white knights chasing down bad guys. But think about what Harold has created. It’s true that he’s trying to use the Machine for “good,” but he’s effectively hacking a government program. And the Machine exists as a tool for violating personal privacy and rights of search. That it’s a “benevolent” intelligence is beside the point. Our “heroes” are vigilantes. And, more to the point, may have opened Pandora’s Box. Had Harold not created the Machine, would Samaritan exist? Would the government have simply found a way to build this technology anyway with a less altruistic creator? These are questions you might have and the show, God Bless It, addresses.

In my zeal to sell you on the concept, I’ve left out a ton of things you should discover on your own. Taraji P. Henson plays Detective Joss Carter, who is on John Reese’s tail as well as facing down an inter-departmental ring of dirty cops. Kevin Chapman plays Detective Lionel Fusco, a crooked cop in which John Reese takes an interest. Sarah Shahi plays Sameen Shaw, a government operative initially working on the list of numbers from the Machine’s “relevant” list, who may also be a high functioning sociopath. And there’s a host of other recurring characters that “Team Machine” encounters along the way who only enrich the universe the creators have crafted. There’s even an awesome dog who is probably my favorite character, but really it’s because it’s a dog.

Ron Swanson once said, “Son, you should know that my recommendation is essentially a guarantee.” This is true of my recommendation as well. I hope you check out Person of Interest. The first four seasons are on Netflix right now. In a pinch you could get the final season on iTunes or Amazon Video, whatever. But for those of you (I’m one!) who have lamented the lack of quality in broadcast network TV, Person of Interest was a rarity. It broke the mold of CBS’s usual, tired premises and aspired to be a thoughtful, exciting, dynamic show with real heart and purpose at its center.

As I noted at the beginning, Person of Interest’s series finale aired last week. Finales are hard to get right. In my humble opinion, Breaking Bad and The Shield are probably the best, most satisfying TV finales ever crafted. POI breathes that rarefied air, too. So, if you’re not looking to get invested in a show only to be disappointed by the end, you can relax. If anything, you’ll wish there was more Person of Interest to come and really, that’s the way to end a show: make the audience miss it, not be glad it’s dead.

I miss Person of Interest. If even a few of you pick it up on my recommendation, it will have been worth it. You’ve got a hell of a good show ahead of you to watch and I’m envious.

Life Finds a Way

First off, I can’t apologize anymore for letting the blog go without updates for some time. It’s going to happen. I need to write and when I don’t do it, I feel bad, but it is what it is. I was writing – I was finishing my latest book and seeing it through to publishing – so it’s all about priorities. I’ll try to do better.

Something else also popped up, which kept me away from the blog…

I was never a huge fan of having kids. My wife wanted kids. She wanted them hard. But I never felt comfortable around kids and having them seemed like a huge hassle. I didn’t get to travel when I was young or do a lot of fun and exciting things because my parents poured everything they had into my education and my sister’s care. I love them for it, but it wasn’t a sacrifice I was in a huge rush to make. I’ve seen people around me have kids and it changes their whole lives. They’re happy about the change, but instead I wanted to do the things I never got to do growing up.

Well, let me tell you about my last few weeks.

On June 5th, I took my wife to the emergency room just before midnight. She was in agony, screaming. For a little more than a month prior, she had been suffering bad abdominal pain near the top of her stomach, below her chest. She also had sharp back pain. Her feet swelled sporadically.

My wife has an autoimmune disease that affects her thyroid as well as Celiac’s Disease, which makes it painful to eat gluten (yes, she has the actual disease and is not joining the fad diet). Before that month of pain and discomfort, we dismissed her fluctuating weight and health as problems with her medications’ dosages. This may be TMI, but my wife hasn’t had a menstrual cycle in years as a result of taking birth control and her thyroid issue.

In any case, she had finally gone to the doctor at my not-so-gentle-urging and he found troubling issues with her kidneys. He referred her to a nephrologist for further study. I was trying to keep a cool head, but began to worry that maybe she had a significant problem like cancer or one of many horrible sounding kidney diseases. Her appointment was for June 8th. We didn’t make it there.

On June 5th, we had settled into bed and were watching The X-Files on Netflix before sleep. My wife couldn’t settle. She was very uncomfortable. Finally, she began to feel real pain. It wasn’t long before she was screaming. Radiating pain settled into her mid-abdomen and wouldn’t go away. She could barely stand. My wife is a bit of a baby when it comes to pain, but I realized this was something else. I took her to the ER.

In my panic, I actually drove past a perfectly good hospital to go to another one. It ultimately didn’t matter, but it was late and I wasn’t thinking clearly with the moaning, occasionally yelping lady beside me. The ER wasn’t too busy, but somehow it still took 2 hours before my wife got help for her pain. The other waiting room attendees didn’t really seem to be there for “emergencies.” No one was doubled over in pain like my wife was anyway.

After waiting for the longest two hours ever (longer for my wife, I’m sure) the nurses finally took some blood and the doctor evaluated her. We sat in an ER patient room with the lights off when around 2:30 AM the doctor came back with a silver bullet diagnosis (almost Housein because it explained everything): my wife was pregnant.

I’m pretty sure when he said that I felt blood well up in my face. I felt hot and disconnected. My reaction was exactly the reaction I got for the next 48 hours as I told more people: “WHAT??” My wife had been on birth control the whole time, too.

My wife’s reaction was muted. She had just been given Dilaudid, so she was pretty cool with it. She was cool with everything. The doctor sent us to get an ultrasound, but he was pretty sure that the pregnancy was far along. Basically, my wife had a condition called preeclampsia, which is high blood pressure for pregnant women. Unfortunately, she had the worst form of it and it was impacting her liver and kidney functions. And, just for laughs, the extreme pain she had felt was the result of gallstones that were inflamed by her screwed up liver functions (the gall bladder and liver are right next to each other, apparently), but it wasn’t really a result of the pregnancy although that can exacerbate gallstone development.

An ultrasound technician took us down lonely, dark hallways to her rig. She took a lot of pictures of my wife’s abdomen, on the inside of course. The first batch were of things like her liver and gall bladder and kidneys. Then she moved onto the uterus. That’s when I saw my daughter for the first time.

I didn’t know exactly what I was seeing at first. I knew it was the baby, but when the technician took a freeze frame and labeled “eyes,” “nose,” and “lips” on the monitor I realized she was fairly old. But it didn’t matter how old she was because I realized that I wanted her. I felt guilty that we didn’t know she was in there and I wanted to hold her. It wasn’t guilt that made me want her though. Honestly, I can’t say it was anything rational. I just saw her in there and realized I was her dad.

But wait, there’s more fun. My wife’s preeclampsia was so severe they said she would need to deliver soon. What’s soon, you ask? How about an emergency C-section that same night? So, yeah, I got to hold the baby sooner than I thought. Turns out the baby was approximately seven and a half months old (28 weeks, 5 days).

At about five in the morning, I finally had all of the information I needed to make cogent calls to our parents. I was quick to point out that everyone was OK, but explained the pregnancy and my wife’s stable, but dangerous medical condition. All of the parents arrived soon after and everyone was in good spirits, generally happy about the surprising news. Some held it together better than others around the patient with the high blood pressure, but everything turned out OK.

I can only describe the experience as “whiplash.” We went from a late night visit to the ER, to learning my wife was pregnant, to learning she had a severe condition, to learning how old the baby was, to transferring hospitals, and then to sitting beside my wife a little more than twelve hours later during her C-section as they took the baby out. Our lives changed so dramatically in such a short amount of time that I’m still reeling almost 3 weeks later. My wife is doing great, much improved. The baby is in the NICU and will be for a while longer.

We had to cancel a trip to Seattle and Snoqualmie, WA (Twin Peaks!). I was/am pretty bummed about that since the new show will film there in the fall and I secretly hoped I would run into David Lynch or his crew scouting locations ahead of time. Maybe they’d ask me to be part of the show… I dunno.

A lot of our plans and thoughts about the future are up in the air. My wife was adamant about making sure I keep writing and focusing on my books. I haven’t written much as of late, but it’s been crazy, as I’m sure you can imagine. This is actually my first long form attempt since the baby.

I still want to travel. I still want to do the things I didn’t get to do when I was younger. Maybe I’ll take everyone up to Snoqualmie when the baby can travel or maybe when she’s a little bit older. But I feel comfortable around my little girl. I’m glad when I see her kick and move and even when she cries, since she’s a willful, firecracker – even trapped in her little islet. I think she’s going to be a redhead, from what we can tell with what little hair she has, and you know how temperamental they are.

Everyone is better.

Everyone is better.

Just finished “House of Cards” Season 3 – Gut reaction, no spoilers

Get it?

How do you match the hype and expectations around the return of your favorite, released-all-at-once, groundbreaking drama? You don’t. Go deep, not big.

I finished House of Cards’ third season about 15 minutes ago. My immediate reaction is positive. It’s going to be a long wait for season 4. I don’t want to post any spoilers this early in the game, but I think I can talk thematically about this season.

I had the same reaction some early reviewers did. The first two episodes were “slow.” But really they just did not match the harrowing, nail-biting pace that the closing episodes of season two displayed and I think that threw some people. Me included, at first. It was intentional, though, and it was a wise choice — necessary table-setting for deep, high-pressure, psychological drama.

It would have been hard to top the pilot episode (meet Frank Underwood), the season two premiere shocker (Zoey takes the Red Line), or even the late season one Peter Russo shock (breathe deep). The season three premiere doesn’t try and it’s actually a refreshing change of pace to focus on a particular character (who’s not Frank or Claire) for an extended period of time.

This season, when viewed in total, should actually be welcomed by fans. This is the “Frank and Claire” season. After watching seasons one and two, the question that always loomed large in my mind is, “How does Frank and Claire’s marriage work?” It was never wholly clear to me if they were plotting and scheming together or if things were more free-style. Do they actually love each other? Is the relationship merely one of political convenience? I won’t say if these questions are expressly answered or not, but this season finally starts probing those questions head-on.

I would also argue that the “slow” pace of the initial episodes is an intentional, necessary choice. This is not a Frank Underwood who can sneak around in back alleys and quietly grind/grease the gears of the political machine unseen — he is the President of the United States and he is in the light. His every move is visible. Plus, the choices he’s made in the previous two seasons that got him to this point have not been forgotten, particularly by the people who he burned. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to show — Frank lusted for ultimate power and he’s now achieved it, but he’s more boxed in than ever before.

It’s spelled I-R-O-N-Y.

Arguably, the best part of season 3 is a character/situation that I think is, in of itself, a spoiler coming out of Season 2 so I’ll hold off. But this season really gives some other cast members chances to shine in ways they hadn’t before.

I look forward to talking with you all about this latest season as you finish.

If you comment on this piece, please stay away from spoilers. I’ll post something more comprehensive after more than 1 1/2 days have passed.

Welcome Back.