***(For one brief and holy moment on the day of February 11th, in the Year of our Lord two thousand and fifteen, Netflix accidentally prematurely released the third season of its critically acclaimed drama “House Of Cards”. However, before many of us could send out an email to our employer, telling them that we were coming down with a deeply contagious sickness that looked like it would extend deep into the weekend, Netflix realized their mistake and took the season down. But not before a lucky few of us pressed play on episode one. I was one of the lucky few. What follows will contain no season three spoilers. What it will contain is a minute by minute detail of the most exhilarating and emotionally rewarding hour and ten minutes of my adult life, and when I say that I am fully taking into account my wedding in 2014.*)***
4:00 p.m. EST – Like any man who has been blessed to live in the age of the internet, I am deeply immersed in what I like to call “The Netflix Wall”. This usually occurs when you’ve literally watched everything worth watching on Netflix, and you find yourself scrolling deep into the caverns ABC Family shows and whispering things like “maybe I could enjoy this. I’ve always rooted for Melissa Joan Hart. She’s never gotten a fair shake.” It happens to all of us. The next step, in this case, is to revisit the things one has already watched, so I start to click on the Friday Night Lights pilot. Because once you’ve watched that thing 8 times, you just lose count. It just feels like going to the old ice cream place you loved in college every time you visit home, even though it’s making you unhealthier with each visit.
4:15 p.m. EST – By virtue of the same internet that has betrayed me time and time again this week by becoming a mess of bad Kanye West takes and 50 Shades of Grey think pieces, I’m reminded that House Of Cards Season 3 is coming along at the end of the month. I think well, no better time to get a season two refresher. I press pause on the YouTube video I’ve been watching of Michael McDonald on Soul Train in 1982, head back to Netflix and click on the House Of Cards tab, looking for season tw-
….AND WHAT HAVE WE HERE??????????
4:20 p.m. EST – After spending the better part of three minutes breathing frantically and refreshing my computer screen repeatedly to make sure I was experiencing something real, I now understand that I am literally the black adult version of Charlie from that old British documentary about chocolate factories and child labor or whatever. I’m the lucky holder of some kind of golden ticket that no one else knows about or has access to. This is clearly a reward from God for me having to read all of that racist stuff Joni Mitchell said the other day. My only question: Do I keep this precious secret to myself? Surely the rest of the world couldn’t handle such a pivotal moment in my life. One that only I am experienci-
UM ALERT. House of Cards season 3 is on Netflix. Now.
— Ira III, Part 1 (@irathethird) February 11, 2015
What I know now is what I knew ten minutes ago: I am not special. There are, however, two pieces of good news:
1.) God still totally owes me one for that whole Joni Mitchell thing, since I can no longer redeem this golden ticket.
2.) I am still DEFINITELY in my house with fully functioning internet. Weighing these two blessings, I decide to press play on episode 1 (ed. note: in hindsight, this is the decision that this whole hour turned on. Some people would have decided “Oh, that’s great. I’ll check it out later.” But not me. My ability to make crucial split-second decisions like this is just one of many reasons why I’m anywhere from 5 to 25 years away from true greatness.)
4:26 p.m. EST – Everyone else I know should be aware of this. Everyone needs to know that they can consume this television show right now. The episode, by the way, starts out brilliantly. Building off of the tension of Season 2, and immediately introducing new conflicts for its major characters, it will have you instantly invested. Before the episode really gets going, I decide to take to the social networks to break the news to my peers, with all of the calmness and delicacy reserved for a man of my considerable accomplishments.
4:30 p.m. EST – One day, I think, I will sit on a porch. And children will come and sit at my feet while the moonlight fights through the clouds. And the children will look up and my wrinkled face and my flowing grey beard. They will say “sir…please…tell us again of the time when House Of Cards Season 3 was pulled from Netflix shortly after it went up, but you were still watching it, despite this? Tell us how you resisted the urge to walk away from the computer screen for a much needed bathroom break to answer the higher calling that had been placed upon you?” and I will say “AH YES. Gather around, children. It was a cold and snowy day in a place called Connecticut. A place that has long been broken off from our Country and banished into the depths of hell. Anyway, this story begins like many other stories from my youth. I was at home wearing sweatpants and a band t-shirt…”
4:38 p.m. EST – At this point, I’m very aware that House Of Cards Season 3 has now been removed from Netflix. The internet is heartbroken. At least 25 people canceled dates for this evening and they didn’t even have to, and 10 of those 25 people don’t care but you KNOW the other 15 are like, REALLY bummed, because they had been looking forward to getting back out there so that their parents would finally get off their back about it and etc. Butttttt, even with all of that, I’m still pretty deep into episode 1, and it shows no signs of stopping. Which leaves me in a weird position where I find myself afraid to move, or touch anything. Listen, I don’t want to brag, but I’ve been in the wild before. I once slept in the backseat of a 1995 Nissan Maxima in a Target parking lot. So when I say “moving is pretty much the enemy of all things good”, I know what I’m talking about. I decide to lock in. Watch even more intensely. These are the moments you get paid for, I whisper to myself, completely ignoring the fact that I am doing all of this entirely for free.
4:42 p.m. EST – As far as the episode goes, it’s still great. Except things aren’t looking good for Frank. Which leads me to my first problem: When you’re one of very few people watching an episode of a show that TECHNICALLY doesn’t exist yet, there’s no one to talk about it with. I remedy this by repeating “THINGS LOOKIN’ REAL BAD FOR FRANK!” to the dog.
4:50 p.m. EST – I skip about eight minutes ahead in the episode. This was an accident, to be fair. But in doing this, I realize that I miss something pivotal, and I am far too afraid to retreat back, in case Netflix picks up on what I’m getting away with. And then, A second problem arises. As mentioned by the fake children from the future that I dreamed up at 4:32, I find myself in need of a bathroom break. Full disclosure: I’m drinking more water and eating less ice cream these days, because BEST CASE SCENARIO, I would like to become a swimsuit model. But worst case scenario, I want to not look weird when standing next to my wife, who is far more attractive than I am at first glance. At second and third glance too, really. But if you stick around for those crucial glances in the 5-7 range, I may win one. So I’m drinking water all the time and not eating ice cream or whatever. HAD I KNOWN that House Of Cards would arrive early in the 4 o’clock hour and then magically stick around despite vanishing everywhere else, I would have skipped at least one of those Michael McDonald videos that I treated myself to while working in the 3 o’clock hour. But we can’t look back on past mistakes now. I’ll stay in this room all night if it means I can watch this entire season.
4:55 p.m. EST – My wife, who has been here the whole time, entirely unaware of what I’ve been experiencing, walks in. She looks at my computer screen. “Oh. Watching a little House of Cards?”, she says. I try to rush through a spotty explanation of what blessings have rained down upon our household that mostly just sounds like a handful of half-sentences. She asks what I want to do for dinner, which leads me to believe that I did a really poor job explaining the miracle that is playing out on my laptop screen. There could also be the chance that she is just genuinely not as interested as I am, something that is bound to happen in any marriage…
(Michelle Obama, entering the Situation Room): “Hey, Barack. What are all you guys up to?”
(Barack Obama): “WE JUST KILLED OSAMA BIN LADEN”
(Michelle): “Oh, how nice. Anyway, Joe and Jill want to do brunch this Sunday and I said yes. We’ll have to figure out a place later, though. Joe is allergic to pretty much EVERYTHING, especially getting out of bed AM I RIGHT? Ok, have fun!”
5:01 p.m. EST – Speaking of Barack Obama: This is the point of the evening where I decided to take a REAL risk. Episode 1 draws to a tense and emotional close. I could have stopped there, satisfied with what I had been lucky enough to consume. But I think, WAIT. EPISODE 2 IS RIGHT THERE. Go big or go home, right? Considering that in this scenario, I am already IN my home, I am only left with one option. I click on episode 2. IT PLAYS. I reach out to the leader of our great Nation for advice.
— Hanif Abdurraqib (@NifMuhammad) February 11, 2015
He never got back to me, but my hopes are pretty high that he’ll read this and invite me to the White House or something.
5:03 p.m. EST – As the intensity in the second episode increases (Look, I will stick to the no spoilers thing. But the first episode and a half are CRAZY, y’all. CRAZY), I’m beginning to fall back on what I’m best known for: irrational fear. Am I the only one in the world still watching? Is this illegal? This has to be illegal. Netflix doesn’t want me watching this. But it would ALSO be a crime to STOP watching, wouldn’t it? I’m committing a crime either way! Is the Government going to break in through my window and seize all of my electronics? This is like that weird time when I was 15 and people were getting arrested for downloading music but I just HAD to have that complete Grateful Dead discography. All 319 albums. That was worth going to prison for then. This is worth going to prison for now. When some guy asks “what are you in for?” and I’ll say “I streamed the first two episodes of House of Cards season 3 after Netflix had taken them down” he’ll probably be like “Whoa. That’s hardcore. I’m in here for plotting to take down our corrupt government.” and I’ll be like “Yeah, I know all about the corrupt government. You know, because of the whole streaming House of Cards thing”. And then word will spread of my deeds until I run the prison with an iron fist…
Thinking through all of this leads to me missing a major moment at the start of episode 2, by the way. I dial back in just as it is happening, and I’m not sure how we arrived there, but it is intense. I then realize that perhaps this is my destiny. To be the only person alive to watch every episode of this season. This is why I was put on this Earth.
Like many of us, I am at my most religious when something is going to directly benefit me.
5:10 p.m. EST – The scene is this: My office is dark and only lit by the glow of my computer screen, which I am in front of, sweating and looking over my shoulder. Not only is episode 2 WILDER than episode 1, my fear of being imprisoned is becoming more and more real by the moment. At some point, I’m unsure where the world of House of Cards ends, and where my real life begins. I start to consider very drastic measures. The only reasonable option that I come up with is that I do not leave my office for the next ten hours, watching every episode. There is no plan that cannot be cancelled. No meal that cannot be skipped. I will crawl out of this room into the sunlight when a new morning breaks over Connecticut, thin and trembling. And I will collapse on the kitchen floor, only to be lifted and given water by a host of angels, who will then raise a banner in my honor. It’ll be like Sandra Bullock reaching earth again at the end of Gravity, except I’ll be even MORE dramatic than she was (mailed in the last scene, IMHO). No one asks to be a hero, folks. Sometimes, we are just given a task, and then we rise to the occas-
5:12 p.m. EST – Like 95% of any serious relationship I’ve ever been in, I’m not exactly sure what went wrong, or when it happened. One moment, Frank Underwood was engaged in a VERY tense situation that I will not spoil for you all. And the next, I get the screen you see above.
Have you ever been close to greatness, and still failed to touch it? I haven’t. Until this moment. Well, except for the entirety of my athletic career on every level imaginable. But this was bigger than that. I wipe away what I am going to call a tear for the sake of dramatization, but was probably just eye condensation from staring at a bright screen in a dark room for over an hour. The tears came much later, while staring in the bathroom mirror, looking at the man I was. And thinking back on the man that I could have become.
(It is important to point out that even without giving you spoilers, I cannot recommend what I’ve seen of Season 3 enough. If you enjoyed the pace and tone of season 2, season 3 will offer you much of the same. Frank becomes an even more conflicted character as he’s met with a handful of new challenges, and I can’t wait to see how the rest plays out. Also, here’s one spoiler:
At some point in the season, for reasons I do not know and would not tell you if I did…Claire changes her hair color. MIND BLOWING SPOILER, I know.)
(*After further consideration, I think it is possible that I overstated this moment when compared to my 2014 wedding.)