Contains massive spoilers.
So after the final episode of season 6, I sat there in an underwhelmed and confused silence. I had enjoyed House Of Cards’ final season but overall something was missing. There was an empty space. Or Space-y.
Kevin Spacey’s absence in season 6 starkly demonstrated how important his character was to the show. Indeed, it all started with Frank Underwood’s rage at being overlooked for a cabinet position and his merciless climb (assisted by his wife Claire) to the Oval Office. We were repelled as often as we rooted for him to succeed. Arguably, after Frank got into office and was made President, the ladder climbing wasn’t driving them any more and new challenges had to be created. Now with Frank dead, it’s up to Robin Wright as Frank’s wife Claire Underwood to carry the show. And it’s just not quite the same.
Robin Wright is a formidable actress and is utterly compelling as Madame President. She was also a brilliant accomplice and foil to her husband’s schemes when Frank was alive. The show makes some interesting points about sexism and Claire’s struggle within a male dominated government. But her asides to the camera, her schemes, aren’t nearly as deliciously diabolical as Frank’s. And she also seems to feel very negative about Frank, which I wasn’t sure was always the case. They had a fascinatingly complex relationship right from the start yes, but now, she hates him?
In one episode Claire kills three people, some long standing characters, but they are so fast they barely register. Whenever Frank killed, it had huge dramatic weight. Zoe Barnes was a huge shocker, I had to rewind it! The fact Claire is now pregnant with Frank’s child also seems a bit of a stretch as they didn’t seem to have sex nor particularly enjoy it with each other. Tom Yates’ death is also underwhelming and sweeps what was quite an interesting emotional journey for Claire away in the blink of an eye. Being pregnant with Tom’s child would have perhaps been more interesting. But Claire’s indifference to these huge events makes her difficult to care for, as you’re never really sure what game she’s playing, with whom and also why. Is being the female president her end goal in life? Seth also is given a short shift in this series, after being quite an interesting and loyal character in earlier seasons. And Doug… after all his loyalty, it’s then blurted out in the last five minutes that HE KILLED FRANK?! Never in a million years would he kill Frank! He is so hopelessly devoted to him (to a fault) he would never do that! Seriously, wtf writers?!
The show also makes reference to events that happened in the very first seasons and without flashbacks it can be difficult to remember the specifics. Seth makes a joke to Doug in the kitchen with a glass, which I vaguely recall referencing a time when Doug thrust Seth onto his table and coerced him using a glass, I can’t be sure. And at the end of the final episode, there are still several lose threads in play. Skorski is still investigating the story that has killed off her colleagues and her boss- she should probably catch the hint by now… Doug appears to have left co ordinates for Rachel’s body and other evidence on his apartment table. And Claire remains in power, about to give birth to her daughter. The ex VP is still scheming with the Shepperds. And that’s it?
How else could it have ended?
Well… the previous season 5 certainly ended with Claire saying to camera “my turn” indicating she was fed up of playing second fiddle, so her rise to power in season 6, isn’t all that surprising. I’m intrigued to know what would have happened, had Kevin Spacey not been suddenly written out of the show. I won’t comment on that toxic topic for too long, but it’s telling that over a year later, no formal charges have been made against Spacey, despite all the repugnant sex abuse claims. They say there’s no smoke without fire, and the number of accusers is significant, as well as statements from Netflix staff. But, unfortunately, as much as powerful famous people can take advantage of others, so too can unscrupulous people take advantage of famous stars, and instead of going to the police, they go to… the media? Something doesn’t add up, and going to the media seems like a very Frank Underwood thing to do… A case in point is Sylvester Stallone, who had absurd MeToo allegations made and then later dropped.
I’m not sure we’ll ever really know the truth for sure and it’s a terrible shame overall on behalf of the accusers if the abuse did happen as claimed. I also admire Spacey’s charming yet malevolent performances over his incredible career, and perhaps he really is just playing himself. But maybe that’s why he was sacked. House of Cards is all about beguiling and charming monsters being able to get away with dastardly political manoeuvring. Had they not dismissed Spacey, it would literally have looked like Frank Underwood could get away with anything, again… I guess they couldn’t, in good conscience, let Frank win, true or not.