Maybe that’s all you really need to know about House of Cards, Season 6. The series finale (?) begins with Claire sitting precariously in the oval office and an off-screen resolution to Kevin Spacey’s delightfully devious President Underwood. Long story short, he’s dead. I understand and agree with the rationale behind Kevin Spacey’s firing but that doesn’t change the fact that the show suffers without him. Maybe that’s not the right thing to say in the current social climate but it was true, at least for me.
Without a doubt Claire has been my favorite character throughout the course of the show. I was so thrilled when she turned to the camera and said “My turn” at the end of last season. What this season made abundantly clear, however, was that her dealings with Frank – indeed their complex, toxic, twisted yet fascinating relationship – was the nexus around which all other plot strands orbited. Without the two of them, House of Cards becomes yet another run of the mill political show. One that simply cannot keep pace with the absurdity of American politics today, regardless how much I enjoy Claire and Robin Wright’s icy cold interpretation of her. House of Cards should have ended with one of them killing the other. Or maybe both of them dead. Clearly, without Kevin Spacey that was impossible. I think I feel cheated out of the obvious end game to such a powerful yet immoral and narcissistic couple. Ah, what could have been!
Kevin Spacey’s unexpected departure not withstanding there were some very odd story choices this season. Here I’m entering spoiler territory so if you haven’t watched stop reading now.
OK here we go:
- Claire is a champion of women? Uh, yea OK. She may hate men but that does not automatically make her a feminist. Claire has always only been a champion of one thing, Claire.
- Claire’s backstory: why did we need to see this and how exactly was it relevant? None of it made me understand her complex personality any more that what the show had already established.
- Claire is pregnant! Again, OK. The first season was so great at showing how sexy, desirable, and powerful a woman going through menopause could be. I loved that! But now six years later she’s pregnant with her late husband’s baby. I know medical technology can produce miracles these days but this is a stretch. There was an opportunity to introduce a new Underwood but the show blew it.
- Two new power players were introduced this season. Billionaire siblings of whom I could not muster any enthusiasm. Interestingly, the sister Annette had a son in his twenties who was adopted. Wouldn’t it be a kick in the pants if he somehow turned out to be Claire and Frank’s long-lost son? It would add more depth to Claire’s connection to Annette and up the stakes on their political maneuvering. Sadly, this is not the case.
- Doug Stamper was responsible for Frank’s death? No, just no. It would have been better if Frank had simply died of natural causes – a major heart attack for example. After all the stress he’s been dealing with these past few years it would certainly make sense. I simply cannot believe Doug would stand by and watch Francis die. A murder/suicide perhaps but Doug walking away with some zealot drive to preserve Frank’s legacy at all costs? That’s a stretch. The writers needed something to put him on a collison course with Claire. One would think they could have done better.
- Claire certainly has become very comfortable with murder, yes? Newly self anointed champion of women murders two high-ranking females in the government. I was never really clear why she felt the need to do this. Kathy Durant may have been a threat but Jane Davis? She knew the game and played it well. I don’t think she would have made a move against Claire. Then again, I never really understood what her role was. CIA? Shadow government? Deep state operative? Oh, and I guess LeAnn Harvey is also dead. When, how, why not sure. And honestly, who the hell really cares at this point? Lest you think her ire is only reserved for women Claire also had her former lover murdered. Again, not entirely sure why but that is a running theme with this season. Things happen with no apparent rhyme or reason. Maybe I just stopped paying attention halfway through. She also kills Doug Stamper to conclude the series and cement her power? Who knows?
In the end maybe House of Cards simply outlived its premise. Who could have predicted that the bat-shit insanity of US politics would seem like the plotline of a bad, sad, and ultimately terrifying movie making House of Cards seem tame and almost quaint by comparison? Because of this, House of Cards would have been outdated even if Kevin Spacey had returned. But beyond all that, there is only so long a couple like Frank and Claire could stay on top without the bottom falling out (or the veritable house of cards tumbling down). Maybe that’s why I feel so cheated. Frank and Claire were living in a house of cards. We, the audience, were robbed of the satisfaction of watching it all come crashing down. Honestly, the show should have ended in Season 5 with Frank dead and Claire in the White House. Afterall, aren’t all toxic relationships doomed to fail spectacularly?
It’s perhaps worth noting that Season 6 ended abruptly with several loose ends. Would Netflix be so foolish to give it another go? Not sure, but I can tell you this much I won’t be watching.
If you need closure by all means watch the final season. Just keep your expectations in check.