HomeTelevisionHouse of Cards The Final Season Starts Strong

House of Cards The Final Season Starts Strong

House of Cards Final Season
Photo Credit: David Giesbrecht/Netflix

The sixth and final season of House of Cards begins on a quiet, uneasy note, and while there’s not a whole lot going in this premiere in terms of plot,  it’s just enough to get us back in for a new season after this series essentially had to, in more ways than one, reset itself.

In the opening scene, Claire (Robin Wright), her VP, and an unspecified aide stand around the Oval going over various death threats she has received over the internet and in the media. They talk about safety precautions, how she should be presenting herself, how much security she’ll need at events. Meanwhile, a sibling couple named Bill and Annette Shepard (Greg Kinnear and the always wonderful Diane Lane) seemingly plot against Claire in the election of her yet-undecided Chief-of-Staff.

Elsewhere, Doug Stamper (Michael Kelley) is in therapy, isolated at some kind of wellness resort, having recently confessed to murder of Zoe Barnes. He thinks he can get his old job back as soon as he leaves. And on top of everything, Claire is haunted by the ghost of Francis Underwood (the series’ former lead Kevin Spacey) who we learn in the episode’s first scene died not long after he was removed from office, making it difficult to make name for herself and pave her own legacy.

The ending of Season 5 essentially wrapped everything up: all of Frank Underwood’s heinous acts, going all the way back to the threads started in season 1, had been accounted for. Though it wasn’t exactly in a pretty bow, basically every plot the show ever had had been wrapped up. By all accounts, the end of season 5 could have probably been a series finale; Claire taking the Presidency from Frank could have and would have been a satisfactory ending to the story of the Underwoods.

But alas, that is not the case and the series was forced to oust Kevin Spacey from his role after allegations of sexual assault. I won’t waste time in this review talking about the politics of the Kevin Spacey situation (in short, I believe the consequences were fair), but nonetheless, we now have a final season of an enormously popular show without the lead that carried it for five years. And any worries or reservations that could be had about the show not being able to hold the viewer’s attention without the presence of Frank Underwood are gladly squashed in the episode’s aforementioned cold open.

Half way through the episode, an assassination attempt is made on Claire’s life as she’s driven down the road in the presidential motorcade (A.K.A. “The Beast”). It’s no surprise in itself, given the all threats she’s received, but what’s interesting is Claire and her cabinet’s attempt to hide it from the media, to make sure no one even found out about it. Of course, word travels and this attempt is a failure as we learn later in a press briefing, but his makes one think about how important it is for a president to keep up their public image. I started wondering myself about how many U.S. presidents have had an attempt made on their life that the history was never told about. I’m sure there’s at least a handful.

It’s implied not long after that this assassination attempt came from the inside, possibly from Annette and Bill Sheppard, who are shown to be working with journalist Melody Cruz (Athena Karkanis), who often attends White House press briefings. If there is any major complaint about this premiere, it is this thread. If the Sheppards have such a long and complicated history with Claire, surely we would have at least heard them mentioned at some point over the last 5 seasons. How quickly we meet them, and then are suddenly supposed dislike them plainly does not work. If the assassination attempt did come from them, and these characters become the protagonists of the season, we need to go to know them better.

Over the course of the episode, we also slowly learn more and more about the details and the circumstances of Frank Underwood’s death. There’s been a bit of a time jump, and Claire has now been president for 100 days, which means only as much as a couple months has passed since the end of last season. Somewhere along the road there, we know that Frank died while sleeping in bed next to Claire. At a later point in the episode, Claire says she is suspicious that Frank’s death could have been a murder. From where I sit, it sounds like Frank committed suicide, and planned on doing next to do her to horrify her.

But then, the end of the episode shakes things up even more. In the last scene, Claire enters their old bedroom to find Frank’s college ring on the bed, unsure of how it got there. Fittingly, she puts it on her middle finger. She turns to the camera like Frank used to do and tells us “Someone like Frank doesn’t just die. That would be too ‘convenient’.” And she’s right.

To me, the last scene implies 2 possible things: 1) Claire herself killed Frank and framed it to look like either a suicide or some other cause, or 2) the two of them planned his death, believing his sudden loss would prevent any further investigation into their wrongdoings and somewhat repairing the image and legacy. Obviously you can make your own assumptions and theories, but as far as this reviewer is concerned, that’s the direction we’re heading.

And of course, I would be committing a sin to not mention that Robin Wright is just as stellar as always. Even with no other lead to bounce off of, she’s par for the course.

“Chapter 66” is an impressive premiere, given the circumstances under which it exists. It is worth noting that this season is only 8 episodes, instead of 13 like every season prior. I like this. It tells me the filmmakers don’t care about filling the quota, but instead only telling the exact amount of story that needs to be told to finish this series. With Frank out of the picture and most of the series regulars, spar Seth and Doug, nowhere in sight either, I can’t say I have any clue what to expect going forward.

But it’s building a great aura for itself so far. New puzzle pieces, new possible foes, new hurdles to overcome. You can certainly feel the pressure building. I’m excited to watch it burst.

Overall rating: 8.5/10

House of Cards The Final Season is now streaming onNetflix.



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