Season 6 of House of Cards allows Claire Underwood to take center stage, if only she can get out from under Frank’s dead thumb.
In the final chapters of House of Cards, season 6 poses similar questions both in the show, and to us: can the world accept that Frank Underwood will not be president? Are they ready for a female president? Can we accept that Frank Underwood will not be the star? Are we ready for Claire Underwood to take over?
The last we saw the Underwoods, Frank had resigned from the presidency, stepping aside for his wife, Claire, to assume his position. Part of the arrangement included Claire pardoning both Frank and his right-hand man, Doug Stamper, to which she agreed.
During Claire’s first speech to the nation as president, she announced the killing of ICO terrorist leader Ahmad Al Ahmadi, and that the United States would go to war against ICO. She failed to pardon Frank and Doug, and following her address, rejected Frank’s phone calls and did what many of us hoped would happen before the series’ end: Claire addressed the camera, and by extension us, directly, stating, “My turn.” Thusly, House of Cards season 6 was set to show the decline of Frank Underwood, and the rise of Claire Underwood.
Months later, executive producer and Frank Underwood actor Kevin Spacey was fired from the series due to sexual assault allegations. Despite the fact that the decision to end the series had been decided long before Spacey’s firing, production on season 6 had already begun, and it left the series’ fate in the air.
Fortunately the final season was not cancelled, opting instead to continue without Kevin Spacey and Frank Underwood. Though many may feel the show cannot continue without Frank, this decision ultimately reflects what happens in the original book. Wasting no time to explain how House of Cards would continue without its lead, Netflix released a short teaser trailer of Claire standing at Frank’s grave. That’s right, Frank is dead before season 6 even begins.
Forced to deal with everything and everyone Frank left behind, season 6 Claire Underwood strives to make a name for herself separate from her husband’s legacy. This proves to be a struggle, however, as his presence follows her at every turn. Claire contends with decisions and promises Frank made, as well as people who were once loyal to him, but less inclined to provide her with the same dedication. Like Frank though, Claire Underwood is not one to be underestimated. They were a perfect match for a reason, and Frank’s departure serves to make room for Claire to seamlessly take his place as a leader who will do whatever it takes to get what she wants.
But it isn’t just the familiar who return to cause trouble for Claire. New additions to the cast include Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear as brother and sister duo Annette and Bill Shepherd. The two own Shepherd Unlimited, an industrial conglomerate who has a heavy influence in the political landscape. Though their uneasy trust is something we’re used to with other characters on House of Cards, the Shepherd’s allegiance is all the more intriguing due to their complicated history with Claire.
Robin Wright coolly and assuredly steps into the leading role, and to no one’s surprise, is able to maintain the questionably ethical protagonist we grew to love watching with Kevin Spacey as Frank. She oozes a confidence and composure that’s both admirable and terrifying, sometimes making you question why you really want her to succeed. This is never more apparent than when she addresses the camera directly, giving you an insight into her thought-process we’ve never had before.
Season 6 of House of Cards has the twists and power struggle you’ve come to expect, along with the unraveling of plans and calculated successes that keep you binging. It’s a fitting end to a fantastic series that began Netflix’s original content, and kept us coming back for 6 seasons.