Oh how the cards crumble! The ending of season 5 proved no better setup for a series to move forward without it’s main lead, as Kevin Spacey’s past came back to haunt him in the real world, writers were faced with the difficult, not impossible, task of writing the character out.
Fortunately for the HOC writers Frank Underwood (Spacey) had stepped down as president leaving his wife Claire (Robin Wright) to take over. Another happy coincidence is that the writers had brought her into the mix of fourth wall breaking fun, as she had begun to speak directly to the audience, in the previous season. These happy little accidents worked significantly well for creating a final season. So where did it all you wrong?
Robin Wright is fantastic as Claire and as a viewer I was excited to see where they took the character she expertly played in the final series.
From the get go we are, not surprisingly, introduced to a world where Francis Underwood is no more, seemingly died under natural circumstances, which for HOC can mean only one thing MURDER!!
Claire informs us, the audience, she is not to blame but never the less is happy Francis is gone none the less.
Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) is in a psychiatric facility, after admitting to killing Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) back in season 2. We know Doug is innocent as it was Frank’s doing all along and by some miracle Doug is still devoted enough to Frank that he honors his wishes beyond the grave. This sense of honor is somewhat misplaced and a final episode revelation makes it even more convoluted.
Tom Hammerschmidt (Boris McGiver) along with Janine Skorsky (Constance Zimmer) continue their hunt for the truth to find out what happened to Zoe Barnes, Rachel Brosnahan, Lucas Goodwin and Peter Russo. All of whom were indirectly or directly killed by Frank and Claire’s actions.
We are introduced to two new characters in the form of Annette (Diane Lane) and Bill Shepherd (Greg Kinnear) both played superbly as Claire’s main antagonists this season.
The Shepherds work to dethrone Claire throughout the season aligning themselves with several of her former allies in an attempt to gather power. Bill Shepherd acts as a real force to be reckoned with as he consistently berates Claire into doing his bidding, making him almost as unlikable a character as her.
Claire without Frank is just as ruthless, if not more which, as the first few episodes progress, is quite engaging. It’s around the fifth episode when things move into classic HOC over the top as Claire orders, mafia style, hits on Tom Hammerschmidt, Jane Davis (Patricia Clarkson) and Catherine Durant (Jane Atkinson). The sequence, whilst shocking unfortunately, doesn’t really work and things quickly go down hill from here as the plot becomes more and more ludicrous. The biggest problem is the consistent reminder of Frank’s demise, that lingers, throughout the entire season. Had the writers chosen to move away from the character perhaps the shadow of FU wouldn’t have been so dark. As the monotony of characters comparing Claire to Frank becomes dull very swiftly and the subplots of Frank’s will and a verbal diary, the later conveniently never heard, only serve as another reminder of Spacey’s absence from the series.
We have characters recount the diary, listen to it with headphones and news reports highlighting points in the diary. Why this couldn’t be a written diary I have no idea. The noticable abscene of any character listening to the audio aloud seems artificial at best.
Overall season 6 exemplifies the very worst of HOC, when it gets preoccupied with creating sensationalistic scenarios rather than thinking about logically conclusions. This can be seen no more blatantly than in the season finale, when the final shocker, is a reveal that Doug Stamper killed Frank. This is one of the more unbelievable plot twists not only because of his undying loyalty to the character established in previous seasons but also in this season as he continues to seem motivated to save Frank’s legacy.
Another implausible plot contrivance is that of Claire becoming pregnant with Frank’s baby, which may in fact belong to Thomas Yates (Paul Sparks) but this is only a theory, which ensures Claire retains control over Frank’s assets that were originally left to Doug in his will.
The final curtain for the show sees Doug and Claire go head to head with the pregnant Claire ending victorious, proving once and for all she is the most deceptive of characters HOC has offered up. Several loose threads remain, with the Shepherds still plotting against her and Janine Skorsky still in play, which only helps to make the series feel somewhat incomplete.
An unfortunate 2/5 birds from me – Jason
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