Picking up 100 days into the presidency of Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), season 6 of House of Cards follows our lead as she must swim the murky waters of Washington politics. While contending with enemies such as private sector lobbyists Bill and Annette Shepherd (Greg Kinnear and Diane Lane, respectively), and deal with the death of her husband, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey, who didn’t reprise his role due to sexual misconduct allegations). Despite the potential to take the show in an interesting direction following Spacey’s departure, the final season flounders and acts as a disappointing end to what was once Netflix’s flagship show.
The tone and structure of the season seems all over the place. Half of the scenes are dull, uninteresting events that only seem present to pad out the running time (a depressing move considering this season was already shortened from the usual 13 episodes to just 8). The rest go in the opposite direction, incredibly melodramatic and ridiculous to the point that the viewer can forget how grounded the earlier seasons were meant to be. This inconsistency culminates in a finale that leaves countless narrative threads unresolved, as though the writers realised they didn’t know how to tie everything up in the span of 8 episodes and so didn’t even try. The ending is hence highly unsatisfying.
The season introduces the Shepherds as Claire’s main enemies, but despite the actors giving decent performances, the material just isn’t there. It doesn’t help that these characters, supposedly big deals in this world of American politics, were never mentioned in prior seasons. The shorter number of episodes means they never receive any deep characterisation beyond ‘generic corporate executives’. As for their subplot involving Annette’s son, Duncan (Cody Fern), one wonders why the audience would care: we don’t know anything about them beyond ‘they’re capitalists I guess’, so why would we be interested in subplots that only take time away from characters we actually care about, such as Claire? Why the creators would introduce new characters in the show’s final season doesn’t make any sense, it only serves to frustrate the viewer and waste time.
Robin Wright is the only beacon of hope in this mess of a season. Wright is clearly a strong actor, and it would have been easy for her to falter in having to step up to become the shows main character following the scandal involving Kevin Spacey. Fortunately, she proves she can be a formidable lead, and the few good scenes in this season are all because of her. If people take something positive away from this review, it should be that Wright needs her own show post-House of Cards where she can really show off her abilities.
The final season of House of Cards is a grand disappointment. Choppy writing and uninteresting characters make the whole venture a weak entry into Netflix’s library. Even Robin Wright’s acting chops can’t act as the glue to prevent this house of cards from finally collapsing.
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