Minor spoilers ahead for the sixth and final season of Netflix’s “House of Cards.”
The sixth and final season of “House of Cards” dropped on Netflix Friday.
And Kevin Spacey isn’t on it at all. Since 2013, Underwood played the show’s conniving protagonist, Frank Underwood. In November 2017, Netflix fired Spacey from the show after multiple men accused him of sexual misconduct last year. The final season lets Robin Wright take the lead as Claire Underwood, and introduces new characters played by Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear.
The political drama that’s sometimes a thriller also marks the end of Netflix’s first original series. When the show first premiered in February 2013, the concept of dropping the entire season of a series on the same day was new, and blew people away. And it proved to work, because ever since, Netflix seems to have five new shows every week, and other services like Amazon and Hulu followed suit.
Why you should watch: Robin Wright deserved to be the lead the entire time.
Long before Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct – including sexual assault and sex with minors – people (including me) agreed that Wright should be the lead on the show. Spacey’s inconsistent accent got old quickly, and complex woman Claire Underwood was a far more interesting character than anti-hero Frank Underwood.
With more time devoted to Claire’s character, season six allows the audience to understand her more than ever. The season dives into Claire’s pursuit of clarity after Frank’s death. She is trying to separate herself from him, but quickly learns that she likely never can. And as she uses some tactics Frank would to separate herself from him for good, her internal conflict about doing criminal acts for her own gain provides something new to the series that it desperately needed in the previous seasons.
What’s hot: The organic way the show rewrote its final season.
“House of Cards” started off strong in its first season. But over the course of the series, it began to rely too much on Frank’s deviousness and shocking twists and gruesome deaths, and political plots that made the show feel like nothing more than sexy C-SPAN. Its strength was always Claire Underwood, and her complicated relationship with her husband, Frank.
When Netflix fired Spacey in November 2017, the writers were already well into writing the season, and production had already started. The final season is more accelerated than the first five seasons, and doesn’t have time to focus on boring political drama. Instead, it focuses on tying up loose ends, and making the most out of Claire Underwood’s character.
What’s not: Although Frank Underwood never appears on the season, his presence hangs over every scene.
The season works and feels natural without Frank on the show. But at times, it’s a bit hard to watch season six because while Frank is gone, he’s very much there. His presence hangs over Claire – and that’s intentional. Of course Frank would still haunt Claire and everyone he ever interacted with, even when he’s gone for good.
This works for the story, but given the reason for Spacey’s exit, it can feel a little uncomfortable.
The bottom line: The sixth and final season of “House of Cards” takes advantage of its strongest asset, and wraps up the story in a somewhat satisfying way.
Wright is truly stunning on the final season, and gives every second on screen her all in a way that suggests she’s always known this should have been her show. Claire Underwood is not a good human being – she is a murderer and very much complicit in some of her late husband’s crimes. And she rationalizes these crimes by telling herself they’re for the good of the county (they’re not). But Wright can’t help but make you like Claire, no matter what she’s capable of.
It wouldn’t make sense for “House of Cards” to wrap up every possible plot and lingering question in a shiny, red white and blue bow. But what it does choose to wrap up is smart, and what it chooses to leave open-ended is even smarter.
“House of Cards” season six is currently streaming on Netflix. Watch a trailer below.