What a pity. House of Cards is done and it did not end with a bang.
After last year’s Kevin Spacey debacle, I was actually excited at the prospect of Robin Wright leading the show. In fact, she was always my favorite character on the political drama, so I was certain she would be great as the show’s sole protagonist. As expected, her performance is as powerful as it’s always been. Sadly, the material lets her down.
These eight episodes are entertaining to be sure, but they simply don’t hold up in retrospect. The writing team famously went back to the drawing board and rewrote the season after Spacey was fired, and it shows. This is a fractured season with messy plotting and a disjointed narrative. Why did Claire want to be President? What were her goals? The show tells us absolutely nothing about her motivations. Is she simply obsessed with power because she was in such close proximity to Frank all these years? In fact, this season is so preoccupied with tackling the aftermath of Underwood’s demise that it completely misses the opportunity to dig deep into Claire’s psyche. This should be a story about her as opposed to a story about her reacting to what happened. We do get a number of fascinating flashbacks to Claire’s childhood, but they are too few and far in between.
The season also introduces a couple of new characters in the form of the powerful Shepherd siblings Bill and Annette. Greg Kinnear is fine as the former, but Lane is absolutely sensational. In fact, I kind of wish the show introduced her many years ago as Claire’s adversary. Weirdly, the show retcons its history and expects us to believe that the Shepherds have been pulling the Underwoods’ strings for many years. Nevertheless, Diane Lane does such a good job with the material; it’s a real treat to see two powerful women butt heads and use the Oval Office as their battleground. Unfortunately, her arc ultimately goes nowhere.
And that’s the biggest issue with this season: the show gives us exactly zero answers and closure after six years of investment (it actually makes the Lost finale look like a satisfying one – and we all know how unfulfilling that closer was). What happened to Annette Shepherd? What happened to Bill? Janine? What was the reaction to a pregnant Claire Underwood, The President of the United States, cradling a dead Doug? Did she end up launching those nukes? What ended up being her legacy?
And most importantly: how did the writing team (and Netflix) think it was okay to produce such an unsatisfying finale? It’s a slap in the face in every way.
Bits & Bills
– What’s up with the random time jumps this season? Suddenly Claire is pregnant? And why doesn’t the show ever tell us who the father is? Did Claire have some of Frank’s sperm tucked away? Did Tom impregnate her before he died? It simply glosses over that significant plot point and that’s a mindboggling decision.
– The season premiere features Claire letting a poor little bird go instead of killing it (whereas Frank mercy-suffocated a dog in the show’s pilot episode). Nevertheless, she lives up to her husband’s legacy by killing Doug in the season’s final moments. There’s a nice full circle element to that act, but that’s all the positivity I’ll spare.
– My favorite moment of the year: Claire making Annette’s jaw drop by opening the door to her all-female cabinet. What a goosebump worthy moment, particularly with Claire turning to the camera at the end and uttering the ominous phrase: “take no prisoners“.
– So the public just forgot about Claire’s “depression”? It was fun to see her duplicitously smear mascara on her face , but the whole thing fizzled out.
– Cody Fern was useless on American Horror Story this season, and he’s just as irritating as Duncan, Annette’s “son” (in a subplot that also goes nowhere).
– So many long-time cast-members got killed this season: Cathy (who was severely underused), Jane (Patricia Clarkson was better on Sharp Objects), and Tom (who became boring years ago).
– Deliciously despicable: the fact that Annette actually induces Claire’s labor on Air Force One. Wow!
– Second favorite moment of the season: Claire calling Annette and making her listen to the heartbeat before uttering the epic line: “you fucking cunt, it’s a girl.” WOW!
– In case you got confused: Doug killed Francis to protect his legacy after the latter decided he wanted to kill his wife. Thrilling I guess?
– Even Doug talks to the camera in the show’s final two episodes. Can everyone break the fourth wall now? Way to overuse your gimmick show!
– I still can’t get over the abrupt ending. That’s your final moment? Really?
Claire: I will say whoever tried to kill me, perversely, it’s the first sign of real respect I’ve gotten in 100 days.
Reed: What do you want?
Claire: I want every door to be wide open and stay that way.
An entertaining but messy season that culminates in one of the worst series finales I’ve ever seen. Thank God Robin Wright makes it watchable.