‘House of Cards’ Soars With New Direction
Netflix’s original political thriller show, House of Cards is back for its sixth and final season. The show originally created by Beau Willimon suffered a devastating blow after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced over their lead actor in October of 2017, Kevin Spacey had sexually assaulted a dozen men including five who were teens at the time of the misconduct. The show was forced to fire their main protagonist however, Netflix refused to cancel House of Cards and instead chose to wrap it up without Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood, instead with Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood as the show’s new main protagonist.
At the end of the last season Claire had taken the presidency and with Frank having so many enemies, killing him off felt like something that was bound to happen at some point, even if it was done off screen. With Claire going from always being in the shadow of Franks character since he was always the main focus of the show as the main character. Claire had always been a powerful force in the show, having a similar presence to herself as Frank did. However, Claire solidifies her role as her own person by distancing herself from big business and genuinely caring about the people of the country. When there is a gas leak within the town of Belmont caused by one of Shepherd Unlimited’s subsidiaries, Arcas Refineries, Claire goes in to the town to oppose the company that caused it and even challenged any idea that the gas is safe when the business workers refused to drink the contaminated water. The show continuously tries to push that Claire is her own character and that she doesn’t need Francis to be powerful, like in the first episode the moment she hears the two knocks that Frank use to do, only to find out that the sound was made by a bird that she releases into the air saying “Francis, I’m done with you” as a weak symbolic attempt of showing the audience that she isn’t going to be affected by Frank anymore, but instead just comes off as a little random .
One of the newest introductions to the show are the Shepherd siblings, Annette Shepherd and Bill Shepherd played by Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear. They are the owners of Shepherd Unlimited, a leading industrial conglomerate. The two of them apparently had a powerful behind the scenes force in American politics and had made a deal with Frank to fund his foundation in exchange for support for their company from the president’s office. In episode two of the season we find out that the siblings expect Claire to honor Frank’s deal to them, but much to their disapproval Claire refuses to go with anything she doesn’t support. The siblings have very different relationships with Claire, Annette Shepherd is the face of Shepherd unlimited and has close ties to Claire from when they were both children. Bill Shepherd is described as being someone who likes to control things from behind the scenes but doesn’t have a past with Claire. Since the two siblings have so much corporate power that there influence reaches almost everywhere, they cross paths with Claire on more then one occasion to try to get her to do what they say.
Another one of the big character changes in the show is with Doug Stamper. Doug Stamper who was once Chief of Staff for the Whitehouse and was extremely loyal to Frank, to the point where he went to jail just for the sake of helping him, now finally makes himself a real lead character. In this season he has become one of the main antagonists of Claire because she wants to distance herself from Frank’s legacy, while Doug wants to secure his legacy and make Claire admit that her success is only due to Frank. He is a huge threat to Claire not only because he has information on everything that Claire has done but he also has a collection of Frank’s audio diaries that hold hidden information and thoughts of what he thought throughout his presidency. The audio diaries also replace Kevin Spacey, allowing them to use Frank Underwood’s character without needing Kevin Spacey by having the characters awkwardly voice out loud what they are hearing, which while is a good way of keeping Frank in the world, it feels strange having a character repeat things just for the audience. Doug Stamper is a side character that felt like he could have been so much more, but in this latest season he finally lives up to his potential.
With the change in protagonist comes a few changes in the shows usual way of doing things. For instance, now with Frank gone the one who directly addresses the audience in the fourth wall breaks is Claire with a few exceptions when Doug also addresses the audience. This felt like a smart idea since it reveals Doug as also being a key player in the show and even though Claire did it in the past now that its mostly her doing it she feels like the main protagonist now. The show also feels a little brighter than it did in the previous season. It’s almost like the darkness that Frank brought is gone and now Claire is here to make it slightly brighter as the president spends time caring more about actual issues then gaining more power. Another change within the show is the addition of flashbacks of Claire’s backstory which is the only part of the show that seemed unnecessary. It shows how troubled her past was with people treating her terribly and abusing her as a way of showing why she acts the way she does. It felt like a cheap way to get the audience to like her as a protagonist. It also seems like a small way of justifying any of the negative actions she’s done by saying, well she had a troubled past so its ok though it doesn’t really add to much and instead just seems to come out of nowhere; and don’t seem necessary since she has already proven to care more about the people then Frank did like how she fights for the people of Belmont. The show does a good job of inserting most of the new changes into its latest season and for the most part they were smart ideas on the writer’s part.
The latest season of House of Cards may be a little different from the other seasons but none of the changes that it makes feel forced or bad. Every decision they made from killing off Frank, to letting Doug become one of the main antagonists, just feels like the direction the show was already heading in. The show does a great job without Kevin Spacey and though this is the last season it proved that what made the show great wasn’t Kevin Spacey or even Frank Underwood, but instead what makes the show great is the amazing writing and the intense political drama.