Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for House of Cards

The sixth and final season of House of Cards struggles to  stay interesting after losing the star of the show. It’s hard to justify  that it’s even worth the watch. Due to the sexual misconduct  allegations against Kevin Spacey, who played the lead role of Frank  Underwood, the producers were forced to fire him. The reigns were  explicitly passed on to his character’s wife, Claire Underwood (Robin  Wright), when she closed Season 5 by saying, “My turn.” The transition  of leads went as well as one could expect, given the circumstances.  Despite this respectable rework, Season 6 still lacked in the show’s  traditionally complex schemes. To no one’s surprise, it just wasn’t the  same. The disputes we had all come to know and love in this show didn’t  make much of an appearance. Additionally, some problems in this season  were left up in the air, while others didn’t even add up logically.

Depreciation in quality lawlessness

Season 6 did a successful job in increasing my disinterest in the  inner workings of the White House. Simply put, the scandals in the show  just weren’t scandalous enough. It’s even hard to regard the climactic  episodes as culminating. This season features a noticeable lack of  thought-provoking plot, complemented with dull motifs that showcase the  season’s tediousness.

Image from IMDb

It only took about three episodes for the monotone acting to get old.  Yes, it’s typical for government workers to not show much emotion, but  it’s hard to ignore the dryness in most all reactions within the season.  The treatment of every problem with the same sense of urgency cancels  out any weight; it’s hard to tell what’s plot-changing and what’s just a  side story.

Redundant interactions are another hard-to-ignore frequency. There  are exceptions to everything, but there was certainly a constant pattern  with Claire’s confrontations, especially those with Doug Stamper  (Michael Kelly) and Annette Shepherd (Diane Lane). They begin and end  the same way: friendly at first, but always concluding with a struggle  for power. There’s always a kick-off with a warm welcome and usually  some reminiscence of their pasts together. But there is, without fail,  shade thrown and feelings hurt, followed shortly by a tense departure.

Regarding the problems that don’t seem to add up, a further  explanation of Claire’s pregnancy would be greatly appreciated. That had  to have been the biggest surprise factor within the entire season; it’s  so wildly unexpected that it looks to be a last-minute written-in  detail. Not only did it seem unnecessary in retrospect, but logically,  something isn’t quite right with it. Back in Season 1, although it  wasn’t explicitly stated, there were hints that Claire was going through  menopause. This makes sense, as she was written in the show to be about  50 years old. It seems that the pregnancy’s significance would have to  be pretty big for those obstacles to be ignored. Sure, it still played a  role, but it had no extreme influence on the outcome of the show.

Image from IMDb

In this season, the truth about Frank Underwood is mentioned  countless times, but never clearly stated. His past life is a frequent  subject of conversation in Claire’s direct-to-camera speaking and most  of the dialogue between her and everyone once affiliated with Frank. His  past actions are discussed in such a way that suggests he had some  master plan in life that he never followed through with. In the last  episode, Doug does hint at some sort of plot to kill Claire, but it’s  still distressingly vague and left for the viewers to decipher. This  leaves us with a big question, which is extremely aggravating, given  that it’s at the end of the show and we can never know for sure.

Plots that come full-circle are hard to come by in this season. There  was major drama, but what did it add up to? There were the subjects of  The Shepherd Freedom Foundation, Claire’s relationship with Doug  Stamper, Claire’s duties as commander in chief, foreign affairs,  everyone’s ongoing obsession with Frank’s wrongdoings and killings of  reporters as well as government workers. It’s hard to distinguish  whether or not these are all connected, and some of these dilemmas don’t  even get resolved.

Shedding an unfamiliar light on female power

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Designating Claire as the newly inaugurated President of The United  States is a statement on its own. She takes the lead as the President as  well as the main character of the show after her husband. This is a  hard adjustment for the viewers. The shifted focus on Claire is first  shown with her being granted the privilege of speaking directly to the  audience, which was reserved for Frank in previous seasons. We’re also  formally introduced to Claire’s past through occasional flashbacks to  her childhood and teenage years. This provides not only an explanation  for her personality, but also motives for her actions. The unfamiliarity  of a woman taking over, taps into our subconscious uneasiness with  women being in the highest leadership roles. We know we shouldn’t feel  that way, and this season really conjures that self-awareness, making it  a well-played card in the battle against misogyny.

In the season’s beginning episodes, Claire does all she can to make  her existence as a female weapon of empowerment rather than letting it  hinder her. Naturally, it doesn’t take long for Claire to get fed up  with men treading on her heels and trying to direct her every move. It  instills inspiration in all of us when she takes action to put an end to  this. Realizing that underlying sexism is the root of governmental  problems, Claire takes it upon herself to eliminate it.

In one of the greatest power moves I’ve ever seen, Claire fires her  entire cabinet and replaces them with all women in Episode 5. If that  wasn’t enough, she also does away with her VP, who was a little too  controlling for her liking. In the following episode, Claire takes it  upon herself to change the decorative theme of her room in the White  House. While choosing a new drape color, she turns to the audience and  makes this statement: “Out with the old, in with the new.” This is a  bold statement, which is representative of every change Claire is trying  to implicate. These changes instill a sense of hope for finally phasing  out the notion that a man’s way of thinking is always right. This  definitely serves as a redemptive aspect for this season as a whole.

Image from IMDb

There was a notable recurrence of Claire mentioning that she didn’t  like being called “Madame President” at the beginning of the season. She  always insisted that people address her with her first name or her  married last name. That changes as she gets agitated with people’s lack  of respect. Near the end of Episode 6, Annette calls Claire by her first  name, to which Claire responds with the correction: “Madame President.”  A small but symbolically loud corresponding detail: Claire states in  the same episode that she is going to go by her maiden name once more,  rather than Underwood.

Despite still having to deal with Frank’s reputation, Claire’s  influence on the audience serves as the only redeeming quality for this  season. It seemed as though the plots and scandals weren’t the focus of  the show after all; it was the power of women’s liberation.

In retrospect, this is undoubtedly a stand-out season for the show.  That’s not to say it was outstanding, but it was an interesting end to  the series. Moreover, the apparent lack of thought and depth in the plot  hints at the fact that it’s a good thing it ended here. Aside from  that, it’s hard to wish Claire anything but success with the remainder  of her presidency. 

Images: IMDb

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