How does House of Cards look without Kevin Spacey?
Frank was the only character who delivered monologues direct to camera. That is, until the end of series five, when a defiant Claire looks straight at the audience and says: “My turn.” True to her word, she picks up this mantle, using the narrative device previously reserved for Spacey to comment on her motives and power-securing strategies. “Are you still here?” she asks us. “Do you miss Francis?” Given that the President is renowned for her dialed-down emotions, these ruptures of the fourth wall are crucial, since they allow us to cut through her steely exterior to her inner thoughts. Plus, it’s refreshing to see her point of view unfiltered by Frank for a change. “Whatever Francis told you the last five years, don’t believe a word of it,” she says in an aside. “It’s going to be different for you and me. I’m going to tell you the truth.” For liberals still reeling from the 2019 election result, watching Claire Underwood command the screen is like living out an alternative reality where Hillary Clinton won. And that’s pretty glorious.
Throughout the show’s run, Frank cultivated a mostly male team, from his chief of staff Doug Stamper to his director of communications Seth Grayson. Claire tries to even the score on that front. When her vice-president dismisses the deputy press secretary Kelsey as an “elevated intern”, Claire hits back, giving her additional responsibilities through a higher-powered role. To quote the POTUS, “The reign of the middle-aged white man is over.” We couldn’t agree more.
“I know it will be hard for you, but you’re going to have to treat me as an equal,” says Claire to a male subordinate. Despite holding the presidency, she still doesn’t receive the respect she deserves and must wade through a daily onslaught of gender discrimination. Americans spew hatred at her on Twitter – “God never intended a woman to rule this land” – and clock up four times as many threats against her as Frank received during his term. Claire is in an unwinnable situation, damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. (She is criticised, for example, for showing too much sorrow over Frank’s death by the media, after being berated by others for not crying at his funeral.) Even her own VP undermines her and takes meetings in the Oval Office behind her back. Claire is unruffled by her unpopularity: “Should I resign for the high crime of being a female?” Calm and collected in the face of adversity, she is not going down without a fight.
Although severalHouse of Cardsregulars return for its closing chapter, two fresh faces stand out among the cast list. The Oscar nominees Greg Kinnear and Diane Lane play Bill and Annette Shepherd, the industrialist siblings determined to oust Claire from the White House. An allusion to the Koch brothers (the real-life businessmen who use their sizeable wealth to gain political influence), the duplicitous pair plot the President’s demise with the series’ trademark blend of corruption, manipulation and double-crossing.
The final season of ‘House of Cards' is now available on Netflix.
Video: Top 10 Things We Need in House of Cards' Final Season
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