A woman is finally in the Oval Office and Kevin Spacey’s murderous President Frank Underwood has been killed off — “House of Cards” is back for one last time.
Netflix on Friday dumped all eight episodes in its customary binge-watching format, bringing to a close one of the streaming giant’s most successful series of all time.
In the #MeToo world, its lead actor has been written out of the series, named in a series of international sexual assault allegations, and replaced by on-screen wife, Robyn Wright, as US president.
In a sign of the times, its release comes with ABC airing new comedy “The Conners,” also stripped of its lead character, Roseanne Barr, following her own off-screen controversy — in her case, a racist tweet.
While Wright’s Claire Underwood had already succeeded her husband as president at the end of season five, she now has new foils to contend with.
Chief among them are Oscar-nominees Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear, who play brother-and-sister billionaire donors in the mold of the Koch brothers.
As a reminder, out is her lover, writer Tom Yates, whom she poisoned during sex the end of season five, just one in a slew of murders that may — or may not — come back to haunt her.
Still on hand are Patricia Clarkson, who plays Underwood’s frenemy Jane Davis, and Campbell Scott as Mark Usher, now promoted to vice president.
Another survivor is Michael Kelly, who plays the long-suffering Doug Stamper, who took the fall for the murder of newspaper reporter Zoe Barnes.
– ‘Toxic presence’ –
“House of Cards” became an international hit in a different world. When the first season of the drama, created by Beau Willimon and based on a 1990 British miniseries, it was 2013 and Barack Obama was president.
The dark machinations of a Machiavellian politico in the vein of Spacey’s murderous, duplicitous and corrupt Frank Underwood was intoxicating escapism.
The show elevated the streaming giant into the television annals, blazing a trail in original programming that has grown to include other shows such as “Stranger Things” and “Orange is the New Black.”
But subsequent seasons descended into the silly, plot lines becoming ever more far-fetched until, in the eyes of liberal television watchers horrified by the presidency of Donald Trump, real life gave it a run for its money.
Reviews are wanting. The Guardian gave season six a paltry two stars out of five. “‘House of Cards’ is free of the man who had become a toxic presence, but the awful truth is that without him, it’s weak,” it sniped.
Season six runs for only eight episodes, rather than the customary 13. While that may imply “pithiness… if you edited out the stagnant pauses and impotent staring matches, it would shrivel to five and a half.”
“What’s left to say about the end of ‘House of Cards,’ besides good riddance?” headlined The Washington Post.
Production for the season was already underway when the assault allegations torpedoed Spacey’s once-glittering career, leading to the hasty re-write.
So far the series has received 53 Emmy nominations, with seven wins. It remains unclear whether there will be any more in the offing.