‘House of Cards’ Season 6 Is Getting Mixed Reviews: Here’s What to Read

What do you think of the final season of Netflix’s “House of Cards”? Read what everyone else is saying and share your own thoughts in the comments section. Watch out for spoilers ahead.

When “House of Cards” debuted in 2013, it stood at the vanguard of the TV streaming revolution, the first show made especially for Netflix. Created by Beau Willimon and based on the 1990 BBC mini-series of the same name, it landed dozens of Emmy nominations and won Golden Globes for its stars, Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. Its success also made way for the coming deluge of streaming-first series, which have since completely upended the TV industry. When the history of Netflix is written, “House of Cards” will get its own chapter.

And now it’s over. After sexual assault allegations pushed Spacey from the show, Netflix announced that the eight episodes of Season 6 would be the last, and that Frank Underwood would be killed off between seasons. Reactions to the final episodes, which arrived Friday, have so far been mixed. Here’s what’s worth reading. (Click here to jump straight to our spoiler-heavy look at how it ended.)

Reviews and Analysis

‘“House of Cards” Season 6: TV Review’ [The Hollywood Reporter]

Daniel Fienberg’s pre-air take acknowledged that the show struggles to get over the loss of Kevin Spacey, but he argues that the show is actually better now because of it. Clearly not a fan of Spacey’s “hammy and increasingly dreadful lead performance,” Fienberg admires the shift in focus to Claire Underwood: “The shift in focus from Frank to Claire Underwood finds the series somewhat reinvigorated through its first five new episodes. It’s a change that comes far too late for the show to escape many of its worst narrative instincts, or a surplus of flat recurring characters, but for the first time in years, ‘House of Cards’ has something new and frequently interesting to say.”

‘“House of Cards”: Season 6 Review — We Still Need to Talk About Kevin’ [The Guardian]

Jack Seale is dissatisfied with the final chapter of “House of Cards,” writing that Spacey’s absence drains the show of strength and energy despite glimpses of what could have been if the writers had ever allowed the series to be truly driven by its female characters. “Even the sex and murder is limp,” he writes. “Nobody’s relishing the transgression in the way Frank would. Season 6 is a web with no spider at the center.”

‘“House of Cards” Season 6: Robin Wright Should Have Taken Over Sooner’ [CNET]

Patricia Puentes likes the final season of “House of Cards” so much that she wonders if it wouldn’t have been better to jettison Frank Underwood sooner, ending her piece with hashtag suggestions for #RenewHoC or #ClaireDeservesHerOwnShow. In her spoiler-free review, she writes: “As influential a character as she’s been all along, Claire’s always been Frank’s wife. Now she’s just a strong individual, who also happens to be president, and it’s a pleasure to watch her fight to be defined on her own terms, not Frank’s.”

‘Kevin Spacey’s Absence Haunts the Final Season of “House of Cards”’ [Esquire]

The critic Tyler Coates admires Robin Wright’s work and seems to think that the show could have survived without Spacey, but he laments a downward slide that says began happening before the controversy. “The overall quality of the show dipped dramatically when Willimon left after Season 4,” he writes. “By now, the show feels limp, especially compared to the real-life political drama unfolding around us every day.”

Let’s Talk About the Ending

‘How Did “House of Cards” Kill Frank Underwood? Very Patiently’ [The New York Times]

Hours after the full first season dropped on Friday, we dug into the season’s central mystery surrounding of Frank’s death, which the writers waited until the final scene of the entire season to reveal: “Rather than treat the subject of their fallen star directly in the premiere and then move on, as the writers of ‘The Conners’ did, the ‘House of Cards’ team all but keeps Spacey in the cast.”

‘“House of Cards” Has a Ludicrous Ending That Resolves Nothing — Except What Netflix Really Values in 2018’ [IndieWire]

Ben Travers at IndieWire extrapolates his feelings about the final episodes of “House of Cards” into a look at the entire business model at Netflix, which he argues is focused more on quantity than quality. “The final season doesn’t feel like a final chapter; it feels like content,” he writes. “Sure, Netflix executives can say ‘House of Cards’ is complete — to entice any new viewers who have been waiting to binge it all the way through — but the body of work feels more valuable than the work itself. Making original content is more important to Netflix than making great programming.”

‘“House of Cards” Dismal Ending Proves It Never Had Anything to Say’ [Vox]

Todd VanDerWerff admits he isn’t a loyal fan of the series, but he tries to put himself in their shoes in his vicious pan of the final season. Comparing the final season to the notoriously loathed final stretch of “Dexter,” VanDerWerff writes, “I cannot imagine being a fan of the show, getting excited for the sixth and final season, watching Season 5’s buildup to that sixth and final season, and then sitting down to watch and getting … this.”

Interviews and Otherwise

‘How Robin Wright Took Charge of “House of Cards” and Saved the Final Season’ [Variety]

Before the show returned, Variety did a complete history of the drama surrounding Spacey’s departure and how the show was saved from critical condition. The show’s co-showrunner Melissa James Gibson offered a glimpse into how the program would use Frank Underwood, telling Variety’s Debra Birnbaum, “It would have been absurd to deny the powerful existence and shadow of Francis Underwood, so all the rest of the characters have to navigate what went on with him prior to this season.”

‘“House of Cards”: What the Final Season Would’ve Looked Like if Kevin Spacey Hadn’t Been Fired’ [IndieWire]

One of the questions that can never be completely answered is how “House of Cards” would have been different if Spacey hadn’t been removed. Liz Shannon Miller came close. Her conversations with the show’s cast and crew indicate that Season 6 would have been a power play for the White House between Claire and Frank. In Miller’s feature, the co-showrunner Frank Pugliese says, “Essentially at the end of Season 5 there’s a promise Francis makes, that he’s going to own the White House by owning Claire.” He later adds: “So again, [in] Season 6 we knew that all these forces were trying to control her and own her. That seemed like something we wanted to explore and dramatize.”

‘The First Female President Will Not Carry a Handbag’ [The New York Times]

“What would the first female president wear?” asks the Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman. Season 6 seems to provide some clues. “The show is as dark and twisted as ever, both in terms of plot and the corrupting psychology of power,” Friedman writes, “but it’s also a pretty convincing take on how the first Madam President might present herself.”

‘“House of Cards” E.P.s Talk Season 6’s “Significant Recalibration,” Mourn “Lost” Episodes, Tease “Organic” Finale’ [TV Line]

Michael Ausiello got Gibson and Pugliese to really discuss the final season, including what it felt like to scrap episodes that had already been shot and then start over. Pugliese tells him: “We had close to 11 episodes worked out and ready to go. It’s hard to lose that. But the only response you can have is to be creative and tell the best story possible. So those 11 episodes became part of the process. You can’t mourn too long.”

‘“House of Cards” Cast Discuss Their Female-Powered Final Season’ [CNN]

Sandra Gonzalez spoke with a few of the stars of the final season of “House of Cards,” including Robin Wright, Greg Kinnear, Diane Lane and Michael Kelly. Lane commented on the emphasis on women in the new season, saying: “Sometimes if we don’t see the representation coming at us through the screen, we don’t believe that we can project that going forward. It’s interesting how that works, isn’t it? We told the fairy tale, therefore you can dream that big.”

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