Tuesday, November 6, 2018

House of Cards - Final Season

One of the first 'binge' tv experience sensations is back for one final bow. It remains highly bingeable, but the void left by Frank Underwood's absence cannot be ignored. Considering the ending, I wish they had not made this final season at all.

The first five seasons of House of Cards centred around Francis (Frank) and Claire Underwood's unquenchable thirst for power. In line with the other shows in the golden age of TV, Frank and Claire were antiheroes who served worse people their comeuppance. They lobbied and backstabbed (figuratively and literally) their way to the highest office in the US. They were the ultimate power couple, not in the romantic sense, but in being equal and highly capable partners going after the same goal. Season five ended with Frank deciding to take a backseat role - as he thought that it was where true power lied - and abdicated his presidency to his wife and vide president, Claire.

Kevin Spacey's transgressions in real life became public while season six was in production. Instead of cancelling the show, which I wish they had done, the producers wrote him off and set season six shortly after Frank Underwood's funeral. As a way to punish Kevin Spacey (the actor), the writers decided to attack Frank Underwood, the very fictional character that they had created and championed for the previous five seasons. In season six, multiple women share their experiences with Frank and imply his impotence. Others also refer to him as the stooge who was controlled by Claire (the evil puppet-master) this whole time. This dissonance (how they presented Frank in the first five seasons vs. the final season) was hard to take.

The other sin that the writers committed was transforming Claire from an antihero to an outright villain. The antihero is not a good person necessarily, but has a somewhat noble goal, and fights foes that are more evil than him/her. In case of Claire, the people she was butting heads with were not as evil as she was, and she had no goal other than pursuit of power (out of spite for others).

The other issue that this season had was trying to draw parallels from reality but they were nothing more than poor copies, rather than deep metaphors. The Shepherd siblings (surrogates for Koch brothers),  compromising material on the president, Russian collusion, and Gardner Analytics (read Cambridge Analytics) are just a few examples. In this case, I don't blame the writers for failing to imagine something more absurd than the current political climate, but those reference were plain lazy. Not having these poor copies would've served the series better. Worse than that, was the fact that these plot threads did not have a resolution at the end.

Speaking of the end, without any spoilers, it was one of the worst series finales that I have seen in recent years. The revelations in the last 15 minutes of the show did not make any sense (considering the characters we had come to know in the last six seasons), and it left the audience in a more uncertain place than the first episode of the season. In other words, if the audience is supposed to come up with their own conclusions and write their own endings, then why watch season 6 in the first place? The audience will be better off not wasting their time watching those eight episodes, and just imagine a conclusion to the Underwood saga after what they had seen in season five. In fairness, the last season was easy to watch back to back.

As a completely unnecessary season, with lazy and inconsistent writing, I give it a 1/10 (which is 10% more than it really deserves).

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