Can ‘House of Cards’ Season 6 Survive Without Frank Underwood?

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: Netflix)

Kevin Spacey may be gone, but House of Cards will live on – at least for now.

Netflix is in a very awkward position with their hit political thriller. The show that was once the streaming service’s big darling has very suddenly, very publicly, turned into icky goop that nobody really wants to be associated with, all thanks to one man and a series of allegation that have instantly torpedoed his career.

It’s very clear from an internal memo regarding the future of House of Cards that the streaming service has its heart in the right place as it looks to continue the series without its lead actor.

A leaked document from within the production studio Media Rights Capital shows that the reason for continuing with the filming of season six – albeit after a lengthy hiatus – is all about making sure that the large production team involved with the show still have jobs for the foreseeable future.

Claire Underwood
Source: Netflix

Basically, MRC’s unofficial stance on the matter is that it’s not fair for everyone from the lighting engineers to the catering department to lose their jobs just because of something they couldn’t control:

“We continue to work with Netflix with the hope of resuming production soon. As we continue these discussions, we have determined together that the crew will be paid for an additional two week hiatus – beginning on November 27th and continuing through December 8th.

“In addition to the writers, there will be a small contingency of office/accounting staff who will remain in the production office on a continuous basis. Our hope is that the entire crew will be able to reconvene when production resumes, but we want you to know that we will certainly understand if crew members need to find other work in the interim, which will prevent them from re-joining us. We sincerely appreciate all you have done.

“Cast and other union members who are not actively working will be paid in accordance with applicable union guidelines through this period and we will be reaching out directly to your representatives to work through the details; we will get to everyone as quickly as possible and appreciate all of your patience here.

“These last two months have tested and tried all of us in ways none of us could have foreseen. The one thing we have learned throughout this process is that this production is bigger than just one person and we could not be more proud to be associated with one of the most loyal and talented production cast and crews in this business.”

It sounds, then, as if this new version of season six is designed as a caretaker conclusion to the show, giving the production team time to start hunting for new work as things wind down. It’s also, no doubt, a proving ground to see whether the show can endure without Frank Underwood at the center of the narrative.

If the new, improved House of Cards ends up being a success, this show will obviously continue for years to come. The nice thing is that, thanks to a prominent role in Wonder Woman, Robin Wright has gained a lot of new fans who might be willing to try out the show.

Wright’s character Claire Underwood even managed to take over the Presidency from her husband at the end of the last season, so now is the perfect time to simply ditch Kevin Spacey, kill his character off-screen or otherwise banish him so that he’s never seen again, and then allow Robin Wright to lead the show instead.

It’s a strategy that might just pay off, were it not for one big problem: scripting.

Put simply, there is not enough time to rewrite the entirety of season six of House of Cards in order to deliver a satisfying story arc for Claire Underwood.

Claire Underwood House of Cards
Source: Netflix

Too many things will need to change, and as MRC is literally stalling all work in the hopes of starting again imminently, going so far as to keep the lights on in the studio ready to attack the show once more, it’s unlikely that the result will be fiction of the highest quality.

While there’s an outside chance that this could be a revitalization of the entire House of Cards franchise, it’s probably, realistically, a final season of poor quality that exists solely to help the production team land on their feet.

Nobody going into this is expecting it to be their best work – the new season will be thrown together quickly, haphazardly, and on a tight schedule (and probably a reduced budget) for the sake of earning whatever few quick bucks the show can provide as it gasps its final dying breath.