House of Cards final scene: The divisive season 6 finale explained

'The finale itself is not really final until it’s played out with the audience'

Jacob Stolworthy
Friday 23 November 2018 11:11 GMT
House of Cards - season 6 trailer

Earlier this month, Netflix launched the final season of its first original series, House of Cards.

The sixth outing was forced into a shakeup after the streaming service fired Kevin Spacey following multiple allegations of sexual assault

According to reports, two episodes had been filmed before the Spacey allegations surfaced leading co-star Robin Wright to take charge in an attempt to ensure the show reached a conclusion.

Her efforts resulted in a final eight episodes which saw Spacey’s character Frank Underwood killed off-screen spearheading a murder mystery of sorts as his wife, the new president Claire, faces opposition from pretty much everyone as their murderous past comes to light.

Unlike its previous five seasons, the sixth was met with a frosty critical reception with its finale going down in history as one of the more disappointing ones in recent memory.

The final scene could be the show’s weakest in its six-year history, with the revelation it was Frank’s loyal aide Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) who killed his old boss after discovering he was going to murder Claire.

“I couldn’t let him destroy everything we’d built,” Doug confesses to Claire, adding: “I had to protect the legacy from the man.”

It’s then that Doug begs Claire to admit Frank made her who she is. When she refuses, Doug threatens her, holding a knife to her neck. But he has no intention of killing Claire, who ends up turning the knife on Doug, murdering him in cold blood.

“There. No more pain,” she says as the series ends with Doug bleeding out on the carpet of the Oval Office. Cue one final look to the camera from Claire, whose future is left in a wildly uncertain manner. The showrunners, however, believe the final scene brings the political drama full circle with the opening scene which saw Frank killing an injured dog.

“How Francis invited us in at the beginning — it’s the coda to that,” Melissa James Gibson told The Hollywood Reporter, adding “Claire reveals herself to be as much of an antihero as Francis ever was.”

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She continued: “She’s also setting Doug free in a way. She’s fulfilling his fate that he has helped author. The two of them have been in a symbiotic relationship all season long, where they’ve been negotiating everything they did with Frank and everything that’s possible for them beyond Frank.”

Co-showrunner Frank Pugliese added: “Claire has been negotiating the whole season around who is going to partner with her. Ultimately, maybe there’s a realisation that she has to do it all by herself. There’s an isolation that comes with that. So it’s a feeling that she’s both free and there’s a relief, but ultimately alone because of it.

Fans have criticised the open-ending nature of the finale, but the showrunners believe it offers something integral to its ultimate success.

Pugliese said: “The finale itself is not really final until it’s played out with the audience. Whatever the audience imagines after is all part of the end of the show. And there are questions. No doubt about it. What story is she going to tell? How is she going to get away with this? Now that she’s done with this last piece, will she really move on? But that’s left up to the audience and their imagination.”

He described it the decision to leave the ending up to audience interpretation as “an active decision” between him and James Gibson, stating: “It seemed most compelling that it’s an ending that says: It’s not over. But that’s because that’s the best ending for this story. It seemed right for Claire and for the Claire-Francis story.”

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