With Spacey gone and a woman at the helm, Netflix had an opportunity to build something towering in the age of #MeToo. They blew it.
One of the more high-profile men claimed as a result of the #MeToo movement was Kevin Spacey. His case was unique among the many, in that the claims made against him were by other men. Spacey made the boneheaded choice to come out when responding to the accusations, which the gay community quite rightly reacted to with venom – it’s an awful brush he was tarring them all with. Read the room, Kev. One thing is not like the other.
Faced with his association being akin to poison, there were some actions Hollywood needed to take. Ridley Scott famously cut him from All the Money in the World, reshooting Spacey’s scenes with Christopher Plummer taking over the role with only weeks before the release date. Plummer went on to score an Oscar nomination. Win-win. Netflix had a different problem, in that Spacey was the star and producer of their flagship show House of Cards; he’d also starred in an original film for the streaming service about the life of author Gore Vidal. The film was shelved, in all likelihood for good. As for the show, the sixth season had to be completely re-purposed with Robin Wright carrying the load – the torch having been passed from Francis Underwood to his equally shifty missus, Claire.
There was in this development a huge opportunity to show how the Underwood brand of deception, malfeasance and duplicity knew nothing of gender, and that a tasty role like the POTUS of these series could be gender-blind. Wright’s a fine actor; it was going to be great to see her sink her teeth into something this meaty.
The result is a puzzling, ultimately frustrating and entirely disappointing sixth, and one hopes final series of the show. The whole thing is tonally strange; the plotting is poorly conceived. The make-up of the scenes features confusing, poorly written dialogue. There are moments of head-smacking inconsistency and logic-defying narrative. It’s awful.
It begins promisingly enough, Claire is now the focus, and breaks the fourth wall to speak to us, the viewer. The introduction of Greg Kinnear and Diane Lane as surrogates for the villainous Koch brothers (US industrialists who seem to pull a lot of right-wing strings over there) was an interesting touch. It started well. But then the plotting became confusing, and confused. The interplay between the main characters was alarmingly inconsistent. Some of the scenes pushed the bounds of logic and suspension of disbelief. And as this sixth season stretched into its last few episodes, the confusing plotting and characterisations descended into caricature; the drama became neck-deep in soap-operatic melodrama, plot points which were preposterous and scripting so bad it defied understanding.
To see a show of such pedigree essentially shat upon in a way that turned a first-rate drama of Shakespearean political intrigue into a soap operatic fever dream was an experience beyond rubbernecking at a car crash. This show went beyond car crash television, it was more of an endurance test – to see what a brilliant actor like Robin Wright could do with the material she was given, the shining light of hope that they would recover from the miasma into which it had descended. Spoiler alert: they didn’t.
I might go out on a limb here and just say it – this may be one of the worst seasons of television I’ve seen, from any show, anywhere, ever. Beyond terrible. Cancel your Netflix subscription-level bad.