In post-Spacey ‘Cards’, Claire Un­der­wood takes charge

The Bradenton Herald (Sunday) - - Television - BY LYNN EL­BER AP En­ter­tain­ment Writer Ryan Pear­son con­trib­uted to this re­port.

LOS AN­GE­LES

The spirit of Fran­cis Un­der­wood and mis­deeds past haunt the sixth sea­son of “House of Cards” and its new U.S. pres­i­dent, the wid­owed Claire Un­der­wood.

Fran­cis is very much dead when the Net­flix se­ries opened its fi­nal, eight-episode run Fri­day, as an im­age of Claire bend­ing ten­derly over his cof­fin makes clear.

But there’s no sug­ges­tion from the pro­duc­ers or cast that killing off Fran­cis – af­ter the Me Too-trig­gered fir­ing of star Kevin Spacey – took a sto­ry­telling toll on Net­flix’s po­lit­i­cal satire. It’s fol­low­ing the path of Claire’s rise sig­naled at the end of sea­son five, this de­spite the up­heaval that halted pro­duc­tion a year ago when Spacey was ac­cused of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

“Ul­ti­mately, the only re­sponse that we could have was the one that we had,” said ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Frank Pugliese. “Which is the cast and crew and ev­ery­one in­volved de­cided to put their heads down and re­spond by telling the best story that we pos­si­bly could. It was the only way that we could an­swer any­thing, any cir­cum­stance.”

At least 24 men have ac­cused Spacey, a twotime Os­car win­ner and a five-time Emmy nom­i­nee for his por­trayal of Fran- cis, of sex­ual mis­con­duct or as­sault. In re­sponse to the first claim, from an ac­tor who al­leged that Spacey made in­ap­pro­pri­ate ad­vances to­ward him when he was 14, Spacey said he didn’t re­call the al­leged en­counter but said it would have been “deeply in­ap­pro­pri­ate drunken be­hav­ior.”

Robin Wright, now fly­ing solo as Claire, says it re­quired a group ef­fort to re­bound af­ter los­ing Spacey and his char­ac­ter.

“We all re­ally col­lab­o­rated well and wanted the best for the show. So I think it was a re­union of, ‘Come on, let’s pull up our boot­straps and forge ahead,’ ” said Wright, who de­clined to com­ment on whether Spacey was missed on set (Wright has also re­ceived five Emmy nom­i­na­tions for her work on the show).

When Net­flix and the stu­dio OK’d the show’s re­sump­tion with­out him, it avoided an un­re­solved end for the drama that put Net­flix on the map as a des­ti­na­tion for orig­i­nal fare. “House of Cards” also her­alded the rise of stream­ing plat­forms and more such ac­claimed shows, in­clud­ing Net­flix’s “Or­ange Is the New

Black” and Hulu’s “The Hand­maid’s Tale.”

That Fran­cis would be gone but not for­got­ten was in­evitable, said Pugliese: “To deny the weight or the im­por­tance of Fran­cis Un­der­wood, you can’t do it so eas­ily. It was such a big part of the story for so many sea­sons, and at the core of what­ever Claire is go­ing through and what­ever the se­ries is about.”

Last sea­son ended with Fran­cis out of the Oval Of­fice and Vice Pres­i­dent Claire Un­der­wood in, wield­ing both power and Fran­cis’ di­rect pipe­line to view­ers through the cam­era. “My turn,” she told the au­di­ence. What pre­ceded it was her hus­band “ba­si­cally telling her that he was go­ing to be con­trol­ling her pres­i­dency from be­hind the scenes,” said ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Melissa James Gib­son.

“It was clear at the end of sea­son five that no mat­ter what, sea­son six was go­ing to be an ex­plo­ration of who owns the White House,” said Pugliese.

Added James Gib­son: “Who owns the White House, who owns the nar­ra­tive. And those things con­tinue to be true. She’s just grap­pling with them in a dif­fer­ent way, and not just with the legacy of Fran­cis but also the char­ac­ters to whom he made prom­ises.”

The fi­nal sea­son be­gins with Claire ready for bat­tle, as demon­strated by her mil­i­tary-in­spired fash­ion choices and steely de­meanor. When told in­sults and claims of in­tended vi­o­lence are flood­ing in against the first fe­male pres­i­dent, she in­sists on hear­ing the ugly de­tails.

“Lots of threats in­volv­ing the c-word, ma'am. Lots and lots of the c-word, un­for­tu­nately,” she’s told.

Her re­ply, coolly de­liv­ered: “You mean

‘Claire'?”

But there’s more afoot than misog­yny, start­ing with an eerie tap­ping com­ing from the walls of the White House. There’s also some­thing me­nac­ing found on Fran­cis’ for­mer bed.

Claire’s fren­e­mies in­clude the bil­lion­aire brother-and-sis­ter power team An­nette and Bill Shep­herd (Diane Lane, Greg Kin­ner). They ex­pect her to toe the pol­icy line they dic­tate and aban­don any post-Fran­cis il­lu­sions of in­de­pen­dence. The new pres­i­dent has other ideas.

And there’s staunch Fran­cis loy­al­ist and fixer Doug Stam­per, who took the fall for a mur­der Fran­cis com­mit­ted and is await­ing his fate, psy­chi­atric and le­gal.

“This is ob­vi­ously the big­gest thing he’s had to deal with,” said Michael Kelly, who plays Stam­per. “At the be­gin­ning of sea­son six, you see for the first time an in­cred­i­bly lost man.”

DAVID GIESBRECHT Net­flix

Robin Wright stars as the U.S. pres­i­dent in the fi­nal sea­son of “House Of Cards.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.