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Does the white house of cards that the Underwoods spent seasons building ever fold? Find out everything you need to know without having to sacrifice eight hours of your life!
"House of Cards" returned on Friday with its final season, and for those who gave up on Netflix’s Emmy-winning political drama a few seasons ago but are still curious, we’ve got everything you need to know about how it ends in one article.
As fans of the show likely expected, the final chapters include more twists, turns and backstabbing than an M. Night Shyamalan-directed production of "Julius Caesar." But time is precious, the weekend’s calling and not everyone has the inclination to devote eight more hours of their life to a show which, frankly, should have ended with Season 5 before everyone even found out Kevin Spacey was a creeper in real life, too.
So yeah, spoilers ahead. Now’s the time to decide if you’re going to binge it or skip it before scrolling any further.
As TooFab revealed Friday morning, Frank Underwood was murdered. His death occurred in between Season 5 and Season 6, a result of the actor who played him getting fired in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations that ended his career when the #MeToo movement emerged in the fall of 2017.
The exact circumstances surrounding his demise serves as a season-long mystery, but early on audiences learn Frank’s wife and first female POTUS Claire Hale Underwood (Robin Wright) told everyone that Frank died while they were both asleep in bed. Later, it’s revealed that’s not true and there’s much, much more to the story.
Fans might remember Claire only became president after agreeing to pardon Frank for his crimes. Well, in classic Underwood tradition, she broke her promise. As it turned out, Frank didn’t take kindly to being double-crossed by his own wife — so he hatched a scheme to kill her.
Frank’s former White House chief of staff and loyal friend Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) learned of his plan. Stamper will go to any lengths to protect his boss and had already taken the fall for Frank’s Season 2 murder of journalist Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), but what he wouldn’t stand for was Frank tarnishing his own legacy by getting caught trying to murder a sitting president.
So, Stamper swapped Frank’s pills and tricked him into overdosing on his own liver medication. The audience finds all this out when he unburdens his soul to Claire in the waning moments of the final episode — more on that in a bit.
Mercifully, there’s a bit more to Season 6 than the drama surrounding Frank’s death. For starters, Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear join the show as Annette and Bill Shepherd, uber-wealthy siblings and old friends of Claire’s who also serve as two of her season-long foils.
Other major plot points include a Fourth of July assassination attempt, a data-stealing phone app, childhood flashbacks, 25th Amendment drama, a chemical spill in Ohio, an all-female cabinet, potential SCOTUS impeachments, international skirmishes, the secretary of state faking her own death, a secret will & testament, quite a few murders, and even America’s first pregnant president.
Claire reveals she’s expecting two-thirds of the way through the season, but it’s not 100 percent clear if the baby daddy is her dead husband or the equally dead Tom Yates (Paul Sparks), a writer she poisoned while having sex with in Season 5. Regardless, Claire scores sympathy points after revealing her baby bump to the American people, but her own feelings toward the unborn child mostly oscillate between antipathy and fear of giving birth to a mini-Frank. The child turns out to be a girl, but if Claire’s Season 6 actions prove anything, it’s that the Underwood women can be just as deadly and diabolical as the men.
Claire confronts her own uncertainty surrounding her pregnancy in the final episode during a conversation she has with a younger version of herself. "Are you sure this is a good idea?" teenage Claire, who has appeared in flashbacks throughout the season, asks. "What if I’m carrying a demon seed or something? The odds are 50-50."
The series ends without definitively revealing the identity of the father, but Claire publicly maintains the child is Frank’s. Viewers also never find out if Claire, who endures considerably trauma while pregnant, successfully carries the child to term.
Not every "House of Cards" mystery is left unsolved, though. Claire ties up a handful of loose ends by murdering three of her potential threats in the very same episode. There’s Catherine Durant (Jayne Atkinson), the former secretary of state who faked her own death, fled to Europe and hid out in the alps before eating a bullet from a sniper; journalist Tom Hammerschmidt, who gets shot during a staged home invasion after threatening to look for skeletons in Claire’s closets; and political operative Jane Davis (Patricia Clarkson), who crosses the president one too many times, gets an inexplicably severe migraine and abruptly dies. Is it a murder? Yup, Claire looks straight into the camera and confirms she’s the one who offed her.
On the political front, Claire continues consolidating power by replacing her cabinet. She also works with a foreign adversary to prop up a terrorist cell, so she can sell America on the possible necessity of war. On the final episode, there’s a tense scene in the Situation Room where Claire hangs up on the Russian president, neglects the advice of all her generals and demands someone bring her the nuclear football. The football eventually gets delivered, but not for the reasons we think, and war is avoided in the end. Actual governing has never been "House of Cards" strong suit, of course. Policy and international affairs have generally always taken a backseat to Machiavellian scheming and settling petty scores.
Speaking of which, the Shepherd siblings’ strained relationship with Claire takes several interesting turns throughout the seasons — usually right after the power-hungry billionaires try pressuring Madame President into doing their bidding. Bill and Annette’s early tactics include humiliating Claire by discussing Frank’s sexual inadequacy, blackmailing her with the corpse of the man Claire slept with and killed, and leaking information about Claire’s prior abortions.
In the penultimate episode, after Bill has taken ill, Annette attempts to make Claire miscarry by getting her OBGYN to slip her a labor-inducing drug. The plan doesn’t work. Claire is rushed to the hospital and it’s there she finds out the sex of her child. She then calls up Annette from the hospital room. "You f–king c–t," Claire tells her. "It’s a girl."
Annette hatches an actual assassination plot next, roping in a group of Claire’s foes as well as Stamper. The former chief of staff is wavering, but after Claire trash talks Frank’s legacy in public, it motivates him to action. Stamper lets the press know Frank left behind a secret, handwritten will that completely excluded Claire. Thankfully for President Hale — who has now reverted to her maiden name — the will didn’t exclude Frank’s unborn child. This allows Claire to inherit everything on the baby’s behalf despite the possibility Frank’s not even the father.
Tensions rise all around and a potential coup is set in motion as Doug makes his way to the Oval Office for a teary-eyed showdown with the president that ends up being "House of Cards’" final scene. It’s then Claire guesses Doug is the one who killed Frank and, sure enough, Doug confesses. "I had to protect the legacy from the man," he says while starting to break down.
Claire doesn’t much care. She implies Frank had lost his edge anyway, causing Stamper to fly off the handle. He grabs a letter opener, holds it up to Claire’s neck, and demands she admit Frank is actually the one who "made" her who she is.
Claire plainly refuses.
Doug backs down, apparently unwilling to murder a pregnant president, but weakness is not in her repertoire — she takes the letter opener and stabs him with it. He crumbles to the ground, and she bends down to comfort him emotionally… while also placing a hand over his mouth so he can’t scream with his last dying breath.
"There. No more pain," Claire tells him, putting him out of his misery for good as the screen fades to black and the series ends. It’s a clear callback to the pilot episode which concluded with Frank Underwood putting down a wounded dog with his bare hands.
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