There was a time, way back in the simpler days of 2013, where I really thought that House of Cards stood the chance of being one of the all time great TV dramas. It had everything it needed, really: a great showrunner in Beau Williamson, an amazing visual pallet crafted in its first two episodes by David Fincher, and one hell of a cast featuring landmark performances from Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Corey Stoll, and more. And with its first season turning out really great (and setting up Netflix as a major player in the world of television thereafter), my enthusiasm for the show was red hot.
It, unfortunately, didn’t last long, as the series took a major downturn in the second season. House of Cards went from a great prestige drama to schlocky, barely above soap opera level mess. And the fact that it only got worse in its third season nearly broke me. I thought I was back on board with the show in its surprisingly decent fourth season, but then another thing intervened that knocked me off the show entirely: real life.
Like many others, I could no longer watch House of Cards after 2016. My enjoyment of the show overall was already waning before the political shitshow of the past few years, but the 2016 election was the last straw. I could just no longer see the appeal or fun in watching a ridiculous, sometimes boring, always frustrating political drama, especially when there were already so many shows worth my time. And with seemingly no end in sight for the series, what was even the point? Watching Season 4 didn’t feel like a series approaching its endgame…it felt like one just spinning its wheels. And reading the plot summaries of what the fuck happened in the show’s fifth season, BOY do I not regret the decision to stop watching. But now word has arrived that the series is indeed ending, set to conclude with its sixth season next year. But I don’t plan on catching up or anything either…because, once again, real life has made this one quite complicated.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the allegations made about Kevin Spacey in the past 24 hours but, in case you haven’t, let me quickly summarize. Anthony Rapp, an actor currently appearing on Star Trek: Discovery, informed Buzzfeed that Kevin Spacey had acted sexually inappropriate towards him back when Rapp was just a 14 year old kid acting on Broadway. The encounter occurred during a party in which Spacey, very drunk, tried to force himself on Rapp. Rapp was able to escape from the encounter, but has reasonably been wary of interacting with Spacey since. And with the truth now coming to light for folks like Harvey Weinstein and James Toback, Rapp believed now was the time to speak of his experiences publicly.
Spacey has since responded to the accusation with quite the controversial statement, in which the actor both A) admitted to not remembering the incident at all and B) finally came out as a gay man. This is all very much a developing story and, unfortunately, I doubt that allegations about Spacey’s past behavior will end here.
But of course the question that must be asked in the context of this article is just how much Spacey’s current woes have impacted the development of House of Cards. According to Netflix, not as much as you think: the show was planned to end next year anyways, and the current season (filming right now) was written to be its last. But there’s a reason that Netflix decided to officially announce the end of the series TODAY: the traditional pattern of content creators separating themselves from their troubled collaborators has begun in earnest. That can very much be glistened from the joint statement released by Netflix and House of Cards production company Media Rights Capital:
“Media Rights Capital and Netflix are deeply troubled by last night’s news concerning Kevin Spacey. In response to last night’s revelations, executives from both of our companies arrived in Baltimore this afternoon to meet with our cast and crew to ensure that they continue to feel safe and supported. As previously scheduled, Kevin Spacey is not working on set at this time.”
Depending on what happens in the coming days, this will make production on House of Cards final season quite the complicated thing. Things can no longer be “business as usual” for Hollywood now when these allegations come out, and don’t get me wrong: that is certainly a good thing. As a huge fan of Kevin Spacey, knowing that he might have done some terrible things in the past certainly hurts. But ALSO as a huge fan of Kevin Spacey, I can’t quite say I am surprised. The man has tried to keep his personal life under wraps for decades, but enough floated in over the years that hearing something like this, to me, seemed inevitable. In fact, I can’t help but feel this is just the beginning of the floodgates opening here, just like it was for Weinstein and Cosby and Knowles and the many other scrumbags working in entertainment who got called out on their behavior by one, and were backed up by many.
So does it suck that all the people working on House of Cards have to deal with this now? Sure, kind of. But, on the other hand, it was House of Cards. I won’t cry for the show being forced to conclude now when, in reality, it should have done so years ago. But if the series feels stale and unwatchable now, I can only imagine how weird it will feel when Netflix (I imagine quietly) dumps the final season in 2018. House of Cards came into the world vibrant, exciting, and new. But it will be leaving it in a more embarrassing, irrelevant way than I could have possibly imagined.
Also published on Medium.