House of Cards season 6 will be the show's final season, although the ending of the Underwood dynasty was once going to look very different. One of the first breakout Netflix Originals, House of Cards was originally Kevin Spacey's show: his fourth-wall-breaking schemer Frank Underwood guided audiences through the dark truths of American politics, manipulating the systems to go from Chief Whip to Vice President to, eventually, Commander in Chief.
Everything came crashing down following accusations of sexual assault against Spacey in late 2017. The actor was fired from the in-production House of Cards season 6 - now confirmed to be the last - and the show completely retooled to center solely on Robin Wright's Claire Underwood, Frank's wife and VP who over the past five seasons had become as important as her husband, with season 5 ending on her taking command in the Oval Office.
The final season of House of Cards is now coming to Netflix, showing Claire's Presidency and (presumably) the downfall of the Underwood's treachery. But, however Claire does (or doesn't) pay for her crimes, one question will remain unanswered: how would things have gone down had Spacey not been fired? Thanks to producer comments, we have an idea.
What We Know About House of Cards Season 6 Before Spacey Was Fired
While it was only announced as such in the fallout from Spacey's firing, the showrunners have maintained that the sixth year of House of Cards was always intended to be its final season. This would make sense given where the story had got to - Frank was now trying to pull the strings from the corporate side - and just how long the series had been running for. By the time Spacey's crimes came to light, the season was filming and most of the scripts finalized. That means there was a fully mapped out end to House of Cards that had to be scrapped (or, as we'll see, retooled).
House of Cards season 5 ended with Claire taking over as President after Frank resigned, with him relying on her pardoning him for his many crimes and vowing to "kill her" when she didn't. After years of a fractured marriage, it looked like the show would be delivering an all-out war as the new President did backdoor-battle with her corporate estranged husband.
There is also the big question of Frank's fate. The original House of Cards series ended with Francis Urquhart's death, and the Netflix version had introduced a time bomb: Frank Underwood's liver had become infected following an assassination attempt in season 4, meaning he could be killed off at any moment. This was even teased by the season 5 finale, with Jane Davis saying it would be a viable way to remove Frank from the picture. All signs pointed towards Kevin Spacey being killed off before (or at) the very end.
How House of Cards' Final Season Changed After Spacey Was Fired
After a production hiatus, House of Cards season 6 continued apace with a retooled script that put the focus solely on Robin Wright. The big change to the final season from its plan, of course, is that Frank Underwood is dead before the season begins. How is a mystery for the show to slowly reveal, but this puts Claire front-and-center, with any presence from her husband purely legacy. There are also new characters in the mix, with Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear cast as Annette and Bill Shepherd, industrialist siblings who have history with Frank and want to get their hooks into Claire. As it stands, these are the known big changes.
However, all evidence so far points towards a retooling, rather than rewriting, of House of Cards' final season. If the original plan was to have Claire trying to lead the first female Presidency forward as Frank used corporate pressures to manipulate her to follow his plans, then the new version has essentially replaced his role with the Shepherds taking on his antagonistic role. This means that, while the show has had to retool and shrink its episode (not to mention suffer a lot of bad press), the writers are getting deliver on what they originally envisioned.