House of Cards final season on Netflix: How and when to watch

Hail to the Chief. Netflix's presidential drama will return, with Claire Underwood steering the ship of state.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
CNET freelancer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
7 min read

Claire Underwood is in control.


"My turn," Claire Underwood declared in the season 5 finale of acclaimed  Netflix's  show House of Cards. And with actor Kevin Spacey gone from the show after allegations of sexual assault and harassment, it's actress Robin Wright's turn, too. (Read our review of season 6 here.)

How will the show write off Spacey's President Frank Underwood without a final goodbye scene, assuming Netflix doesn't use any footage Spacey filmed before his departure? Can a character as major as Frank "FU" Underwood die offscreen, or just vanish? This is a show where everyone has secrets and both Claire and Frank can murder ex-lovers in the blink of an eye, so who knows?

"You'll find out when you watch the show with respect to Frank," Cindy Holland, Netflix's vice president for original programming, told Deadline.

The fifth season ended with Claire already president, since Frank resigned in the season finale. They'd both done a lot to get her there -- she'd murdered her lover, novelist Tom Yates, when his book manuscript was about to expose the Underwoods' dirty dealings. And Frank murdered both Peter Russo and Zoe Barnes back in the first season, pushed Secretary of State Catherine Durant down a flight of stairs, apparently had LeAnn Harvey killed in a car accident, and ruined numerous other lives in numerous other ways, with Claire always at his side, or at least lurking nearby.

But as Claire rose in power, the ties between the evil couple frayed. In the season 5 finale, Claire gave her first televised speech as president, revealing the Osama bin Laden-like killing of an important terrorist and confirming the country was going to war with his terror organization, ICO. She didn't take the opportunity to pardon her husband, who muttered, "If she doesn't pardon me, I'll kill her." But with Spacey gone, it remains to be seen whether Frank's long reach can even touch President Claire. Regardless, she's sure to have other battles to fight and enemies to vanquish.

Here's what we know so far. We'll update this story as more news is revealed.

Release date, episodes and timing

As fitting a political show, House of Cards will return in November. The new season will premiere Nov. 2, just days before the midterm elections.

Last season was a whopping 13 episodes, but the final season will be only 8, according to star Patricia Clarkson, who added, "I think it's going to be a stunning, stunning new season and I'm thankful for it."

The season's been a long time coming. Filming had already begun in October 2017 when the Spacey charges blew up, and production was suspended for a time. In November, it was announced that Spacey would no longer be with the show, and filming resumed in January with a new script and a new plan. Filming ended in May, with Wright posting to Instagram and thanking the cast, crew, studio and Netflix.

Although set, naturally, in Washington DC, the show was filmed in Baltimore, with the Baltimore County Council chambers filling in as Congress.

How to watch House of Cards

Elect to get yourself a Netflix subscription. It's the best way to ensure you get all the new episodes plus access to the first five seasons. This show is so complex you may want to start rewatching episodes now to get ready for November.

Not sure Netflix is worth it to you? The service offers a free monthlong trial, so if you sign up close to the new season's premiere you can soak up the new season and previous ones, then cancel your membership without penalty.  

You can also test out the show by buying previous seasons or single episodes, whether on DVD or digitally at iTunes or other sites.

Meet the cast

Returning cast members include:

Robin Wright as Claire Underwood

Michael Kelly as Doug Stamper

Jayne Atkinson as Cathy Durant

Boris McGiver as Tom Hammerschmidt

Derek Cecil as Seth Grayson

Patricia Clarkson as Jane Davis

Campbell Scott as Mark Usher

Constance Zimmer as Janine Skorsky

New this season:

Diane Lane

Greg Kinnear

Cody Fern

What we know about season 6

Let me be frank about Frank: The biggest question about the show will likely be answered right away: How will Frank be killed off? Netflix's statement about dismissing Spacey said he would no longer be involved with the show, which would seem to eliminate any chance of using old footage or one final scene explaining his death or disappearance. But they'll have to explain his death somehow, and that could get interesting. Will Claire herself kill him? He's already said he'd kill her for not pardoning him, so she may have to. Or could he kill himself and somehow pin it on Claire? With Frank, anything is possible.

A trailer released Sept. 27 doesn't quite answer those questions, but it does show Claire crying over Frank's death one minute, then looking up, tear-free. She also bluntly informs new character Bill Shepherd (Greg Kinnear, see below for more on his role) that she doesn't have to honor any of Frank's promises. Then she appears to tell a public audience at an event that they shouldn't believe anything Frank told them over the past five years. 

But President Claire doesn't seem to be any better than her spouse -- as the trailer progresses, various characters note that "the bodies are adding up" and "we've got to get this woman out of there." There also appears to be an assassination attempt on Claire -- a bullet cracks the window of a car she's riding in. The final season is going to be a bumpy ride.

Second trailer pits Claire against everyone: A second full trailer was released on Oct. 8, and it looks like, with Frank dead, Claire has no one left on her side. Everyone's threatening her, no one seems to like her decisions, and in true Claire fashion, she doesn't care one bit what they think. "I'm not going to be told what to do anymore, Doug, not by you or any man, ever again," Underwood says to Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly).

Teaser is a true tease: Netflix did release a 45-second teaser in March in which Claire promises, "We're just getting started," but it doesn't reveal any plot spoilers.

Claire and the fourth wall: Spacey's Frank loved to talk to the audience, sometimes freezing an entire room of other characters so he could stroll around and pontificate. Claire has broken the fourth wall herself, but only to admit she's not comfortable with it and prefers to stay private (oh, and to add that pointed "My turn" in the finale). 

"Claire being Claire, her relationship with the audience is inevitably different," co-showrunner Melissa James Gibson told The Hollywood Reporter. "She and Frank are very different characters and have different needs in terms of that relationship." It's likely there will be less fourth-wall-breaking with Claire, but that it'll be powerful when it does happen.

Being clear about Claire: Wright was asked what a Claire Underwood presidency would look like, and told The Hollywood Reporter, "I would personally like it to be the greatest president we've ever had. How she gets there and achieves that is a whole other thing regarding the opera of the show."

Ciao, Conway family: Frank and Claire cheated their way back into the White House, defeating popular Republican candidate and war hero (or was he?) Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman), wife Hannah (Dominique McElligott), and their seemingly perfect family. The Conways were great foils for the Underwoods, but it doesn't look like they'll be back. Kinnaman is starring in another Netflix show, Altered Carbon, and has said Will Conway's episodes are done.

Enlarge Image

Greg Kinnear, Diane Lane and Cody Fern will join the cast as a family that's dealt with the Underwoods in the past.


Doug isn't going anywhere: Michael Kelly's White House Chief of Staff Doug Stamper has done everything for Frank, including kill, but he may be willing to shift alliances to Claire. Kelly told Variety that "now everything is with Claire, and it's really been an interesting time." And it looks like Doug survives till the series end. "Robin and I both asked to be the last scene on the last day because we want to be there with our crew," Kelly said. 

Dead or not dead? Characters' fates are often unclear in House of Cards, but if we had to guess, we'd say Neve Campbell's character, LeAnn Harvey, is probably DOA. She was in a horrific Underwood-orchestrated car crash, although we saw her mangled car, and not her body. "Sometimes you don't have to watch the whole movie to know how it ends," Frank said while turning off video of the imminent crash. 

On the other hand, Secretary of State Catherine Durant, who was pushed down the stairs by Frank in season 5, is likely to survive. Little has been said about Durant's condition on the show, but Jayne Atkinson is listed in the season 6 cast, unlike Campbell. Now how much will Durant remember about who pushed her, and will it even matter, with Frank gone?

The not-so-good Shepherds: Joining the cast this season are Diane Lane, Greg Kinnear and Cody Fern. They'll all play members of the powerful Shepherd family, who run a leading industrial conglomerate company called Shepherd Unlimited. Lane is Annette Shepherd, Kinnear plays her brother Bill. "The two share a vision for the future of America, as well as a complicated past with the Underwoods," Netflix reveals in a statement. Fern will play Duncan Shepherd, Annette's ambitious and devoted son.

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