Everything you need to know before the premiere of season 6 of Netflix's 'House of Cards'

'House of Cards' has had quite a makeover since the final episode of season 5 aired in May 2017. Here's everything you need to know.

                            Everything you need to know before the premiere of season 6 of Netflix's 'House of Cards'

The sixth season of Netflix's 'House of Cards' returns to the streaming service on November 2, with Robin Wright's Claire Underwood all set to take center stage. The premiere will mark the end of an era, with the show having announced the network to the world as a genuine competitor in original programming upon its premiere in 2013, and audiences will hope it gets the ending it deserves.

While the producers and creator Beau Willimon had confirmed previously that the intention was to see Claire instated as the president of the country on a full-time basis in the future, that plan was quite obviously fast-tracked following Spacey's sudden dismissal. The end of the previous season had already seen Claire claiming the throne for herself. We see her ignoring Frank's calls for a complete pardon with the fourth-wall breaking, chapter-closing "My turn" setting things up quite nicely for the next installment. But despite the route seeming straightforward, 'House of Cards' would have to jump through multiple hoops and avoid numerous obstacles to get to this upcoming sixth season.

Wright will be the leading star for the final season of 'House of Cards.' (Source: IMDb)
Wright will be the leading star for the final season of 'House of Cards.' (Source: IMDb)

It is unclear whether this sixth season was always meant to be its last, but production had begun in October 2017. A gunman opening fire outside the show's sets in Baltimore did little to halt its progress, but the #MeToo movement would prove crippling. The numerous allegations of sexual assault against former lead Kevin Spacey saw the network fire the actor from all active and future projects, including 'House of Cards,' leaving the show's future in jeopardy.

Following actor Anthony Rapp's accusation that Spacey had made a sexual advance on him in 1986 when he was just 14-years-old, Netflix announced its decision to cancel the series after season 6. One day later, things took an even more drastic turn as Netflix and production studio MRC announced that production on the season would be suspended indefinitely, in order to review the current situation and to address any concerns of the cast and crew.

At the time, it looked increasingly likely that the indefinite suspension would never be lifted. However, the advocacy and campaigning of Wright, who strongly opposed Netflix executives who wanted to cancel the series because she was concerned for the 2,500-odd people involved in its production at the time, would save it. Finally, in December 2017, Netflix's chief content officer Ted Sarandos announced that production would restart in 2018 with Wright as the lead, also revealing how the length had been cut down to eight episodes when all the previous seasons had thirteen.

Because the sixth season had already been written with Spacey in mind, showrunners Frank Pugliese and Melissa Gibson had to rethink the entire show and come up with a new conclusion for the series. They had to take into consideration factors such as contractual obligations of cast and crew, who had to also scrap their plans and start working on the new script, meaning production was left significantly lagging behind. 

Speaking about their decision to kill off Spacey, Gibson told The Hollywood Reporter that she and Pugliese "did not want to be coy about it" or "run away from it." She said, "It would have been a big mistake to in any way pretend that the character didn’t exist or to erase the character somehow. Our way forward — the way we figured out the way forward — was basically to dig into the DNA of the show and honor the seeds of it and figure out what made sense as the next step."

Wright fought to save the show (Source: Netflix)
Wright fought to save the show (Source: Netflix)

Patricia Clarkson, who joined the show in season 5 as Jane Davis, the Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, had sung a glowing praise of Wright for her efforts in saving the show. "Robin led all of this charge so that people would save their livelihoods because when the show goes away, some people don’t get paid," she told CBS' 'The Talk' back in July.

"We have beautiful showrunners, Frank [Pugliese] and Melissa [Gibson], and they killed themselves to rethink the whole show," she said of their efforts to forge a new identity for the show. The actress also commented on the reduction of the season from 13 episodes to eight, saying: "It’s only eight episodes. … I think it’s going to be stunning, stunning new season and I’m thankful for it."

Production resumed on January 31 earlier this year, with Wright now the sole lead of the popular drama. A large portion of the cast members confirmed that they would be returning to reprise their roles from previous seasons — Michael Kelly (Doug Stamper), Jayne Atkinson (Cathy Durant), Patricia Clarkson (Jane Davis), Constance Zimmer (Janine Skorsky), Derek Cecil (Seth Grayson), Campbell Scott (Mark Usher), Boris McGiver (Tom Hammerschmidt), Sakina Jaffrey (Linda Vasquez), and Jeremy Holm (Nathan Green) will all feature in varying capacities. Alik Sakharov was confirmed as a director for a few episodes of the final season as well.

There would be some new faces around the sets as well. Diane Lane, best known for her starring role in 2002 thriller-drama 'Unfaithful,' and Greg Kinnear, who earned an Academy Award nomination for 'As Good As It Gets,' were cast to play siblings, Annette and Bill Shepherd. They will be the inheritors of an industrial conglomerate and members of a family with the power to influence American politics. Australian actor Cody Fern was similarly cast to play Annette's ambitious son Duncan Shepherd.

 It has also been confirmed that it was Wright who directed the final episode of season six, which also happens to be the series finale. She had previously helmed the finale of season five, as well as eight additional episodes dating back to 2014.  This unprecedented level of creative control that's been given to her only adds to the notion of how highly regarded she is on the drama's sets and was a statement of intent from the 52-year-old actress as to who is the real star of 'House of Cards.'

Claire will no longer play second fiddle to Frank (Source: Netflix)
Claire will no longer play second fiddle to Frank (Source: Netflix)

Having played virtually second fiddle to her on-screen husband Frank all this time — the Lady Macbeth if you may — Wright finally has the chance to showcase her exemplary acting in a leading role. The numerous promotions also indicate that the sixth season will, for all intents and purposes, be the Claire Underwood show, with parallels between hers and Frank's mannerisms quite striking.

The first hint that the producers would be going all-in on Claire as their leading woman came during the 90th Academy Awards in March, with the teaser showing Wright in the Oval Office. Complete with a rendition of a haunting background score by composer Jeff Beal, Claire swivels in her chair as the camera closes in to declare, "We're just getting started," followed by a flashing "Hail to the Chief." 

The second promo was quite aptly released on July 4 in what was the 242nd anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Fans of the show will know the lengths Frank and Claire went to undermine the constitution to consolidate their power, so it was fitting that the teaser saw President Claire Underwood sternly declare, "Happy Independence Day...to me."

Key art released alongside with their announcement of the release date also hinted towards Claire being almost an alter ego to Frank. The poster paid homage to the promotional image for the series' first season, with Wright striking the Lincoln Memorial pose, just as Spacey had done before her. The teaser trailer in September showed Frank dead and buried next to his father in South Carolina. Claire visits the grave and says, "I'll tell you this though, Francis. When they bury me, it won't be in my backyard. And when they pay their respects, they'll have to wait in line," mirroring the words Frank says when he visited his father's grave in season 3. 

Claire's transformation into the ruthless, Machiavelian version of her we see today has been a long time coming. We saw hints of her politicking and scheming side in previous seasons, whether it was her expert maneuvering of the leak of her abortion into a movement for women speaking out against sexual violence or her effortless handling of Russian president Viktor Petrov when her husband had almost always been outplayed. But it was in season 5 that she finally emerged from the shadows to throw her hat in the ring, showcasing some of her husband's nightmarish traits as she unflinchingly killed lover Tom Yates because he presented a threat to her ambition.

No one can really predict what the sixth season has in store or how the series will wrap up, but if Wright's comments during a promotional appearance at NBC's 'Today Show' studios are to be believed, it is going to "shock you beyond belief."

Watch the official trailer for season 6 of 'House of Cards' here: