Now, it's official. Netflix has signed up for one last hurrah, leaving a shortened final season in the capable hands of leading lady Robin Wright. Yes, Kevin Spacey has been given the boot in a very real sense.
Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos spilled the beans at a media industry conference hosted by analyst firm UBS on Monday. According to a conference transcript from Seeking Alpha, Sarandos is excited to bring 370 production staffers and creative talents back to work -- along with giving business to roughly 2,000 people around the production site in Baltimore. "We have made an arrangement to produce six seasons of House of Cards," Sarandos said. "It will be an eight-episode season that will start production early 2018, and it will not involve Kevin Spacey, and it will star Robin Wright."
This effort will "bring closure to the show" for longtime fans.
The show was just about to start shooting the regularly scheduled sixth season when superstar Kevin Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct. Netflix was quick to cut its ties to the actor and pause the new House of Cards production. Netflix also cancelled a big-ticket movie title that would have featured Spacey in a starring role.
The new take of season six will obviously need to go in a different direction, considering that main character Frank Underwood has been expunged from every aspect of the show. Claire Underwood, played by household name Robin Wright, will shoulder the celebrity limelight and is likely to carry the plot forward, as well.
Sarandos provided no clues on how the show will handle Frank Underwood's sudden exit, but let's just say that characters tend to meet unexpected fates on a regular basis. One more death wouldn't be that surprising from a creative point of view.
I will still keep an eye out for Spacey's name in the end credits for season six, episode one. I'm sure that Netflix has put as much distance between itself and Kevin Spacey as legally possible, but he was part of the creative team from day one and always held an executive producer's title. If I see a token credit for Spacey buried deep in the fine-print section of the credits, the company's legal team probably made it happen.
What's the big deal?
Either way, the show that got Netflix started down the original content path will indeed get a proper -- but shortened, scandal-tinted, and distracted -- final chapter. Series backer David Fincher has already rolled out another hit show for Netflix, as crime drama Mindhunter recently was renewed for a second season.
It's more of an academic point than an important business decision. Netflix has a few high-profile cancellations under its belt already, including the Wachowski sisters' Sense8 and Baz Luhrmann's The Get Down. With dozens of Netflix Originals on tap, spanning many genres and niches, the loss of any particular show doesn't matter all that much. It's a shotgun approach to finding audiences, not a hyper-targeted sniper model.
The show must go on, and it will continue to do so without Kevin Spacey. That's true both for Netflix in general and, as we know now, for House of Cards in particular.