It's unclear how much longer Netflix's political soap House Of Cards will run, although if it follows the structure of the original British series, House of Cards Season 3 could be its last. So what can we expect from a final season of HoC, whether it be this year or next... or ten years from now? Sure, it's easy to assume that the show will end similarly to the British version, but since the American edition has departed so drastically from its source material, that's no longer necessarily the case. But there is another previously established piece of entertainment that may spoil the ending of House Of Cards — and it's not a TV show.
It's no secret that the successful thriller is based on Shakespeare's historical tragedy Richard III . Showrunner Beau Willimon and star Kevin Spacey have both openly acknowledged this, and that basis traces all the way back to the original House of Cards novel by Michael Dobbs, which predates both the American and British adaptations. Both Richard III and Cards feature machiavellian figures who rise high in the political world by scheming, manipulating, and murdering. Even more telling, both of said anti-heroes use direct address — a.k.a. speaking straight to the audience. This device is used to get the audience on the side of the villain: by introducing us into his confidences, we can't help but root for this scoundrel, no matter how despicable he becomes.
There's one more similarity between the two works: coincidentally (or not), Spacey's last role before stepping into Frank Underwood's shoes was as Richard III. The acclaimed stage production was helmed by Sam Mendes, the man who directed Spacey to an Oscar in American Beauty. It began at the Old Vic in London, at which Spacey is an artistic director, and then embarked on a world tour, which culminated at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in January 2012.
So can Richard III tell us how House of Cards will end? Here's what will happen to President Underwood if the same fate befalls him as befell his Shakespearean inspiration:
He'll alienate everyone.
Remy Danton. Linda Vasquez. Raymond Tusk. Jackie Sharp. It's not hard to imagine these people forming an anti-Underwood coalition. But will Frank's machinations even drive away those closest to him, like loyal right-hand man Doug Stamper (assuming he survives that head injury)? Or bodyguard-slash-bedwarmer Edward Meechum? Or even his beloved wife Claire?
In Richard III, the king manages to alienate himself from everyone, noblemen and common people alike, especially after he has the two young heirs to the throne slaughtered. This lack of friends and confidantes leads him into a paranoid downward spiral. On HoC, we already saw Freddy Hayes driven away, collateral damage of Frank's ambition; and he was arguably the politician's only real friend. Freddy likely won't be the last person to turn against the nascent President.
Frank will kill Claire...
In Shakespeare's play, the twisted king has his own wife, Queen Anne, murdered. This particular plot point is hard to imagine being replicated on HoC, especially since in the British version, the exact opposite happens. But the show has shocked us before, and what better way to surprise its viewers — even those familiar with the original ending — than to have Frank murder his most stalwart companion?
...and then marry President Walker's daughter.
Of course, Richard's murder of Queen Anne has a political motivation. It frees him to marry the daughter of the former king, a match which would help consolidate his power. (Never mind that the former king was his brother, which means his new bride would also be his niece.) Fortunately for young Elizabeth, the engagement ends when her fiancé is murdered. (More on that later.)
If Frank were to murder Claire (or if she were to otherwise die, or if they were to get a divorce), could he attempt to inure himself to the public by marrying the daughter of his predecessor? Perhaps — although we don't even know if President Walker has a daughter.
Someone will return from exile to challenge him.
The Earl of Richmond, heir to the throne and Richard's nephew, went into hiding after Richard killed his father. The noblemen that Richard alienates seek out Richmond and offer him their support instead. Eventually, Richmond returns from exile to reclaim his crown. A direct parallel to this story would have President Walker's son working to bring down Frank, but I've got another idea.
There is one person who is in a very literal exile, and who is in a prime position to bring Frank down should he be released: Lucas Goodwin. Zoe's former boyfriend was imprisoned during Season 2 after asking too many questions regarding Frank's role in her death. Hopefully that's not the last we'll ever see of the unlucky reporter. I'm crossing my fingers that he'll come back into play next season (ideally with acid-tongued Janine in tow) and avenge the death of Zoe.
He'll be haunted by the ghosts of all the people he's murdered.
HoC has so far been very firmly grounded in reality (if a very soap-operatic reality), and never indulges in moments of fantasy or hallucination. But that could change if next season sees Frank growing paranoid and psychotic. On the eve of his battle with Richmond, Richard — plagued by guilt and wracked by insecurity — is visited by the ghosts of all those he's killed, driving him to madness. Will an increasingly crazy Frank start seeing visions of Zoe? Will he imagine conversations with dead Doug? Will he be haunted by a vengeful Peter Russo? It would be interesting to see how the show would tackle a dash of the supernatural.
And then Frank will die.
Like all Shakespearian tragedies, Richard III ends with the death of its titular character. In the midst of battle, the mad king is unhorsed and faces Richmond in a duel. Richmond avenges his father's death and regains the throne for himself by slaying Richard once and for all. There's really no other way House Of Cards could end, either. Frank has done too many terrible things, and climbed too high, not to suffer a fatal fall.
But who will finally kill him? Will it be his vanquished enemy's son, as in Shakespeare's play? Will it be his wife, as in Dobbs' novel and the British version of the show? Or will it be someone else entirely? Only time will tell who will be responsible for Frank's death... But in the meantime, we can certainly enjoy watching his inevitable downfall.
Images: Netflix (7); The Old Vic