House of Cards season six: Claire Underwood is in the Oval office

Think back a while to a time when House of Cards was really good.
What was the thing it had? Manners, certainly. It is a very well-dressed drama, stately, straight-backed, with matters of great import unfurling in high-ceilinged rooms with French windows and ceremonial plates. So many plates! It had ambition. 
The drama itself was conspiratorial. Frank Underwood, the human embodiment of all this striving, was in cahoots with us, the viewers. He nodded, he winked. He lied, and did a bit of light murdering, but his psychopathic tendencies were forgivable, almost, because the joke was shared.
And then Frank became president, and everything was different. The trick of creating empathy for the devil required him to be an underdog. 
House of Cards Final Season trailer
Well, Frank is gone. He was fading anyway, drifting into the shadow of his conspiratorial wife, Claire (Robin Wright), but the banishing of Kevin Spacey from the public sphere has pushed things along. Frank is dead, and almost forgotten, though the circumstances of his demise are a bit murky.
Claire is lying about which bed he died in, while also suggesting that he was murdered. Possibly she did it, though that’s not what she’s suggesting. On the other hand, she lies all the time. 
Iron lady: Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) finally takes control of the White House (David Giesbrecht/Netflix)
There is at least one other dead character who seems to be alive. But then, it’s hard to keep count. The annoying journalist/biographer who got to hang around the White House having an affair with Claire? He’s dead, which is a relief, because his crimes against curiosity were a betrayal of his craft. But he does make a brief, albeit mortified, appearance in the back of a car. 
And here we must pause, to consider the other problem faced by House of Cards. Deaths aside, it’s not mad enough. True, there’s a suggestion that the strings of the presidency are being controlled by a family of rich and ultra-charmless weasels, headed by Annette and Bill Shepherd (Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear). Annette has known Claire for ever, and is as close as the show gets to a Dynasty villain, which is not close enough.
But compare it with the actual White House, and the craziness seems uninventive somehow, as it labours to produce a situation in which the leader of the free world can behave as an underdog. Is “underb****” a thing? If it is, that’s what Claire strives to be, because the mock-feminist undertow of House of Cards — in which Claire’s triumph is like a warped response to institutionalised misogyny — requires her to correct personal pronouns at all times, while also mentioning that she feels as if she has been emasculated. 
Wright, as ever, plays the role like ice sculpture doing yoga. She has a Human League haircut and her costume is exquisite. Unfortunately she is burdened by flashbacks which seek to explain her pathology.  Happily, Frank’s old attack dog Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) is still around, looking like an embalmed grudge. 
It looks and sounds like great drama. It smells like ham.There are at least two Lady Macbeth references in the script, and the craziness of the age is glanced upon in a glacial plot which incorporates Russian collusion and the potential triggering of the 25th amendment (in which the President is deemed incapable).