**WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR HOUSE OF CARDS SERIES FINALE**
The sixth and final season of House of Cards went out in suitably bloody style – as the Netflix drama came "full circle".
In the closing scene [spoiler alert!!], we finally had confirmation of who killed Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood: his former right-hand man Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), who gave him an overdose to prevent him from killing Claire and to "protect the legacy from the man." The revelation was followed by the ultimate showdown as Robin Wright's character President Claire Hale (formerly Underwood) turned the tables, stabbing Doug to death.
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In the final shot, she cradles Doug's bloody body as the life fades from his eyes, and tells him: "There. No more pain" – before looking straight into the camera. Fade to black for the last time.
"There's a full-circle element to all of this," co-showrunner Melissa James Gibson told The Hollywood Reporter. "How Francis invited us in at the beginning, this is like the coda to that."
House of Cards fans will recall that the drama first opened with Frank's explanation of "useful" and "useless" pain as he snapped the neck of an injured dog. "In the end, Claire is, to some degree, freeing Doug Stamper and looking at us in a full-circle way," she said.
Of course, it wasn't always the plan for season six to unfold the way it did. Spacey was fired over sexual assault allegations which were made public in October 2017, forcing House of Cards showrunners Gibson and Frank Pugliese to suspend filming and find a way to write him out of the show.
Ultimately they reduced the number of episodes to eight and killed Spacey off-screen, although the mystery of his death haunted the final season. Did he really die of a heart attack in bed following an accidental overdose of liver medication? Or did Claire kill him? And if not Claire – who?
When Doug visits her at the Oval Office in the final scene, we get our answer. And so does Claire. Doug finally makes his confession and demands a pardon, or proof of his power over her – and when he doesn't get what he wants, he grabs a paperknife and holds it to her neck until blood drips down onto her pregnant belly (the result of insemination with Frank's frozen sperm).
Doug immediately breaks down and regrets his violence. But Claire kicks things up a notch, grabbing the knife and plunging it into his stomach and twisting it until he dies in her arms.
"One of the really fascinating questions is: Who is the biggest monster of them all?" Gibson said, adding: "What felt true to us is that she reveals herself to be every much of an antihero as Francis ever was. She's allowed to be as complicated and surprising and dark and everything he ever was."
"The finale itself is not really final until it's played out with the audience," Pugliese explained. "Whatever the audience imagines after is all part of the end of the show. And there are questions. No doubt about it. What story is [Claire] going to tell? How is she going to get away with this? Now that she's done with this last piece, will she really move on?
"But that's left up to the audience and their imagination."
This article was originally published on 12 November 2018