House of Cards fate still in air as producers seek to fire Kevin Spacey

This post contains spoilers through the end of season 5 of House of Cards.

Netflix may have spoke too soon in distancing itself from House of Cards star Kevin Spacey, as producers of the streaming service's flagship series are reportedly struggling to find a legally-defensible cause to fire the actor from the show, according to a writeup on the situation by The Blast.

Citing sources close to the production, the report casts light on the developing situation around the disgraced actor/producer and his role going forward on House of Cards. Netflix and the show's production company, Media Rights Capital, made their stance on Spacey abundantly clear in their reaction to the public revelations of Spacey's serial habit of sexual harassment, halting production on the show's sixth season immediately and indefinitely. But it may not be possible for the production to simply fire Spacey for his behavior due to the lack of a morality cause in his contract.

A morality clause in Spacey's contract would make it relatively simple to fire Spacey from the series for his personal behavior. The absence of such a clause, however, means that the show will legally need to conjure up another reason to fire him if they want to make it happen—something that might not be possible. According to The Blast's sources, Spacey's contract can only be nullified in the event the performer becomes "unavailable" or "incapacitated". 

Firing him because his reputation has become thoroughly poisonous wouldn't fit those definitions, meaning that separating from Spacey now would technically be firing him for no reason. Should Spacey be fired without cause, a source says he "will be owed a fortune", leading to speculation that it may be cheaper and easier for Netflix and MRC to simply cancel House of Cards and be done with it.

When the Spacey story broke, House of Cards was already filming its sixth season, with a number of scripts having already been written for what was reportedly always intended to be the series' final season. Now, with production suspended, producers are intending to write Spacey out of the show, pivoting the focus to his character Frank Underwood's wife Claire. 

It's a surprisingly easy-sounding proposition, on paper. The fifth season of House of Cards saw Frank, then the President of the United States, be ousted from the office amidst political scandal, with his wife Claire becoming the President in his wake. In the final moments of the season, Frank calls Claire to continue manipulating the political puppet strings from behind the scenes—a call she ignores, turning instead to the camera and the audience, breaking the fourth wall for the first time by saying, "My turn."

Spacey is reportedly fighting back against the attempted ouster, but make no mistake—there is no version of reality in which Spacey returns to the show and production continues unchanged. At this point, there are only two options: remove Frank, or cancel the series. If Spacey cannot be fired without a massive financial penalty and refuses to step down, Claire may never get her turn, and the story of House of Cards may unexpectedly be already over.