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- Ambition Is Evil: All their acts of cruelty and immorality spawn from their overwhelming, unlimited ambition. And even though Frank is currently ahead of Claire in that respect, she has already made clear that she'd go just as far as him if given the opportunity.
- Battle Couple: Of the political maneuvering kind. When they're not gambiting against each other, that is.
- Birds of a Feather: Their shared ambition has been keeping them strong for three solid decades.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Both Underwoods present themselves as a charming and humble southern couple. In truth they're some of the most ruthless and ambitious politicians in Washington.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: As much as they butt heads when their respective political ambitions come between them, Frank and Claire truly do love each other, though in a twisted sort of way. Frank says in Season 4 that at the end of it all, it's the two of them against the world.
- Evil Versus Evil: The first half of Season 4 sees them pitted against each other as Claire begins seeking her own political ambitions and plots against Frank, who responds in kind. They make amends following Frank's assassination attempt and recovery.
- Fatal Flaw: Pride, for both of them. Frank's plans are sometimes ill-thought out and/or will have disastrous consequences, while Claire seeks political positions she's unqualified for. The both of them also tend to stubbornly attempt to do things without the other's help, even if they could offer it. This is part of why they're more effective together than separate; they can call each other out and come up with something better.
- Polyamory: They're both very content with their spouse having other sexual partners, with the only concern being a lack of discretion. In season 4 Claire sleeps with Tom Yates a few times but pushes him away for discretion's sake. Frank vetoes the breakup and invites Tom to live with them because he can see Tom's good for Claire.
- Ruling Couple: What they eventually aspire to become in season 4, with Claire as Frank's running mate.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: A mild example. Frank isn't horribly looking, but Kevin Spacey makes him slightly overweight and has a puffy face, while Robin Wright has aged a lot better to make Claire a stylish beauty.
- Unholy Matrimony: One of the defining examples in the current TV landscape. Politics and schemes actually play a much bigger role in their marriage than romance, which is exactly how they both want it.
- Uptown Girl: When they initially met, Frank had nothing going for him but his charisma and political talent, while Claire was born into a lavishly wealthy Texan rancher dynasty. Despite lots of competition he won her over very easily.
President Francis J. "Frank" Underwood
Played By: Kevin SpaceyAn utterly ruthless and conniving politician, he pursues only his own political agenda and manipulates everyone around him to grab influence and prestige, at the potential cost of utterly destroying everyone else to push himself forward.
Bad, for the greater good.
- Adaptational Heroism: He's far more pragmatic than the original series' Francis Urquhart, lacking his bouts of It Amused Me. On the other hand...
- Adaptational Villainy: Like his British counterpart, he kills the young reporter he was using when she starts turning on him. But while Francis Urquhart offed Mattie Storin in a fit of passion and spent the rest of the series haunted by it, Frank deliberately set Zoe Barnes up and doesn't give another thought to it afterwards (aside from a hallucination while he's recovering from getting shot).
- And Then What?: Clearly hadn't thought about what he was going to do once he became President. Once he gets there, he's scrambling to try and make his mark once Season 3 rolls round, developing the unwieldy and unpopular America Works out of misapropriated FEMA funds. The answer eventually ends up being "consolidating his and Claire's power" in Season 4.
- Asshole Victim: Privately, neither the Republican or Democratic congressional leadership really care about Frank after he gets shot by Lucas Goodwin. Bob Birch remarks that they'll need to appropriate the funds for a state funeral with the same tone of voice that you'd use to say "We need to order more toilet paper."
- Bad Boss: In Seasons 3 and 4.
- Batman Gambit: He pulls many of these throughout the show. And he often breaks the fourth wall (hand waved as talking to God at one point) to let the audience know when he's about to use one, and when the gambit succeeded.
- Big Bad: Of the show, with being a Villain Protagonist.
- Bi the Way: Revealed when he meets an old college boyfriend. He also has an encounter with Meechum, his bodyguard, and he and Tom Yates, an author that is writing a book about him, have one scene filled with UST.
- Breaking Speech: Subverted. Frank gives one to Claire at the end of Season 3 to make her give up any hope for personal achievement—and to just play her role as the obedient wife. Claire leaves him the next day.
- Catchphrase: "You might think that. I couldn't possibly comment" was Urquhart's in the original and Frank throws it out a few times as homage. Interestingly the show creator made Frank Underwood Southern because he thought the phrase didn't sound like something an American would say unless they were from the South.
- The Chessmaster: Lampshaded by scenes of him toying with pieces on a chessboard and offering to teach the game to his assistant Stamper.
- Child Hater:
- After being bumped by Russo's kids: "I'm not going to lie; I despise children."
- After seeing a viral video of Will Conway and his kids: "You guessed it. I still hate children."
- Classic Villain: Underwood's character is obviously inspired by a few Shakespearean villains, most notably Richard III, Iago and Macbeth.
- Like Richard III, Frank covets the highest position in the land and has no real claim to it, so he commits many despicable acts including murder to get it. Also, very much like Richard, Frank has a habit of directly addressing the audience to make snarky comments about his enemies, often in the middle of conversations with said enemies.
- Like "Honest Iago" in Othello, Frank is initially passed over for an important promotion and so embarks on his revenge by feigning friendship to all and using poisonous words to play all sides against each other to put himself in higher positions of power until he directly has the President's ear. He then manipulates the POTUS into a political trap while claiming all the while to be working in his best interests, all to gain the Presidency for himself. Unlike Iago, Frank actually succeeds.
- Like Macbeth, Frank has an equally scheming manipulative wife who compels him to continue on his corrupt and bloody path to power.
- Devil in Plain Sight: Especially at first. Later on some of the characters begin to catch on to how Frank's machinations always seem to end up advancing his own interests even when he claims otherwise. In Season 3, almost everyone Frank deals with knows what type of man he is, and the question becomes will he still get his way despite this.
- Dirty Old Man: Frank, at approximately 54 years old, starts an affair with Zoe Barnes, who, at 29 years of age, is young enough to be his daughter. He even has a disturbing sexual encounter with her where he performs oral sex on her while she's on the phone with her father, then essentially asks her to wish him happy Father's Day while implying she's his surrogate daughter.
- Disease Bleach: Paralleling real life U.S presidents, the stress of the Oval Office causes Frank's hair to go greyer throughout season 3 until it is white by Season 4.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Walker didn't give Frank the position he promised him, so Frank sets out to systematically dismantle, discredit, and depose, Walker's administration.
- Double Standard: A big part of his hypocrisy. He's actually done or is most of things he decries about other politicians in his fourth wall observations.
- Even Evil Has Standards:
- Despite being from the south he has no respect for the Confederacy and despises slavery, although it was mainly because he believed you should never start a war you can't win, and that the cause of slavery was "asinine" as he put it. Furthermore, he's quick to get on the defensive when a photo is leaked of his father with KKK members, as the photo was of one of the very few times Frank admired his father (his father was trying to get a loan to save their family's peach farm).
- Frank makes clear that he despises rapists.
- Frank has no problem manipulating people, but he's disgusted with some of the actions that Russia's president Viktor Petrov does.
- Evil Chancellor: Spends his whole stint as VP scheming to depose the President.
- False Friend: Pretends to be a loyal friend of Walker while he backstabs him, which is basically true for everybody else too.
- Faux Affably Evil: A charming Southern gentleman who pretends to be friendly and polite with everybody while scheming their downfall or ruin, usually in a nefarious way.
- First-Person Smartass: His narration is among the snarkiest you're likely to find.Frank: David Rasmussen is the House Majority Leader, which puts him one step above me and one below (Speaker of the House) Birch, which is akin to being between a very hungry wolf and a very quarrelsome sheep. Let's see if he stays with the herd or joins the pack.
- Fourth-Wall Observer: He repeatedly addresses the camera to let the viewer know his thoughts about events, especially his machinations, or other characters; he's the only character who does it.
- Though in Season 3, the Alzheimers-afflicted Justice Jacobs appears to notice it.
- In the final shot of Season 4, although she doesn't speak, Claire ends up staring dead into the camera along with Frank. His final aside is phrased in the first person plural, too.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Underwood was perfectly happy helping the President's agenda, so long as he was promoted to the main Secretary of State. Then the President broke their deal, deciding Francis was better use to him as chief whip, a job Francis has held for twenty years. Cue the entire plot of the show, which is essentially Francis casually destroying everything his former "friends" have worked so hard for.
- Happily Married: To Claire, whom he clearly loves. It might be the one part of each of their lives that isn't ugly and manipulative, even during Frank's fling with Zoe Barnes.
- Hollywood Atheist: He has no use for God or religion except when it suits his purposes. He claims at one point "I pray to myself, for myself."
- Hope Crusher: Frank doesn't specifically set out to do this, but if he can manage it along the way, well..."It only takes ten seconds to crush a man's ambition."
- Hypocrite: Frank is ridiculously self-righteous.
- When Frank is passed over for Secretary of State, he says that promises "remain immune to changing circumstances"; three episodes later, he handwaves a betrayal as "revising the parameters of my promise". He then immediately lampshades to Walker that he ought to understand that.
- While Breaking the Fourth Wall when talking about Russo, he says men who talk about family values while sleeping with hookers will be made to pay the price for their hypocrisy. Not long afterwards, he begins an affair with Zoe Barnes, albeit with his wife's knowledge. Further, nothing about Frank shows him to have much respect for families or family values.
- One of Frank's scenes of fourth-wall breaking has him saying that he wouldn't argue with the viewer for thinking of him as one.
- Frank acts like he hates slavery, but it's very clear that he treats everyone as a disposable object. In season 4, Freddie also points out Frank's casual but still evident racism/ elitism when Frank's idea of celebrating Freddie's new job is that Freddie come over and make Frank ribs.
- He promises to appoint two separate people to the position of Secretary of State in order to win the 2016 Democratic nomination. Catherine Durant explicitly points out that this exactly what Garrett Walker pulled in 2012, which is what caused Underwood to seek revenge in the first place.
- It's All About Me: Everything Frank does is to further his own political ambitions, and he cares nothing for the lives and careers he has to destroy to do so.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: The reason he's so encouraging about Claire's affair with Tom Yates. Intimacy has never been a big part of the Underwoods' marriage, so Frank is glad his wife has found it somewhere else.
- Know When to Fold 'Em: His strategy in Season 3 is to just admit defeat and give up the hope of re-election in 2016. While he still has ulterior motives, Frank admits he can't make the Democratic leaders support him when they've already made up their minds, and sells his decision to them as realizing he'd have to spend most of his presidency campaigning just to lose anyway.
- Manipulative Bastard: Oh, yes. The entire series is built around him manipulating others to feed his hunger for power.
- Meaningful Name: "Underwood" for the underhanded and under-the-desk tactics he uses to manipulate his way to power. On the other hand, "Frank" in modern slang refers to a direct and honest action. Even Frank's name is duplicitous and hypocritical. His initials are "F.U.", a fitting phrase for his general "fuck you" attitude towards most everyone he crushes on his way to the top.
- Michael Dobbs, who wrote the original novel, deliberately created Francis Urquhart as a character with the initials F.U. after a tense argument with then-UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
- Morality Pet:
- Though everybody else is just a pawn of his he seems to truly appreciate and care for Claire.
- Freddy may be his one true friend though sadly Freddy doesn't see it that way.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Frank seems to be a Democratic version of Tom DeLay, an infamously corrupt former Republican Whip whose ambitions were hampered by his scheming and the fact that he was too damn good in his position as House Whip to be allowed to climb up the ladder. Also like Frank, DeLay was a southerner from humble roots (he worked as an exterminator at one point before entering Congress). Frank has also been compared to Lyndon Johnson, due to his southern roots and pragmatic political savvy, but with the ruthlessness amped Up to Eleven.
- His roots as a prominent Southern democrat and especially the relations between he and his wife resembles Bill Clinton, and many of his actions (read: sleeping with Zoe Barnes) bear resemblance to a Conspiracy Theorist take on the Clintons' political careers.
- Kevin Spacey has said that he got some of Frank's character down by shadowing California congressman Kevin McCarthy, who, in Fall 2015, was briefly vying to become Speaker of the House following John Boehner's resignation.
- According to Spacey, while he doesn't actually base his performance on the him, Spacey likes to pretend that the man Frank is speaking to when he talks to the camera is none other than Donald Trump, even before he threw his hat in to run for President, meaning that Frank basically thinks of himself as Trump's Evil Mentor.
- Frank is a jowly former Vice President turned President with a lot of enemies, paranoia, underhandedness, and feeling unappreciated. Comparisons to Richard Nixon would be inevitable.
- Obnoxious In-Laws: He and Claire's mom are very open about their mutual dislike.
- Organ Theft: Frank's new liver wasn't meant for him. It was all Doug doing the manipulation behind the scenes, but it's quite certain that Frank wouldn't care about the family father who got passed over on the recipient list for him at all.
- Passed-Over Promotion: Being snubbed for the position of Secretary of State is what makes him "cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war", as he would say.
- Pet the Dog: As much of a bastard as he is, he does genuinely care for a few people (especially Claire).
- When he finds out he's about to meet Claire's rapist, he's genuinely furious, going from wanting to pin a medal on the guy to saying "that man needs to be taken out and shot!" in about 5 seconds.
- All of his interactions with Freddy are this. Aside from his wife, Freddy may be the only person whom Frank sees as a friend. Even if Freddy doesn't see it the other way.
- There are three things you can add to score easy villain points: racism, sexism, or homophobia. Frank scores zero in all three categories; he's bisexual, shows no traces of sexism, and is not at all racist. The former is particularly surprising, considering he's from South Carolina, a former Confederate state.
- Not that you could so much as trust him to watch your cup of coffee, but if you are one of his personal aides, and you prove exceptionally loyal, chances are he'll treat you well.
- After suffering through Petrov's homophobia and then forcing a kiss on Claire, Frank takes him to the White House's back door and tells us "I'd push him down the stairs and light his body on fire just to watch it burn, if it wouldn't start a world war."
- After Lucas Goodwin's assassination attempt, Frank genuinely compliments Donald Blythe for how he handled his time as acting president and offers to let him stay on the 2016 ticket as vice president. Admittedly Frank only offers it because he knows Blythe will decline, but there's no real malice behind it, unlike all the other times he manipulates Blythe.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: To the extent Frank actually believes in anything like morality (which is to say, not much), he's the beneficiary of this, at least in the twisted bizzaro-universe of his narration, where he is usually honest but which also reveals every last one his hypocrisies and double standards.
- Purple Prose: Whenever Frank addresses the audience, he tends to use flowery metaphors.
- Reality Ensues: He learns the hard way that becoming President is one thing but staying in power is a lot harder than he anticipated.
- The Sociopath: He is cold and calculated, lets nothing and no one stand in his way, oozes false charm as he manipulates and lies to those around him, is very arrogant and self-righteous, and has no shame or remorse about anything he's done. Even his love for Claire, his one unquestionably redeeming trait of goodness, can be tossed aside when he feels it's a hindrance to his plans.
- Self-Made Man: He takes a great deal of pride in his rise from what he considers to be ignorant hillbilly origins.
- Sex for Solace: Early in Season 3, Claire has sex with a deeply depressed Frank, who seems to give up seeking the office in 2016. It gives him a boost of confidence and helps him come up his gambit for getting elected.
- Shoot the Dog: The very first scene of the series is Frank performing a Mercy Kill on a fatally wounded dog although since it was in obvious agony and probably would have died before any help arrived, this could be considered a Pet the Dog moment.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Loves to have ribs, even for breakfast.
- Treacherous Advisor: His counsel is always poisonous and/or self-serving.
- Underestimating Badassery: Most everyone else in the political world underestimates just how ruthless and resourceful Frank can be, and it's why he's able to manipulate them so easily. Eventually people start to wise up, however.
- Unreliable Narrator: Occasionally, especially after he's done something particularly despicable. More often, though, it seems that his narrations to the camera are one of the only time he gets to be honest, and he clearly enjoys it.
- Villainous Breakdown: Begins to set in over the course of Season 3 as his grip on power begins to slip and his allies turn on him, and again to a lesser extent in Season 4 where he realises Hammerschmidt is trying to get dirt on him.
- Villain Protagonist: He's our narrator, our guide, our Mr. Exposition, and the main source of conflict.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Up to Eleven by Season 2, when he has maneuvered himself into the presidency. Though his colleagues have slowly gotten on to his game, somewhat, and have been noticing how everything he's involved with turns out to be his Xanatos Gambit.
- Visionary Villain: Subverted. He plays the long game to reach the Oval Office, but once he gets there he finds himself scrambling to put his name to something important so he can win a term of his own in the White House. His two major accomplishments, America Works and the Jordan Valley agreement, are both incredibly short-sighted, way too costly in political capital, and fall apart almost immediately upon implementation.
- Wicked Cultured: A well read and refined villain.
- Xanatos Gambit/Xanatos Speed Chess: It's unclear how much of his scheme Frank planned in advance, or if he simply set pieces in motion and knew how to think on his feet fast enough to capitalize.
Claire Hale Underwood, First Lady of the United States
Played By: Robin WrightFrancis' wife. She runs the Clean Water Initiative, an NGO. She often gets involved with Frank's political scheming, as an aid and an abettor. She proves to be just as cold, manipulative and power-hungry as her husband, often setting her own lofty goals to work alongside helping with his and letting nothing stop her.
Behind every great man is a woman with blood on her hands.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: It's revealed during one episode that she accepted Frank's hand in marriage because he didn't try to pamper her like her other suitors, or promise her children and a white picket fence. He promised her she'd never get bored. According to her, he was the only man who actually understood her.Claire: You know what Francis said to me when he proposed? I remember his exact words. He said, 'Claire, if all you want is happiness, say no. I'm not gonna give you a couple of kids and count the days until retirement. I promise you freedom from that. I promise you'll never be bored.' You know, he was the only man - and there were a lot of others who proposed - but he was the only one who understood me. He didn't put me on some pedestal. He knew that I didn't want to be adored or coddled. So he took my hand and put a ring on it. Because he knew I'd say yes.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: She runs the Clean Water Initiative, an environmental advocacy group that she wants to turn into an international charity, but is extremely underhanded and callous about how she advances her 'business'.
- Deuteragonist: She and her husband are definitely a team, but they're quite self-sufficient and so her plots tend not to involve the rest of the cast.
- Devil in Plain Sight: A particularly notable case since she runs a major environmentalist organization dedicated to helping the less fortunate.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Despite the fact she spends a better part of season 2 manipulating Trish Walker, she breaks down in tears after a phone call with her where the former calls her a "good person." Despite her constant manipulation of people, she doesn't do it guiltlessly.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: In chapter 33 she dyes her hair dark "like it was at the time she and Frank first met" when they reconcile after the diplomatic fiasco in Moscow and renew her wedding vows, and back to blond in chapter 36 after Frank is forced by Petrov to make her resign as the ambassador. Basically her brunette episode illustrated Hope Spot for of their marriage.
- False Friend: To the Walkers, much like her husband. She poisons their marriage through her fake friendship with the First Lady.
- Fourth-Wall Observer: Normally it's her husband's shtick. In the ending scene of season 4 though, she joins him in facing the camera directly, probably to emphasize how their brief dispute and the events of the primaries changed their dynamics. It remains in question if this was a one-time thing or will be maintained for season 5.
- Hello, Nurse!: Claire got to pick Frank from numerous suitors. Also there have been not one, but two former bodyguards of hers with crushes on her. Not to mention she's an object of desire for two major world leaders while being married to one of them. Even if much of Petrov's flirting has the sole purpose of intimidating Frank, it doesn't make it any less comprehensible why somebody would be fascinated by her.
- Ice Queen: In a way that inverts Defrosting Ice Queen. She's outwardly warm and loving, but beneath her charity-queen veneer beats the subzero heart of a true Manipulative Bitch.
- Kick the Dog: Saying to Gillian Cole that she is "willing to let your child wither and die inside you", if that's what is required to get her to drop the lawsuit.
- Lady Macbeth: "My husband doesn't apologize to anyone. Not even me."
- Lighter and Softer: Version of her husband. Unlike Frank, Claire has moral qualms, but they never actually prevent her from doing anything, just give her some minor regrets later. Some of her Macbethian influence on Frank is toned down compared to her British counterpart and she's slightly less villainous or cold, from time to time. But as noted in Ice Queen, God help you if you are in her way.
- The Woman Behind the Man: Is one pulling the strings to guide Blythe when Frank gets shot.
- Never a Self-Made Woman: A source of tension for Claire. Her power and status originally came from her father - an Old Money family of ranchers. Frank marries her and uses that money to fuel his political career while Claire founds CWI (using Franks connections and her family's money) as a publicity machine for him. Her later political power as First Lady and as ambassador stems from Frank. A chilling speech from him pointing this trope out is what causes her to leave him, albeit ony briefly.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Her behavior, political and personal affiliations, and even appearance bear strong resemblances to a Conspiracy Theorist take on Hilary Clinton.
- Not So Different: Close to the end of season 3 Claire during campaigning meets a young mother who tells her about her marriage, the story bearing uncomfortable parallels to Frank and Claire's marriage (down to details like the husband going by 'Jim', but the wife preferring calling him 'James'). Claire listens, but is unable to really comment and parts with the woman with the words: 'Good luck, Suzie'. An episode later, Claire is trying to tell about her own marriage to Tom Yates, but is unable to really open to him. When he leaves her with the words: 'Good luck, Claire', she visibly realizes the similarity between her and Suzie's situations and the conclusion that moving on from Frank might be the best of options.
- Not Wanting Kids Is Weird: She gets a lot of this, both in official interviews and casual smalltalk. It was actually her and Frank's joint decision to remain child-free.
- Rape as Backstory: Claire was raped by a man who later became a high-ranking commander in the armed services. The Underwoods first public event of the Vice-Presidency is also the first time Claire has had contact with her assailant since the incident. When Frank learned that said man was one of the award recipients at the event, he is not happy.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: By the end of season 3, Claire is thoroughly sick of Frank after her only personal successes have been through him and his political power. She decides to leave him in the season finale after a he gives her a bone-chilling tirade about how she is nothing without him and how she will do exactly what he tells her.
- Simple Yet Opulent: Her style of dress in a nutshell. She never wears anything too complicated or bright, and yet it all looks very carefully put together and lavishly expensive.
- Sleazy Politician: A philanthropist version. And, like her husband, she's nearly flawless in concealing her sleaziness.
- Smug Snake: In the beginning of season 4 her attempts to undermine Frank also undermine her, and by episode 4 she ends up with a 10% approval rating.
- Stepford Smiler: Played with. Both she and Frank are virtual equals when it comes to absolutely ice-cold manipulation, so this trope isn't actually present in their home life, but it is very much her persona as a high-society philanthropist (though her true persona sometimes bubbles close to the surface when interacting privately with her charity's employees).
- Took a Level in Badass: While she's always been tough, the takes it up a notch in season 4. Not only does she effectively pull the strings during Blythe's brief time as acting president, wins a crucial negotiation against Petrov of all people and finally gets Frank to acknowledge her as his equal, she also becomes his official running mate with much of the party's support behind her.
- Villain Protagonist: Much like her husband.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Her charity is shown to be really nothing more than a machine for generating good publicity, for herself, Frank, and Mega Corp. oil company Sancorp. She's infinitely ruthless when it comes to ensuring the machine continues to function. Much like Frank, however, people are beginning to wise up to this.
- Your Cheating Heart: Frank doesn't mind much Claire's on-off relationship with Adam Galloway, that is, until Raymond Tusk digs up dirt and turns it into a political scandal. In reply, Claire doesn't seem to mind Frank's relationship with Zoe Barnes. She later begins an affair with Thomas Yates, although like with Adam, Frank doesn't mind and in fact, approves of it.
- Woman in Black: Her preferred color palette zigzags between black, very dark blues...
- Woman in White: ...and various shades of ivory and light grey for more official occasions.
Vice President Donald Blythe
Played By: Reed Birney
"Yes, I made Donald my vice president. I'd rather him be a pain in my ass here than over in Congress."Democrat of New Hampshire, a respected and long-serving Representative who constantly gets in Frank's way due to his staunch liberal beliefs. He has a wife suffering from Alzheimers.
— Francis J. Underwood
- The Creon: Shows surprising mettle during his time as acting president (with help behind the scenes by Claire, of course), but has no interest in leading, and is happy to relinquish power when Frank returns.
- Kicked Upstairs: He was appointed Vice President in between seasons 2 and 3. The only reason Frank did so was because he didn't want to deal with Blythe interfering with his plans in Congress.
- Nice Guy: He's probably the most moral and upstanding member of the cast besides President Walker. After the assassination attempt on Frank in Season 4, his first thought is what he can do for Claire.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Blythe is a New England liberal with a penchant for sticking to his principles over political opportunity. He holds more than a passing resemblance to Bernie Sanders.
- Not So Different: From the Tea Party die-hards he hates so much.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: He hates Frank and hates being his vice president, but agreed to appointment in exchange for an Alzheimer's research center.
- Unwitting Pawn: He spends his entire time as acting president being manipulated by Claire. Not really a bad example since, through her, he's able to keep the country running and effectively confront Viktor Petrov on an oil deal.
- Vice President Who?: An invoked trope by Frank. No one believes Blythe would be up to the job of being president himself so it makes Congress less likely to impeach Underwood. Goes Horribly Right when he proves incapable of making any decisions during his time as acting president.
- You Are in Command Now: He becomes Acting President after Frank gets shot.
Douglas "Doug" Stamper, White House Chief of Staff
Played By: Michael KellyUnderwood's chief of staff and confidant. Despite his unwavering loyalty and trustworthiness to Frank, he is shown to be just as merciless and psychopathic towards others as his boss. A recovering alcoholic sober going on 14 years, Stamper takes an almost obsessive interest in Rachel, displaying feelings of protectiveness and love but also relocating her several times for the sake of Underwood's regime.
Absolute loyalty is a dish best plated cold.
- The Alcoholic: Doug has been sober for fifteen years, but in accordance with the AA program, he still considers himself to be one. He admits in an AA meeting that his infatuation with Rachel Posner is "dry drunk" behavior, and that it feels unquenchable in the same way as his drinking did.
- Badass: Part of his role as The Dragon means he's required to be one, even if it's non-physically, he has to deal with political giants on a daily basis. He also has some physical skill and high pain tolerance, disarming an assailant with a knife easily, using a wooden spoon as a makeshift splint when he dislocates his wrist and pinning a certain weaselly subordinate to the ground. Reality Ensues, however, when he's clocked with a rock. His recovery is a long, agonizing process that forces him to use a cane for a time.
- Badass Boast: His speech at Alcoholics Anonymous is one, not made toward a specific person but more toward his own flaws.
- Bald of Evil: Well, on his way to bald. He is, after all, Frank's right hand.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: He's suspicious of anyone that grows close to the Underwoods and is quick to warn the couple they can't be trusted.
- Consummate Professional: Doug's entire life is his job, running a schedule from 7:30am to very late at night. He's always on hand when Frank needs him, regardless of the time. True to his mentor Frank, Doug is cold, calculating and brutally efficient. He also has no problem getting his hands dirty. In Season 2, however, his professional edge takes a noticeable slip as his obsession with Rachel reaches new heights. Things only get worse from there.Doug: Nothing means more to me than this job, sir. Nothing.
- The Determinator: After recovering from his injuries inflicted by Rachel when she tried to kill him, his first day back starts off poorly with him dislocating his wrist after slipping in the shower. Instead, he creates a makeshift splint using duct tape and a wooden spoon, and hides it from his colleagues.
- The Dragon: To Frank, to whom he demonstrates solid loyalty and carries out his every command without complaint. It's more prominent in Season 1, but he starts to compete with Seth Grayson for the role of dragon in Season 2.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Though he tries his best to hide it, he seems to really care about his brother Gary and his niece and nephew.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Stamper isn't anywhere near as composed as he appears to be; with each passing season, it becomes increasingly clear that he's on the verge of going absolutely batshit at any given moment.
- Has a Type: Brunettes. More specifically, brunettes whose lives he has ruined due to following Frank's orders. Such as Rachel and the widow of the man who Doug had replaced on the transplant list when Frank needed a liver, following his near-assassination.
- Kick the Dog: His treatment of Rachel is humanizing at first, and could even be considered a Pet the Dog moment, but in Season 2 he grows increasingly obsessed with her. Doug goes from caring and business-like in to stalking and possessive, taking control of her life. He even goes so far as to make veiled threats to Rachel Posner directed at her new girlfriend, purely out of jealousy. In Season 3, he eventually hunts her down and kills her months after she wounded him and escaped.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: It may be hard to view Doug's injury and loss of influence with Frank as undeserved, since he'd spent Season 2 uprooting Rachel from wherever she settled, acting in a threatening way toward her and purposefully isolating her from everyone but him. It's little wonder why Rachel snapped. Doug himself kicked the son of a bitch when he intimidated Rachel's sleazy employer Leon, who had sexually harassed her.
- Kicked Up Stairs: Gets offended when a Senator offers him a similar job he had with Frank for more money in Season 3. He suspects that Frank or Seth is trying to ditch him. He's right, but it was Frank who made the call to the Senator.
- Informed Attribute: Doug is apparently the ultimate Washington insider, with connections and dirt on everybody in the US government, and is a superlative networker and people person. However, in his interactions with everyone, including Frank, Claire, and his own family, he comes off as grim and hardassed at best, and sociopathic and antisocial at worst.
- Insane Troll Logic: In Season 3, he offers to sell the journal telling the truth about Claire's abortions to Dunbar. When Frank finds out, Doug goes to him and burns the page of the journal with the evidence in front of his eyes. Frank asks why Doug kept the journal all this time, and Doug says he thought it might come in handy some day to prove his loyalty. His loyalty that Frank had never questioned until he found out Doug still had the journal and had made the deal with Dunbar.
- My Master, Right or Wrong: Doug is visibly shaken when Frank halfway admits to him that he killed Russo. He does, however, obey Frank's order to never bring it up again without any protests.
- Neat Freak: Everything in Doug's apartment is clean and in perfect order. You might think this is a response to his alcoholism (order in personal life to get away from disorder of drunkenness), but apparently he's always been that way: his brother messed with Doug by leaving one sock out in the middle of the room during the year they lived together.
- Oedipus Complex: His feelings toward Rachel are...complex. He views her as a daughter, mother and lover.Doug: I work hard. I keep things simple. I know what my priorities are. But there's this, this person. She's not even in my life, except on the edges making things blurrier. It doesn't tempt me to drink. It's more like she...more like she feels what it was like when I was drinking. When I couldn't get enough. No matter how many drinks I had, I wanted another. I don't want to be with her. I mean, I do. But it's more like she's my daughter. Or my mother. I don't know, this is fucked up.
- Off the Wagon: He gradually slips towards this throughout Season 2 with his obsession with Rachel, and Season 3 has him finally falling completely into this.
- Organ Theft: He has the recipient list manipulated to ensure Frank gets a live-saving liver transplant in time.
- Pet the Dog:
- Giving Rachel money, then telling her she doesn't have to sell herself anymore when she begins to take off her clothes in response. He's actually pretty nice to Rachel in general. Well, to start with, anyway.
- He makes a very generous donation to the family of the man who died due to Doug's doctoring with the liver recipient list. Although, similar to Rachel's case, it's actually a tie between Doug being genuinely nice and Doug being creepily attracted to the widow.
- Romancing the Widow: In Season 4 he develops an odd crush on the widow of the man who, thanks to Doug, got passed over on the liver recipient list to save Frank and eventually gets closer to her in a small subplot.
- Sanity Slippage: Over the course of Season 2 and 3, the usually emotionless and logical Stamper loses his shit. He hunts for her obsessively, and genuinely grieves when he's led to believe she's dead. Then he goes and kidnaps her after finding out she's still alive with the apparent intent to kill her himself.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: The yin to his brother's yang. Gary Stamper is the complete opposite in personality. While Doug is cold and distant, his brother is warm and inviting. While Doug lives alone and prefers it that way, his brother is happily married with children. While Doug suffers from many addictions and mental issues, he brother seems to be mentally stable and free of any addictions. Though it's revealed toward the end of the Season that he might be a neat freak.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: To Russo, in Season 2, when Frank exploits his loyalty and his addiction to manipulate him. Fortunately for him, it doesn't lead to the same end as Russo.
- Undying Loyalty: To Frank, who he obeys without question.
- Villain Ball: The way he handles Rachel involves one long run with it. Doug begins to fall apart entirely by fixating on Rachel and it eventually gets him nearly killed. It's out of character for a man so ruthless about tying up loose ends, but justified by his tangled feelings toward her.
- Villainous Breakdown: He has a few scattered across the series.
- What You Are in the Dark: Played straight then immediately subverted in the Season 3 finale.
- Worst Aid: Following his rehabilitation, he attempts to mend a broken arm using a spoon and duct tape.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: After a heartfelt conversation with Rachel, he agrees to cut her loose and set her free to begin her new life. After driving away, he then stops, changes his mind, and turns around. Rachel has just enough time to see him speeding toward her in his van. Pretty cruel, Doug.
Seth Grayson, White House Press Secretary
Played By: Derek CecilA sinister political operative who becomes Press Secretary for Vice President Underwood through blackmail. Despite mutual distrust with Doug, his unorthodox methods quickly prove useful to Team Underwood.
- Butt Monkey: All during Season 4 he is disrespected by Doug and mostly ignored by Frank. It forces him to consider jumping ship to Dunbar's campaign, and he intentionally leaked a photo of Frank's father with KKK people to sabotage his campaign in South Carolina with African American voters.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: He seems to know no loyalty except to himself. For a time, he did seem to be genuinely loyal to Frank until, like everyone else in the administration, Frank and Doug began to mistreat him.
- Consummate Professional: Seth is highly competent and coldly professional.
- The Dog Bites Back: Stands up to Doug's bullying and indifference once Doug's threat of being fired or killed was no longer possible.
- The Dragon: He gradually becomes one for Frank, essentially replacing Doug for the duration of Season 3. It isn't permanent, however.
- Graceful Loser: Played straight, then averted; he seemingly makes it clear that he has no hard feelings towards Doug Stamper, after Doug is given a cabinet job he was hoping for at the end of Season 3. Considering his later actions, he may have been more bitter then he let on.
- The Mole: For Remy initially, but then he switches loyalty to Frank and becomes a reverse mole. He becomes a mole for Heather Dunbar in Season 4.
- Not So Stoic: Is a cold, calculating professional in Season 3. But in Season 4, the disrespect by both Doug and Frank, as well as being left in the dark on most issues and having to explain everything to the Press blindly almost causes him to have a mental breakdown. Even Doug shows some sympathy at the end of the Season.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Initially, he's quite well-dressed. After he becomes Press Secretary, he becomes just a little more slovenly in his appearance.
Catherine "Cathy" Durant, Secretary of State
Played By: Jayne AtkinsonA Senator from Missouri who becomes Secretary of State after Frank brings about the downfall of Michael Kern.
- Bullying a Dragon: In the latter half of Season 4, she starts to wizen up to Frank's machinations and fight back, telling him she isn't intimidated by him. However, then Frank clues her in that Lucas Goodwin's accusations are true; he killed Peter Russo and Zoe Barnes, and if it was necessary he would kill anyone that got in his way. Durant quickly backs down when she realizes Frank is more dangerous than she thought.
- Cool Old Lady: Like most experienced politicians, she'd in her older years. She's also whip-smart and tough enough to clash with the most powerful people in the world.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: She constantly gets sidelined in Season 4, first by Claire and Acting President Blythe during the Russian energy crisis, then at the national convention when Frank and Claire use her as smoke screen to get Claire as the VP candidate instead of her. She finally has enough of it and bites back by challenging Frank for the presidential nomination."Oh, come on, Frank. I've had a front row seat to everything since the day Walker took office, all the lies and betrayals, and I helped you. My mistake was I assumed you wouldn't stab me in the back. Your mistake is that it backfired."
- Iron Lady: She might be as easily manipulated by Frank as anyone, but there's no shame in that and there's no denying Durant is one tough lady who isn't easily intimidated.
- It's Personal: She denies it, but it's very clear that her rebellion against Frank is due to how she's mistreated, mishandled and relegated to a pawn.
- Know When to Fold 'Em: After Frank not-too subtly hints that he's far more dangerous then he previous let slip, she withdraws her candidacy at the convention and quietly goes back to being Secretary of State.
- Oh Crap!: She realizes that she's in way over her head after Frank's Sarcastic Confession that Lucas Goodwin was telling the truth, he really is a violent murderer who will crush anyone standing in his way.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: She seems to be based on Hillary Clinton; she actively opposed the sitting President during the primaries, and later she would be promoted to Secretary of State. She even somewhat resembles Clinton in appearance.
Michael Kern, Secretary of the Treasury
Played By: Kevin KilnerA Senator from Colorado and Walker's original choice for the position of Secretary of State. Made Secretary of the Treasury by the newly-sworn in Frank at the end of Season 2.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Respected, craggy-faced, patrician Senator with a sort of hippy-ish past. Just like John Kerry.
- Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Kern's nomination to Secretary of State is railroaded as much by his own politically careless statements as it is by Frank Underwood's sabotage.
- Composite Character: He appears to be somewhat based on Michael Samuels of the original series.
Other Underwood Allies
Played By: Nathan DarrowA member of the US Capitol Police and Underwood's bodyguard and driver.
- Bi the Way: Meechum has a sexual encounter with both Underwoods in Season 2.
- Bodyguard Crush: On both Frank and Claire.
- The Corruptible: Meechum is slowly but easily swayed to become immensely loyal to Frank, due to Frank's power, his own sense of professionalism and his basically passive, eager-to-please nature.
- Determinator: Manages to shoot and kill Lucas in the roughly three second window he had between taking a pair of bullets for Frank and bleeding to death on the pavement..
- Dirty Cop: After Meechum's death, Tom Hammerschmidt finds evidence that Meechum doctored travel records to cover up some of Frank's movements.
- Death by Adaptation: His British counterpart, Commander Corder, survived all three series and is last seen working for Francis Urquhart's successor. Meechum dies protecting Frank Underwood in an assassination attempt from Lucas Goodwin halfway through the fourth season.
- Heroic Sacrifice: He takes a fatal bullet when Lucas Goodwin attempts to assassinate Frank.
- The Resenter: Shows very passive-aggressive hints of this toward Tom Yates in Season Three, when he starts becoming more involved in the Underwoods lives.
- Mauve Shirt: After many years of service for the Underwoods he eventually takes a fatal bullet for Frank.
- Semper Fi: Retired Marine, he served in Afghanistan.
Played By: Neve CampbellA Texan political consultant that becomes Claire's ally.
Played By: Elizabeth NormentA secretary to Frank Underwood and Doug Stamper. Later the secretary to Jackie Sharp.
Played By: Samuel PageA smooth talking media consultant who becomes Communications Director for Claire Underwood.
Played By: Ellen BurstynClaire's mother.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Chooses to go through assisted suicide rather than a drawn-out natural death, as she knows it's inevitable either way and her death will help Claire win the vice-president nomination at the DNC.
- Jerkass Has a Point: She and her friends declare that Frank doesn't deserve to be President, and wants Claire to start her own career separate from him. She's not wrong on either count, but her beliefs have less to do with Frank being a murdering backstabbing bastard, and more to do with his low social roots that in her eyes make him unfit for the office or her daughter.
- Like Mother, Like Daughter: It quickly becomes clear where Claire got both her cold, conniving personality and her impeccable looks from.
- Obnoxious In-Laws: Unlike her late husband, she has never accepted Frank as her son-in-law. Not because he is, well, evil, but because of his initial low social status. And even though Frank is far from a saint, wishing death upon him after he gets shot is kinda pushing it.Elizabeth: You know, when [Claire] first got married, I thought she was going to wake up in a year or two. I had no idea it'd take her 30.
- Rich Bitch: The Hale family is a wealthy dynasty of Texan ranchers. Thus Elizabeth still looks down upon Frank, even after he became President and made her daughter First Lady.
- Secretly Dying: She's dying from lymphona, which she's kept a secret from Claire and others for all this time.
Calvin T. Underwood
Played By: N/AFrank's father, now deceased.
- The Ghost: Mentioned infrequently, but has never been seen yet.
- Heroic Sacrifice: With crushing poverty on the horizon, he put food on the table the only way he could, by attending a meeting of the local Ku Klux Klan to get friendly with the bank president, and even having his picture taken at it. Frank still keeps that picture despite the enormous political risk it carries, because it was the one time he was actually proud of his father.
- Old Shame: In-universe, Frank is horribly ashamed of his father, for both good and bad reasons. Frank hated him because he saw him as a spineless coward, but it's his connection to the Ku Klux Klan that threatens Frank's presidency from the grave.
- Speak Ill of the Dead: Frank doesn't think highly of his father, reflecting that he was "just taking up space," and he doesn't miss him.