Characters: House Of Cards US Underwoods
Only Season 2 spoilers are whited out. You have been warned.
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Francis J. 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 did it in a fit of passion and spent the rest of the series haunted by it, Underwood deliberately sets the deed up and doesn't give another thought to it afterwards.
- Ambition Is Evil: All his acts of cruelty and immorality spawn from his overwhelming, unlimited ambition.
- Bad Boss: In Season 3.
- Batman Gambit: He pulls many of these throughout the show. And he often breaks the fourth wall 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.
- 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: "I'm not going to lie; I despise 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 adressing 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.
- Depraved Bisexual: Assuming his relationships with women are based on attraction and not self-interest.
- Devil in Plain Sight: Especially at first. Later on some of the characters begin to catch on to how Underwood's machinations always seem to end up advancing his own interests even when he claims otherwise. In Season 3, almost everyone Underwood deals with knows what type of man he is, and the question becomes will he still get his way despite this.
- Dirty Old Man: He starts an affair with Zoe, who's 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 office makes Frank's hair go greyer throughout season 3 until it is practically white.
- 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 Loved Ones: Frank may be an amoral and corrupt Villain Protagonist, but he really does seem to love Claire. Notably, when one of his rivals threatens to release the reason of her abortion to the public in Season 3, Frank's stone-cold anger is something to behold.Frank: She can go after me all she wants, but she goes after Claire, I'll slit her fucking throat in broad daylight.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 though Frank begins sleeping with Zoe.
- 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, 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.
- Kick the Dog: The very first scene of the series is Frank performing a Mercy Kill on a fatally wounded dog.
- 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 attitude towards most everyone he crushes on his way to the top.
- 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: He bears not a few resemblances to Tom DeLay, the 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 Underwood, DeLay was a southerner from humble roots (he worked as an exterminator at one point before entering Congress). He 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 bear resemblance to a Conspiracy Theorist take on the Clintons' political careers.
- 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 genuinely appreciates.
- Frank Underwood is not a racist. Considering his state of origin and the fact that he's a villain, it's surprising (though his UK counterpart, Francis Urquhart, is also not a racist despite being a very hard and old-line Tory), especially since making him a racist would be an easy way to score extra 'villain points,' if you will.
- Going further, there are three things you can add to score easy villain points: racism, sexism, or homophobia. Underwood is clearly none of those things.
- Not that you could so much as trust him to watch your cup of coffee, but if you are one of his personal aides, 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."
- Pragmatic Villainy: Frank appreciates efficiency and simple solutions. He is an awesome schemer to be sure, but he will not make an elaborate scheme when a more simple, direct approach will do. He also prefers that people collaborate with his plans willingly than being forced to make them through underhanded means, as an honest collaborator is more easily manipulated and roped into his schemes. Zoe learned the HARD way that making Frank's life complicated is a wonderful way to make him look for a simple, FATAL solution to the problem.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sociopathic Hero: Everything he does comes from a cold, calculated place, and he's not afraid to do anything to achieve his goals. He does on occasion have a problem with impulse control, another indication of sociopathy.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Loves to have ribs, even for breakfast.
- Treacherous Advisor: His counsel is always poisonous and/or self-serving.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: A mild example. Frank isn't horribly looking, but he is slightly overweight and has a puffy face, while Claire's aged a lot better and is quite a stylish beauty.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Wicked Cultured: A well read and refined villain. Though it doesn't really extend to his taste in video games.
- 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.
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.
- Ambition Is Evil
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Comes out whenever she has to do something unpleasant, in which situations she is even icier than her husband.
- 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.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: In season 3 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 after Frank makes 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.
- 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 that she is "willing to let your child wither and die inside you", if that's what is required to get her to drop her lawsuit.
- Lady Macbeth: "My husband doesn't apologize to anyone. Not even me."
- Lighter and Softer: Version of her husband. Unlike him, She 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 Francis is towned 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.
- 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 campaign 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 she can and probably should leave Frank.
- 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 was 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.
- Sleazy Politician: A philanthropist version. And, like her husband, she's nearly flawless in concealing her sleaziness.
- Stepford Smiler: Played with. Both she and her husband 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).
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: A mild example. Frank isn't horribly looking, but he is slightly overweight and has a puffy face, while Claire's aged a lot better and is quite a stylish beauty.
- 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, for Frank, and for Mega Corp. oil company San Corp. She's infinitely ruthless when it comes to ensuring the machine continues to function.
- Your Cheating Heart: Her husband doesn't mind much her on-off relationship with Adam Galloway, until it becomes a political scandal.
Douglas 'Doug' Stamper
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: He 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 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. He easily disarms someone coming at him with a knife. However, it doesn't save him twice.
- 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.
- 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 noticable slip as his obsession with Rachel reaches new heights. Subsequently, things go badly wrong for him.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 started off poorly with him dislocating his wrist after slipping in the shower. Instead, he created a makeshift splint using duct tape and a wooden spoon, and hid 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 and his niece and nephew.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sanity Slippage: Doug slowly loses his shit over Rachel throughout season 3. 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: Doug Stamper's brother, who is introduced in Season 3, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- Semper Fi: Retired Marine, he served in Afghanistan.
Played By: Elizabeth NormentThe secretary to Frank Underwood and Doug Stamper. Later the secretary to Jackie Sharp.
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.
- Consummate Professional: Seth is highly competent and coldly professional.
- The Dragon: He gradually becomes one for Frank, essentially replacing Doug.
- Graceful Loser: Makes it clear 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.
- The Mole: For Remy initially, but then he switches loyalty to Frank and becomes a reverse mole.
- Sharp-Dressed Man
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: To Doug in Season 1: a loyal, viciously competent man who works for Frank.
- The Stoic
Played By: Samuel PageA smooth talking media consultant who becomes Communications Director for Claire Underwood.