YMMV: House of Cards (US)

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Claire Underwood's actions of conscience throughout the series often fall into this. Are they laudable Pet the Dog moments showing she's a better person than Frank? Or is she ultimately emotionally unstable and incapable of keeping her feelings in check for the long game? Her incident involving Petrov is a notable example. Claire's speech is either a Moment Of Awesome or a foolish emotional snap made at the wrong time for everyone involved. "In the right" or not, diplomacy often requires holding one's tongue until the time is right... such as after Frank—and the world—get what they need from Petrov. Sen. Mendoza may have been on to something when he expressed "concern" over her inability to maintain control in the Senate hearing.
  • Award Snub: Corey Stoll's performance as Peter Russo was seen as the highlight of the first season by many, yet he ended up being one of the few things not to earn a nomination at the 2013 Emmys.
  • Badass Decay: Frank in Season 3. He's in serious danger of losing his "Magnificent Bastard" rank throughout, having seemingly lost his common sense and pragmatism, once he gained power.
  • Big Lipped Alligator Moment: Claire goes on her morning jog, taking a route through a cemetery. Halfway through, she runs into an old lady who chides her for disrespecting the dead. It freaks Claire out a bit and that's about it. Nothing much comes of it, other than adding to the minor theme of respecting the dead that episode had.
  • Broken Base: Season 3 is either a brilliant depiction of a man and his wife struggling to stay at the top, or it's a poorly written mess with too many subplots and characters, and helpings of Idiot Plot and Plot Holes all over the place.
  • Catharsis Factor: If Frank's "house of cards" ever does come crashing down, given his hitherto-untouchable Villain Sue status, the result will most likely be this. Season 3 has quite a bit of it, as Frank finds out being the President is no easy task when all the people you screwed over to get there are still working with you.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: The Jesus breaking/ear of God incident in the third season. The death of girl whose last words were "Doesn't Peachoid look like a giant..." in the first season.
  • Crowning Moment of Heartwarming: The latter part of Chapter 33 in Season 3 is about Frank and Claire rebuilding their love after it has suffered due to their careers. Frank stares at the Roosevelt memorials and Claire at a incredible Buddhist artwork while only thinking of each other. Frank even for once looks at the audience while completely uncaring about us. Then at the end of the episode Claire finally climbs into bed with Frank.
    • After leaving Freddy in the lurch last season, Frank is shocked to learn America Works set him up as a lowly dishwasher and offers him a job in the White House kitchen. Freddy requests a job outside instead, and Frank gladly complies.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Some viewers have complained that the show becomes difficult to watch after a while because many non-deserving people (such as Peter Russo, Zoe Barnes, Lucas Goodwin, Freddie Hayes, Adam Galloway, Megan Hennessy, President Garrett Walker) end up with their lives ruined or are even killed because of the Underwoods. The Underwoods, meanwhile, only gain more and more political power as the show goes on.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: Gavin's long haired guinea pig Cashew has a strong following with both crew and fans. #HouseOfCashew
  • Evil Is Cool: Frank of course.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Seeing Frank Underwood playing video games becomes much more amusing now that Kevin Spacey is confirmed to lend his voice and appearance in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, for a character that seems to be very close to Underwood in personality to boot. People have even wondered if Underwood will at some point play COD:AW on the show and ask why there's a character who bears quite the resemblance to him.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Peter Russo. He starts as a Smug Snake waste of space, but later tries to turn his life around, not knowing that Frank is just set at ruining it.
  • Love It or Hate It: The show is very polarizing amongst both critics and audiences.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Frank Underwood, the man knows every trick in the book and then some more of his own invention. He amorally trumps everybody with style.
    • His Worthy Opponent Raymond Tusk often matches Frank in Magnificence—enough that Frank himself can't help but admire his ability.
    • He makes it a point to hire men with signs of Magnificence of their own to be his dragons. Doug Stamper seems to be a good Basterd-in-training in Season One, but ultimately gives in to his feelings for Rachel far too much. When Seth comes along in Season Two, he proves to be quite an effective successor to Doug.
    • His wife Claire Underwood occasionally acts pretty much as his female counterpart (such as her clever reversal of the abortion question in Season 2), but she often proves far too emotionally involved in the situation—which makes her come off as less magnificent. Many times her pangs of conscience are what end up derailing a delicate situation. True, it also indicates she's less rotten than Frank. Still...
    • Zoe Barnes showed promise of becoming a Magnificent Bitch throughout Season One, before she ultimately turned against Frank—leading to her death in Season Two.
    • Russian President Viktor Petrov in Season 3. He gets everything he wants by playing Frank from the very beginning. Even when Frank finally gets him to agree to put troops into the Jordan Valley, Petrov manages to pull off a False Flag Operation to weasel out of the deal and force Frank to fire Claire as UN ambassador.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • While hardly a Boy Scout to begin with, Frank only definitely crosses it in chapters 10 and 11, where he orchestrates Russo's publicly falling off the wagon, and then murders him when he becomes a threat. To make things worse, it's heavily implied that all of it (except probably the murder) was part of the plan all along.
    • Claire's betrayal of Megan Hennessey is definitely this.
    • In season 3, Stamper's cold-blooded murder of Rachel Posner.
    • Heather Dunbar spends most of season three as one of the few non-corrupt politicians in the show. Then she tries to blackmail Frank, who lampshades it by telling her that she's at last "one of us."
  • Narm:
    • Some of the scenes where Frank is being his intimidating self are a bit much. (Although apparently LBJ, of whom Frank has framed photos on his wall, really did work like that.) The scene where he towers over Russo demanding his "complete, unquestioning loyalty" comes to mind.
    • The Deep Throat-like character who contacts Goodwin appears on Goodwin's iPad with a vaguely-humanoid avatar with a bird's head wearing an upside down bucket for a hat. It removes any amount of menace or mystery the scene was meant to convey.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Stephen Colbert's cameo in Season 3 made internet headlines, as it took place after his real life show ended, making it one last chance to see the character.
  • The Scrappy: Some viewers were less then riveted by the Lucas the Hacker arc in season 2.
  • Special Effects Failure: The SanCorp logo in the Season 1 finale.
  • Squick: In the Season 3 premiere, Stamper slips in the shower and breaks his arm. After a loving close-up of the wound, he foregoes calling 911 and splints it himself, screaming in agony the whole time.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Michael Corrigan, a LGBT activist in Season 3 imprisoned in Russia. Though his protest of Russian homosexuality laws is entirely sympathetic, as he continues talking to Claire the man himself becomes much less so. He admits he doesn't love his husband anymore and made a mistake committing to him (and has cheated on him, too), but stays with him because a homosexual couple getting divorced would be bad for the cause. He also calls his husband weak for being unwilling to take a stand like he does, and when Claire points out his husband is in pain and that refusing to make the statement Petrov wants will just make things worse because he'll be humiliated, Michael doesn't care. And he ultimately hangs himself rather than cooperate. A character that should come across as sympathetic and tragic instead comes across as a self-righteous martyr more interested in dying for his cause for his own glory than actually trying to fight for it.
  • Villain Sue: Frank, to the point that it has been the major critical complaint of the series. In the first season, Frank is about a billion times smarter and more competent than anyone who does, or might, stand in his way. However, the second season ups the threat level of his adversaries, and the third season makes it clear that the Underwoods are their own worst enemies.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The Tibetan sand sculpture in "Chapter 33."
  • What an Idiot: While Frank spends much of Season 3 juggling an Idiot Ball, he gets one shoved down his throat in Chapter 37 when he publicly humiliates Jackie Sharp at a debate, after she spent the debate doing all that he told her to do, and when she protests to him he yells at her to shut up and do as he tells her. To the shock of no one, she turns on him and endorses Dunbar for the candidacy.
  • The Woobie:
    • Peter Russo spends much of his money on and time with booze and prostitutes, but as his relationship with his children crumbles and his political aspirations collapse around his ears partly due to his own weaknesses and partly due to Frank's machinations when, as he starts to get his life back on track, he also tries to wriggle out from under Frank's thumb, it's hard not to feel sorry for him.
    • The Walkers' life is repeatedly poisoned by the Underwoods, but they still consider them genuine friends.
    • Pity poor Freddy Hayes. He just wanted to run his barbecue restaurant and, when it looks as though he might be able to make serious money from it, maybe stop his son and grandson from making the same mistakes he did, but one altercation with a paparazzi photographer as part of an attempt to discredit him by Raymond Tusk and Remy Danton is all it takes for his world to vanish from beneath his feet, as the franchise deal for his restaurant falls through and he ends up having to sell the premises (which will be worth more to its new owners as a vacant lot).
    • Lucas Goodwin. His love for Zoe Barnes is mostly (though not wholly) unrequited, and his determination to seek justice for her death by paying a hacker to show him how to access Underwood's phone records lands him in federal prison, as Underwood is aware of his actions from the very start.
    • Adam Galloway, as of the end of Season 2. When his brief affair with Claire in Season 1 is leaked to the public courtesy of the photos he took of her, he is forced to claim that the first (Claire sleeping in his bed) was taken with Frank's knowledge as a gift, while the second (Claire in the shower) was done with a lookalike as a publicity stunt to prop up his ailing photography business. By the end of the season, his business and his relationship with his fiancée are in serious trouble.
    • Poor Rachel becomes the epitome of this trope. She is just a working girl, but when one of her "customers" is Peter Russo and Underwood sends Doug Stamper to buy her silence, the latter becomes so obsessed with her that he ends up trying to control every aspect of her life, reacting with paranoia and anger whenever she behaves unexpectedly (such as by joining a church group or starting a romantic relationship with Lisa, whom she is forced to dump unceremoniously). She escapes at the end of Season 2, but Doug tracks her down and, at the end of Season 3, runs her down with his car and buries her body himself.
    • In season 3, Doug has to undergo a longsome recovery which leads to lots of physical pain, forced idleness and subsequently a relapse into his alcoholism. Then again, he definitely forfeits any audience sympathy he might have gotten through this when crossing his Moral Event Horizon in the finale.