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The United States
The Conway Campaign
- Foil: On the outsides, the Conways are warm where the Underwoods are cold. In reality, they're just as calculating as Frank and Claire.
- Model Couple: Will and Hannah are a young, very attractive couple with cute little children to boot. It goes without saying they use this for Will's campaign whenever possible.
William "Will" Conway
The New York Governor and the Republican nominee for President in season four.
- Arc Villain: Opposed Frank in the presidential election for the latter half of the fourth season and the fifth season.
- Attention Whore: Conway consistently uses social media and web videos as his main source of campaigning. Frank pins it as his weakness; he thirsts for the spotlight because he likes the attention.
- Big Brother Is Watching: Uses Pollyhop (a Google expy) to track and surveil people's searches and interests to adjust his message. When Frank tries to leak it, Conway spins it just right to actually work it in his favor.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: He presents himself as a proud, patriotic American concerned about the country's involvement in the Middle East and angered at the Walker-Underwood administration's corruption. In truth, he's just as self-serving and power-hungry as Frank.
- Break the Haughty: All but wins the 2016 POTUS election but thanks to manipulations by the Underwoods, a technical error suspends the election results. Practically every episode following his election being stolen from him features a scene where it's clear that he's just lost another layer of sanity and composure. He's all but reduced to a hostile child trembling with rage and the resurgence of his PTSD is just the cherry on top.
- Bullying a Dragon: An even more suicidal version of this trope than usual, given that he actually ends up trying to bully his own Dragon. Not two minutes after getting a firm but fair rebuke from Usher over his conduct, he drops a Cluster F-Bomb at him and threatens to fire him. Between this and his running mate's own PR screw-up, Usher realises that their presidency would be a disaster, and helps ensure that they lose.
- Caught on Tape: What ultimately ruins his chances of winning the key state to the election. First, a general he's allied with is heard saying he'll openly defy orders of Underwood to send troops to a border and even saying Underwood should be shot. Then, Conway has a meltdown demanding to fly his plane, snapping "I'm the President!" When both tapes are played by the media, Conway has no chance of winning the Ohio recount and thus the election.
- The Corrupter: Destroys Frank's friendship with Durant and convinces General Brockhart (a genuinely well-meaning patriot) to resign and join his ticket and then strong-arms him into committing dubious acts for the campaign.
- Establishing Character Moment: His first scene is him having sex with his wife while they admire themselves in the bathroom mirror, followed by him carefully manufacturing a family moment on a phone video which establishes him as both a narcissist and a manipulator.
- Fatal Flaw: His Hair-Trigger Temper ultimately turns out to be this. While Frank and Claire's machinations robbed him of victory on election night, his ultimate defeat ends up being entirely his own fault, after he first screws up a chance to gain the vote of the Congressional Black Caucus (which would have given him victory in the House of Representatives), and then he both alienates Usher and has a major freak-out aboard his private jet, causing the leaked audio of the event to destroy his chances in the delayed Ohio and Tennessee votes.
- Foil: As a politician he might be just as calculating as Frank. But he's also a family father with a genuine love for his wife and kids and doesn't shy away from using this contrast between him and the Underwoods for his campaign.
- Freak Out: He was already undergoing a major Sanity Slippage following the election but after his angry threats to fire Usher over not landing him the Presidency backfires and Usher instead threatens him, Will dives head first into Tranquil Fury mode. You can tell by his expression, eerie silence and body language that having his manager talk back to him has made him an enraged wild animal on the inside. While not confirmed, his immediate and belligerent attempts to seize the controls away from the pilots of his private jet seem to imply that he was so blinded by rage that he was going to deliberately crash the jet taking himself, his wife and everyone aboard with him just to stick it to Usher. Thankfully this doesn't happen.
- Friendly Enemy: Most of his solo interactions with Frank are oddly cordial, as if they finally have the chance to be themselves.
- Innocently Insensitive: When given the chance to win over the Congressional Black Caucus (which will give him the votes he needs to win the initially inconclusive election in the House of Representatives), he begins by talking about how he understands that crime is an important issue to African-Americans, causing the assembled CBC members to point out that they're not a bunch of Single Issue Wonks. Then he tries to say that his platform is about getting people to help themselves, which really doesn't impress a bunch of people who were mostly elected on the plank of fighting ingrained oppression against African-Americans. Finally, he abandons civility altogether, gives them a "The Reason You Suck" Speech for even considering supporting Frank, and storms out. This naturally costs him their support, and the inability to break the deadlock in the House of Representatives ends up sending it to a re-vote, which he ultimately loses.
- My God, You Are Serious: Frank is astounded Conway truly thinks he'll be a great President, not getting the dirty side of things.Frank: 99 percent of this job is in the dark. You've had your moment in the sun today but what will you have to do when you have to make a thousand decisions that will never see the light of day?... You're a pretender, Will. And if you win, you'll go from pretender to fraud.
- Not So Different: Frank even notes that Conway is incredibly like him. By the end of Season 4 it's growing clear to the viewer and to the people around him (worst of all, his wife) that Conway shares Frank's contemptuous view of the "little people" who aren't powerful enough to threaten him.
- Remember the New Guy?: He's never seen or mentioned before season 4, but he's established to be a prominent Republican and to have known Frank for years. A flashback even depicts him as being present at the New Year's Eve party that kicked off the first season.
- Sanity Slippage: His traumatic combat experiences grab a hold of him throughout season 5. The fact that he basically won the election and was robbed of it thanks to Frank and Claire just drives him crazier.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: He's an Air Force veteran with combat experience in the Middle East. When he negotiates with the ICO kidnappers he plays up this trope in order to win them over.
- Spanner in the Works: Does a lot to disrupt Frank's plans during the DNC.
- The Rival: To Frank.
- The Unreveal: The first half of Season 5 heavily implies that he is leaving out important details in his heroic war story and clearly becomes agitated when pressed to talk about it. By the time he loses the 2016 POTUS Election, the missing details of how he got his Purple Heart are still unrevealed. It's surprising that it wasn't this potentially volatile information that was used to bring Conway down.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: He was always a bit of a dick but having his victory in the 2016 POTUS election stolen from him really did a number on his personality where most of his dialogue turns into malicious rants towards everyone and Kick the Dog moments towards his wife.
- Worthy Opponent: Frank seems to admire his ambition and craftiness more than anything.
The wife of Will Conway.
- Foil: To Claire. Unlike Claire, who supports Frank while still doing everything in her power to maintain an equal footing with him, Hannah so far seems entirely devoted to making her husband look good.Hannah: Do you regret it, not having children?Claire: Do you ever regret having them?
- My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Despite being the aspiring first lady for a Republican presidential candidate, she disagrees with many of the GOP's core issues. As an Englishwoman she's particularly concerned with the American approach on firearms.
- Only Sane Woman: Generally proves to be this to the Conway campaign, with her husband suffering from a Hair-Trigger Temper and eventual Sanity Slippage, the VP candidate having little political experience and being prone to running his mouth off, and the campaign manager being corrupt to the point of helping ensure Conway ultimately loses after he repeatedly acts like a Jerkass towards him, and then throwing his lot in with the Underwoods.
- What the Hell, Hero?: She calls Will out immediately after he displays his actual indifference regarding the ICO hostages in front of her.
General Ted Brockhart
Conway's running mate in the 2016 race.
- Bad Liar: Brockhart is not a natural politician; lying does not come easily to him and Frank sees right through his poor attempts at deception.Frank Underwood: Conscience has an unmistakable stink to it, sort of like raw onions and morning breath. But a lie stinks even more when it's coming from someone who isn't used to lying. It's more like rotten eggs and horse shit.
- Not in This for Your Revolution: He prefers war games to political games. He only joins Conway's ticket on the promise of being able to do good in the Middle East, and is furious when Conway goes back on his word for the sake of discrediting Frank.
- Number Two: To Conway.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He's a decorated military veteran who's pushing for a military strike on extremists, but he's no warmonger; Brockhart is a genuine man who wants the best for his country and the people in it.
- War Is Hell: Despite his push for a strike against a growing terrorist organization, Brockhart's only goal is to prevent a real conflict further down the line. He has poor memories of the country's previous wars and would rather nip a threat in the bud.
The Dunbar Campaign, 2016
An uncompromising lawyer who is appointed Special Prosecutor in the investigation into money laundering of foreign money via PACs.
- Ambition Is Evil: Her campaign for the presidency in season 3 slowly turns her from the cold impartial prosecutor in season 2 into a regular sleazy politician who's willing to fight dirty.
- The Atoner: She admits to Tom Hammerschmidt that she allowed herself to be corrupted in her race for the nomination and does her best to put him on the right track in his search for the truth surrounding Frank's rise to the presidency.
- Crusading Lawyer: Worked to expose the corruption of the Walker administration in season 2.
- Females Are More Innocent: She plays the moral woman against the corrupt man Frank (she actually really is more moral than Frank - not that this means much). When she finally gets her hands dirty, Franks alludes to this trope, calling Dunbar "one of the men".
- Heel Realization: After Lucas Goodwin dies trying to assassinate Frank she realizes that he was telling the truth and that her ambition to get elected president has overridden her sense of ethics. Unfortunately by that point it's too late and her campaign falls apart shortly thereafter.
- Idiot Ball: Grabs one in Season 4 when she gets investigated by the special prosecutors about Lucas Goodwin's assassination attempt on Frank. After her attempts to lie about meeting him fail, she not only admits to meeting with him, but proceeds to completely trash Frank and his administration. And she knows everything she said is going to be made public. The result is she not only comes off looking like she had something to do with it, but she looks bad for badmouthing Frank while he's on the cusp of death. Frank's advisers immediately lampshade she just ruined her own campaign.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: She puts on that face to the public.
- Iron Lady: As special prosecutor, she's an unemotional hardass.
- It's Personal: She was already angry that Frank managed to avoid prosecution for his crimes while serving as Vice President, but his attempts at forcing her mentor out of the Supreme Court is what really sets her off. Once that happened, her campaign for the Democratic nomination became more focused on crushing Frank than anything else.
- Kicked Upstairs: Frank offers her a position as a Supreme Court justice in order to keep her from becoming a presidential candidate. Subverted when she accepts in private and then goes behind Frank's back and announces her candidacy.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Dunbar finds herself on the opposite side of the table when special prosecutors question her on meeting Lucas Goodwin, who later shoots Frank after Dunbar refuses to listen to him about Frank's murder of Zoe and Russo. Dunbar tries to flip-flop and lie about meeting Lucas until her conscience compels her to admit the truth.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed:
- On the outer edges of this, with the pol in question being Elizabeth Warren—another sharp legal thinker (albeit as professor at Harvard Law rather than Solicitor General) with a populist economic message who runs for high office as an outsider (although Dunbar goes straight for the Presidency, while Warren simply ran for Senate and refuses to oppose Hillary Clinton in '16). Both also have a reputation for being incorruptible (although as noted Dunbar isn't what she seems. We won't speak to Warren.)
- Dunbar's stand against corrupt government, and desire to fight off corruption, and position as one who cannot be bought, makes her akin to Bernie Sanders.
- Not So Above It All: For the most of Season 3 she more or less lives up to the image she puts up for the presidential campaign, refusing to play dirty like using the information about Claire's abortions or sell political favors for support to Jackie, but when she starts getting desperate, she rethinks the first one.
- She Who Fights Monsters: She started out in Season 2 a moral prosecutor looking to expose Frank. By the end of Season 3, she becomes almost as ruthless as him. Almost meaning she didn't kill anyone yet.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: By the end of season 3, she's willing to do some very nasty things to prevent Frank from winning the Democratic nomination and return some semblance of honor to the Office of the President. Considering the things the audience has seen him do over the course of the show, it's hard to disagree with her motives, if not her methods.
- Worthy Opponent: In Season 3, where she becomes Frank's primary election rival. In a nice twist, Frank is actually unwilling to admit this.
Other U.S. Political Figures
Mayor Barney Hull
The chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPDC) and later Mayor.
- The Bus Came Back: After a few brief appearances in Season 1 in which he's drawn into Frank's puppet strings, he reappears in Season 3 as Mayor (just like Frank promised).
- The Brute: Politically, for Frank, who considers him a bulldog to be loosed to provide outside support.
- Dirty Cop: He's in Frank's pocket, and is often used as an ally.
- Mayor Pain: Hull isn't any less corrupt as a mayor than he was as a police chief; he's a willing tool of Frank Underwood and is basically a glorified henchman.
Mayor Gene Clancey
The mayor of Gaffney, South Carolina.
A County Administrator in Gaffney.
- Jerkass: Oren lacks Frank's charm or politeness; he's petty, grumpy and spiteful.Frank: You may despise me, Orrin, but the classy thing to do would've been to invite us up for some of that iced tea.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: It goes both ways: it's fun to see Frank take him down, but it's also satisfying that he was able to cause trouble for Frank.
- Not So Different: From Frank. Both are willing to exploit the death of a young person for political gain.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Oren considers Frank to be his grand enemy, but Frank has moved long past the old days and now considers him a pest and little more. Oren isn't anyway near being in Frank's league.
- Slimeball: As if he wasn't already repulsive enough, he leers at LeAnn Harvey when she approaches him and makes a queasy cat-call at her.
The Russian Federation
The President of Russia who opposes Underwood's involvement in the Jordan Valley conflict and creates controversy when Russia passes anti-homosexual laws.
- Big Bad: Effectively for Season 3, being that he opposes Frank in a critical international endeavor, even when he only appears in four episodes of the season. Ultimately, Viktor is the one most responsible for destroying Frank and Claire's marriage by essentially blackmailing Frank into removing her from the UN.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: He seems an eccentric and spacey man at first, but in reality is just as cunning and manipulative as Frank.
- Dirty Old Man: He's open with his use of mistresses, both before and after his divorce, and makes no secret of his attraction to Claire.
- Evil Counterpart: To Frank (which is saying something). They are both powerful world leaders who clawed their way to national power through corrupt and underhanded measures. They both rule like tyrants over their private and public lives. And they both willing to do whatever it takes. It's just that Petrov has even fewer scruples, no Morality Pet on Claire's level, and no balances of power to check his despotism
- Evil Is Petty: Subverted. He has all the petty reasons to despise Claire, but the real reason why he pressures Frank to have her resign as Ambassador is because he knows how important she is to her husband.
- Heteronormative Crusader: Politically, just like his real-life counterpart. Personally, he doesn't care about homosexuality, but is openly against it to please the conservative factions in his country.
- Jerkass: Petrov is a very unpleasant fellow, enough that Frank is seriously tempted to "push him down the stairs and light his broken body on fire just to watch it burn."
- Manipulative Bastard: Like Frank, Petrov is a master manipulator and ably plays Claire like a fiddle in Season 3.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The writers and makeup department really went out of their way to make even the most simple-minded viewers realize Victor Petrov is Vladimir Putin.
- Not So Different: Petrov points out how both Frank and he are ruthless and will do whatever it takes, even commit murder, for power. However, Petrov makes the point to Frank that his wife is making him weak. Frank agrees and his actions afterwards, causes Claire to leave him at the end of Season 3, like Petrov's wife left him at the beginning of Season 3.
- Paper Tiger: In Season 4, Claire accurately points out that Petrov's assassination of his rivals and damaging Russia's economy has left him barely hanging on to his power. At the German summit she says straight to his face that, for all his bluster, he's essentially on his knees begging for a deal, with only a few months left before the Russian people start marching on the Kremlin.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Petrov enforces oppressive anti-gay laws and taunts Frank about how he'd like to do his wife. Subverted in the first case, as he personally couldn't care less about someone being homosexual, but plays the Heteronormative Crusader cards for political reasons.
- Retired Badass: He was formerly in the KGB, and recounts to Frank how his unit was ambushed and he was shot twice before the shooter began to stab him with a knife. He seized the knife and slit his attacker's throat, before decapitating him with the knife and strapping the head to a donkey so that it could be carried back to the attacker's village.
- The Sociopath: Implied much like Frank. He has an incredibly glib and charming personality that leads him to singing drunkenly at the White House and coming across as a Charm Person. Only once you scratch underneath the surface you see a cold blooded tyrant who will ruin or end millions of lives while justifying it with claims he doesn't believe. . And what's more, main reaction to Frank's tenuous and abusive two way relationship with Claire is to view it as a weakness.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: While he was never a particularly nice person, in his first few appearances he was usually at least somewhat cordial to the Underwoods. After Claire publicly humiliates him over Michael Corrigan's death, however, he becomes much more openly hostile towards them.
- Vodka Drunkenski: But of course he drinks vodka.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: He plays a mean game of it. By the end of the season he's manipulated Frank and Claire to not only get everything he wanted, but to quash their efforts in the Jordan Valley and break up their marriage.
The Russian Ambassador to the United Nations and a colleague of Claire Underwood. He plays a significant part in attempting to prevent the peacekeeping operation in the Jordan Valley.