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  • Acceptable Targets:
    • Defied in regards to partisan politics. Whereas Francis Urquhart on the original British show was a member of the Conservative Party, the showrunners here avoided making Frank a Republican to avoid demonizing the right-wing as is commonly done in a lot of media on both the news and television fronts. If anything, the show makes the point to demonstrate that Democrats and Republicans are Not So Different, and party alignment says nothing about the individual's strength of character.
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    • Played very straight with Viktor Petrov, the obvious stand-in for Vladimir Putin, who is portrayed as a scheming, politically duplicitous, Dirty Old Man that is hated by both Underwoods as well as in his home country.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Throughout the series, it's unclear if the Underwoods are genuinely a loving couple, or if they're individually ruthless and ambitious and recognize the other is the same, making them a perfect match to work together. Their marriage almost gets destroyed as a result of their own power plays against each other, and neither has any problem with the other having affairs as long as it does't interfere with their careers.
    • While Frank does consider multiple characters friends, analysis of his interactions with them suggests he only considers them friends because they're loyal to him and he can use them to further his plans. Too often when one of them turns on him or becomes a liability, Frank will discard them with little regret or hesitation. Even with Freddy, Frank appreciates him only for his cooking skills. This is a point of contention on classifying him as The Sociopath or not; is Frank really capable of forming long-term, meaningful relationships, or is he just faking it, possibly even to himself, and he only sees people as tools he can manipulate to further his own ambitions?
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    • Are Claire Underwood's attacks of conscience laudable Pet the Dog moments that show she's a better person than Frank? Or evidence that she is ultimately emotionally unstable and incapable of keeping her feelings in check for the long game like Frank? For example, Claire's speech in Russia after Michael Corrigan's suicide can be seen as either a Moment of Awesome or a foolish emotional snap made at the wrong time for everyone involved, proving Sen. Mendoza's concerns in the Senate committee were founded.
    • In Zoe Barnes's death scene, had she genuinely "relapsed" into working for Frank or was she simply trying to lure him into revealing something damning about Russo's death?
    • When Tom Hammerschmidt begins looking into Frank in season 4, he dismisses the notion of Frank being a murderer, but it's not clear if he genuinely doesn't believe that or he does believe it but is focusing on the corruption activities because he knows people are more likely to believe that part of the story.
  • Ass Pull:
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    • An unfortunate necessity in Season 6, as much of the season had already been shot prior to the surfacing of sexual misconduct allegations against Kevin Spacey, forcing a hasty rewrite using whatever footage the team could save. The Shepherd siblings may be one example of this, being apparently lifelong acquaintances of Frank and Claire who control the entire country from the shadows with a hand in every part of the government and legal system, despite having never once been mentioned before.
    • Another example in Season 6 is Frank's death as a result of his actor, Kevin Spacey being written off the show amid a real life scandal. The excuse revealed at the end of the show, is that he overdosed on liver treatment pills, thanks to Doug Stamper giving it to him. However, one point that was constantly made throughout the prior seasons was how physically healthy Frank Underwood was, despite his age, and despite the stress of dealing with his enemies. There were always scenes of him using the rower exercise machine at night to workout. As well as him checking his blood pressure, and it being perfect. There were never any hints to imply he had a bad liver, or any other major physical health problems.
    • Before Season 6, there's a few examples of this, but especially noticeable is Frank's declaration in Season 5 that he had always planned to rule from in the shadows. If that was the case, why take the extremely convoluted, difficult, and risky plot of becoming President in the first place, committing numerous felonies just to get that position? Why wasn't he happy working with someone he could easily manipulate, such as President Walker?
  • Audience-Alienating Premise: The show focuses on an especially-vile Villain Protagonist's sociopathic manipulation of the United States government in a ruthless rise to power, and said Villain Protagonist manages to get away with his crimes. Those who need someone to sympathize with and root for will find little to hold on to. This is exacerbated by the fact that Kevin Spacey was revealed after the airing of season 5 to actually be a sexually-predatory figure within his own power structure, providing way too much inadvertent Reality Subtext for many viewers to feel comfortable starting or continuing to watch the show, even without his presence in the final season.
    • The final season itself had a hard sell. For those who watched the show for Frank, his absence is abrupt and stark. For those who watched it for Claire, her character is altered so significantly to accommodate the show's trademark outrageous power-plays and murders that she is barely recognisable as her earlier self. Even watching it to take a moral stance against Spacey required getting through five seasons of content with him as the star.
  • 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 undergoes this. In Season 3, he's always in serious danger of losing his rank throughout, having seemingly lost his common sense and pragmatism after he became President. This seems to be intentional as a form of Dramatic Irony; after Frank spent two seasons proving how fragile Washington power structures are, he has trouble commanding respect and power among the leaders of the country and doesn't seem to have any direction with himself now that he has achieved his initial goal. And then it sinks in again in the Season 5 finale; a lot of viewers just didn't accept the idea that Frank would just give up his power, even to Claire, after fighting so hard to get it and keep it since the beginning of the show, only to become The Man Behind the Man and just control Washington through the mass media. It just seemed like a step back for him.
    • Viktor Petrov in Season 4. After spending Season 3 manipulating Claire and Frank into getting everything he wanted from them, in Season 4 he's swiftly outmaneuvered by Frank's administration, and one "The Reason You Suck" Speech from Claire calling him a beggar who needs their help is enough to subdue him and make him cave to their demands. By Season 6, however, he's just as dangerous and powerful as ever.
    • Like with Petrov, this is a common affliction of any of the Underwoods' enemies. Cathy Durrant is another big example. Season 4 demonstrated that she is as badass and confident as any female soldier and politician who has served for years, as when she gets Louisiana to give her the endorsement for President so that she can more effectively manipulate Frank. This is dropped very quickly and easy once Frank makes one very thinly veiled threat about how he threw Zoe Barnes in front of a subway train. Despite the fact that Cathy has security and is no stranger to negotiations with some very scary people, this is easily enough to cow her and persuade her to get out of Frank's way.
  • 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. You kinda half expect the woman to start shouting "BOO! BOO!" 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.
    • The Underwoods' data analyst in Season 4 does a manic, shirtless dance to wild music while his computer tracks trends in search results. It serves to show that he's eccentric and a little imbalanced but serves very little to the plot overall.
    • Also in Season 4 is Tom Hammerschmidt's encounter with a homeless lady that tries to chase him away as he walks the streets at night trying to find Zoe Barnes' apartment. He briefly manages to convince her that he's a cop before she gains some lucidity and finishes chasing him away with her shopping cart. This is also never brought up again.
  • 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: 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. It then continues on in season 4 when Hammerschmidt uncovers the tracks in Underwood's plot against Walker in seasons 1 and 2, publishing it, leaving Frank's power grip in serious jeopardy.
  • Complete Monster: Francis J. "Frank" Underwood is a scheming, charming, and monstrous politician who seeks ultimate power and legacy. After feeling betrayed by President Garrett Walker, Frank begins a brutal campaign to institute himself as President, leading Frank to ruin countless people's lives and personally murder Zoe Barnes and Peter Russo, the latter after destroying his sobriety and utterly breaking his spirit. Upon becoming President, Frank's crimes only worsen as he goes to any lengths to secure power and wipe out his enemies, bombing civilian-populated villages to kill a single terrorist, allowing an innocent man be killed on live video, and faking bomb threats all being par for the course. To further drive fear into America's soul and convince the people they need him as their leader, Frank organizes cyber attacks that lead to numerous horrible riots and accidents, and sits idly by as sarin gas is deployed against countless innocents, simply to use the gas attacks as a Pretext for War. Frank considers compassion and love a weakness, and slowly but surely forgets about, ditches, or outright murders those who he considers "friends", culminating in him planning to coldly murder his wife Claire if she even thinks about betraying him. Frank Underwood is a vile, depraved man who uses manipulation and facades to convince hapless victims that he is a good man, only to always pull the rug out from under them and reveal who he truly is: A self-serving sociopath with delusions of grandeur.
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    • The Jesus breaking/ear of God incident in the third season that is as funny as hell.
    • In Chapter 3, the death of that girl while texting-while-driving, and her last words were "Doesn't the Peachoid look like a giant..."
    • Frank's resolution to getting Catherine Durant out of the way of his choice for VP crosses the line three times. Frank brings to the Oval Office, openly admits he killed Peter Russo and Zoe Barnes, and threatens her with a letter opener as if he's ready murder his Secretary of State right in the Oval Office. Then, he bursts out laughing, says the whole thing was a joke, and then goes right back to just bullying her into doing what he wants. It's so audacious and throws her off kilter so much that it works.
    • The beginning of Season 6 has Claire being told about all the threats the American citizens are making on her life, one of which involves cutting her apart and rearranging her limbs into the shape of the American flag.
  • Continuity Lockout: Season 4 on. It is impossible to discuss the second half of the show without watching the first half. Indeed, the fourth and fifth season rely very heavily upon the prior seasons - especially with the way it brings back characters from prior seasons in significant ways.
  • 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. Ironically enough, one of the biggest criticisms of Season 3 is that its plot hinges on ass pulls just to make sure Frank struggles with the presidency.
  • Ending Aversion: To say the least, the inconclusive ending to the show's finale didn't satisfy fans — the finale currently has rating of just 2.6 out of 10 on IMDb, a far lower rating than those of much more notorious series finales including those of Game of Thrones, Dexter, Star Trek: Enterprise, and How I Met Your Mother. It's probably only because of it being a Netflix-exclusive series (and one that many people had stopped paying attention to years beforehand, at that) instead of a major network series that it doesn't have a reputation as the absolute worst TV series finale of all-time.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Gavin Orsay's long haired guinea pig Cashew has a strong following with both crew and fans. And a Twitter hashtag, #HouseOfCashew
  • Epileptic Trees: Many viewers have wondered if the series finale with Claire killing Doug Stamper in the Oval Office was originally written to have been between her and Frank, but ended up with Doug in Frank's role after Kevin Spacey was fired. It would have been quite a fitting way to end the show, as a scene of this magnitude would have had much more impact if it was between the two leads of the show. Alas, we'll probably never know.
  • Evil Is Cool: Frank of course.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: As far as many fans are concerned, the show ended with Frank's resignation at the end of Season 5. Not to say that said fans hold especially positive views on Season 5 itself, but at least stopping it there would have brought the show to some form of conclusion, satisfactory or otherwise.
    • Alternatively, some fans have semi-jokingly adopted Kevin Spacey's infamous "Let Me Be Frank" video, in which Spacey channels Frank Underwood as a truly ludicrous way of addressing his sexual assault allegations and subsequent firing, in place of Season 6 as the show's true ending. This was naturally helped by the sheer sight of Spacey returning to the beloved role after being absent in the show proper, as well as his implication that Frank isn't really dead.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Due to Kevin Spacey being revealed as a sexual predator, a few scenes become a tad awkward in hindsight. For example:
    • Frank referring to “a great junior high just up the road”.
    • Frank yelling at Russo to take his clothes off (to take a bath).
    • Frank being outraged about Claire being raped.
    • Then there's the definite irony of a scene where Claire tells Frank to have sex with her, he refuses, she slaps him, and then he tries to struggle away. (Although it was a test, Claire wasn't actually trying to rape him.)
    • And there's this gem from Season 5:
      Frank: I've learned you've gotta grab the present by the balls.
    • Also from Season 5, Frank's intimate scene with the actor who plays his ancestor has Frank acting rather forceful with him.
    • Seeing Frank pissing on his father's grave feels especially deserved after Kevin Spacey's brother Randy Fowler talked about what their father did to him.
    • After the release of "Let Me Be Frank," a bizarre video in which Kevin Spacey channels Frank Underwood to simultaneously address his sexual assault allegations and Frank's removal from the show, some fans started joking that Spacey was, in a delusional last bid for attention, trying to well and truly become Frank Underwood. Now that three of Spacey's accusers have suddenly died under mysterious circumstances the way they might if Frank had killed them, one may begin to wonder if they were all too right.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Kevin Spacey's portrayal of Frank Underwood was always acclaimed by viewers and critics, with praise for his depiction of a sociopathic Villain with Good Publicity who commits crimes on his way to the top and would do anything and kill or threaten anyone to stay there before ultimately crashing down. After being accused of sexual assault and using his influence in Hollywood to cover it all up, coupled with his own brother Randy's comments that Spacey's portrayal of a villainous character is actually just him "playing himself on camera," the show has been widely considered to have become a depiction of the man's own life story. Furthermore, considering that three people have died after coming out against Spacey, the similarities between him and the murderous Frank seem to run ever deeper.
    • The long time it takes to replace Justice Jacobs is quite eerily reminiscent of the real life attempt by Republicans to block a new justice from being appointed until the following year's election after Antonin Scalia's death.
    • A year after Frank was shot in Season 4, Steve Scalise, at the time holding Frank's former job of House Majority Whip, was shot along with several others by an anti-Republican extremist.
    • A year after Cathy Durant was put in a coma by Frank pushing her down a staircase, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter was killed by injuries in a fall.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: In Season 6, Freddy's ribs getting passingly mentioned one last time as being the best ribs can be seen as a remembrance of his late actor Reg E. Cathey, who died during the season's production.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Seeing Frank Underwood playing video games becomes much more amusing after Kevin Spacey lent his voice and appearance in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Fans were hoping Frank would play the game on the show and ask why there's a character who looks like him.
    • In Ant-Man, Corey Stoll, the actor who played Peter Russo, plays Yellowjacket, who kills a man named Frank, and in a particularly cold and disturbing manner. Even better, it happens in a bathroom, which is ironically where Peter's original novel and UK series counterpart Roger O'Neill died. And then he came back to the show to kill this Frank in a dream sequence in Season 4.
    • HoC fans will get a chuckle after viewing Fantastic Four (2015), where Kate Mara (Zoe Barnes) is Susan Storm and her father is played by Reg E. Cathey (Freddy Hayes).
    • A lot of the show seems eerily prophetic in regards to the presidency of Donald Trump. After the fact, the cast and showrunners themselves have admitted that the real life Washington is now in some ways worse than what they depict.
      • In Season 1, when Frank first is told that Walker is considering Raymond Tusk as a replacement for VP when Matthews departs, he seems genuinely concerned about such a decision, even pointing out that putting a billionaire like Tusk as VP would probably be criticized by the majority of the public. Not such a ludicrous idea now.
      • In Season 4, Frank's campaign in his home state is derailed by a leaked picture of his father at a Ku Klux Klan meeting, much like Donald Trump getting in hot water over his refusal to denounce David Duke's support of his campaign, plus allegations that his father was involved with the Klan.
      • Because Congress refused to fund Frank's America Works program, he declares unemployment in Washington a national emergency as a means of Loophole Abuse, allowing him to appropriate FEMA funds to pay for the program. Donald Trump did something very similar to finance his border wall in 2019, declaring the border crisis an emergency and diverting military funding towards it after Congress refused to fund it.
      • Frank's plans being interrupted by a hurricane demanding an increased budget for disaster relief happened to Donald Trump a few years later, with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria coming shortly after he threatened a government shutdown unless disaster relief money was funneled into his Mexican border wall.
      • In Season 3, Frank uses his Vice President Donald Blythe as a stand-in for Solicitor General Heather Dunbar to prepare for the 2016 Iowa caucus debates. The scene was wildly ballyhooed (including on our main page), as people believed that a candidate would never use a man as a substitute for a female opponent. Then it came out that Donald Trump was using New Jersey governor Chris Christie as a stand-in for Hillary Rodham Clinton to prepare for the 2016 presidential debates.
    • One of the major obstacles to Underwood's re-election in season 4 is soaring gas prices due to troubles with drilling in Russia. When Season 4 came out, real life gas prices were hitting notable lows.
  • "Holy Shit!" Quotient: VERY high in season 4. The best example: Lucas' assassination attempt on Frank. Which, while foreshadowed early in the season, happens halfway through the fourth episode, much earlier than the audience would suspect.
    • And Doug gets three in Season 6. First of all, he reveals why he's so loyal to Frank: Frank is the one who got him dry. Then, near the end, he breaks the fourth wall. Then, in the final scene, he reveals he is the one who killed Frank, and he did it to protect his legacy.
  • Ho Yay: There are quite a few scenes involving Frank that are very suggestive, not the least bit to other men. Lots of scenes exemplify this, from intimate looks and gestures to flat-out sexual threats. A particular intimidating line of Frank's stands out, much to the horror of his political opponent:
    Frank to Marty: I can smell the cock on your breath from here; the only thing you are going to get from me is a mouth full of cum!
  • 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. You actually can sympathize with the man the whole way through.
  • Memetic Badass: Tom 'The Hammer' Hammerschmidt, the grizzled reporter who is the first to bring the Underwoods crimes to light.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "You might think that. I couldn't possibly comment."
    • "From Woodstock To Underwood."
    • A vote for Frank Underwood is a vote for America Works.
    • "I can get you what you need, darling."
    • "Pay attention to the fine print. It's far more important than the selling price."
    • "Proximity to power deludes some into believing they wield it."
    • The show's title card sequence, with the timelapse shots of Washington DC, has been the subject of many spoofs, including the credits for shows like Monk and Breaking Bad, and even spoofs involving other cities, like Vienna, Austria and Paris, France.
  • 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 his death when he becomes a threat. To make things worse, it's heavily implied that all of it (except probably Russo's death) was part of the plan all along.
      • But if one ever saw him as sympathetic even after this, the Season 5 finale shows him finally crossing it for real by openly revealing that he would choose power over even loved ones such as his wife Claire, by coldly plotting to kill her for betraying him.
    • Claire's (admittedly probably forced) betrayal of Megan Hennessey is definitely this.
    • In season 3, Stamper's cold-blooded hit-and-run on 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. The scene where he towers over Russo demanding his "complete, unquestioning loyalty" comes to mind. However, LBJ, of whom Frank has framed photos on his wall, really did work like that.)
    • The Deep Throat-like avatar that Gavin Orsay uses to speak to Goodwin appears on Goodwin's iPad with a vaguely-humanoid avatar with a bird's head wearing an upside down bucket for a hat. For some viewers, it removes any amount of menace or mystery the scene was meant to convey. However, it's a Genius Bonus for people who got that it's a reference to a hellish figure from Hieronymus Bosch's masterpiece, The Garden of Earthly Delights and also references his online handle "HEROnymous."
    • Underwood/Underwood 2016. Anyone with a passing knowledge of the American political system will find the idea so ludicrous as to be unbelievable.
    • Pollyhop, a word it's impossible to say with a straight face. It really says something that the satire of dot com business Silicon Valley actually has a less silly sounding name for its Google Expy.
    • The scene in Chapter 17 where Frank realizes the Secret Service have cut the unsecured internet connection on his PlayStation 3 is pure Narm Charm, but goes back into regular Narm territory when you realize he was trying to play PvP in God of War: Ascension, of all things.
    • Season 5 repeatedly faking us out that Claire is going to start talking to us. After the massive tease at the end of Season 4, it's nothing but a pointless irritation. By the time it finally happens for real, you could definitely be forgiven for just assuming she'll yet again be revealed to just be talking to someone in the camera's position.
    • In Season 5 Frank violently shoving Cathy Durant down a flight of stairs. While it's not out of character for Frank, the moment just comes out of nowhere and the fall lands Cathy in a coma in critical condition. That Cathy's status is only mentioned briefly once afterwards and seemingly ignored by other characters doesn't keep it from seeming implausible - especially since it's not even a long flight of stairs.
    • Season 5 has several moments where it's quite obvious how much the story had to be written around the loss of Remy and Jackie's actors, with Frank regularly discussing what they're up to while we don't get to see any of it.
    • In later seasons of the show, the sex scenes begin popping up more frequently but are between characters who arguably aren't interesting together (Claire/Tom, Doug/Sharon and Tom/well, anyone) and are so inconsequential to the storyline of the show it just seems shoehorned in to keep the audience still interested after all the dry political talk. The way the sex scenes are shot too is also awkward, with many of the women filmed so that their chest isn't visible. This wouldn't usually be that big a problem but with the increase in sex scenes it becomes all the more noticeable.
    • In the final scene of the show, Claire kills Doug Stamper by stabbing him with a letter opener in the middle of the Oval Office. Many reviewers noted that, aside from just being a bad final scene to go out on, the foolishness of what she does and where she does it makes it impossible to get away with, making it just silly on account of how absurd and stupid it is. However, given that she is pregnant and has a stab wound, it's possible she could plead self-defense (which is arguably what it was).
  • 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 (it's implied that the Colbert cameo is supposed to be set around November 2014, shortly after Frank takes the Oval Office, so Frank was probably one of Colbert's last guests).
  • Only the Creator Does It Right: The departure of series developer Beau Willimon from the show's production staff at the end of Season 4 and the perceived sharp downturn in the show's quality during Season 5 has not gone unnoticed by fans.
  • Overshadowed by Controversy: The accusations of molestation against Kevin Spacey, followed by his tone-deaf attempt to turn the story towards his own coming out of the closet, caused Netflix to announce the show's cancellation just one day later (though still with the release of one last season that had largely already been filmed).
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Lucas became a lot more popular in season 4, being a major woobie and the driving force behind the season's major Wham Episode when he tries to assassinate Frank.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Rachel Brosnahan as a call girl before she became The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
  • Rooting for the Empire: There is certainly a Bile Fascination around Frank Underwood, being an escapist villain in every sense of the term. One of the highlights of the show is his ability to be constantly pulling a rabbit out of the hat (and probably killing it after the animal becomes expendable). There's more fun to be had if he doesn't lose.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Some viewers were less then riveted by the Lucas Goodwin and Gavin Orsay arc in season 2, or Gavin Orsay's scenes in season 3.
    • By Season 5 Tom Yates has become this due to seemingly outstaying his purpose and the constant running-in-circles scenes of him and Claire that took up screen time. He's dead by the end of the season.
    • Mark Usher, mainly due to Campbell Scott's lifeless performance.
  • Seasonal Rot:
    • Following the critical acclaim of the first two seasons coupled with the epic cliffhanger of Frank weaseling his way into the Presidency, many viewers found the third season to be a step down in quality. Now that Frank had become President the writers seemed to try to make him face more challenges and obstacles but instead it made the cunning, Machiavellian Frank come off as bumbling and counter-productive. The season focusing around a single state primary that even by Frank's admission would make very little difference to who would win the nomination also came across as somewhat unambitious, especially after two seasons in which he worked his way into the Vice-President and then President's roles. Additionally, this season saw Frank and Claire pitted against each other in what felt like drama for the sake of drama.
    • After managing to Win Back the Crowd with the exciting return to form fourth season, common consensus is unfortunately that Season 5 also falls under this. The show's longevity was beginning to show not helped by the change in showrunners and many viewers felt that since the writers had nearly covered every aspect of the Underwood's rise to power, they were running low on ideas. The result was that Season 5 just dragged featuring such highlights as the use of Deus ex Machina to move the plot along, the repetitiveness of nearly every scene with the Conways and Claire/Tom, the Underwood's pitted against each other again and worst of all was Frank revealing to the audience near the end of the season that his plan all along was to resign from the Presidency and rule things from behind the scenes in the private sector. Why couldn't he do that from the start? Why even bother becoming President in the first place? After spending all of Season 5 building up hype that the Underwoods would establish a dynasty and rule with an iron fist and previous seasons showing Frank fight tooth and nail to land the Presidency and fight even harder to stay in the position, this felt like a big "fuck you" from the writers to the viewers who are now expected to believe that Frank Underwood would be okay with just giving up.
    • Season 6 had an uphill battle already with the show continuing without its main character now that Kevin Spacey had been fired and Frank had died in a Bus Crash between seasons. Instead of completely focusing on Claire, though, the season has Frank's shadow over everything, with the major story threads for the season all centering on how he died, what's going to be his legacy, and how Claire will distance herself from him as President. As for Claire herself, she makes many awful decisions as President (including threatening to start a nuclear war if her cabinet doesn't uncover the details of an assassination conspiracy against her) and uses sexism and motherhood to shield herself from criticism by framing such critiques as misogyny. Combined with an extremely disappointing finale that leaves many questions and plot threads unresolved, and House of Cards ended with a whimper instead of a bang.
  • Special Effect Failure: The SanCorp logo in the Season 1 finale.
  • Squick:
    • In the Season 3 premiere, Doug 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.
    • Frank's sexual affair with Zoe Barnes becomes one when you take into account the fact that Kevin Spacey is old enough to be Kate Mara's father. At least it's slightly better than the affair between Francis Urquhart and Mattie Storin in the original show, because in that one, Mattie also had an Electra complex, something that was written out of Zoe.
    • In Season 5, Claire poisons Tom Yates after deeming him a liability. He dies while the two of them are having sex and once he's clearly dead, Claire still lingers on top of Tom's dead body.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
    • Doug Stamper. The series tries to demonstrate that he has problems and needs help to sort out his issues. However, as the series continued it became apparent that he's likely always been this way and there is no real underlying cause for his behavior. Even when interacting with his brother, who is perfectly normal, Doug remains his usual cold self. Then there's his seeming lack of a reason for his Undying Loyalty to Frank Underwood (until the very final season), his treatment of Rachel, and his general antisocial and obsessive behaviors, causing a lot of viewers and critics to simply write him off as just a bad guy and not care about his personal troubles.
    • Michael Corrigan, an LGBT activist in Season 3 imprisoned in Russia. Though his protest of Russian homosexuality laws is entirely sympathetic, the man himself is 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 decided to stay with him because a homosexual couple getting divorced would be bad for the cause. He then 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 then instead of cooperating he just hangs himself. A character that could be sympathetic and tragic is instead just a self-righteous martyr more interested in the personal glory of suffering for his cause than actually trying to fight for it, and he's an advocate for gay marriage who doesn't even care about his actual husband. Frank ends up reflecting the audience's views when he says, "He was a coward, and I'm glad he's dead!"
    • Lucas Goodwin becomes this to some in Season 4 when he decides to carry out an assassination attempt on Frank at a rally in Washington as revenge for Zoe's death. Unfortunately, he ends up ruining a bunch of other people and ends up helping Frank's cause: Meechum is killed, Claire reconciles with Frank and they're stronger than ever, Dunbar's campaign is ruined because of her prior contact with Lucas, and Zoe doesn't get real justice. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The Tibetan sand sculpture in "Chapter 33." One has to take Claire's opinion of the work as being what the audience is supposed to think of it.
  • 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 insults her. To the shock of no one, she turns on him and endorses Dunbar for the candidacy.
  • Win Back the Crowd: After a divisive Season 3, Season 4 was much more warmly received. A more intelligent Frank, the Underwoods once again united, better storylines, the return of past characters, strong writing and strong direction (including by Robin Wright) have all been strong draws.
  • 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' lives are repeatedly poisoned by the Underwoods, and yet they still consider them genuine friends. And then their "friends" take the White House away from them.
    • Pity poor Freddy Hayes. He just wanted to run his barbecue restaurant, and then it looks as though he might be able to make serious money from it and 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. Then when he orchestrates his release, his new determination ends with him dying trying to assassinate Frank.
    • 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 lengthy 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.

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