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|“||There are two kinds of pain. The sort of pain that makes you strong, or useless pain. The sort of pain that's only suffering. I have no patience for useless things.||„|
|~ Francis Underwood in the series premiere.|
|“||You are entitled to nothing.||„|
|~ Underwood's motto for his program American Works, which will destroy the traditional American welfare system in favor of ending unemployment.|
|“||Take a step back. Look at the bigger picture. That’s how you devour a whale -- one bite at a time.||„|
|~ Underwood plotting his rise to power.|
Francis "Frank" Underwood is the overall main antagonist of the Netflix original series House of Cards, being the primary protagonist villain of the first five seasons and a posthumous antagonist in the sixth and final season.
He is a corrupt and nefarious politician who serves as the House Majority Whip, and later serves as the Vice President of the United States before eventually becoming the President of the United States. He is also the late husband of Claire Underwood.
He was portrayed by Kevin Spacey, who also played John Doe in Se7en, Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects, Micky Rosa in 21, Buddy Ackerman in Swimming With Sharks, Dr. Nerse in The Cleveland Show, Rufus Buckley in A Time to Kill, Hopper in Disney/Pixar's A Bug's Life, Lex Luthor in Superman Returns, Dr. Nerse in The Cleveland Show, Clyde Northcutt in Fred Claus, Dave Harken in Horrible Bosses, and Jonathan Irons in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.
Early Life and Season 1
Francis Joseph “Frank” Underwood (born November 5, 1959) was born in Gaffney, South Carolina. His father, Calvin Underwood, was a poor peach farmer who passed away after a heart attack at the age of 43. Frank has stated on a few occasions that his late father was a submissive, abusive alcoholic who put him and his mother through years of misery. When Frank was 13, he walked in on his father putting a shotgun in his mouth. Unable to pull the trigger, Calvin asked Frank to put him out of his misery, but Frank refused. Frank has said that his one regret in life was that he didn't kill his father when had the chance.
Raised in impoverished circumstances, he found his hometown suffocating. He eventually left and attended a military college called "The Sentinel". He began attending this college just after Jimmy Carter had been elected 39th President of the United States in 1976. In his senior year, his grades suffered when he volunteered for a U.S. Senate campaign in the Autumn of 1980 and was nearly expelled. Despite his poor grades, Underwood was accepted into Harvard Law School in 1984. During his time in military school, he had a sexual relationship with his roomate Tim Corbet.
Frank met his wife Claire when they were both attending Harvard. Shortly after they graduated, Claire and Frank married. Claire wanted them to settle down and have a child, but Frank thought that bringing a child into their world of anguish would be cruel and pointless, so Claire gave up the idea of having children. During Frank's early political campaigns Claire became pregnant, but to assist Frank in furthering his political career she had the the baby aborted.
In 1986 Francis Underwood was elected to public office, as a member for the South Carolina State Senate. Frank at that time was one of the youngest state legislators in the state's entire history. He publicly professes to be a Christian, but privately holds God in total contempt.
Frank was elected in 1990 as the Representative from South Carolina's 5th congressional district. He was sworn into office in January 1991. Since then Frank has served for 12 consecutive terms, winning re-election for his 12th term in 2012. Frank became the House Majority Whip for the Democratic Party in 2005.
Secretary of State Passover
During Garret Walker's early campaigns, Frank was promised the position of Secretary of State in return for his support. After Walker's election, Frank began to discuss his new ideas with the White House Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez, but she informs him that Walker has decided to promote Senator Michael Kern to the position. Furious, Frank begins plotting Walker's downfall, with help from Claire and his fanatically loyal Chief of Staff, Doug Stamper. First, he connives to make sure Kern is passed over for the job in favor of his ally and friend Catherine Durant. To ensure that Kern is completely discredited he had his pawn Congressman Peter Russo manipulate the drug addicted editor of Kern's former college newspaper into forging an article, allegedly written by Kern, denouncing Israel. The following backlash directed at Kern forces Walker to endorse Durant to the position of Secretary of State.
Peter Russo for Governor of Pennsylvania
Frank takes Russo under his wing, seemingly grooming him to run for Governor of Pennsylvania. He helps Russo, an alcoholic, quit drinking and run what what appears to be a promising campaign. Unbeknownst to Russo, however, he is merely a pawn in Frank's larger scheme. He has Stamper create enough ressure to fall off the wagon by hiring a prostitute named Rachel Posner get him drunk the nigfht before an important interview; when he calls in obviously intoxicated, the bad publicity ruins his campaign and his career. Frank then kills an intoxicated Russo by flooding his car with carbon monoxide, making it look like suicide.
Vice Presidential Attempt
After Frank kills Russo a spot in the Pennsylvania Governorship race opens, Frank then begins to influence the Vice President to run. Frank had previously gotten the Vice President to campaign with Russo, where he (the Vice President) was reintroduced to the love of a constituency that had once loved him. This reminded the Vice President of his glory days as a politician, the glory days that had not continued in his Vice Presidency as he effectively no real power. Knowing that he was unhappy, and very eager to feel important once more, Frank suggests to the Vice President that he should run for Governor again. The President and V.P. heartily agree to this, a decision further amounted to, because of an evident dislike for one another. Frank ensures they are both aware of this mutual dislike, by mentioning their comments told in confidence to him, to the other.
As the V.P. campaigns for the certain victory, Frank and Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez create a fake list of Vice Presidential nominees. The nominees are incompetent and definitely inappropriate for helping the President. This leads the President to become desperate and be ready to say yes to anything. Linda, Frank and to a lesser extent the President cross off every name on the list, as they attempt to build up to Frank becoming the Vice President.
Relationship with Zoe Barnes
Frank befriends reporter Zoe Barnes and uses her to plant damaging stories about his political rivals in the press. They soon begin a sexual relationship, with Claire's knowledge and approval. However, she soon begins to suspect he was involved in Russo's death, and starts investigating him. When Stamper informs Frank of Zoe's betrayal, Frank decides to get rid of her. He meets with her in the subway and throws her in front of an oncoming train, killing her.
After being appraised by billionaire business magnate Raymond Tusk, who happens to be a confidant and old friend of the President, Garrett officially offered Frank the Vice Presidency, which Frank quickly and heartily accepted.
As Vice President, Frank first sets out to sever and destroy the close ties between President Walker and Raymond Tusk. He does this by back channeling with China regarding the building of a Port Jefferson Bridge and successfully influences the President go against Tusk's interests in the project.
Tusk starts funneling money to the Republicans, so Frank orders Press Secretary Seth Grayson to assist a reporter in revealing Feng's connections to the money. The subsequent investigation led to Tusk's implication of Walker, this caused the President to become a target for the media. Frank ensures that the new House Majority Whip, Jackie Sharp, gains enough votes for articles of impeachment in Congress by having Claire to rework her Military Sexual Assault prevention bill, and he convinces Kern to help him whip votes in the Senate by hinting at an eventual nomination as Secretary of the Treasury.
With his supposed connection to China exposed, President Walker is trapped and resigns his presidency. Frank is promptly sworn in as President. His first act is to renounce the asylum of Xander Feng, resulting in his deportation back to China and almost certain execution.
As President, Frank is unpopular with the public and can't get any of his legislation through Congress; he proves so unpopular that the Democratic leadership informs him that they won't support his re-election. Frank retaliates by publicly announcing that he will not seek re-election and calls on Congress to pass what he considers his mark on the presidency - an ambitious jobs bill called America Works, to be paid for by gutting social services such as Medicare and Social Security. He fails to get the bill through Congress and uses that as a reason to renege on his promise to not run in 2016. Solicitor General Heather Dunbar announces that she will seek the presidential nomination, and actually gives Underwood a battle. Underwood convinces Sharp to get married so she can announce her candidacy, for the sole reason of sapping women's votes from Dunbar, at which point she will withdraw and accept the nomination for VP. After the presidential debate, in which Underwood publicly humiliates Sharp in order to go after Dunbar, Sharp retaliates by backing Dunbar's campaign. Ultimately, however, Underwood wins the Iowa caucuses.
Meanwhile, his marriage to Claire is faltering. Frank appoints her to an ambassador position, but she is forced to resign to solve a diplomatic crisis with Russia. She begins to doubt whether she still loves him, and they get into an ugly fight in which he tells her that she is nothing without him. She leaves him as he prepares to the New Hampshire primary. He persuades her to come back by promising to support her run for a congressional district in Texas, but sandbags her candidacy to keep her focused on the election. She retaliates by leaking an old photograph of Frank's father with a Klansman, and threatens to destroy his candidacy unless he makes her his running mate. He angrily refuses.
The next day at a rally, Zoe Barnes' former lover Lucas Goodwin shoots Frank in the liver, and Frank is forced to undergo a transplant. While he is unconscious during surgery, he has a nightmare about Zoe Barnes and Peter Russo torturing him. He eventually recovers, and decides to make Claire his running mate after all. The Underwoods scheme and manuever their way to the nomination, and face Republican candidate Will Conway. When the terrorist group ICO kidnaps an American citizen, Conway wins points with the public by negotiating successfully with the terrorists' leader. Meanwhile, journalist Tom Hammerschmidt publishes a story detailing Frank's crimes, and Frank faces possible impeachment. Frank and Claire decide to let the hostage die in order to create an atmosphere of fear they can exploit.
Frank advocates for greater surveillance powers, but still lags behind Conway in the polls. Frank has his cybersecurity expert Aidan Macallan tamper with polling stations in key states so that when Conway wins, the result is thrown into doubt; he then has campaign strategist LeAnn Harvey orchestrate an illegal spying operation to get dirt on Conway. He then releases a tape of Conway threatening a pilot, turning the public against him and thus winning the election.
His victory is short-lived, however; Congressman Alex Romero forms a committee to investigate Frank' ties to the money laundering. Frank tries to divert public attention by ordering troops into Syria under the pretense of preventing a terrorist attack. This provokes Durant to testify against him; before she can take the stand, however, Frank pushes her down a flight of stairs, incapacitating her. When Walker testifies about Frank's role in the Chinese money laundering, Frank takes the stand in his own defense and stuns the committee by resigning the presidency. When Claire demands an explanation, Frank reveals that his resignation is part of a plan to ensure that they control the country for years to come: Claire from the White House, he from the private sector. To tie up loose ends, he has Macallan and Harvey killed, and persuades Stamper to "confess" to murdering Barnes.
For Frank's plan to work, however, Claire has to pardon him and Stamper, which would damage her credibility with the public. Claire promises him that she will grant the pardons, but makes no mention of them during her first address to the nation as president. Angered, Frank calls her several times, but each time he gets her voicemail, causing him to worry that she has abandoned him. He breaks the fourth wall and says, "If she doesn't pardon me, I'll kill her."
Following his plans falling apart due to Claire abandoning him, Frank later died under unspecified circumstances and, in a final indignity, was buried next to his hated father. The series finale reveals that Doug poisoned him to prevent him from killing Claire and ruining the "Underwood legacy".
Frank is a patient, cold, duplicitous, cunning, and ruthless politician that knows exactly how to take what he wants. Almost machine-like in his approach, he is known to be "extremely effective at what he sets his mind to" according to the likes of Raymond Tusk. Displayed as a power-hungry man with the skills and the resources to match, his quest for power and vengeance leads him to break old alliances and trample on and destroy those that stand in his way. We later learn that he is even willing to kill those who become a threat, as shown through his murder of Peter Russo after he threatened to expose Frank along with himself and Zoe Barnes when she realises that Frank murdered Russo. He is a more than capable political maneuverer and can act warm, jolly and caring to people to gain their trust. He has no qualms of killing people or ruining their lives and careers if it serves his goals.
Despite these traits, initially, Frank could be warm and gentle to those he truly cared about, particularly to Claire Underwood and to a lesser extent Zoe Barnes. He protects and takes care of those around him such as Doug and Steve and Edward Meechum, his bodyguards. However, following his swearing in as President, Frank became abusively drunk on power and was more manipulative and remorseless around manipulating and deceiving those close to him. He was even more willing to hurt Claire whenever she defied his demands.
With fellow schemers and politicians who understand his game, he has a definite respect for, such as Catherine Durant or Raymond Tusk. However, they can very easily become his enemies if they interfere with his plans. With others who are oblivious to his intentions or less intelligent, he adopts a different façade, acting more caring and generous than he really is to mask his true personality.
- He is based on Francis Urquhart, the protagonist of the original BBC miniseries House of Cards.
- Amid sexual harassment allegations against the actor Kevin Spacey, Netflix fired him from House of Cards. Thus, Frank Underwood was written out of the sixth and final season which resulted in him dying off-screen between the seasons.