Monday 14 October 2019

Ed Power: Ten reasons why Frank Underwood is our favourite TV villain

Kevin Spacey in House of Cards
Kevin Spacey in House of Cards

Ed Power

The return of House of Cards is good news for anyone who appreciates their TV villainy with a cherry on top.

Across the first two seasons of the hit Netflix drama, devious political climber Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) has killed, seduced, threatened, sneered, jeered, lied, scoffed his weight in barbecued ribs and shoved lovely Kate Mara under a train (and conspicuously enjoyed himself while he was at it).

That's a whole lot of nasty – and, now that he's wangled his way into becoming US President, who knows what unspeakable plans Underwood has up those dapper sleeves?

Tellingly, the lower he stoops, the more we like him. There's lots that is agreeable about House of Cards, Netflix's biggest hit – but, let's be honest, without Underwood, the show would be a bust.

To mark the return tomorrow of the man who put the 'oh!' in Potus, here, then, are ten reasons Underwood is our favorite television villain.


1: The Accent

It's strange how much more palatable unfettered evil can feel when accompanied by a lazy Southern United States drawl. From the real life town of Gaffney South Carolina, Underwood's charming twang sets you at ease even though you know something awful is around the corner.

Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in House of Cards
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in House of Cards


2: The Asides

With its dark colour scheme and relentlessly dour soundtrack, House of Cards would surely feel oppressive were it not for Underwood's humorous asides to the viewer, in which he lays out the detail of his horrific machinations with acerbic glee.


Read more: House of Cards: 8 questions that must be answered in season 3


House of Cards, Netflix
House of Cards, Netflix

3: The Suits

Morally, Underwood may be deep in the sewer. But you wouldn't guess it from his appearance. Never without crisp suit and cuff-links, he dresses in the manner of someone accustomed to walking, nay strutting, through the corridors of power.


4: There Are No Half-Measures

Last season, Kate Mara's plucky reporter was snooping a little too deeply into Underwood's affairs. Rather than have her discreetly erased from the picture, Underwood chose to shove her into the path of a train at a busy station - while he wore an absurd disguise that yelled 'I'm wearing a disguise'. Who needs subtlety when you have comedy glasses?


5: He Plays Video Games

In this age of the TV anti-hero, it is standard for protagonists to be outfitted with a quirky pastimes, the better to flesh out their humanity. Underwood's is a penchant for Call Of Duty style shoot-em ups. You've got to respect a guy who, after a hard day's sociopathic scheming, unwinds by blowing up pretend tanks.


6: He is Played By Kevin Spacey

What other actor could carry off Underwood's mix of ruthlessness and twinkling irony? Spacey portrays Underwood as the sort of cynic who will do whatever required to get ahead while appreciating the fundamental ridiculousness of his situation.


Read more: WATCH: New trailer for House of Cards season 3 looks explosive


7: He Keeps A Straight Face No Matter How Ludicrous The Plot

Let's be honest – realism is not a priority in House of Cards. Underwood ascends to the Presidency by killing, cajoling, and riding plot holes that would sink a lesser man (see his far-fetched takedown of boozy Congressman Peter Russo in season one).


8 :He's ahem… open minded in the bedroom

Three-somes with your wife and security guard? An affair with a reporter half your age? A prudish politician might blanch – Underwood takes these things as they come.


9: He's Hands On

One of House of Cards' first scenes was of Underwood killing an injured dog. Not because he wished to put the maimed beast out of its misery but because he "has no patience for useless things". Talk about taking charge of a situation.


10: He Thinks Outside The Box

Locked in a conflict with the teachers unions, in series one Frank arranges for a brick to be smashed through the front window of his house, knowing the uppity teachers will be blamed. Here is a guy who doesn't think in straight lines and always plays the long-game. How could we resist?

READ: So is Frank Underwood of 'House of Cards' one of the great TV villains?


Season three of House of Cards debuts on Netflix Friday morning.

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