Netflix House of Cards: Forget the Underwoods, it's these 5 characters that have defined the show
'House of Cards' returns for it's sixth and final season on November 2, and here are some reasons, besides Claire Underwood, on why you need to keep watching.
'House of Cards' has a whole new look, and it's unwittingly thanks to Kevin Spacey. The 59-year-old was caught amidst a swirl of sexual assault allegations in the light of the Harvey Weinstein scandal that prompted the birth of the #MeToo movement, and his infamous defense of coming out as a gay man did little to help his situation. Claims of racism and workplace bullying were the final nails in his coffin as Netflix cut all ties with the actor and put the production for the sixth season of 'House of Cards' on an indefinite hold.
The future of the popular drama looked to be in serious jeopardy before Robin Wright, who portrays Claire Underwood, the wife of Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood on screen, stepped in and campaigned for the 2,500-odd other people who had poured their blood, sweat, and tears into the show. And while Wright will rightly be the new leading lady and has been the talk of the town over questions whether she would be able to carry this final season of 'House of Cards,' it's paramount we don't forget the several other actors who have made the show what it is today.
Yes, Frank and Claire Underwood do deserve most of the plaudits, but the scheming and politicking that aided their relentless rise to power was often abetted by characters who have unfairly gone unmentioned. 'House of Cards' most certainly will not be the same without Spacey or Frank Underwood, but it would be a disservice to the other members of the talented ensemble to write off season 6 as an inferior iteration. It's high time we accept that the Academy Award-winner is no longer on the show and instead appreciate a few of the others who made the series such an unprecedented success for the network.
Mark Usher (Campbell Scott) is the newest character on the list, so it only felt fair to give him the first mention. Introduced in season 5 as a strategist and campaign manager for Republican presidential hopeful Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman), Mark would prove quite quickly to be a thorn in the Underwoods' side. Blessed with an acute political mind, he has a knack for getting ahead of trouble before it threatened to derail Conway while still managing to outmaneuver the Underwoods and ensuring his candidate gets and stays ahead in the polls.
His soothing and almost robotic calming voice, however, is betrayed by an unrelenting ambition that sees him quickly switch sides when he realizes that Conway has blown his chance at the presidency. As a special advisor to President Underwood, he uses his vast network of Washington connections to pull the right strings, though one always got the impression that as far as trust was concerned, it was best not to put too much in him; after all, it felt like only a matter of time before he saw the next shiny toy and dumped his current one.
Cunning, evasive, conniving, ambitious, rogue, and calculating. These were pretty much the words that first come to mind if you were to ask me to describe Seth Grayson (Derek Cecil), and it's something he most certainly earned after the stunt he pulled to get on the Underwoods' good side in season 2. Initially a Raymond Tusk hire who was tasked with digging up dirt about Claire's abortion and rape claims, he switches sides and presents all the evidence he's gathered to the Underwoods because he figures the administration will offer him with more proficient opportunities.
That notion ultimately proves correct as well, as he first weasels his way into the White House Communications Director position before then taking over as President Frank Underwood's chief of staff. Someone who is obviously in awe of Frank's confident, self-assured aura, Seth proves to be invaluable in the Underwoods' schemes, though he's not someone who you could describe as an eternal loyalist. When he eventually realizes that he was, in fact, in a sinking ship, he sells out to the highest bidder and in season 6, he's going to turn out for the other side.
In a show that's populated to the brim with ethically ambiguous characters, Tom Hammerschmidt (Boris McGiver) was a pleasant palate cleanser. 'House of Cards' made it quite evident at the very start that even journalists, the so-called bastion of credibility, were susceptible to manipulation and coercion. However, in a world where promises mean little and the truth is but a tool for blackmail, Hammerschmidt's commitment to rooting out corruption and not bowing down to external pressure is admirable.
No-nonsense, tough, and skilled, his dedication to the Washington Herald and disinterest in journalism that wasn't based on hard investigation saw him leave his post because of the antics of protege Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara). But her disappearance, as well as the framing of Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus) sees him dig deeper into the Underwoods' past and discover the extent of the illicit activities they engaged in to seize power. His article would be pivotal to Frank declaring the global war on terrorism, as well as the election chicanery in season 5, and it's certain that he will play a similarly significant role in season 6.
Petrov (Lars Mikkelsen) makes the odd appearance here and there over the season, but each one carries with it this weight of significance that you can't just ignore it. Take for example his first appearance in season 3. Petrov arrives at the White House to negotiate a joint peacekeeping operation in the Jordan Valley, but it quickly becomes clear that, like his counterpart in real life, Vladimir Putin, Petrov had some ulterior motives cooking.
And maybe what makes Petrov such an intriguing character is how he's not only a thinly-veiled reference but also closely modeled on Putin. Both share an initial of VP, have a history in the KGB, are recent divorcees, and have been talked about by agitprop group Pussy Riot. Height and build aside, both also share quite a startling resemblance. Petrov's presence, for whatever reason, gives 'House of Cards' a sense of authenticity and credibility, and because of his apparent infatuation with Claire, the pair's dynamic is sure to make an interesting viewing during the final season.
The list would not be complete without a shoutout to Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), Frank Underwood's most loyal servant and attack dog. As the seasons progressed we learned a little bit about why Doug was so faithful to Frank and carried out his every command with unflinching conviction but also that he carried an inherent distrust about Claire. Officially Frank's secretary/chief of staff, Doug was practically the enforcer who went out into the field to intimidate and coerce Frank's dissidents, though Rachel Posner (Rachel Brosnahan) would ultimately prove to be a step too far.
We see his patience tested in the later seasons as he, for the first time, finds himself outside the inner circle. But, weirdly enough, despite his apparent defection, you felt this assurance that he had done it all for Frank. While characters in 'House of Cards' are complicated and driven by complex needs and wants, Doug remains steadfast in his commitment. Which is exactly why his mentor's death should see him in unfamiliar territory for the first time and possibly making a beeline for the long queue of agitators who would love nothing more than to see Claire's head mounted on a pike.