Late last September, I fearfully watched the series finale of AMC’s hit show, Breaking Bad. The moment the show ended, I immediately felt a deep void in my life. I missed the heart-wrenching drama and the chilling thrills in the quests of Walter White.
I’ll be honest: I initially tried to fill this Breaking Bad void in my life with more Breaking Bad, I mean it only seems natural, right? Like a crazed Harry Potter fan, I went back to the start – to the pilot episode – and watched the first season again obsessively, quoting things I remembered and trying to recall Walt’s moves. It really wasn’t healthy; Breaking Bad officially broke me.
So what does one do when they want to solve an addiction to something? Well you just go right back to the place you became addicted. So to kick my ‘bad’ habit, I went returned to Netflix to try to find something equally captivating. I had been told that House of Cards was a very dramatic and captivating show, but seeing Netflix produced it, I was initially turned off. It seemed strange to me that a medium for watching media would become a producer of the media itself. It kind of seemed to me like ESPN running its own sports league. I continued along through the barrage of fine C-list movies Netflix has to offer before I finally arrived back at House of Cards. I came to that decisive moment we have all come to while watching Netflix where you ask, ‘Do I really want to watch this?’ and then proceed to do it anyway. However, this time, I was delightfully surprised.
In summary, House of Cards is political drama that follows the story of fictional South Carolina Senator Francis Underwood as he moves up the political ladder in Washington. One of the most captivating elements of the show is how incredibly urgent Francis is in progressing his political career. He has no apparent desire to sit around and speculate; he’s a man who counts his hours over his years. He acts swiftly and with conviction. It truly seems that he’ll do anything to get what and where he wants. He’s ruthless and heartless. Have the last few sentences begun to remind you of someone? How about Walter White?
At last I had filled my void, I had found another character as equally awe-inspiring as Walter White, and not only that, I believe them to hold many interesting similarities. (Spoiler Alert – if you haven’t seen more than half of Season One).
First let’s look at their goals: Walter White had the ultimate objective of earning as much money as he possibly could, and in doing so, he climbed all the way up the ladder to become the head of a sophisticated drug ring. Frank, on the other hand, has the ultimate objective of attaining as much power as he possibly can, meanwhile building a delicate ‘house of cards’ that he hopes can get him to the top. Both men have no conceivable limit to what they want and act almost as sociopaths as they fight for it.
The two men deal with risk and liability in the same way. If someone presents a problem, kill the problem, even if the individual is close to you. Walter saw Jesse’s heroin-addict girlfriend Jane as a liability, and thus, he let her die. He showed no emotion or remorse in her loss, much like he did with poisoning Brock or killing Mike Ehrmantrout or any of the other 195 people he was responsible for offing. In a very similar manner, Frank Underwood immediately kills anyone who he sees as a liability to his accumulation of power. As soon as he senses that Zoe is onto him for the death of Russo, he pushes her in front of a train and proceeds to tell us not to be sorry for her later in the episode. These two protagonists will kill anyone who stands in their way.
Both Walter and Frank have sidekick wives who are somewhat in on their schemes but at the same time play a plausible innocence to the actions of their husbands. Each man also has his right-hand business partner, Jesse in the case of Walt, and Doug Stamper in the case of Frank.
I’m by no means trying to run a comparison between drug running and politics, but rather highlighting the striking similarities in personality between these two characters. If you couldn’t get enough of Walter White, I’d highly recommend watching Francis Underwood in House of Cards.