Read time: 5 minutes After the season finale of House of Cards, I could just picture writers scrambling to find the next “big character” because the anti-hero is now perfected. I still love Breaking Bad more than House of Cards but when it comes down to whom would I prefer to be murdered by… easy, Underwood.
More than the power of influence, imagine the redefinition of love that House of Cards has provided us. More than learning to justify a means to a greater end, imagine how the creative boundaries for manipulation have reshaped our minds. Frank Underwood forces us to reexamine the distribution of power, journalism, nonprofit advocacy, and of course, our government.
I don’t think neither Frank Underwood nor Walter White is actually a sociopath. One is not ethically better than the other. They have principals they stand by because morality is subjective. They kill but they carry emotions elsewhere. They make psychotic decisions but are conscious of the rippling effect they create on those that surround them. Walt does it for him. Frank does it for him. Okay, maybe they are crazies.
Walt’s wife, Skylar, reacts instinctively as a wife and mother should in Breaking Bad. It’s pathetic that as an audience we all despised her for it but truly, it took her too long to adapt and become the badass that finally understood it all. In contrast, Frank’s wife, Claire, is a majestic, prizewinning horse with class and wit. If Walt had been married to Claire, he would have never lost a grip on himself. They would be an all American drug cartel.
Is it weird that I want a relationship like Frank and Claire? It seems like the principals that have made their marriage impenetrable developed organically. A few people probably died for them but they get off to it. We don’t know where the show is going but we know their marriage isn’t going anywhere. They appreciate the power game, even during the moments they play each other. They help each other break rules; they don’t leave each other in the dark. How beautiful is that?
How beautiful and disturbing are those moments that Frank turns and speaks to us, the audience, like we’re watching some sort of Shakespearean tragedy?
While Walt does some cold calculation to choose his course of action, Frank is mostly driven by an angry game of tag. Anyone who was standing on Walt’s line of fire chose to be there, I would never be one of those people. Frank will move the fire beneath you himself if he chooses. But who won the game of “ruthless pragmatism”? Frank. Walt slowly lost everything and Frank wins every ally he desires.
I love the way television helps us have ethical debates with strangers and friends. It’s been more enlightening than any religious debate I’ve had. Because we factually know that these characters are fiction, we’re forced to listen to the hypotheticals and even concede arguments. I appreciate this alternative platform. But I guess we don’t really have a true Walt vs. Frank debate until House of Cards ends.