Season two of “House of Cards” was more gleeful, more over-the-top and far less serious than the Netflix political drama was in season one, with a literal and figurative body count that was also a lot higher. How many people went down in Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire Underwood’s (Robin Wright) ruthless climb up the political ladder? Plenty, some of whom the pair took out themselves, while others were casualties of attacks from their enemies.
Here’s our look, ranked in order of impact from least to greatest, at the folks who were taken out thanks to the Underwoods machinations in this latest arc. Many spoilers, obviously, follow.
Gillian Cole (Sandrine Holt)
Fate: Had her health care yanked after she sued Claire, who also told the wife of Gillian’s baby daddy that her husband has fathered a kid with someone else. Claire then placated her by dumping the nonprofit she no longer had time for into Gillian’s hands, and we never heard from the idealistic but outclassed woman again.
Change of a comeback? The Clean Water Initiative is still around, but this narrative thread felt like cleanup — here’s hoping the duller nonprofit days are done.
Impact: A little quick, but nicely nasty. Frank had his stunner moment in the season premiere (to be discussed later in this list), and the Gillian storyline mainly existed to allow Claire to have her own when she said “I’m willing to let your child wither and die inside you,” reminding us that she’s just as formidable and terrifying as her husband.
Xander Feng (Terry Chen)
Fate: Asylum revoked, Xander was sent back to China to face charges of corruption that will likely lead to his execution.
Chance of a comeback? He’s not dead yet, but “House of Cards” feels finished with its epic trade war with China storyline, meaning it’s unlikely we’re going to get another glimpse of Xander’s efficiently kinky sexual practices and chilly international billionaire ways.
Impact: It felt inevitable. The Underwoods are the only ones allowed to get away with bisexual threeways on “House of Cards.”
Linda Vasquez (Sakina Jaffrey)
Fate: Maneuvered into resigning as President Garrett Walker’s Chief of Staff after Frank intentionally bypassed her in attempting to get approval for the Port Jefferson bridge, leaving her feeling left out of the loop and without agency with regard to her role as an advisor.
Chance of a comeback? She had a brief one toward the end of the season when the President called on her to reach out to Raymond Tusk and promise him a pardon, but then Frank talked his way back into Garrett’s good graces and once again, any wisdom Linda could bring to the table was rendered useless.
Impact: Dignified. She was one of the targets in Frank’s campaign to isolate the President, but when she went down, it was with enough grace that even Frank was impressed — not that that’s much of a blessing. Given her connections to a President who’s been forced to resign, her White House career is unlikely to be resurrected.
Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus)
Fate: Sent to prison for cyberterrorism after being lured in by the FBI and hacker Gavin Orsay (Jimmi Simpson) at Frank’s indirect behest.
Chance of a comeback? Slight possibility. Gavin’s seized some power back from the FBI by the end of the season and feels bad about what happened to Lucas — but he’s also not exactly prone to altruism, and has been more concerned about saving his own skin and helping out his friend than assisting anyone he may have taken down, especially when they actually did the deeds of which they were accused. On the other hand, Janine Skorsky (Constance Zimmer), who made a strategic retreat to Ithaca, is in a better position to take up arms against Frank again, should she be motivated to get over her (wise) fear of what he’s capable of.
Impact: Sad. Lucas is a nice guy who even got kicked around by his girlfriend (“This is safe, Zoe, I’m not him”), so he didn’t seem capable of being anything other than at best a vague concern to Frank. Lucas was devastated by Zoe’s death in a way that no one else in the series seemed to be, and his attempts to prove that Frank was involved in killing her seemed more like baiting a dangerous animal than posing him a threat.
Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly)
Fate: Stoned to death by Rachel Posner (Rachel Brosnahan), the former call girl he developed an obsessive crush on and hounded when he was just supposed to keep her hidden and quiet.
Change of a comeback? Highly unlikely, unless the series takes a sudden turn toward the supernatural.
Impact: Forward-reaching The Rachel/Doug storyline was allowed an awful lot of airtime this season, given how meandering (if creepy) it was for long stretches, so it wasn’t hard to see this coming. That said, Doug has been Frank’s most loyal and underappreciated soldier, and it’s clear how difficult it is for the Underwoods to find anyone they can trust. Without him as chief of staff and fearless fixer, Frank’s going to be at a major disadvantage — Seth Grayson (Derek Cecil) may be smart, but he’s far from as trustworthy as Doug.
Adam Galloway (Ben Daniels)
Fate: Forced to confess to lying about taking nude photos of Claire, his ex lover, in order to further his failing photography career — none of which was true.
Chance of a comeback? Doubtful. Adam was never a player on the level of the series’ D.C. residents, which was part of his appeal to Claire. He was wildly unprepared for the barrage of publicity brought on when a portrait he took of Claire in bed was leaked to the press against his will. His willingness to play ball to help the Underwoods faded when first they lied to him to make their stories look more realistic, and then he was pressured by Remy Danton (Mahershala Ali) to keep going. He got a few real licks in before his confession, though, telling Claire “I’m sorry I ever met you — all you’ve ever done is cause me pain.”
Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara)
Fate: Her former lover Frank threw her under a train after convincing her to clear her phone of any trace of him.
Chance of a comeback? There’s still a vague chance her death may be avenged or investigated or will come back to haunt Frank in some other way.
Impact: Shocking. Zoe was a major character from season one, and the season two premiere was set up in a way to suggest that wasn’t going to change. Then Frank, who’s shown himself to be capable of murder before (though in a less aggressive fashion), shoved her onto the tracks, signaling how much more destructive the new arc of the show would turn out to be. The brisk brutality of the moment was tempered by Zoe being far from an easy to love character. As much as her murder marked an unceremonious departure from the series for Mara, who did some very good work as the impatient young reporter, it was also a deliciously evil moment. So long, Slugline!
Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney)
Fate: Brought up before Congress for questioning about laundering illegal political contributions, Raymond is probably going to prison, or whenever billionaires are sent when they’re naughty.
Chance of a comeback? Raymond was the only really formidable foe that Frank had this season, one who helped play out the theme of whether power or money was more important. Stubborn, proud and willing to use the country’s access to power as a political pawn, the tycoon didn’t go down easy, and it’s difficult to imagine that even as he’s fighting to stay out of jail he won’t come up with a way to continue to cause Frank grief.
Impact: Hard-earned. Raymond made for a solid antagonist this season, and it was only through some last minute manipulation of the President that Frank managed to shift Raymond’s ire from him to an even riper target. That Raymond genuinely hated Frank made his going down all the sweeter.
Freddy Armstrong (Reg E. Cathey)
Fate: Caught in the crossfire between Frank and Raymond, Freddy had his criminal past brought to the light. His son got into a tussle with a photographer, and he has to sell Freddy’s BBQ in order to post bail.
Chance of a comeback? Freddy’s place in the show was only as the keeper of Frank’s favorite escape, and the scene of the two of them together in Freddy’s apartment made it clear that their relationship was done, with Freddy’s writing Frank off as “just a good customer” when he realized the Vice President wasn’t going to be sticking by his side.
Impact: “House of Cards” isn’t a serious prone to deep emotional moments, but the punishing of Freddy just to hurt Frank was painful to watch, their tentative friendship torn up in D.C. power plays. And it speaks to how few vulnerabilities Frank has that his favorite rib guy was one of his few soft spots — Frank even risked going over to see Freddy, though only to explain why he wouldn’t be showing up anymore. Cathey and the character will be missed.
Garrett Walker (Michel Gill)
His fate: Becoming the second U.S. president to resign after a prolonged but stealthy campaign against him by Frank.
Chance of a comeback? If he finds out exactly how much Frank was responsible for his fate, he basically has to attempt some form of retaliation. But while Frank may have meddled — a lot — with Garrett’s presidency, the things for which the latter went down weren’t fabricated. He took drugs prescribed for his wife and he received donations from Raymond that included illegal international funds funneled through Daniel Lanagin’s (Gil Birmingham) casinos, whether or not he knew about their provenance. He’s been hopelessly naive and weak in terms of allowing himself to be swayed by people actually pursuing their own agendas in the name of the greater good, and for it he has lost all political capital.
Impact: Deeply satisfying. Garrett may have been a fool, but he represented Frank’s finest work — not only was he undermined and ultimately removed from power by the man he made his Vice President, he embraced the guy as a friend in the end. The continued seduction of Garrett and Tricia (Joanna Going) Walker by the Underwoods even as they were being stabbed in the back was masterful fun to watch, the ultimate of the Underwoods’ D.C. Jedi mind tricks, and it was a true joint effort in which Claire extracted facts about the Walkers’ marriage from the less secure Tricia and Frank used them against the man he vowed to take down back at the start of the series. And always a big talker, Frank made his biggest gamble in winning the President’s trust again by writing a letter, and using his childhood trauma — or at least his alleged childhood trauma, because who can be sure? — to earn his way back to Garrett’s side by giving him the power to end Frank’s career.
Bonus: Christina Gallagher (Kristen Connolly)
The late Peter Russo’s smart congressional staffer and girlfriend was a major part of season one, got a job at the White House as the President’s assistant, and then was maneuvered out thanks to Claire’s planting seeds of doubt about the possibility of an affair in Trisha’s mind. But Christina’s disappearance happened rather unceremoniously and suddenly off screen — here’s hoping that’s not the last we see of the character.