When it comes to House of Cards, there’s a hierarchy of power that starts with Frank Underwood and trickles down like a grand pyramid scheme. While each season has seen different players enter the mix--Jackie Sharp has proven to be the most cunning and enduring of the bunch--the people that continue to be the most powerless are those in the media.
From Zoe Barnes to Kate Baldwin, these are the sad few that continue to extract but never actually exert any power in Netflix’s hit series.
————————————WARNING: Potential Spoilers for Season 3————————————
Janine Skorsky (Constance Zimmer)
Reporter, The Washington Herald
Talking about running scared, Janine was the first ditch D.C. when things got too complicated and the threat of murder was a real one. Despite being on the verge of the truth about Frank’s involvement in Rep. Peter Russo’s death, she wasn’t mentally strong enough to follow through.
Rank: .5 (out of 5 page views); The fear turned her from the truth.
Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus)
Editor, The Washington Herald
While Zoe’s death is the most shocking of ends, it was Lucas’ downfall that was most tragic. First, he fell under Zoe’s spell and became obsessed with uncovering the truth about her death as Frank’s hands. Yet, the deeper he got the more trouble he got in. Eventually, his downfall was at the hands of hacker-turned-FBI informant Gavin Orsay. He was quickly silenced after he was imprisoned for committing espionage.
Rank: 1; Not much can be done from prison.
Tom Hammerschmidt (Boris McGiver)
Editor-in-chief, The Washington Herald
As Editor-in-chief, Tom has a certain amount of leverage and power in the media. Yet, he was fired almost immediately for sparring with Zoe and suddenly on the outside. But when Lucas came to him with a look inside of Frank’s lies--an investigative piece started before Zoe’s death--Tom gave it the honest push. Though, Tom was distracted by Lucas’ paranoia and quietly slipped away.
Rank: 1.5; Everything was too much of a favor to Lucas rather than a real search for truth.
Ayla Sayyad (Mozhan Marnò)
Investigative Journalist, Wall Street Telegraph
As an investigative journalist, Ayla found herself looking closer at Frank’s Vice Presidency. She followed the money trail to the casinos and eventually landed herself in the White House as a reporter for the Telegraph. Yet, when she asked too many questions (during one briefing to be exact), her credentials were revoked and she was gone before she could actually ask the right question.
Rank: 2; Access denied.
Kate Baldwin (Kim Dickens)
White House Reporter/Bureau Chief, Wall Street Telegraph
As Ayla’s replacement as the Telegraph’s White House reporter, Kate came in with confidence and clout--and she made sure Frank (and his press secretary Seth Grayson) felt her pressure. Ultimately, her one expose is put on hold for being too heavy on opinion rather than fact and hinged on a hurricane that never happened. She remained largely on the sidelines. But here’s hoping to does more to bring Frank down in season 4.
Rank: 3; A journalist with actual clout but nothing to go on except conjecture. Maybe she’ll find room in what’s sure to be a messy election for the Underwoods to make her opinion heard.
Thomas Yates (Paul Sparks)
While technically not a reporter, Thomas is a famous author who is hired by Frank to help craft his propaganda around his America Works program. Yet, what is meant to be a pseudo-biography turns into a deeper look inside of Frank and Claire’s marriage--a big “no no” for the Underwoods. Thomas’ flirtation with Frank makes Frank’s lapdog, secret service agent Meechum, jealous and his draft of the first chapter leaves serious splinters in the Underwood’s marriage. When Thomas is fired, he contemplates still moving forward with the book, but is ultimately muzzled by the lies he told Frank.
Rank: 3.5; Only the third man (we’ve seen or heard about) to woo Frank but he was trapped by his own lies. Though the question is what will he able to do with his unfinished book?
Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara)
Easily the only person with any real power, Zoe came close on to putting all the lies--and there were many loose ends starting to unravel by the end of season 1--together and potentially exposing Frank’s truths. Though, she made good use of her time in bed with Frank, landing all the scoops to the chagrin of her colleagues. Yet, when she became too confident--something Frank easily manipulates in his foes--she slipped up, literally. Though she was pushed in front of a Metro train by Frank, it was believed she tripped and fell to her death. Ultimately, when she bit the hand that fed her, it slapped her hard.
Rank: 4; Too confident and naïve to understand what power she really had. She was the only one with the real knowledge to bring him down. Alt. Rank: 0; she's dead.
Stephen Colbert (Stephen Colbert)
Host, The Colbert Report
Colbert is probably the only reporter (or news pundit) to go face-to-face with Frank and get away with it. During season 3, when Frank appears on The Colbert Report, following in suit of the modern president, the host shreds both him and his domestic politics, and dismal approval ratings. Colbert delivers barb after hard cold truth after laugh. And of the entire media landscape in House of Cards, Colbert has been the only one to get away with going after Frank.
Rank: 4.5; It’s Stephen f--cking Colbert!!! If only he knew he was sitting across from a cold-blooded killer.
If you still haven't watched season 3 (and spoiled yourself here), here's what you need to go before going any further: