Readers may be shocked when they hear the two names Frank Underwood and Dexter Morgan in the same sentence. One is a President who uses unscrupulous tactics to remain in power, while the other secretly murders in the name of justice. Both are fictional characters of course. The truth is, when I first thought about what to write this week, I originally figured I would do a review of the current season of House of Cards (which stars Kevin Spacey as politician Frank Underwood). However, after further debate about what I would focus on (perhaps how the show is centered on the evilness that can perforate into politics), I realized that what makes the show so fascinating is Frank Underwood’s ability to mingle with others when needed, but to also commit heinous deeds when he is desperate enough.
I wondered to myself, what other fictional characters could I place in the same category? Dexter Morgan (played by Michael C. Hall) from the completed TV series Dexter came to mind. What’s interesting when comparing these two characters is that in a way, they both hate certain aspects of the things they are so passionate about. Let me explain. Frank Underwood, in my opinion, doesn’t actually like politics. He’s good at negotiating and buttering people up-there’s no doubt about that-but the negotiating isn’t what he desires-it’s the end result; getting his way and being the one that everyone must bow down to.
Dexter, on the other hand, works as a Blood Splatter Specialist for a Police Department in Miami. He uses his job to observe which criminals are high risk, who is likely to escape the legal system, and who he feels he has enough evidence on. What Dexter hates about his job is that he is tied down to the law. The law limits his ability to kill whenever he wants. He feels obligated to follow the rules in order to have what he considers to be a successful “kill.” Frank wants power, but he won’t settle for just any position of power. It has to be THE greatest position of power for him to consider it worth his while. In the way that Frank wants power no matter the cost, Dexter wants to kill no matter the cost.
Although these two men are able to manipulate people into doing what they want, they use very different methods to do it. Frank has a sweet Southern charm that is absolutely soaked in manipulation and threats. His colleagues know that he is a great ally, but a dangerous enemy. Dexter often used logic and kindness to distract his co-workers. Both find themselves in situations time after time where they are forced to allow their real faces to show, much to the terror of their victims. They are both to a large degree sociopaths-able to appear normal, but with brains that clearly do not function the way other people’s do.
Still, these characters are what make the shows so interesting. We watch House of Cards because we ask ourselves questions like: Will Frank ever develop a soul? Has he ever loved anyone? Will he ever be outright caught by the public for the things he has done? Viewers of Dexter probably asked themselves these very same questions about Dexter Morgan-and to a certain extent the writers answered those questions, although in a veiled enough way that we could maybe still see Dexter Morgan again someday.
The question remains, why are we so fascinated by these characters? We want to watch them get caught, but it can’t just be in any old fashioned way. These characters are supposed to be clever, high functioning, and ruthless, therefore the person who finally brings them down needs to have the majority of those qualities as well. Another question I can’t help but ask is, what will the event be that finally makes these characters not able to blend in once and for all? What would it take for them to not be able to hide behind beards or fancy suits?
If you’re curious about either of these shows, here is trailer from the first season of House of Cards and the first season of Dexter. Enjoy!
Let us know what you think. What would it take for these two sociopaths to finally be stopped?
House of Cards can be streamed on Netflix.
You can also view Dexter on Netflix-it is a completed series that originally aired on Showtime.