I love Breaking Bad. Since the show ended it’s run in Fall 2013, I’ve been combing the TeleSphere for a show that’ll drop my jaw and spike my adrenaline levels in similar ways. During my search, I came across House of Cards. In my politically inadequate mind, the show started slow. But once I picked up on the jargon, and saw how the frays tied together, I became hooked. And that’s right about when I noticed that I might have a weird proclivity for insanely evil characters.
Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of Francis J. Underwood, and Bryan Cranston’s work as Walter Hartwell White really drew me in to both of their addictive shows. Although House of Cards is in it’s relative infancy, I am already starting to draw parallels between it and shows like The Wire, The Soprano’s, and Breaking Bad. An internal debate that comes along when any show displays captivation potential.
Drawing on the evil nature of Francis Underwood that has been slowly unveiled by House of Cards, I’ve begun to wonder just how evil is he? And to quench my curiosity, I decided that it’s best to compare him to the current champion of the evil character realm: Walter White.
In case you didn’t know, I used to be an Engineer, and so I sort of lust for math. So in this “tale of the tape” I’ll attempt to objectify the comparison by evaluating a “metric of evil,” explain each character’s case for corruption, and then apply a score between 1-100 for each of them. 1 being about as evil as an innocent child riding the back of a large puppy. 100 being Hitler stuck in a traffic jam.
WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD
The Lives They Ruined
Walter White became the most powerful man of the underground, Francis Underwood is currently the most powerful man of the overground. We know that Franky POTUS has killed at least two people. According to the Breaking Bad Wiki, Walter White is responsible for the deaths of 198 people. Not to mention the fact that he wrecked the lives of his family, his brother-in-law’s family, the families of the 167 passengers of the planes that collided, Jesse Pinkman, Gustavo Fring, Mike Ehrmantraut, etc.
Although Francis Underwood has set the stage to be the most evil leader of the free world ever conceived, I have to score this based on what we know has already happened. And therefore Walter Hartwell White gets the first advantage. Besides, Frank did bring about Social Security reform.
Walter White: 97
Francis Underwood: 81
Their Evil Potential
The heading may not make sense at first, as Breaking Bad has ended its run. But think about what is/was possible for these two characters. I think it’s pretty interesting. Frank has an unbelievable amount of power, and therefore an unbelievable amount of potential. But Walt is “dividend” evil. He put in circulation the purest achieved form of the world’s most dangerous drug. A drug that in the Breaking Bad universe is still selling by the boatload — thanks to the proliferation of his recipe by Jesse Pinkman. When you think about it this way, and if you agree that Meth is a vehicle of evil, Walt has tapped infinite evil potential.
Walter White: 100
Francis Underwood: 95
Their Disregard for the People Close to Them
Originally, Walter White did what he did for his family. Only to “admit” to Skyler in the series finale that he “did it for himself.” Personally, I think he told Skyler what she wanted to hear before leaving her forever without a confirmed explanation. When he first started cooking with Jesse, I believe he was genuine in wanting to cover the cost of his cancer and leave his family with enough money to live comfortably. He just severely underestimated the breadth of the consequences of his venture.
Francis Underwood on the other hand, is an evil genius and conniving prick. He understands the consequences of his actions much better than Walter White ever did. Both may seem equally as manipulative, but I contend that Walter White’s former cloistered lifestyle was hampered this trait a little, not to mention providing the majority of Breaking Bad’s comic relief. Even though Walter White is a genius in his own right, it took him until too close to the bitter end to develop the faculties that Francis Underwood had seemed to come pre-packaged in. And since Frank Underwood always knows exactly what he’s doing when he’s doing it, he blows Walt out of the water in this regard.
Francis Underwood: 98
Walter White: 62
Their Worst Deed
For those of you that can read and add at the same time, you’ll see that it comes down to this. And I think a truly evil man should be judged by his worst deed. So within that logic, I’ve saved the best for last.
Walter White and Frank Underwood really have some doozies in this department. Here are Walter White’s top 3 transgressions:
1.) Letting Jesse’s girlfriend Jane die
2.) Poisoning Brock with Lily of the Valley
3.) Killing 10 prison inmates in under 2 minutes
and Francis J. Underwood’s:
1.) Killing Peter Russo
2.) Killing Zoe Barnes
3.) Manipulating all three branches of the US government to the point where they forced the President to resign.
I can solve this final quandary in 20 words. Francis J. Underwood did all of these despicable deeds for selfish purposes. You can’t say the same for Walter White.
Francis Underwood: 99*
Walter White: 82
*and remember, Frank has only had 2 seasons to accrue this carnage
Well, let’s tally, shall we?
The Final Score:
Francis Underwood: 373
Walter White: 341
Close, but no House of Cards.
I’m calling it early again, but Francis Underwood is more diabolical than Walter White. And now you know the margin.