How Frank Underwood Dies in House of Cards

Photo: David Giesbrecht / Netflix

Maybe you came into the final season of House of Cards wanting justice for Zoe Barnes. Maybe you wanted to know if Doug Stamper would ever get caught for murdering Rachel Posner, or if Claire Underwood would tell all the world that her husband actually Heathers’d Peter Russo (that’s when you kill someone and stage it as a suicide, obviously). Personally, I wanted to know what was going on with Cashew the guinea pig. But House of Cards had other plans, and they built this final season around a hot new murder mystery: How did Frank Underwood die?

As season six begins, Frank Underwood is already dead and buried in Gaffney, the town of his birth, alongside his dad. Claire says Frank died beside her, peacefully in his sleep. But we all know what that means: Frank was 100 percent murdered. The question, of course, is: Who killed him?

The Murder Suspects

President Claire Hale Underwood
Fact: Claire murdered the last guy she slept with. She poisoned him (h/t Jane), and as the drugs set in, she had sex with him one last time so he could die while he was still inside her (!). On our “means, motive, and opportunity” checklist, Claire scores a hat trick.

Jane Davis
Could’ve done it on Claire’s behalf. Knows all the most influential terrorists. Has access to poison. Casually mentioned to Claire, just last season, that she could kill Frank and make it look like an accident.

FBI Deputy Director Nathan Green
He and Claire are in cahoots, and Claire does seem like the sort of person who might not want to personally take care of her homicides, but instead would outsource them to someone like FBI Nathan. Anyone Claire invited into the residence would’ve had access to Frank. It wouldn’t be all that suspicious for Nathan to meet with the Underwoods there, right? Way back when, the Underwoods loved to invite their bodyguards into their bedroom.

Mark Usher
Another one who could’ve gotten into the residence, is in with Claire, and stands to benefit from Frank’s convenient demise. As for the “how,” I feel like Mark would’ve smothered Frank with a pillow.

Bill or Annette Shepherd (via hit man, probably)
The season eventually reveals that they got their hands on Frank’s ring by exhuming his body. But they could’ve picked it up more easily by sliding it off his finger right after they MURDERED HIM. (As members of the one percent, I figure they would hired someone to take care of the murdering on their behalf.)

Seth Grayson
Does whatever the Shepherds tell him to do. Has no moral fiber and definitely never liked Frank anyway.

Cathy Durant
She totally knows Frank shoved her down the stairs to her almost death. Surely, she wanted to get rid of him before he got rid of her.

Those scrappy Herald journalists
They know they’ll never be able to prove that Frank killed Zoe — plus all those other people — but they have to do what’s right! Tom wouldn’t do it alone, and neither would Janine, but maybe they’d do it together. You know, for democracy!

Doug Stamper
It seems totally ludicrous that Doug would kill Frank, his soul mate/father figure/patron saint/only reason for living, but stalkers are known to kill the objects of their obsessions.

Freddy of Freddy’s BBQ Joint
He and Frank did not end their relationship on good terms. (This is something of a pattern.) The last thing Freddy did to Frank was call him a “motherfucker.”

And the true killer is…


How did he do it?

Doug gave Frank too much of his liver medication. If you recall, Frank got a liver transplant after he was shot. Though this is extremely not kosher, Doug got Frank to the top of the transplant line, which in turn meant killing that Moretti guy who was supposed to be next in line. (Moretti died and Doug started screwing his widow because of course he did. She was a sad brunette and Doug is just a man with a very specific, basic weakness.) Anyway, Frank has been on those meds since season four.

Okay, but why though?

In the spirit of Claire Hale’s “full transparency” presidency, I have to be honest with you: Doug’s explanation does not make sense. “I couldn’t let him destroy everything we built. I had to protect the legacy from the man,” he tells Claire in the series finale. But what legacy is Doug even talking about? Frank Underwood had no legacy, save for all those murders that no one even knows he did, and his pathetic attempt at a WPA-knockoff, AmWorks. Also: Doug seethed every time Claire did anything as president, so who did he think was going to be POTUS after Frank died?

What becomes of the killer?

In the closing moments of the series finale, Claire reveals to Doug that she knows he’s the one who murdered Frank. She also tells him she forgives him. But Doug didn’t come to the Oval for Claire Hale’s forgiveness. He came because he had one more homicide left in him — or at least, he hoped he did. After feebly sticking Claire in the throat with Frank’s old letter opener, Doug pretty much gives up. Claire snags the letter opener and stabs him in the gut. He dies on the floor of the Oval Office in a puddle of his own blood. To speed up the process — to be merciful or to keep him from whimpering, it’s unclear — Claire suffocates Doug with her bare hand. Her final words to him, and the last lines in House of Cards: “It’s all right, Doug. Everything is gonna be all right. It’s all gonna be all right. There, no more pain.”

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this story misidentified Cashew as a dog, not a long-haired guinea pig. Our apologizes to Cashew and her family.

How Frank Underwood Dies in House of Cards