Be warned that this article contains major House of Cards Season 2 spoilers. While House of Cards' second season opens by giving Frank Underwood the opportunity to clear his obstacles by taking out his former puppet Zoe Barnes, but he can't stay unchecked forever. Enter junior congresswoman Jackie Sharp.
Frank plucks Sharp (Molly Parker) out of junior league status in Chapter 14 with the promise of helping her succeed him as house whip, but this privilege comes at a cost: her principles. When she enters the race, the integrity of her mentor and her greatest supporter Ted Havemeyer. In order to get her opponent's support, she pulls a Frank Underwood move and exposes Ted's secret daughter with his former maid. But the move takes a toll.
Ted is like her second father and his illegitimate daughter Emily is not only living with cerebral palsy, she's also like family to Jackie. The decision haunts her as it ends Ted's career in a fireball of shame and brings merciless media scrutiny upon his daughter and her elderly mother. By episode 3, we find Jackie containing her shame when she lies down in a tattoo artist's chair in simple sweatpants and a tank top. She demands that the artist fill in two outlines of red poppies and add another to the chain which already has a handful of blood red blooms on it.
She seems sufficiently burned by the move Frank forced her into, but the tattoos suggest that this isn't the first time she's done something she regrets in order to gain power. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Parker shed a little insight on her character's past as well as her future:
I think we can say that he admires her “ruthless pragmatism,” as he says in the show. For me, what was interesting is really looking into what it costs a woman to be operating at this level of leadership. Because we live in a time right now where 51 percent of college graduates are women, but only, like, 12 to 13 percent of women hold leadership positions in politics and business.
Focusing on "what it costs a woman to be operating at this level of leadership," Parker's character presents an enticing prospect for Season 2. We've seen what a powerful position the majority whip's wife can be in — she's not simply there to host parties and play arm candy, though Claire Underwood is excellent at making sure she appears to be the perfect trophy. Then we saw that Frank's plaything Zoe wasn't as easily manipulated as he thought she'd be — though she paid dearly for it. Now, we may just have the chance to dispel Frank's notion that another young, power-hungry political hopeful will bend to his every whim.
Sharp's more experienced and more principled than Zoe was and more importantly, she's already got a taste of power. She's not some starry eyed youngster with her first lick of fame — after all, this woman is a war veteran. She's seen the front lines of battle and if Frank's smart, he'll watch his back now that this quiet shark is swimming alongside him.