TV and Movies

Who is the Grandest Goon? Rowan Pope, Frank Underwood or Gus Fring?

3 of the most binge-watch worthy shows on television in the last 4 years gotta be Breaking Bad, Scandal and House of Cards. Many a weekend have been lost in front of NetFlix, watching episodes back-to-back because those shows are thrilling. But all three shows are also amazing because they have some of the most cold-blooded, calculating, and callous villains in TV history. Gustavo Fring (Breaking Bad), Rowan Eli Pope (Scandal) and Francis Underwood (House of Cards) are three of the most conniving bastards this side of the Equator.

All three of them give so few dambs that they actually OWE some dambs. Satan went to 3rd grade with Rowan, tutored Frank and babysat Gus. Whew. And I am wondering what would happen if they had some sort of Goon Off. Who would win in a battle of the villains? This is not an easy question. Let’s explore.


Disclaimer: there are spoilers all up through here so if you haven’t seen any of the shows and plan on it, GO AWAY RIGHT NOW. SPOILER ALERT. 

Why they’re all bad ass.

Gustavo Fring was a dorky looking quiet man with glasses selling chicken and building wealth on good ass poultry by day (Los Pollo Hermanos). By night and undercover, he is (or was) a ruthless drug lord, selling meth all over the country, but running the Southwest and some parts of Mexico. He hid in plain sight, and he kept his nose so clean that he was the last person people thought of. He was running a smooth operation and anyone who got in his way was handled (see: killed) by one of his henchmen. But what made Gus frightening was that he would slice a dude’s throat quick and use his pocket square to wipe the blade clean. Such an evil gentleman.

I referred to Rowan Pope as Phantom Goon at first because he was just the unknown man ordering all types of chaos. Then we find out that he runs B613, a top secret high level organization that even the President of the United States has no control over. He is Olivia’s dad, and he is on the books as the director of the Smithsonian Museum. When a man has no one to answer to, he sees himself as a god, and when he has the resources to back this up a little, everyone should be petrified of him.

Hell or High Water gif

Frank Underwood began as a U.S. Congressman and the Democratic Whip so when the position of Vice-President opened up, he thought he was a shoo-in. When someone else was chosen over him, he was out for blood and his goal was to become President now. He didn’t even want to be 2nd in command. Through a series of CRAZY chess moves and master manipulation, Frank took his oath into office at season 2 ended. He schemed, lied, cheated and killed his way to the very top of the food chain. That dude became the President of the United States without ever getting ONE vote.

Position of power

Gus was a druglord and he ran the underground. Frank ran the United States Congress and used all types of schemes to become the President of the U.S. Rowan is the Overlord who runs the off-the-books organization that runs the U.S. government. For that reason alone, he is the most powerful of all 3 men. Rowan is not bound by any rules and he can make calls all in the name of “protecting the Republic.” He has NO ONE to answer to. Frank does, even though he wiggles his way out from behind. And Gus is a player in a grander system that he controls very little of.

frank underwood rules gif

Rowan would know about Gus already and can have him taken out by one of his men who doubles as an agent for B613, and Frank won’t even learn who Rowan is until he takes his oath into office. The all-seeing eye here is Papa Pope.

Advantage: Rowan

Most ruthless move

Rowan ordered the murder of the son of the President just so he could destroy Olivia and Fitz’s relationship and make Fitz feel the pain he’s brought him. An innocent teenager was used as collateral damage in what is essentially a battle of egos.

Gus killed an entire Mexican cartel by himself because they started infringing on his business and they kidnapped Jesse who had become his main meth cook. He did so by going to visit the main boss at home and putting poison in all their drinks and to make sure they didn’t suspect it, he himself drank it. He sat chatting and then asked to go to the bathroom. When there, he knelt down in front of the toilet seat calmly, stuck his fingers down his throat and threw up.

Gus Fring Kneel

He walked back out and all the men were dead. He was weak, but alive and he got taken to a medic tent he had set up in the desert. BOSS ASS SHIT!!!

Frank killed a young Congressman he had made his protege because he was derailing his plan to rise to the top by being a druggie. He locked him in his car while passed out and turned on the engines, so the man died of carbon monoxide poisoning. And then when the reporter he was having an affair with (so he could have a media mouthpiece) figured it out, he pushed her into the path of a train.

Advantage: Gus.

Love as a weakness

Gus Fring loved no one. He had no real allegiance to anybody and that kept him strong because he made decisions purely on the need to win. There was no one else to consider but himself so that always made his decisions easier. He could go balls out and show out as he wishes. He’s like Voldemort. He didn’t know love either.

Gus Fring Kill

One of Frank Underwood’s weaknesses is his love and respect for Claire and his love of other women’s love pockets. Women get him in trouble a lot and they’ve compromised his ability to make moves. He’s had to go to plan B and C because of the women he’s dealt with so they’ve certainly slowed him down. But really, his allegiance is to Claire. However, that’s not as much of a weakness as it is a little place that he can be compromised. BUT since his wife is a down ass chick, she can usually handle herself. Her being cutthroat also makes life easier for him.

Rowan Pope loves two people in this world: himself and his daughter Olivia. He is a man of his word and he’s said many times how he will do everything he can to protect her from harm. I believe him. That is his baby girl and will forever be his baby girl. He lost his job because of Liv (and then used her to get it back). Although she is another pawn in his twisted world, that is the one person who Command actually cares for. So yes, she IS a giant weakness for him because she’s her father’s child and her decisions stay putting him in a bind. But being the Grand Goon he is, he always finds a way out. Olivia is Rowan Pope’s Achilles Heel.

Boy Rowan Pope

Advantage: Gus.

Wives as Strength

Gus Fring was a lone ranger with soldiers but he had no REAL alliances. Frank Underwood has alliances but he’s blown up so many bridges that I can’t even remember anyone who is on his side besides Claire. And Rowan? His alliance is the entire Republic. B613 agents who are more special than any special ops. Oh and Maya Pope.

Actually, let’s talk about Claire and Maya. These aren’t just goons adjacent, but they’re real ass down ass Gs themselves. Behind every powerful man is a woman willing to threaten and blow shit up to win.

Claire is Frank’s partner in most ways and she’s strong when he’s weak. The speech she gave him when he thought the jig was up and he’d be going to jail made him step up to the plate and come correct. She grabbed him by the proverbial balls and told him to get his shit together and stay free because a husband in prison is not what she’s here for. He dug deep and wrote the best most bullshitting ass letter and made a friend out of an enemy (the President). GENIUS. We also cannot forget when she told the woman she hired that she’d let her baby die. GAHTDAMB.

claire underwood baby death

When I watched this scene, I had to pause it here and say GAAAAHHHHTTTTDDAAAAMMMBBBB!!! She does NOT play with her fierce ass. Frank cannot even afford to be weak. She. will. not. let. him.

And Maya Pope. Although she’s Rowan’s prisoner now, she was his wife FIRST. We thought HE was evil until we met her slick ass. With these 2 for parents, there’s no wonder Liv’s main food group is fermented grapes (wine). Maya has many aliases, can escape multiple armed guards and got some amazing hair (that she passed down to her daughter). But nothing and no one on either show has beat her level of crazy. The woman ATE HER OWN WRIST to escape jail. I mean how can you trump that? Rowan had to learn a few tricks from this vixen.

Maya Pope Boss

I think Mama Pope and Rowan have an understanding but she isn’t fully loyal to him.

Advantage: Frank.

Biggest downfall

Well, we can say this definitively about Gus since we know how that story went but his is that he was so enraged about the Mexican cartel. He was so thirsty to see them all go and he took it upon himself to kill the very last person, Old Man Tio. Had he sent one of his goons to kill Tio, he woulda lived to see another day.

Frank is so power-hungry and attention-seeking that it might be what makes he fall. He’s made it to the top but the fact that he is in the most public position is what exposes him the most. He’s made so many enemies that surely someone is going to be waiting for him to blink wrong and the walls of the Underwood White House might come tumbling down. Also, now that his most trusted right hand man is dead (he doesn’t know it yet), who will he turn to when he needs dirt done? He is now arguably weaker than he’s ever been even though he’s got the most power he’s ever had.

Frank Underwood Power

Rowan’s downfall will be his love for Olivia. And THAT I believe to be true. I feel like what will take him OUT will be IF/when he has to choose between him and Liv. As cutthroat as Papa Pope is, I think he’d lay his life down for his daughter. And one day, he might need to. Since she can’t stay outta trouble and all the trouble he’s seen so far has revolved around HER and her gaggle of men. Rowan doesn’t have enemies besides Fitz and Jake because no one knows he exists as Command.

Last scene/seen

The last time we saw Gus was in season 4, episode 13 of Breaking Bad when he went to see Tio in the nursing home so he could kill the old man. Walter White went to see the super sick old man first, appealed to him because of their shared hatred for Gustavo and the man agreed to die and take the druglord with him. Walt rigs Tio’s wheelchair with a bomb and uses his bell as a detonator. When Fring shows up and sits in front of Tio, the old goon starts ringing his bell and by the moment after Gus figures out what is happening, the bomb goes off.

Somehow, Gus walks out fine, and the camera pans over as he adjusts his tie. We see that the right side of his face has been blown off and he falls to his finish.

Gus Face Off

Going out like a real G.

THIS is the level of thug we’re dealing with here.

As episode 13 of House of Cards season 2 wrapped up, Frank Underwood is strolling to the Oval Office after taking his Presidential Oath. How did he get there? Well, he locked the current VP out of the President’s circle of trust by making him seem unreliable and untrustworthy. Then he convinced the VP that he will have more power and command more respect if he became the Governor of his home state (Pennsylvania). Because he had wiggled his way into the POTUS’ love and respect, he became VP. Then he got the President under Grand Jury investigation, pulled crazy ass tricks so he was forced to resign. Making HIM the President of the United States without one vote.

President Frank Underwood

Rowan Pope’s grand exit at the end of Scandal season 4 episode 8 came when he was having dinner with Olivia. His daughter lured him there so he could be captured and taken to have a military tribunal for his B613 shenanigans. But because Command knows all, he knew of the scheme between Liv, Jake and Fitz. He sat at the dinner table and told Olivia that she is on her own for the first time in her life. As that is going on, the snipers stationed everywhere were sniped from behind. And the special ops men who surrounded the building were killed. Rowan calmly walks out the restaurant into a waiting black car.



Whew. Although it’s easy to point out Gus’ missteps since his show is done and he’s gone, I’m sure Satan’s other minions will eventually meet defeat. If/when it happens, I expect them to both go out in a blaze of glory because they will not go down easy. Also, I might cry whenever Papa Pope dies.

I would pay good money to see Rowan Pope and Frank Underwood have a READ session, though. 3 rounds. Winner takes all. Those two are brilliant with the monologues. Gus moves in silence, though and that makes him mysterious and he’s a formidable opponent. I just don’t think he’d stand a chance.

All three men are strategy savants. They all excel at staying steps ahead of everyone. They will remove anyone and anything that gets in their ways by any means. All three men are snakes in the grass but Rowan is the green anaconda. When he strikes, he doesn’t just bite you. He will swallow you whole.Rowan IS the entire chess board. Everyone else is a pawn. He ain’t e’em the most powerful piece. HE is the game. So I think he would win the Battle of Goons.

You know who would not win? Earth. If those 3 battled, they would blow up the entire planet.

NOPE gif

So yes. Lemme know your thoughts on this Goon Battle. Who’d win? Leave a comment on why too.

Who would win the ultimate Goon Battle?
Gustavo Fring
Rowan Pope
Francis Underwood

Poll Maker

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  1. November 15, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    I had to comment!

    I asked my aunt and friend if Rowan Pope would have as much of an affect if he were White. I know Frank is a White man, but I don’t get the same intense level of anxiety with Francis as I ALWAYS DO with Rowan. I’m hella scared of him man!

    • Melody Thomas
      November 15, 2014 at 8:06 pm

      Btw, I’m a Black woman 🙂

  2. Nichole
    November 15, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Mirror mirror on the wall…
    Couldn’t finish because B613 just destroyed the wall before you could ask who’s the grandest of them all.

    Rowan went years without anyone knowing his true business. He loves his daughter but has proven she only has so many strikes and she’s out. He makes a call and things are handled. Frank has to do the manipulating himself.

    Rowan FTW!

  3. IJS
    November 15, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    I voted for Poppa Pope because I don’t need to be read for filth on the regular like Liv. I understood what hell and high water means… Sir.

    Frank is a real close second. REAL close second. He was always an asshole, but that display of shenanigans he displayed when upset was epic. (BTW, he was passed over for Secretary of State, not VP). This mug thought out his strategy in one night. One. Night. I think (as a writer) to know how a two seasons will play out at the beginning is winning at strategy.

  4. Richjob
    November 15, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    I see that Mr. Underwood took lessons at the same time as his dead twin, a guy who went by the name of Mel Profitt. #oldschoolgoonery

    • SIPort
      November 15, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      Not Mel Profitt!

      You have definitely gone Old School. That was the first time I ever remembered Kevin Spacey. That story arc was OFF THE CHAIN!!

      Mel and his sister….they were CRAZY!!

      Beginning Wiseguy was absolutely fabulous!

    • Milaxx
      November 15, 2014 at 11:21 pm

      “The toes knows” Mel and his first wife/sister Susan.

  5. Absurdist
    November 15, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    “As cutthroat as Papa Pope is, I think he’d lay his life down for his daughter.”
    And he said as much, in almost those exact words.

  6. SIPort
    November 15, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    I have never seen the Netflix House of Cards. I own the VHS of the British Original, which was one of the best mini-series EVER.Never seen an episode of Breaking Bad, so I take your word for it.

    I have to go with Papa Pope, only because his vision is so broad. The dude from Breaking Bad is just a drug kingpin, when you break it all down….

    And though Frank is a slimy politician, now the he’s President, he actually is accountable to someone. Papa Pope is scary because he works in the shadows and knows where all the shadow are.

    I have just finished watching Papa Pope’s last read of Thursday for the 6th time. Still chills me to the bone.

  7. Simone
    November 15, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    Okay so I was convinced before reading that Frank Underwood was the gooniest goon of Goonsville but after reading you make a good point about Rowan. He’s not in the public eye, he has eyes everywhere, and power where you least expect it. Papa Pope wins. Frank Underwood is a sneaky, manipulative little bastard though.. I can’t stand him!…. but I can’t turn away lol

  8. Milaxx
    November 15, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    Don’t forget Gus also kill the cartel & Done Eladio because they killed his partner/maybe lover way back in the day. He held on to that resentment for years!

  9. Milaxx
    November 15, 2014 at 11:24 pm
  10. Chanel
    November 16, 2014 at 8:09 am

    Papa Pope wins for sure. Re: Frank Underwood. Let’s not forget that he has a huge secret and a cover marriage. He has a lot to lose if people find out he’s gay!

  11. Nanace85
    November 16, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Please, Papa Pope no contest!! He has no authority to answer to and the law doesn’t apply to him. He’s punked the President and Government so many times without even breaking a sweat. The only person who almost got the best of him was Maya. But he eventually got her back on lockdown. He is schooling everyone on the show. I’m scared now that he really has no one to protect. He won’t have any mercy now that Olivia crossed him for the last time.

  12. notconvincedgranny
    November 16, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    C’mon now, this is no contest. Rowan Pope is the goon other goons aspire to be (but would never say out loud). He is in the air they breathe, the food they eat, the water they drink; if they even pretend to the throne he is the poison they never knew they ingested. Papa Pope is not mean; mean is SCURRED of him so it don’t come ’round no mo.

  13. Buky
    November 16, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    So when you first posted this on FB I was all like Gus Fring, hands down. His level of being able to operate under the radar was bawse. The man was a patron/fundraiser for the damb DEA while simultaneously (single-handedly) running an elaborate and well-oiled drug ring that NO one knew about.

    But THEN…you wrote this thesis of a paper that would make English teachers all over the US of A proud, I now see the light that ain’t nobody messin with Rowan. (You came with all the facts!)

    The fact that he has no one to check him and he has an immeasurable amount of military power behind him means he can do whatever to whomever whenever he wants just for sh!t and giggles if he wanted to. And I’ll gladly stay the hell outta his way.

  14. notconvincedgranny
    November 16, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    **footnote – Mama Pope is due back for the finale. Let’s see what she does to protect her baby. Or if Papa will protect Liv from Mama. Or does everyone have to duck and cover?

  15. November 21, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Tough call. Love Papa Pope for his excessive and his Flawless GoonHustle but I’ma have to go with Francis for his insane ability to manipulate. If Papa Pope moves all the pieces on the Chess Board, Francis Levitates them twitches. Francis will have you slandering your mama potato salad at the church social on the 1st Sunday and you won’t even know why.
    Yes, I’ma have to go with President Frank Underwood for #GrandGoon.

  16. November 25, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    Daddy Pope, only because he had an army that hid in plain sight and they feared him whether he was seating in the Command seat or not.

    On a similar note…I’m curious as to who you think the grandest lady goon is between Maya Pope and Gemma Teller-Morrow from Sons of Anarchy. I couldn’t think of a third, but these two are ON ONE all the time! After catching up on SoA, this could be a close one!

  17. Sylvia C Brown
    November 29, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Yelling and nearly frothing at the mouth a goon does not make–Papa Pope. Gus’ long-held resentment yet ability to get the job done makes him a GOON–flawed but a goon nonetheless. The dude managed to keep the police and DEA under his thumb, without having a cop on the payroll, and had an alibi for knowing Gale.

  18. Purple Dove
    November 30, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    I just started a binge-watch of House of Cards over the Thanksgiving Break and all I have to say is WOW at Mr. Francis J. Underwood. Just wow. Papa Rowan Eli Pope still gets the win but Frank is ruthless and does it with a straight face so effortlessly.

    Luvvie, you should do a spousal edition as well because Claire is no joke. Mama Maya Lewis Pope still gets the win though.

    Maybe over Christmas break I’ll binge-watch Breaking Bad.

    • Purple Dove
      November 30, 2014 at 11:25 pm

      I guess you already sorta did a spousal edition! (Smile!)

  19. Deion
    December 10, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Francis and Rowan play in two different worlds. On wits and ruthlessness? I’d say even match. Frank does not abide threats to his power, and he personally handles it and his allies have plausible deniability. Even if I’m sure they know (looking at Claire and Doug) that Frank had a hand in their deaths. Rowan sends people, and it often gets messy. But if Frank ever found out he had an agency such as B613, he’d rub his hands together and be glad that he’d never have to get his hands dirty again. Bodies would start dropping everywhere. Frank wants power, Rowan could help him hold on to it. That would be 8 years, no 10 because Frank finished out Garrett’s term, of terror.

  20. March 2, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    This was an awesome read. Great article. I voted for Rowan. As u mentioned, other than the President and a handful of others. No one knows he exists. Thus making it difficult for them to catch him slipping.

    If I had to guess who’d get the upper hand on whom, I’d also say Rowan. He has the power and resource advantage, and like Gus Pope is also hidden in plain sight. Frank has never encountered someone as cunning as Pope, so even after taking office I’m not sure he could combat Pope.