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'House of Cards’ creator talks about Netflix series’ wild ride

By Emily Yahr
Washington Post
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    NATHANIEL E. BELL - NETFLIX
    Kevin Spacey plays scheming congressman Francis Underwood and Robin Wright is his wife in season 2 of “House of Cards” on Netflix.
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    HANDOUT - The Washington Post
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    HANDOUT - The Washington Post

House of Cards

All 13 episodes of Season 2 are available on Netflix Feb. 14.

Beau Willimon is the creator of “House of Cards,” but he’s the last person you want to ask about what’s going to happen in the upcoming second season.

“I don’t talk to anyone about what’s in Season 2,” Willimon said.

Not even to give us a slight sense of what might be in store? Nope.

“I really want the audience not to walk in with some preconceived notion for what the season is,” he said. “That should be a process of discovery to them. When you give adjectives or talk about the tone, you’re saying, ‘This is the lens that you should look at the season through.’ Drama should tell its own story.”

The highly anticipated second season of the intense political drama debuts Feb. 14, when Netflix releases all 13 episodes.

If you gobbled up the first batch of 13 episodes in one sitting, here’s a quick refresher: At the end of the first season, scheming House Majority Whip Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) was on a quest to become vice president through a complex scheme of treachery, backstabbing and murder. (RIP, Rep. Peter Russo.) Underwood did so with the help of his shrewdly calculating wife, Claire (Robin Wright), and an ambitious young investigative reporter, Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), who became his mistress.

On to Season 2: Eventually, Willimon teases that it’s going to be a big year for Wright’s character and you may see some Beltway media types make cameos. But that’s it. So here are some of the more juicy details we’ve gleaned from the second season trailer: It appears that Underwood has succeeded in becoming VP, persuading the former veep to step down and the president to name him as the replacement. “One heartbeat away from the presidency and not a single vote cast in my name,” Underwood sneers at the camera in one of his breaking-the-fourth-wall monologues. “Democracy is so overrated.”

However, things seem to go awry, as Zoe picked up the scent on the whole “murdered congressman” story and it looks like she’s closing in on the truth. There are scenes of chaos at the White House, lots of threats (“Am I really the sort of enemy you want to make?”), tears and a chilling final thought from Underwood: “There is but one rule. Hunt or be hunted.”

Expectations are high as the show continues. After filming the first season, which Willimon calls an “experiment for everyone involved,” the drama has turned into a well-oiled machine. When the series first started, neither Willimon, Spacey nor executive producer David Fincher had much TV experience.

“We all treated it as a 13-hour movie, because none of us made TV before,” said Willimon, a playwright who worked on political campaigns, including those of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Howard Dean.

The advantage of knowing little about TV? “We weren’t bound by conventions because we didn’t know the rules, really.” Now they have a better of idea of the logistics, such as how many scenes you can film in a day, the pace of the show and the rhythm of the actors.

“There are people who criticize certain aspects of its authenticity, and they’re right,” Willimon said, admitting that they exaggerate and condense some elements of D.C. life. “We do a great deal of research into every story line. ... More often than not, people from Washington have said time and time again it’s one of the more accurate portrayals of Washington.”

The series has one very high-profile fan: President Barack Obama was recently seen on video during a meeting with technology executives (including Netflix chief Reed Hastings) asking for a preview of Season 2. “I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient,” Obama joked about Spacey’s mischievous character. “I was thinking, ‘Man, this guy’s getting a lot of stuff done.’ 

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