‘House of Cards’: Frank’s Shocking Scene That Some Producers Thought ‘Would Be a Big Mistake’

During the height of its run on Netflix, the American adaptation of House of Cards was a hit in the U.S. and abroad.

Frank Underwood’s astonishingly conniving and shameless ways were hard to look away from, and the show convinced many fans that much of the political drama was rooted in reality.

Through six seasons and a scandal with Kevin Spacey that killed off his character, House of Cards delivered some of the most memorable and chilling scenes in streaming TV. One of those scenes didn’t sit well with everyone in the crew.

Frank Underwood leaning over the desk in the Oval Office, looking directly at the camera
Kevin Spacey in ‘House of Cards’ | Netflix

David Fincher and Kevin Spacey teamed up to create ‘House of Cards’

When Fincher and Spacey embarked on the House of Cards project, neither had any background in television and Netflix only had one other original series under its belt. Both served as executive producers and helped line up the story for the first two seasons, which were given the green light from the jump.

Beau Willimon and Fincher developed the script with Spacey in mind as the main protagonist, with Fincher directing the first two episodes. The opening episodes would go on to help define the theme and tone of House of Cards and give viewers an idea of how ruthless Frank Underwood could be.

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Season 1 scene with dog was ‘dark’ and ruffled feathers

Think back to season 1 when Frank’s neighbors’ dog was hit by that car. As the dog cried in the middle of the street, he uttered the dog wasn’t going to make it. And then he killed the dog to “put it out of its misery.”

Behind the scenes, head writer Willimon decided he wanted to add something in the first episode to showcase Frank’s character. Something dark and unlike the BBC version. To him, the scene was ok, but not everyone was on board.

“So when the dog was lying there whimpering – it wasn’t a real dog, obviously – and he does his version of a mercy killing, it just seemed right in line with Frank Underwood,” he said in a 2015 interview with Empire.

“There were elements on the production team who felt this would be a big mistake, that we’d lose half our audience. That’s the big rule, right? Don’t kill the dog? I didn’t know any better, and I didn’t see any problem with it,” Willimon explained.  

So, Willimon ran the concerns past Fincher who gave the final say. “Fincher thinks for a second and says, ‘I don’t give a sh*t.’ I said, ‘Me either, let’s keep it in.’ It’s not that we didn’t care. We did think, ‘If this isn’t the scene for you, this isn’t the show for you,’” said Willimon.

‘House of Cards’ dog scene repeated itself

During its peak, House of Cards set a new standard for streaming TV with its bingeable episode format. The series went on to win Emmys and Golden Globes, the first web-based show to accomplish such a feat.

The series ended its final season without Spacey due to the criminal allegations leveled against him, but the spirit of Frank Underwood was still alive in the final cut. Claire Underwood’s words in the last episode where she killed Doug Stamper echoed Frank’s from the dog scene: “There, no more pain.”