House of Cards series three is finally here (released on Netflix today, Friday 27th February). After scheming his way to the presidency, Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, is the most powerful man in the USA. He and his wife, the new First Lady (Robin Wright), now call the White House home.
Frank and Claire Underwood, like Lord and Lady Macbeth, left a trail of deceit and corpses on their journey to the top, in Washington DC. Now they have to keep hold of the reins of power at any cost.
House of Cards’ opening credits, set to Jeff Beal’s haunting title music, show iconic sights of Washington DC from above, with time-lapsed shadows creeping up over buildings and monuments. But scenes in the shadowy streets down below are largely shot just over an hour’s drive away from the capital, in Baltimore. Doubling for Washington DC in many productions, including television shows Scandal and Veep, Baltimore’s streets play host to gritty locations where nefarious activities and clandestine meetings take place in House of Cards.
The interiors of the White House and Capitol Hill, where politicians are manoeuvred like puppets with Frank as the puppeteer, are shot on a soundstage in Joppa, Maryland, 30 minutes from Baltimore, as is the inside of Frank’s home in the first two seasons, supposedly in DC’s historic neighbourhood of Georgetown, where John F Kennedy once lived as a congressman.
Exteriors of the Underwood home are filmed in the leafy area of Bolton Hill, Baltimore (at 1609 Park Avenue), including the show’s very first scene ever, in which a neighbour’s dog is run over in the street. Frank delivers a Richard III-style aside to the camera while putting the dog out of its misery and then washing his hands clean of the act – a little taste of things to come.
Season two’s first episode features an even more grisly scene: the death of reporter Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) at the hands of Frank. He pushes her in front of an oncoming train in the fictional DC metro station, Cathedral Heights, shot at Baltimore’s Charles Center subway stop (100 W. Baltimore Street).
Zoe worked at the Washington Herald, which doesn’t exist, but the Baltimore Sun (501 N. Calvert Street) does and its offices were used for scenes set in the newspaper’s headquarters. She first catches Frank’s eye at a function held at the Washington Opera House (actually Baltimore’s Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Avenue). Zoe and Frank were fond of their secret rendezvous, including at the Baltimore Museum of Art (10 Art Museum Drive) and Walters Art Museum (600 N. Charles Street), standing in for DC cultural hotspots, and at her unsavoury apartment (6 E. Preston Street) where their relationship began to sour.
Frank is used to ruthlessly despatching those who have served their purpose. But there was a tinge of regret when he said goodbye to Freddy Hayes (Reg E Cathey) in a season two episode directed by Jodie Foster. Freddy’s criminal past was served up on a plate to the press by Remy Danton (Mahershala Ali), which meant that Frank had to cut ties with someone he genuinely considered to be a friend. So he said goodbye to Freddy and Freddy’s barbecue joint, a haven for Frank in DC where he could get a nostalgic, southern-style taste of his South Carolina roots. Tourists have been known to drive around Baltimore looking for Freddy’s, but the shop was created for the show in an abandoned building at 2605 Greenmount Avenue.
Instead, travellers should head for Sip & Bite (200 Boston Street), dressed as fake diner Waffle Nation in season two, where Zoe Barnes’ journalist colleague and lover Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus) was led by an anonymous hacker. Sip & Bite featured in George Clooney’s 2005 movie Syriana and is famous for its crab cakes. But Lucas, of course, will now be dining on prison food, having been framed for cyber terrorism by Frank’s right-hand man, Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly).
An early Stamper scene was shot at Werner’s (231 E. Redwood Street), a luncheonette favoured by politicians. Also in season one, Stamper tracked down Rachel Posner (Rachel Brosnahan), the former prostitute embroiled in politician Peter Russo’s demise and found her working as a waitress at a restaurant (filmed at Tio Pepe, 10 E. Franklin Street). He rescued her from a sleazy boss and later set her up in an apartment in Joppa, Maryland. His obsession with her took a turn for the worse and after a fight Rachel left for him dead in the woods in last season’s finale.
That left Frank wondering why Stamper, his Chief of Staff, was absent at a crucial time, the moment he was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States at Camp David, shot at Camp Puh’tok, Monkton (17433 Big Falls Road), just north of Baltimore.
The final scene of series two was set inside the Oval Office. Although the Underwoods worked hard together on their rise to power, Claire stood back and allowed Frank to enter the office on his own, to relish the moment. But it might be the last time she takes a step back. In season three, like Hillary Clinton, Claire wants to run for office. Will Lady Macbeth emerge from her husband’s shadow? And will Frank stand by her side? Find out on a binge-watching session today.
House of Cards is ready to air on Netflix from 27 February
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