Feb. 18, 2014 at 9:31 AM ET
The second-season premiere of "House of Cards" dropped a bombshell that no one saw coming — especially the target of ruthless politico Frank Underwood's (Kevin Spacey) retribution.
Spoiler alert! If you haven't seen the episode yet, do not read any further!
In a way, the scene was more shocking than the infamous Red Wedding massacre on "Game of Thrones," which didn't air until nearly the end of the third season of that series.
This is your final warning! Seriously, stop reading if you haven't watched "Chapter 14" of "House of Cards"!
But only halfway through the long anticipated "House of Cards" premiere, Frank Underwood shoved scrappy reporter Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) in front of a moving train.
Reaction to the "Game of Thrones" carnage nearly broke Twitter that fateful Sunday night last June, but the shockwaves of Zoe's murder reverberated throughout President's Day weekend — and beyond, for unspoiled viewers. Because unlike appointment television, where millions tune in to a popular program during its original broadcast, "House of Cards" fans scheduled their viewing of the second season — released by Netflix in its entirety on Friday — on their own time.
That included the president of the United States, who presciently asked his citizenry not to ruin any surprises.
Zoe's days on "House of Cards" seemed numbered, because nobody antagonizes Francis Underwood and gets away with it. But after she proved her loyalty to the presumptive vice president, no one expected Zoe would be dispatched so suddenly and violently — in the first episode.
Even for viewers who didn't plan on binge-watching season two, the cold-blooded subway slaying was a gateway drug for the remaining episodes.
Zoe's murder was also an important callback to the series' very first scene, when Frank strangled a wounded dog with his bare hands. The animal was fatally injured, and Frank — addressing the viewers directly for the first time — explained the act as a mercy killing. In his mind, he was doing the same thing when he put his tortured political puppet Peter Russo out of his misery in a parking garage.
But now, as he edges closer to the presidency, Frank said, "There can be no mercy."
"There is but one rule: Hunt or be hunted," the new veep drawled at the end of the season-two premiere, charmingly telling his viewers, "Welcome back."
Happy to be here, Frank! And after that mind-blowing premiere, we're not leaving for another 12 hours.