When Binge-Watching Isn’t a Choice

The third season of House of Cards was plopped into millions of Netflix accounts on Friday, and many people began a weekend of binge-watching the Underwoods as they


…prepared to become the President and First Lady of the United States.

As I begun my travels to this messed up version of DC, I could only remember two things about what happened last season – that Frank became President, and Stamper got beat up. You can attribute this lack of memory to the fact that I can barely remember what I did yesterday or that sometimes I tend to not pay attention to what’s happening, but mostly, I think you can blame it on the fact that I wanted to watch the second season as fast as possible as to not get any spoilers.

I hate spoilers. Spoilers are the worst. I’ve had arguments IRL about this, and while I understand why people who like to get spoiled (e.g. will this person get killed? I need to mentally prepare), I am 100 percent on the side of not getting spoiled at all. For me, television is an escape. Escape from my daily, boring life, into places like corrupt D.C., or Pawnee or Scranton or 1960s New York City, or Stars Hollow. I treat the characters in the shows as if they’re real, and like real life, I don’t want to know what’s going to happen next. That’s the half the excitement. If I know I’m going to get fired on Friday, I will be worried every single second waiting for that moment where my boss takes me into his office and gives me the bad news. If someone is going to be unexpectedly proposed to at the end of a Halloween episode, I would much rather be surprised than anticipate the moment where he gets down on one knee, because, romance.

I watched Guardians of the Galaxy for the first time on Saturday (I know), and I had seen the GIFs of dancing baby Groot on Tumblr, and was expecting him to show up at any minute. So when the thing happens towards the end and then later dancing Groot appears, it didn’t have the same impact on me as I imagine it did for a lot of people. This is why I hate spoilers.

But with a Netflix show like House of Cards, everyone is watching it at a different pace. There’s no one episode a week, like traditional television. It’s 13 episodes put at your fingertips and watch at your own will.

Last year, I went to the ATX Festival in Austin, which is a weekend-long event for TV fans (we’re going together this June, so look out for that!). I went to a panel called #SpoilerAlert, and among the panelists were executive producer Beau Willimon from House of Cards and Netflix social media rep Eric Pallotta.


Eric talked about how when season 2 dropped at 12am, they were tracking what was happening on social media in regards to the show – what topics fans were talking about, and what they were responding to. He said that around the 12:10am/10 minute mark (or whatever time The Train Incident happened), they noticed a huge spike in viewers’ tweets, reacting to Zoe’s sudden demise. However, most of the tweets didn’t read, “Z0MG FRANK JUST PUSHED ZOE IN FRONT OF A MOVING TRAIN AND THEN WALK AWAY RULLL CASUAL”, it was more like, “OMG” or “DID THAT JUST HAPPEN” or “emoji of a train #HouseOfCards”. There’s an unspoken language amongst binge-watchers, especially among the Netflix community, that lets other people know something big just happened, but also to show you’re in the know and hip because you’re watching HOC.

So, here we are. It’s been a few days since season three was available to view, and there are some who finished on Saturday, some who are close to finishing, and some who probably won’t get to it until the next free weekend they’re not doing brunch. According to Variety, two percent of all Netflix subscribers binge-watched House of Cards in the first weekend season two was released. That doesn’t seem like a big number, but that’s still a lot of folks who did nothing but watch HoC all weekend.

At what point is it socially acceptable to start talking about the monsters and aliens that take over Frank’s body and the White House (JK that doesn’t happen. OR DOES IT). Is two weeks enough time to even start talking about the first half? I’m always in awe of the folks who manage to avoid spoilers. I mean, it’s nearly impossible to not get spoiled these days. Merely watching other programs leads to getting spoiled on other shows (see: SNL sketch from Saturday about being Brave and the Breaking Bad finale). For me, with the nature of my job, I have to be on top of everything that happens in entertainment the minute it occurs, so usually, waiting to see a movie or watch a series finale months later is not an option. Bless the people who can live their lives without even the threat of being spoiled. But also, I am torn with the option of making season three last as long as possible. If I timed it as if I was watching a regular TV show, this experience could last me the next four-ish months! Maybe I’ll actually remember more details of what happens come season four when I can’t decide to binge or not to binge.

But right now, I am already more than halfway through this season of HOC, so I’m clearly opting to go the binge route and not be spoiled. I’ve backed myself into a corner of fitting as many HOC episodes I can in a day in order to beat the clock of spoils. Mr. Underwood has given me no choice BUT to binge – I guess television is like real life, isn’t it Frank?