I am going to preface this piece of writing with not a spoiler warning but an assertion marred by bluntness. The television shows Lost and Breaking Bad are going to be utterly spoiled in the upcoming paragraphs. If that statement just made you quickly scramble to turn the page so you did not grab a glimpse at the rest of this article in a frenzy to shield yourself fromany spoilers, I encourage you to keep reading and embrace the spoilage.
This past summer I, like seemingly every other mass media engulfed college kid, went on unhealthy rampages of binge watching television shows on my laptop. While maybe detrimental to my ability to socially operate amongst my peers, it was cussing fantastic. Wake up, turn on Breaking Bad. Lunch? A perfect excuse to eat and be entertained by another episode of, yes, Breaking Bad. You know I would not dare go to bed without good ole Walt White doing something on screen to ensure that I would have nightmares all night. After just over a month of grueling, eye-straining monitor watching, I showed up to school with only a few episodes on which to get caught up. Finally, as the finale approached as the only episode left unaired, I said, “Homework…you’re taking a necessary backseat to something people actually care about.”
I could not believe how fortunate I was. The first live episode I would get to see would be the crucial series finale. As I meandered my way down to the Joss MPR, the site was exquisitely wonderful. A group of thirty people gathered to communally experience a defining pop culture event together, and boy did we experience it. My unbelievably clutch friend, Sam, brought down huge speakers, to roaring applause, to make sure everyone in the dorm could hear that haunting theme song for one last time. People freaked out and said some of the most expletive laden demands that I have ever heard at anyone who simply opened the door, making the smallest of interrupting noises. It was everything that I seemed to have missed out on in my state of solitude. Then it ended. Walt White, the character I had spent hours following around, laughing at, being frightened by, died. To my surprise, my reaction was bland. Instead of sitting in a state of overwhelming breathlessness, I simply wiped my hands, sat up and had no problem with wobbly knees as I made my way back to my room. Even more shocking, everyone else appeared to be on the same wavelength. I could not help but take a step back and compare previous series finales, and I, sadly, noted our blunder.
People, we are doing it wrong. Breaking Bad is one of the greatest television shows of all time, but I believe that, while not the religious watchers who followed the show since its inception, most of us hindered our viewing experience. The comparison and contrast for me comes in the form of Lost. The number of seasons, absolute obsessive fan base and endless number of theories as to how they would end were some of the similar attributes that made these shows relatable. I remember watching the first episode of Lost. They played it twice in a row on opening night, and after coming home late from a night of playing baseball, I caught the encore. Every week after that I tuned into my dose of Lost. If a doctor checked my weekly heart rate, he or she would wonder why there was always a blip in my heart speed exponentially increasing on Wednesday nights. The thrills that would be built up were unsurmountable, and then just as something would be revealed, like most shows…commercial. I waited, watching those Tide ads closely just so I would not miss the smallest millisecond of my favorite show. Episodes were great, yes, but looking at the show in seasons provided a completely different joy. My high school freshman science teacher luckily happened to be just as big of a fan of the show as me. Wanting to know and unable to hold himself back, he put work aside during the last ten minutes of class, and he and I would gently force the class to indulge with us in Lost theories online. It was the perfect filler to create a tortuous dialogue between Lost fans when the show was not airing. Tortuous is putting it lightly, too. Besides that one breathtaking girl whom I fumbled my words to when I asked her out to coffee, I never wanted anything more than to know how Lost ended. May 23, 2010, I got my wish, (the finale, not the girl). Just like with Breaking Bad, I had to end this series by watching the main character die over a heart-aching score. However, unlike with Breaking Bad, what came to follow was a complete hurricane. I was sobbing as I let years of mesmerization and tantalization take over my body. I rewound the video twenty minutes back and repeated my process of weeping. Clips of people watching the finale followed the airing, and to no surprise, all of them were joining me in a therapeutic cry session.
Now, back to Breaking Bad. How many people were crying? Granted, it was a small pool, but there is still something to be had. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in that room who did not participate in the art of binge watching at some point. None of us had to wait through a commercial to find out the fate of Hank.
None of us had to wait months for the show to finally return. Heck, we even watched the majority of the show on a minuscule screen. The show was handed to us on a smorgasbord as a means of taking in the story without experiencing the emotion. Therefore, what is the point of binge watching anything now besides being able to assimilate into pop culture? The participation in binge watching has allowed the audience to become a drone of media excess and consumption as opposed to what any writer would want for their fans: someone who does not just view, but experience.