In just a few short hours, “Orange Is the New Black” is releasing its second season on Netflix. And when I say that its releasing a season, I mean it. The entire second season of OITNB will be online at midnight tonight (6/6/2014), and the dedicated fans will commence their binge-watching right then.
While this may seem like a TV addict’s dream — no weeklong waiting periods between episodes, quick cliffhanger resolutions, immediate gratification — it’s my nightmare! I’ve already experienced this “Netflix Dump” style of release with season 4 of “Arrested Development” and season 2 of “House of Cards,” and both of those nights were some of the most overwhelming of my TV life.
The problem, put simply, is that it’s just too much! Giving me 14 or so episodes of a show I’m obsessed with (as I am with all 3 of these examples) at one time is like giving a recovering smoker with lung disease a Cuban cigar instead of her usual nicotine patch — I’m overjoyed but I’ll probably die.
What makes the Netflix Dump extra overwhelming is social media. It’s the feeling that if you want to avoid spoilers, you’re going to have to get through this season as fast as you can. Sleeping!? Forget about it! You’re only 3 episodes away from the finale! And it’s not just spoiler avoidance that make social media such a daunting force in this method — it’s also a need to participate. Sometimes the best part about watching an episode of your favorite show is to post about it online. If you see your friends tweeting back and forth about that thing that happened on episode 10 and your still on episode 5, you better believe you’re going to drop all your plans to get there and tweet back at them.
This also adds a “challenge” aspect to the Netflix Dump. As if finishing the season is a race, so that you can be sure that you’re the first to know all about it. The worst part is that it’s a race you didn’t sign up for, but feel forced into. And it makes you feel bad if you stop watching before you finish the season.
Finally, although tweeting and posting and blogging are some of the main reasons you probably want to rush through the new season, in the end it leaves you with only a few things to talk about. With weekly shows, you’re forced to take the 20 or 40 minute episode you’re given and have that sustain you all week. You dissect small lines, analyze expressions, and maybe read episode recaps that various media outlets post weekly. But you aren’t forced to stop between episodes of a season that’s been Netflix Dumped. You blaze right through and if you talk to someone else who’s seen the whole thing, you’ll probably talk about 5 or so big things that happened in the season, rather than in each episode. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I feel like I’m missing something (a lot of things) because of this.
Of course, this isn’t to say that I’m going to be waiting a week between each new OITNB episode — I don’t have the self-control for that. I’ll be binging on Piper’s delicious drama just like everyone else, but I’ll be wishing I was waiting between bites.