Monday, May 4, 2009

No Surprises

We can't keep anything secret anymore.

Cambria and I have been watching Battlestar Galactica recently, and Wikipedia has been a huge problem. I'm an inveterate completionist when it comes to understanding and interpreting what I've just watched, so I'm in the habit of, at the end of an episode, searching out recaps online. This works best for movies--they're self-contained and have no plot details beyond what I've already seen.

But BATTLESTAR. The plot is overlaid and intricate--you have to pay attention lest you miss something important, so recaps help fill some of the gaps. For the first few episodes, Wikipedia was a big help, cataloguing (in its obsessive way) all the important details of each episode. That is, until it COMPLETELY TOOLS ON YOU.

Take this sample recap, exaggerated slightly for dramatic effect:

"This episode, the second season's finale, establishes the relationship between Character X and Character Y, which is important later on in the SERIES FINALE, when they both KILLL ONE ANOTHER, and also EVERYONE ELSE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIES. Would you like to know what ELSE HAPPENS in every episode you haven't seen yet?"

There will also be a picture of Character Y with one less eye or arm or whatever than you last saw him with. You get tooled on both visually and textually.

This is a bit of a change from previous years. My thirst for knowing all that happened was denied in the pre-Internet TV-watching age. It was tough to follow up on an episode you missed, and if the series changed its airtime, you might lose your place entirely. For the longest time, I didn't know when new seasons of Quantum Leap started, so I was stuck watching the occasional disconnected re-run. Did Dr. Sam Beckett ever make it home?* The hell if I knew.

*SPOILER ALERT (Highlight this to reveal all): Nope

If you're even remotely connected to pop culture, avoiding spoilers becomes a child's game of "La la la, I can't hear you!" Friends of mine who had caught up on the series early on posted gushing Facebook updates immediately following Battlestar's finale, so I had to avoid the news feed for a few days. I couldn't read interviews with the cast, lest they reveal an important plot point. The Onion posted a story entitled "Obama Distant, Depressed Following Battlestar Finale"*. Tuesday Morning Quarterback, a lengthy column by Gregg Easterbrook ostensibly about football, posted a lengthy dissertation on the show's end right in the middle of a draft column. All media seemed driven to drive every detail of the show's dramatic final season into my brain before I'd even decided to watch the show.


I've had to institute a strict regimen of avoidance--every time I even see the words Battlestar Galactica in a story, I stop reading by "-tica". It's an exercise in discipline that is somewhat straining. Who knew watching a show would be so much damned work?

That's not to say one can avoid spoilers completely. The list of movies that I've seen is much, much smaller than the list of movies I know the endings to. Look, there are some movies that I'm just not all that interested in wasting two hours watching. I just want to know how they end. The same goes for television shows--I'll probably never watch Twin Peaks or Six Feet Under, 'cause I don't have the time and all, but they're interesting enough and important enough that I feel the need to possess the knowledge.

I just don't get the experience. That's what I'm trying to preserve here, as Cambria and I finish out the last season of what's proven to be an exceptional TV series. It's the difference between reading about a meteor shower and seeing a space rock, flaming and doomed as it comes to pieces in the atmosphere.

1 comment:

Mike said...

So true. It's hard to ever talk about the show in person within a group. Becuase there's always someone either in the middle of watching the show or about to start it from the begininng.