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Netflix, ‘Daredevil’, and the problem with binge-watching culture

Don’t worry; this is a spoiler-free discussion of Daredevil and TV shows in general. 

Like most everyone on the planet (except for Rob), I binge-watched Daredevil’s second season over the weekend. I’m not really one for binge-watching TV shows, mostly because I have other things to do and, if it’s a show I like, I prefer to give the show my full attention. Buuuuuuuut I caved when it came to Daredevil because 1. I loved the first season and 2. I didn’t want to be spoiled on Twitter or Facebook. (A major death had been spoiled for me last season, so I didn’t want a repeat this time around.)

After going through the series so quickly, ultimately I’m left with the opinion that I mostly enjoyed Netflix’s most recent venture into the Marvel realm. Daredevil still boasts the best choreographed fight scenes on television, but the slower scenes felt subpar when compared to season one and the other Marvel series on Netflix, Jessica Jones. Elektra felt pigeon-holed into something uncomfortable, Daredevil was an asshole, scenes were dragged on for too long, and so on and so on. Sitting alone on my couch with a tub of cheese puffs, I was incredibly vocal about my dislike for some of the decisions made for the show. Yet, despite my reservations and growing annoyance, an odd thing happened: I kept watching. I mean, I’d already started, all the episodes were there, why not give the show the benefit of the doubt and see it through to the end?

Instead of focusing on the things that bothered me about the show, instead of having a week or more to break down inconsistencies and flawed character development, I simply plowed onward; a luxury not afforded to network TV and the poor shows I rail on week to week. If you follow any of my TV show articles (ahem, like the ones about Legends of Tomorrow), you’ll know that I can be a very critical person, especially when it comes to the media I consume. Heck, I gave up on Constantine after two episodes because I didn’t feel like the story was up to snuff and I didn’t care about the main character. Unfortunately for the show and fanbase, I wasn’t the only one who quit. Legends made it to six episodes before I threw in the towel and decided if I wanted to finish, I’d wait for the entire season to air.

As viewers, there is so much for us to watch, available right at our fingertips, why wait ten, fifteen, twenty weeks for a show to finish when Netflix gives me the entire thing all at once? Even if it’s bad or not “as good”, I can still finish and wash my hands of it. As a reviewer, it’s my job to pick apart every minute of TV I watch because I have to wait another seven days until I can scratch that itch again. If a show starts to lull, I dump it in favor of one that excites me every week, one that ticks all my boxes, and probably stars someone like OH, I dunno, Hayley Atwell. (Hey, boo.)

I don’t think this trend is relegated to just television, either. I remember when I first picked up the Ms. Marvel reboot by G. Willow Wilson and how critical I was of its introduction. “WHAT. THE. YOU FINALLY GIVE A YOUNG MUSLIM GIRL A LEAD ROLE AND HER SUPERPOWER TURNS HER INTO A BLONDE WHITE GIRL. SOMEONE GET ME THE PRESIDENT.” Of course, that wasn’t actually the case with Ms. Marvel but with the way comic book issues are written, one month apart, I had to wait 2 months for the big “I love me as me” reveal. If I wasn’t the giant Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel fangirl that I am, I might not have stuck with the series. (And that’d be a damn shame because Ms. Marvel is one of the best series right now.)

My point is, I was way more critical about the comics I bought individual issues for than the ones I bought in trade paperback. In TV land, I sang from the rooftops about how good Daredevil season one and Jessica Jones were, and I rushed through Amazon’s Transparent, a show I might not have finished on cable, but my goodness am I HORRIBLE when it comes to judging Arrow and The Flash on a weekly basis. (Obviously DD and JJ are vastly superior to Arrow and Flash, but I could be a smidgen more forgiving than I am.)

And that’s the thing: it’s wholly unfair for me to compare a finished season of Daredevil to a half-finished season of Arrow. I’ve seen the payoff for Daredevil but six months have gone by and I still don’t know who’s in that damn Arrow grave. I shouldn’t compare the two, but alas, I still do, and almost always, the show I binged comes out on top.

This bias towards binged media is why I’m so afraid that cable companies might move to the Netflix/Amazon approach and release all episodes simultaneously. If, for instance, The CW had dropped all of Arrow season 4 on our laps, would I have criticized the stupid grave storytelling device (I really hate that stupid grave) and how there aren’t any consequences for Team Arrow’s actions? Maybe, but probably not, because I would have been too focused on speeding through the episodes so I could write a review on the series as a whole, and more importantly, so I could avoid spoilers.

It’s not that I don’t want all my media dropped on my doorstep instantaneously. I am definitely too impatient for all that. If given the choice between having my media all at once or waiting for weeks through arbitrary network breaks, I will always always always choose the former. My problem comes from the fact that if we’re given the media all at once, it seems we’re less critical of the media we consume, we’re less passionate about its arrival and thus it’s ongoing status. We consume, we give it 15 minutes, and then we move on. And that’s a depressing thought to me that there might not be a time where we’re all eagerly speculating what happens in the season finale of a beloved TV show. If we aren’t even enjoying the media we consume and instead speed through it to get the gist, avoid spoilers, tweet, and move on, what’s even the point of watching at all?

About Jen Stayrook

Jen Stayrook
Don't let the fancy nerd duds deceive you; Jen’s never been described as “classy.” You can find her on Twitter where she stalks all of her favorite celebrities: @jenstayrook. Or you can find her on Steam or Xbox dying in every game she plays as "Rilna." Email: jen.stayrook@theworkprint.com

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