Last night, a very popular television show ended. A lot of people watched the Breaking Bad finale live, but maybe you didn’t — because you had a family obligation, or are a huge Falcons fan, or just wanted to use the power of the DVR to skip commercials. Maybe you’re still on season three and were planning to watch it when you’re all caught up. You thought you would be safe: Most people know not to tweet obvious plot points, and you installed that little Netflix spoiler-blocking app just in case. You’d have to skip a lot of social media for a day or two, but frankly, you were looking forward to the break. (Enough with the Miley jokes, everyone.) It was going to be fine! We have a spoiler agreement as a society! No one would dare tweet who died and lived!
Lol, just kidding. The Breaking Bad finale got spoiled immediately, in all sorts of ways, for every single person who has even a casual relationship with media in 2013. (And, ironic warning here: Spoilers follow.) Some of the spoilers were egregious: Entertainment Weekly thought it would be a good idea to just tweet out plot points — like, seriously, “Walt also took a bullet” — as if someone trapped at a knitting convention with his grandmother would rather read a play-by-play recap instead of watching it at home. Everyone was mad about that, and with good reason. (Though it’s worth noting that the expression of said anger probably spoiled the show for some others who never even followed EW in the first place.) Meanwhile, the New York Daily News went old-school, treating the big reveal like a sports score and splashing it across the front page, “GIANTS LOSE (AGAIN)” style: “‘BREAKING’ DEAD: Walt meets bloody end in series finale: Page 3.” If you were saving the finale for another night and happened to walk by a newsstand, then yeah, you got screwed. But the reasoning behind this one makes a little more sense: Because so many people were watching the finale in real time, like an awards show or a major sporting event, the ending became time-sensitive news.
Which is the major problem with avoiding spoilers in 2013: A lot of the audience isn’t trying to. For all of the talk about DVRs and segmented viewing and death of the monoculture, we still really enjoy a Television Event. Everyone wants a viewing community, with hundreds of recaps and GIFs and witty jokes to make us feel like we’re not alone on the couch. So when an opportunity like the Breaking Bad finale presents itself, the community goes hog-wild. That is not going to change anytime soon, and unless you’re one of the sad souls stuck on season three, it’s actually kind of fun. So just think of television finales like the Super Bowl: You’re either going to watch with everyone, or you’re going to hear about it all week from everyone else. Acceptance is the first step to not being so angry all the time.