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We’re going to talk about “Succession” [WITHOUT ANY SPOILER]

This Monday, April 10, after an Easter weekend already marked by a heavy tragedy (the breakup of Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn), the internet began to shudder around an event of global magnitude: the broadcast of the last episode of Succession“Connor’s Wedding”.

Succession, whose repetitive and perfectly rehearsed formula is based on murderous lines and moments of discomfort, has never been a series particularly focused on twists. With few exceptions, its episodes are unlikely to be truly spoiled. But now, “Connor’s Wedding” is one of the exceptions. Then what had to happen happened.

Suddenly the internet was swarming with spoilers. The waters of Twitter turned to blood. Boils began to grow on our cell phones. Like swarms of digital grasshoppers, the American media flooded social networks with dozens of articles shamelessly revealing the forbidden twist. Some Americans started calling people who hadn’t watched the episode right when it first aired on the East Coast “bad fans” – forgetting that we don’t all live in the same time zone, and also that some of us have things to do on Monday mornings. The world plunged into darkness and in the end, only HBO reigned supreme.

Release yourself and accept the spoiler

Etymologically, the Anglicism “spoiler” (v., infinitive) means “to spoil”. For the movies and the series, it’s more specifically about spoiling someone’s viewing experience. In recent years, the term has become synonymous with “revealing a central plot point”, then, gradually, “talking about any information concerning any episode of a series, even old, of which someone ‘one would not have seen all the episodes yet’. With clowns and inflation, spoilers have become one of the greatest sources of angst of our time.

However, we must face the facts: this frenetic phobia has reached an untenable scale. In proposing this column to Slate’s managing editor, his response was: “Hush. I haven’t seen yet. I don’t read your message.” The fear camp won.

To guard against the terrible scourge of the spoiler, there are a few solutions. The simplest being to hide all dangerous words on twitter, until you’ve seen the episode. A practical trick, but far from being infallible. I allow myself then to propose another: self-spoiler. Join the ranks of those who roll around in the spoils and drink in divulgâchis. Embrace the spoiler, look him straight in the eye, and tell him you won’t be scared anymore.

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It is well known: information is power. The more we know, the better. Of course, the shock of an unforeseen narrative twist can elicit a most pleasurable sensory tingle. But there’s a reason why even after many viewings, “Les Pluies de Castamere” (another series installment centered around… uh… no nothing) remains the best episode of Game Of Thrones.

What made it a monumental moment of television was not only the effect of collective surprise, admittedly euphoric – thousands of readers of the saga already knew what to expect for a long time. It was also and above all the perfect execution of the episode, from its writing to its cutting, passing through the performance of the actors or the music… This is also the reason why each new viewing of the finale of The Americans makes me cry even more than the previous one: knowing where the story is heading can also be very powerful.

This image contains no spoilers. | WatchMojo English through YouTube

A friend who lived in the United States once spoiled me a tragic death of Game Of Thrones just a few minutes before I saw the episode – the episode for which I had set a 6am alarm clock. I still have a painful memory. But after the tears and the screams, I decided that I couldn’t live like this anymore. I understood that spoilers, like death, were inevitable. So just accept them.

Having the immense privilege of discovering many series and films before their release, I can testify to the incredible pleasure there is in discovering a work while being virgin of everything. But applying this criterion to a collective viewing experience is unrealistic. The battle against spoilers is lost in advance. As with fidelity, no one has ever managed to agree on the rules. And as with infidelity, we may hope that it does not affect us directly, it will still continue to exist.

Knowing in advance what twists an episode has in store for us means giving up immediate pleasure to devote ourselves to lasting pleasure. It’s being able to revel knowingly in every decision the creative team makes to put their plan into action. Savoring the warning signs, reading each look and each word differently. It is to sacrifice the surprise, but open to analysis. Free yourself and accept the spoiler: this is my program.

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The real problem: the hype

Well, okay, I’m being a little bit of a hypocrite. Because I myself was very disappointed not to be surprised by this episode of Succession. But it wasn’t really because I had been spoiled (which I would have thought better). It’s because I sensed this twist more and more strongly, and so it didn’t create the powerful shock in me that it seems to have had on very many viewers. So I come to my second point.

The worst thing is not knowing in advance what will happen in an episode (oh sweet release). The worst thing is to suffer the hype of Twitter. It is currently impossible to discover any cultural work without breaking away from this cursed hype, the one that accompanies the major releases of films, series or albums.

“Everyone says it’s great, I don’t understand the craze” has become an increasingly common reaction. And on the internet as around the coffee machine, it is essential to react both to the work itself and to its reception online. Admittedly, this phenomenon has always existed (I believe that the hype was already very present in the era of The Exorcist or that of Blair Witch). But this is now amplified by the immediacy of social networks, and unless you are always the first to discover a work, it inevitably colors our appreciation.

This tweet contains no spoilers.

What ruined my viewing experience the most was not knowing what was going on there, but having inflated expectations. It is the fact that the few journalists who had access to this episode before the others had been saying for several weeks that this component, specifically, was going to be very shocking. Between that and the fact that the rest of the journalists had been denied access to this specific episode, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to guess what could be at stake. Instead of discovering the episode blind or going into it knowing exactly what I was going to find there, I was therefore stuck in a deadly anticipation: will the plot correspond or not to what I think I guessed?

When monoculture gives way to single-mindedness

The tipping point arguably came in 2016, with increasingly strong and sterile opposition between Moonlight And La La Landtwo serious candidates for the Best Picture Oscar. Loving both with as much ardor had become an impossibility: it was necessary to compare them, to classify them, to choose sides.

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On social networks, temple of shortened statements, the sense of proportion has since disappeared as quickly as our social achievements. It is no longer a question of saying that an episode of a series is excellent, but of proclaiming it, just a few minutes or hours after its broadcast, as the BEST episode of this series or even the BEST episode of ALL THE SERIES. Succession having become the BEST series that has ever existed. This was the case a few months ago with episode 3 of The Last of Usand this week with that of Succession.

People have a short memory. Game Of Thrones repeatedly made TV history with shocking and heartbreaking deaths, just like TheWire And The Sopranos. buffy the vampire slayer achieved, with “The Body”, what is still the most beautiful episode of television on the sudden death of a loved one. And The Leftovers has, each week of its broadcast, found new ways to explore the impact of grief and trauma.

The excellent “Connor’s Wedding” will certainly be a landmark, for its importance in the plot of Succession and for the quality of its execution. But maybe we could do a few breathing exercises before calling it the best series episode of all time. In the end, the obsession with spoilers and the hype have an identical result: to stifle any possibility of nuanced communication on a work.

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