Though the word only became a pervasive part of our lingo a few decades ago, spoilers have likely existed as long as entertainment of any form has been around (you missed “Oedipus the King” at the Dionysia? Dude! Queen Jocasta was his MOM!”). Avoiding them requires constant vigilance, sidestepping blabbermouths and, mostly, staying off the Internet. Of course, in this day and age that’s not unlike taking a vacation from breathing. With “Downton Abbey” airing first in the U.K., then three months later in the U.S. (season 3 premieres here Jan. 6), spoilers became like tribbles — turn your back, and another thousand popped up somehow, and not always where you expected them to be.
And speaking of spoilers, if you haven’t watched Season 2 (not Season 3, Season 2, so if you’re REALLY behind) for some reason, read no further. Yes, an article about spoilers has a spoiler alert. Fancy that.
After catching up on “Downton” via Netflix, I was eagerly looking forward to this season. Yes, season two was high on the suds quotient (Easy-fix paralysis! Mysterious burn victims! Will-they-or-won’t-they obstacles worthy of “General Hospital”!), but it didn’t matter. I wanted to see what happened to this upstairs-downstairs crew. I also wanted to see what happened via actual episodes. Spoilers were tempting, but I suspected that finding out what happened in nugget form would be temporarily exciting then a lingering disappointment. When you see what’s coming, it’s hard to judge whether the show has become thuddingly predictable or if you just know too much, too soon. Every subtle hint is broadcast at high volume, it seems, because
I didn’t mean to read the first spoiler.
In reading an article about “Downton,” I figured it was safe enough to scroll through the comments. The article was old, so I doubted anyone had added anything about Season 3. I figured wrong. There it was, a huge, ugly detail that I really, really didn’t want to know. I’d elaborate, but, you know, that would spoil it for you, too.
The second spoiler, well, for that I take a lot of the responsibility. It was hard to avoid, granted. Cast changes are news, headline news. To ignore them would require surfing the Internet with a blindfold, which wouldn’t be that satisfying and you’d likely spill coffee on your laptop. Anyway, I clicked, it’s true. Still, an article on a well-known news site put the spoiler alert right before the big, detailed plot reveal — then, just a handful of words later (maybe in the same line — I don’t have the heart to go back and check, as I’m trying to forget what I saw), it gave away a critical detail from the Season 3 Christmas episode — the very last episode of the season.
A spoiler for the premiere I could have lived with. But this just ticked me off to no end. Still, I learned an important lesson — the placing of spoiler alerts on the page is, sometimes, almost as important as giving them at all.
I’ll be recapping “Downton Abbey” this season, and will do my level best to keep spoilers out of the recaps — or give A LOT of warning. But until I finish watching the third season, I’ll have to remain wary of spoilers everywhere else. Fans like me will have to tiptoe through news stories, quickly scan headlines, squint through comments. It’s not fun. But I guess with great access to information comes spoilt endings and unwelcome revelations.
Of course, PBS could have shuffled its schedule to make sure episodes aired here at the same time as they did in the U.K. A hassle, sure, but when you have a breakout hit like “Downton,” isn’t it worth it? Apparently saving “Downton” for the relatively wide-open field of January ensured it didn’t get lost in the fall TV season shuffle, but it undermined the original intent of the show’s creators, who had security at location shoots to hold off paparazzi and eager fans looking for clues. Let’s hope that for season 4, PBS gets wise. Before I spill coffee on my computer.
So, which are you? A spoiler avoider or do you enjoy them? Do you think PBS should air episodes concurrent with the U.K.?