This Friday, which happens to be Valentine’s Day, Netflix will push all 13 Season 2 House of Cards episodes to its servers. As with all V-Days, this timing is either awesome or frustrating depending on your relationship status. Furthermore, due to this give-them-everything model of release, the collective pop culture conversation surrounding Frank Underwood’s rowing technique is going to be immediately scattered and disorganized. Some people will finish Season 2 late Friday night, hollow-eyed and breathless, while others won’t be witnessing the fictional collapse of our nation’s government until long after the anniversary and subsequent fireworks celebrating its independence.
That’s not such a terrible thing, because it makes the experience more personal, but it does mean we’re all on the same playing field for just one more day. As such, it makes sense to take advantage of that while we can—and what better way to do so than predict the inevitable phases of our respective viewing binges? Binge culture certainly has its wide spectrum of commitment levels, ranging from your standard Freddy Armstrong type (cool, calm, smoke-some-ribs-all-weekend-between-episodes pace), and the obvious Zoe Barnes sort (relentless, overachieving, more-than-a-little-annoying pace). For all intents and purposes though, let’s say you fall somewhere in between. Here’s what you’re going to go through (LIFE SPOILERS):
You get home from work Friday night and can’t wait to watch the first episode, but you realize you don’t have time before you’re supposed to meet up with your friends for drinks. The battle between FOMO and TV superiority is real, but FOMO wins out. You end up watching the first episode with your roommates the next morning, hungover. You throw up after.
You check Facebook and see your co-worker Steve has posted something along the lines of “HOLY SHIT wait till you get to episode 7 of House of Cards!!!” This is infuriating on a number of levels. While your roommates leave to enjoy the beautiful Saturday weather, you watch episode 2, muttering “fucking Steve” as the opening sequence fires up.
It’s Presidents Day weekend, so you aren’t able to watch another episode until Monday night instead of Sunday. You try to do so on the living room through your smart TV’s Netflix app, but the roommates cry foul. They haven’t seen episode 2 yet. You’ll have to go to your room and deal with the spotty Internet connection in there. You catch a break and the episode doesn’t buffer once.
The real binging begins. You get 100% lost in this episode and can’t believe it’s been almost an hour when it ends. You don’t even wait the standard 15-20 seconds for the next episode to start. Let’s do this.
Major cliffhanger at the end of this one. You look at the clock. 1:45am. Have to wake up in six hours for work. The internal crisis that ensues for the next ten seconds is excruciating, but eventually you close your laptop and turn off the light. It takes you 52 minutes to fall asleep.
Cradling your fourth cup of coffee of the day, you suddenly realize you’ve spent the whole morning staring at the wall of your cubicle. You can’t believe cubicles are still even a thing. After lunch Steve rolls by your desk and you can just feel his overbearing exuberance before he says a word. “I finished House of Cards last night!” he chirps. “That Frank! Can you believe it?” You clench your coffee mug and strongly consider throwing its contents directly onto his pink Oxford shirt. That night you’re about to crash at 9pm, but you force yourself to stay awake for just one episode.
The next day at work you overhear Steve and another co-worker, Phoebe, talking about the show’s “shocking conclusion” in the kitchen. Dangerously close to having it all spoiled, you plug your fingers in your ears, scream loudly, and run out of the kitchen back to your desk. You pledge to watch three episodes that very night, embarrassed Phoebe finished before you. She has kids, for christ’s sake.
That night, after episode 7, you immediately fire up episode 8 and 15 minutes into it your roommate blows a fuse by simultaneously making a fried chicken Hungry Man TV dinner in the microwave, a quesadilla in the toaster oven, and tea with the electric water boiler. Since the kitchen is adjacent to the living room, this shuts off the TV and you respond by hiding his weed and retreating into your room to finish the episode on your computer.
You hate watching part of an episode of TV and having to finish it later, but you decide to do just that on the train to work. You get about halfway through it before realizing you missed your stop. After work, you have to meet up with your parents for dinner. You end up getting home pretty late, so you finish just that episode and call it a night.
It’s Friday, which means it’s been a week since Season 2 debuted. You’re more than a little miffed you haven’t finished yet, but starting to realize you should savor the ride. Confidently, you brag to Steve about having four episodes left and the fact that he has none. Steve laughs and retorts “Twitter’s going wild about the finale.” Phoebe walks by and nods her head knowingly. You scowl and duck out of work early to watch an episode before meeting up with your friends for the night.
The weekend was a blast, but you had to dodge several conversations at bars and generally just wished this burden would be lifted off of you already. Sunday morning you wake up and watch an episode in bed before anyone can bother you.
You know you’ve been in this place before. If you consume the penultimate chapter of anything compelling, be it a book, a movie, a TV show, or a flamin’ hot cheeto, you have to finish the last one immediately after if it’s available. You head to the park to hang out with your friends, pledging to leave two hours that night for you and only you. And Frank. Obviously, you get peer pressured into Sunday Funday drinking festivities, get home after dinner, climb into bed and set an alarm to wake up at 8pm to watch the final two episodes. You alarm goes off at 8….am the next day. Swearing loudly, you rush to get ready and go to work. Steve asks you the second you walk in if you finished. The day goes by slower than is humanly possible and you go straight to your room when you get home to watch.
Glory. Sweet glory. You flow seamlessly from 12 to 13 and are completely uninterrupted for the whole thing. Something like but not necessarily Frank’s exposure as a murderer happens and the fallout is epic. The next morning you stroll into work excited to talk to Steve about the finale. He seems oddly disinterested before mentioning that Twitter’s blowing up about an advance online premiere of The Americans Season 2.