Paul Heinz

Original Fiction, Music and Essays

Filtering by Tag: Spoiler alert

Get to the End, Already

A friend of mine has an unusual (I’m avoiding the word I’d like to use) custom of reading the endings of books prior to starting them, thereby alleviating any unwanted tension in her life.  This perplexing habit contradicts my own insistence that endings of books, plays and movies not be divulged in any circumstances save for pacifying a blubbering child (“Honest, Sammy, E.T. is going to be just fine.”).  But I learned this week that there’s another exception to the rule.

Over the past several years, my wife and I have watched – or tried watching – a multitude of TV shows that we missed over the past decade and a half by not having cable.  Countless friends and family members said we “just have to see” this show or that show, and as our enjoyment of watching SNL and The Tonight Show kept diminishing because we didn’t understand any of the pop culture references (a cableless home has its disadvantages), we decided to catch up on various shows on Netflix.

We started with Six Feet Under and gave up after a season.  Weeds?  We lasted maybe half a season.  Mad Men?  We found it depressing and mean-spirited, which seems to be a trend in critically acclaimed cable TV shows these days.  The meaner it is, the better the critiques.  Downton Abbey:  yeah, sure, it’s well done, but it’s basically a soap opera, and I kept hoping that Luke and Laura would make an appearance to spice things up a bit.

But then we heard about Breaking Bad.  Surely this must be a show worth watching.  After all, everybody and their mother was talking about it, and I heard that even Charlie Rose was in the finale.  It had to be good!

Somehow my wife and I managed the impossible and went into the series completely ignorant about the subject matter except that it involved a meth lab.  And sure enough, after trudging through the first season and a half of unsympathetic characters, blood, murder and the unseemly underbelly of American society, I didn’t care one iota about Walt and his foray into meth production.   We’d finish a show – always expertly done – and feel kind of…assaulted, similar to how I felt after watching The Silence of the Lambs way back in ’91.

But here’s the thing: I watch TV to be entertained, not assaulted.   I guess I prefer laughing to ridiculous jokes on Scrubs than I do watching a man choke another man with a chain.  Call me crazy.

But I still felt like I needed to know the ending to Breaking Bad.  I mean, I knew what was going to happen: Walt had a terminal illness, for crying out loud.  One way or another he was !!!SPOILER ALERT!!! going to die.  But I kind of wanted to see Charlie Rose (does Charlie start doing meth?  Does he end up being murdered?), so, breaking the rule, I did what I had to do: I skipped half of season two and all of season three, four and five, and went straight to the second last episode.  Sure, there were characters I didn’t know, plot lines I had to catch up on, but I was able to follow things pretty well, and in the end, none of it really mattered anyhow.  I mean, Walt did in fact !!!SPOILER ALERT!!! die.

And now with the hours and hours of my life that I saved by not watching Breaking Bad I can watch reruns of Cheers and Scrubs.  Sure, I know the endings of those shows too, but unlike Breaking Bad, at least I’ll have a few laughs along the way.

Hmmm.  Maybe my friend who reads the endings to books first isn’t so far off the mark after all.

The Phrase "Spoiler Alert."

The invention of the phrase “spoiler alert” has got to be one Man’s greatest linguistic contributions over the last decade or so.  Philip B. Corbet of The New York Times has rightly pointed out how overused the phrase has become, and how it’s often used incorrectly, but for my money, overuse is preferable to the alternative.

I think of the woman who came to my home in 2002, and who – after eating our food – thanked us by divulging the ending of the movie, The Others.

I will do for you what she didn’t do for me.


She opened up that pouty little mouth of hers and spewed out, “I couldn’t believe it when I learned her children were dead.”

She is very, very lucky that I didn’t resort to the following (or worse): 

After her egregious case of vomit of the mouth, it didn’t matter to me if she was smart or pretty, if she’d overcome obstacles in her life or helped the needy.  I couldn’t possibly care less if she gave twenty percent of her earnings to charity or if she was raising three perfect little angels.  None of that shit mattered to me.  What mattered is she opened her mouth and ruined the ending of a movie I was excited to see.  Yeah, the film had already left theaters and moved into video stores, but to me, there is no statute of limitations when it comes to revealing secrets about a piece of art.

I still haven’t told my kids about the ending of Psycho.  I’ll never divulge the meaning of Rosebud, whether or not Thorwald really murders his wife, and where the quarter of a million dollars is hidden in the movie Charade.  That’s for them to discover.  And I sure as heck won’t mention a word about The Sixth Sense.  Sure, I could try to ease my kids’ anxiety and mention !!!SPOILER ALERT!!! that the ghosts are actually trying to help, that they’re good guys (never mind the movie’s Big Secret).  I resorted to this tactic when my kids were younger watching E.T. for the first time.  !!!SPOILER ALERT!!! “The bad guys are actually good guys,” I said, attempting to alleviate their trepidation, but I’ll never do this again.  It kills the journey.

Some people just don’t get it, including – unfortunately – much of my family.  Last summer my sister-in-law blurted out the secret behind the musical, Next to Normal, the same day my daughter was to see it.  And just last month, my mother, in response to an email of mine indicating that I wanted to see the movie Enough Said, wrote the following email !!!SPOILER ALERT!!!:

I fell in love with the Soprano guy, what an appealing person.  Was Julia's character vulnerable, screwed up, or just terribly unkind?

Yep.  So now I know the ending of that movie, too.  Thanks, Mom.

I think when it comes to discussing books, films and theater, we could look to my sister for guidance.  Her advice for living in a world in which the excretion of opinions is as commonplace as breathing is this:

Shut your trap.

Copyright, 2017, Paul Heinz, All Right Reserved