Netflix’s new money heist series Kaleidoscope has a unique gimmick: its episodes are designed to be watched in any order, as long as “White” is watched last, and in order to facilitate this non-linear watching experience, Netflix itself is feeding episodes to viewers with “individually randomized episode orders.”
We all know that Netflix feeds “personalized artwork” to its members in an effort to reveal why a specific show or movie might be of interest to a specific viewer — for a queer human like me, it tends to emphasize lesbian couples or characters in various shows and movies.
But is Netflix pulling a similar strategy when choosing which episode of Kaleidoscope to deliver to various audiences, pulling us in with a scene that suggests the show has queer elements when in fact it does not?
I began asking myself this question when I fired up Kaleidoscope on January 2nd and, following the one-minute “Black” episode (which plays first for everybody), I was consequently shown “Yellow,” which begins with one of our protagonists, Hannah Kim, doing what turns out to be a covert mission intended to test a company’s security by initiating a relationship with a female employee of said company.
Seven hours of Kaleidoscope later, I safely concluded that those two minutes were all the queer content the series had for me and that Hannah herself was not queer.
A commenter on my monthly streaming guide was seemingly also fed “Yellow” first, which got me thinking… is Netflix trying to draw in queer viewers by showing us the episode with a deceptively queer initial two minutes? What does “individually randomized” actually mean — is it truly “random” for each individual or is each individual fed episodes in a deliberate order to pull them into the show based on their past viewing habits? If so, like the victim of a diamond heist, I feel robbed but also have no choice but to respect the master manipulators for the deftness of the con.
I decided to take my inquiry to the TV Channel in our team slack. I asked them to turn on Kaleidoscope and see which episode Netflix fed them first.
Kayla: Green 4 me
Carmen: Ok I got Yellow
Kayla: Worried [my partner] Kristen’s crime programs are throwing off my algo lol
Shelli: ok I got yellow too!
is yellow hot black people
that is my lane
Carmen: Shelli I just laughed so hard, I fell out of my chair
Nico Hall: yellow lol
Shelli: RIESE I BELIEVE YOUR THEORY IS CORRECT
Kayla: Omfg I’m blaming Kristen
Riese: Yes yellow !! Is the one I am suspecting they are showing the gays first
Shelli: OMG ITS SO RIGHT
Nico Hall: Kayla I am so sorry you are not in Club Yello
Shelli: LOL NOT YOU CRACKING THE CODE LOLK
Kayla: Let me see what’s in the damn recently watched I’m bout to make my own profile
Nico Hall: idk man [my partner] Sadie watches a lot of like Forged in Fire and stuff
which is probably a gay move
Kayla: Oh hm all Kristen’s crime shows are on paramount plus
Whoops I watched all the Christmas episodes of Gilmore Girls the straightest show on earth
The problem is me
Nico Hall: i can’t believe that when i go back to watch it best part will be over in first 2 minutes
Kayla: Yeah this is funny if it were made BY queers they would know to put the queer shit near the end to trick queer ppl into watching the whole thing bc that’s what we do we watch for scraps
Nico Hall: totally
Shelli: lol im dead kayla lol
Nic: ooooo I got green
Riese: interesting interesting
Valerie: I got yellow too!
I was sad to learn I wouldn’t get to choose my color path so being part of this experiment brought me joy, thank you
Drew: I got yellow too
Kayla: ok so Nic and I are the only ones who got green?!
Nic what do we both watch that threw ours off lol
Nic: great question! let’s seeeee
Kayla: i’m scrolling through my recents and so much of it is gay!
Nico Hall: curious if green is like Gay Option 2: and you all get yellow as your second ep
Nic: ooo i do have harry and meghan on here
Kayla: ahahahaha maybe that did it
So that’s six yellows and two greens amongst this small sample size. So my friends, I now turn to you: which episode is Netflix showing YOU first?
Update 1/5/2022: It appears that people are beginning to suspect that Netflix isn’t actually feeding the episodes in a “random” order to anyone because nobody is being fed Pink or Red first:
This is a bittersweet discovery. While this interference means no one will have the characters’ fates spoiled for them if they stick to the provided viewing order, it also means the much-ballyhooed “random order” isn’t exactly as random as first thought.