The best television is serial television, and the best serial television is magic, as HBO’s Succession just proved with its incredible finale. Going into the highly anticipated end of season 3 (panned by some as a retread of season 1), all eyes were on Kendall (Jeremy Strong). Deprived in the first episode of the titular promise, Kendall has spent the series doing everything to replace his father, Logan Roy (Brian Cox), as head of the family media empire. Having failed at every turn, weighed down with self-loathing (and unfortunate fashion choices), he closed out this season’s penultimate episode floating in a pool in a way that might suggest imminent suicide. Those who were not worrying about Kendall were focused on Roman (Kieran Culkin), the profane and sexually stunted Loki of Succession , who after months of trying to prove himself to Logan appeared to blow it all in a single obscene text. Or maybe Shiv (Sarah Snook), who had moved from strategic ingratiation to active back-stabbing. That final scene in this season that evokes a collective gasp from viewers – the holy grail of television – requires not only great skill, but also a real-time audience that wants to know what happens next as soon as possible and experience it with others so they can talk about it the minute they know, spoiler alerts be damned. Binges are fun, and often therapeutic, allowing viewers to catch past seasons or entire shows, or to immerse themselves completely in another world. But the omnipotence of the binge model has been greatly exaggerated, in part because it, by definition, is a private event rather than a collective experience. Full season drops should never replace serial television because they do not serve the same purpose – which is why, when HBO announced its own streaming service, HBO Max, chief content officer Casey Bloys made it clear that the two platforms would have distinct programming. Although HBO series would be available on HBO Max in the US, they would continue to roll out one episode at a time. HBO is not the only network offering serialised television and a streaming platform with unique and network content, and other platforms have begun experimenting with weekly releases. The top 15: best new Hollywood films to watch this winter Some, like Loki on Disney +, draw a large, collective and wildly theorising audience. Often at midnight. Still, there is a beautiful irony to HBO’s commitment to saving serial television. The network that sought for so many years to distance itself from its own genre (“It’s not TV. It’s HBO”) was, in certain disruptive ways, a precursor to streaming. Unbound by demands from advertisers, HBO did all the things broadcast networks couldn’t or wouldn’t – such as running episodes on multiple days of the week and making whole seasons available on DVD. Over the years, the creators of HBO series inevitably (and tediously) described what they did as an elongated form of filmmaking. But the network knew better. It stayed very much in the serial television business because its executives understood that anticipation is half the fun of just about anything, and the other half was deconstruction. Streaming originated as a secondary platform, a way for audiences to catch up or rewatch, increasing viewership for the next season or even the next episode. When Netflix helped expand the audience for acclaimed but underwatched series like Breaking Bad , it was only a matter of time before the platform did away with the middle man, creating original content and kick-starting a growing number of competitive streaming platforms. For a few years, the binge model was king. Why wait for someone to hand you small bits of cake every seven days when you can just stick your head in the fridge and gobble up the whole thing in one night? Or eat half now and half tomorrow? It’s your cake, isn’t it? Sometimes. And sometimes it’s better to share. To show up at an appointed time, sit down at a table with a bunch of other people, and wait. To share your thoughts about the cake, what you thought it was going to taste like and whether this is better, to debate which ingredients are most important and how it compares to other cakes. Spider-Man: No Way Home – Tom Holland tackles the multiverse And sometimes, when you least expect it, a rabbit will jump out of the cake and cover everyone at the table in frosting, which is not only delicious, but also something you can talk about for days.