Looking through a lens


Bennett Trubey, Arts & Life Editor

Netflix has challenged its viewers to look at one of its newest projects through a unique, rotating lens. The streaming platform released “Kaleidoscope” on Jan. 1 as a part of its effort to create innovative viewer experiences. The company promoted the series as an exciting collection that can be watched in any order.

“Kaleidoscope” centers on a heist 25 years in the making and is loosely based on the flooding of $70 billion in bonds during Hurricane Sandy in Manhattan.

Each of the eight episodes is named after a color and set at different times leading up to the heist. Netflix claims the order viewers watch the show will affect their opinions of characters as they learn their motives and pasts through different lenses.

The series is provided in a randomized order to every Netflix user. However, the orders always begin with “Black,” a one-minute explanation of how to watch the show, and end with the heist in the “White” episode. I watched the show in the order I was provided so I could test Netflix’s theory, but the streaming platform and many viewers online have shared different orders to watch the show – including chronologically, in rainbow order, as a detective story and even as a Tarantino film.

As I watched the series, I found that I sympathized most with the mastermind of the heist, Leo Pap, played by Giancarlo Esposito. However, I suspect that those who watch the series starting with another episode, such as “Blue” or “Orange,” will have a different opinion of Pap and the heist.

In terms of the writing and characters, I really enjoyed how Esposito’s character deviated from the typical, genius mastermind role, but I was disappointed by the halt of his character arc in the weeks leading up to the heist.

As the show shifted focus from Leo and his past to developing more of the motivations and relationships of his crew members, I felt like his character was neglected.

However, the development of the other members of Leo’s crew – Bob, Judy, Ava, RJ and Stan – was very entertaining and made up for the lack of attention to Leo during the last three episodes leading up to the heist. The concept of watching in a randomized order was well-executed. I found each episode could stand on its own and tell an independent part of the story while still connecting to the other episodes and building up to the ending.

That being said, if I could have changed anything about the order I watched it in, I would have watched “White” before “Pink.” Finishing with the heist episode left me with an unsatisfactory feeling. After finishing the series with “White,” I re-watched “Pink,” which is set six months after the heist and was the episode before “White” in the order Netflix provided.

I enjoyed it much more in that tweaked order. The ending felt much less out of place and concluded the story in a much more logical manner. Overall, I would absolutely recommend “Kaleidoscope.”

I hope Netflix will continue to create unique viewing experiences similar to this series. The thrill of watching the heist unfold and the element of mystery from knowing the aftermath before watching the actual robbery kept me hooked. So if you have some downtime this weekend, go find out what episode order you have waiting for you.