Red Pink White

Is Netflix lying about Kaleidoscope's random episode order? An investigation

A conspiracy is afoot.

Kaleidoscope is currently holding the #1 TV show title on Netflix, largely due to its unique approach: No numbered episodes. Instead, the first seven episodes of the heist show appear in a randomized order, each showing a different part of the story from 24 years before the heist to six months after it. All of this leads to the finale, which covers the heist itself.

It’s an intriguing prospect, but now that the series is out, there’s evidence to suggest that, while Netflix did indeed shuffle some episodes around, a few key parts were the same for everyone.

When reviewing Kaleidoscope, I fell in love with the conceit of putting the personalization of streaming to a unique use. But one thing kept bothering me as I watched “Pink,” the episode set six months after the heist: There’s no way anyone could start with that episode and still keep the surprises of the series intact.

Both episodes set after the heist (“Red” and “Pink”) felt like epilogues, not part of the main story. The finale, “White,” was designed to end the narrative by showing the heist itself, but it seemed like Red and Pink had to appear right before it.

So when the series launched, I was curious about what episode order other people encountered. Sure enough, no one I asked saw the series kick off with Red or Pink. In fact, everyone’s Netflix accounts wanted them to end with the same three episodes: Red, then Pink, and finally White.

Exhibit A: No matter the order of the first five episodes, the last three always seem to be the same. Twitter

I checked Reddit and Twitter, and interrogated my friends and colleagues. Everyone’s answer was the same: Red, Pink, White. Did I stumble into a Netflix conspiracy? How far up does it go? I reached out to Netflix for comment but didn’t receive a response, which just raised further questions. What are you hiding, Netflix?

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.

If the first seven episodes were truly randomized, there would be 5040 possible orders that could appear in your account. With the Red Pink White ending, this number is limited to 120. That’s still a lot of possibilities, but it’s not really the sheer wackiness that was advertised.

“Red Pink White, Red Pink White, I look on Twitter, this whole box is Red Pink White!”FX

Netflix has marketed the show with the claim that it can be watched in any order, which means some fans have eschewed their Netflix account’s suggestion to watch it however they fancy, from following the rainbow to working backward. But even the episode order suggestions posted by critics and fans usually place Pink toward the end, which raises the question of why the show was randomized at all, aside from the obvious marketing value.

The Red Pink White ending proves that while most of the series was meant to be randomized, the show only has one ending. The heist, and the events after it, are meant to be the last pieces of the puzzle. It does give the viewing experience some sense of unity, but it’s hard not to feel a bit betrayed.

Maybe the real heist all along was Kaleidoscope stealing our time.

Kaleidoscope is now streaming on Netflix.