Well I’ve answered my question faster than first thought. Tonight, Annie – our favorite U.S.A. CIA spy with iron convictions, an independent streak, and a sometime-thirst for revenge* – faced this season’s arch-nemesis, Lena Smith.
Don’t worry guys- she made it through all right. What is hunting down your double-agent ex-boss in ever-foreboding MOSCOW when you’ve just recovered from a GSW to the heart? Nothing, is what.
Luckily Annie’s vanquishing of her enemy has revealed the true answer to my quandary of why I love this show! Answer part 1: it just moves SO. FAST. In the last oh four episodes, Annie has traveled between Cuba and Russia and then some, fallen in and out of love with multiple partners, switched allegiance between bosses, recovered from traumatic surgery, busted a Russian (excuse me FSB) spy cell and thrown some mean punches. We didn’t have to cringe through a season’s worth of “will they uncover the true double agent”: it happened over a SINGLE episode.
Answer part 1.5: the stakes are incredibly high. No need to re-list, but basically every scenario is one of life or death, ie, will she succeed or will she fail? But on an unmistakable, DRAMATIC, and emotionally suck in-ing level. Answer 1+ Answer 1.5 = High stakes scenarios get resolved and on-to-the-next-one’d from one episode to the next rather than playing out a plotline over several episodes or an entire season. It’s compelling with a low-cringe factor; it maintains suspense but on a wholly enjoyable + satisfying timeline.
Answer part 2: Is it possible that the 7 day week was constructed for the purpose of television? It’s the perfect amount of time to look forward to something, but not lose interest; to remember details, but not to be overwhelmed. Sure, appaaaarently the 7-day week has a pretty large impact on how we frame time and our attention structure, but isn’t it just fun to look at it the other way around? I’m pretty sure where I can GIRLS, Mad Men, or Veronica Mars marathon for hours, I can’t watch more than 2 episodes of Covert Affairs in a row – though admittedly I have yet to test this theory. The 7-day waiting period keeps me interested but does not require too much investment (but here I am writing about it, so who am I to say)?
Cased closed, friends: Covert Affairs, a show which I know is by no means art, has bent me to its glorious ways because the stakes are high, the turnaround is fast, and these high-stakes fast-turnaround scenarios happen every week. Covert Affairs has found a perfect time + plot formula for mass appeal entertainment.
**Will NEVER tire of this.