I've watched the Great British Bake Off at midnight plenty of times: when I'm sick and barely conscious, and every other show is just too much; when I want soothing sound to help me fall asleep; when I can't pull myself away from the glow of my laptop screen and need something—anything—in the background. Still, I'd never purposely wait until midnight for a new episode of Bake Off to drop, and despite the show's collection of cross-continental supporters, its fans aren't generally frothing at the mouth for new episodes as people might for, say, Game of Thrones, either. It's not that kind of show.
That said, at midnight today, Netflix aired the final episode in Collection 7 of Bake Off. (It's actually the show's tenth season, but it's labeled as such for American viewers due to the order in which it was brought to Netflix.) After a season stacked with colorful Sarawak cakes, sculptural cookies, and delicate sugar spun cloches, the tenth episode will leave it up to practice—and a bit of luck—to determine whether it's charming David, pensive Steph, or bright-eyed Alice who can bake the best desserts on the gingham altar.
This season has been just as wholesome and pleasant as its predecessors, having pulled together all of Bake Off's most lovable tropes. There's the talented young student, the bumbling but endearing older man, the endless collection of colorful necklaces on judge Prue Leith, and the very distinct Britishisms that have us Googling words like "bap." This season has diverged for American viewers in one major way, however, and that's also been it's biggest flaw: its timing. Unlike every other season of Bake Off, American viewers haven't been able to binge-watch this one, and now that we've gotten used to watching it that way, seeing the show weekly has a little less magic.
Starting first on BBC before moving to Channel 4 in 2017, Bake Off has always been aired weekly for British viewers. For American viewers, it's been delayed from the British air date, but each season has been dropped in full on Netflix. With this season, however, the delay has narrowed: Netflix now gets each episode four days after it airs on Channel 4, and instead of making Americans wait for the full season, Netflix is making them available as the show airs. That certainly has its upsides, like being more up-to-date with what's on British TV and likely, more pragmatically, ensuring that people see their Netflix memberships through to the show's end if they really want to keep their Bake Off obsessions going.
What the change gets wrong, though, is that the ability to watch Bake Off all at once has guided our appreciation of the show, letting it be something we sink into for soothing and calmness. Bake Off's biggest sell stateside is that it's deeply, deeply different from the American approach to cooking shows. It trades the cutthroat "I'm not here to make friends" attitude of our cooking competitions for a sense of support and camaraderie as bakers help each other succeed. Although Bake Off has seen a toppled cake or two, for the most part, it skips high-stakes drama in favor of a more relaxed atmosphere in which the amateur bakers are given a chance to do really well.
The show's bingeable format was part of those wonderful differences. Instead of watching an episode at a time, binging Bake Off became a way to spend a full rainy, sick, or sad day as one settled into a few hours of endearing, relaxing, brain-chilling TV. As one episode seamlessly transitioned into another, Bake Off and its distinctly not-American merits became deeply beloved by viewers who weren't so familiar with Bakewells and banoffee. Tuning in once a week doesn't allow for as lulling a feeling of escape, and it turns the show instead into just another to-do item.
If you haven't tuned into this season yet, that's good. I'd recommend holding off and watching it in chunks or in one big go, just as you might have done every other season. Bake Off is best enjoyed when you give up on the illusion of time, when you let yourself sink into the warm k-hole of a season's full ten episodes and emerge on the other side renewed, with your stresses softened like the pats of butter layered into smooth pastry dough that's then folded in thirds like a book.