Podcast Review: Binge Mode analysis praises beloved book series, lacks criticism

Binge Mode, one of the many podcasts in The Ringer’s podcast network, is nothing if not ambitious. The pod originally launched during the summer of 2017 when co-hosts Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion vowed to take a deep, analytical look at every single episode of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” 

The original iteration of the podcast allowed the duo to find their voice; the pair crafted a fun, engaging rapport while still providing an insightful investigation of a series that they are clearly passionate about. 

A brief hiatus followed their 70+ hours of academic-level analysis, then the pair returned to conduct an in-depth examination of another beloved fantasy series.

The podcast’s second iteration, Binge Mode: Harry Potter, not only conducts a deep-dive into all seven Harry Potter novels, but studies every facet of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe. 

Since the series began in June, Rubin and Concepcion have scrutinized, unpacked and explained every detail of every book while incorporating any other Potter-related material in existence.

 One might think that this could get stale, that a 47-episode (and counting) analysis of the same material would get boring and that it isn’t worth the time investment required to listen to the podcast series. It is an investment of time, but for fans of the Harry Potter series, this podcast is worth that investment.

Binge Mode: Harry Potter is blatantly a podcast created by fans of the material for fans of the material. While the analysis is astute and appreciative, it tends to lack a critical element that some may be looking for. The pod is very much a love letter to Rowling’s work, seeking to appreciate her world-building and increase the audience’s knowledge of the wider world she created, but rarely does it criticize the source material. 

This fact doesn’t hurt the podcast’s overall quality, it is just indicative of the niche audience that it is created for. If a listener does fall into that target audience though, this podcast is still exceptional.

The sheer amount of content may be intimidating to prospective listeners, but the series is organized in an inticing way. The hosts tackle the series chronologically, picking a central theme across a span of chapters and centering individual episodes on groups of chapters. 

They have tackled the entire series this way, book-by-book, concluding each story with an episode dedicated to its film adaptation. When discussing the movies, the podcast appreciates them as free-standing art in comparison to the novels, remaining interesting without doubling down on details.

Like any podcast series, Binge Mode’s entertainment value is solely based on its hosts’ performance, and Rubin and Concepcion do not disappoint. The pair are obviously close friends, and the resulting chemistry makes the podcast a joy to consume. 

Listeners feel like they become a part of the duo’s friendship as they become familiar with their banter, running gags and inside jokes. Their passion for the story is contagious, and their skills as performers have increased exponentially since they studied “Game of Thrones.” 

Rubin and Concepcion’s performance, combined with the overall production value of each episode, create a refined, high-quality product. 

Binge Mode: Harry Potter provides a thoughtful literary breakdown of a beloved story and is an ideal podcast for Potter fans, but likely would not be appreciated by people outside that target audience.