Review: Y2K

★★★★

Oh no, my emotions. They’re back.

Y2K is the story of a pair of friends, Jess and Kat, and is told almost entirely through voicemails. The only part of the show not told through voicemail is the scenes with Olivia, who is the daughter of one of the women, and is piecing their voicemails into a podcast in 2020. Back in 2000 though, Jess and Kat are dealing with their newfound separation as Jess moves across the world to New Zealand. Y2K follows them as they fall in love, struggle with their identity, and try to heal from past and present hurts.

A-hem. So. I got advanced copies of the first ten episodes of Y2K for review purposes, so I am going to do my best to talk about how amazing it is without spoiling anything. Apologies if things are a little vague though. Better safe than sorry, yeah?

The first thing that I absolutely love about Y2K is the characters. The focus is primarily on Jess and Kat, who are both so loveable and have SO MUCH going on in their lives, and I just want to wrap them up in blankets and protect them. But we also get quite a bit from the other characters in their lives, from brief mentions of someone to them interrupting the call. Each character is fully fleshed out and interesting in their own right, and it really does feel like these are characters whose lives we’ve been dropped in the middle of. Their relationships develop off call, and they have their own separate ambitions that get hinted at, without the “hey, remember how I want to be an actress?” kind of worldbuilding that happens so often.

The framing of the show is also fantastic. Each voicemail is short enough it feels like a voicemail, but long enough that each call develops the characters or plot in some way. Like I mentioned above, the voicemails are often interrupted by roommates or partners, and those interruptions feel natural and like you’re really just listening to a couple of roommates chat. The information that’s conveyed through the voicemails also makes sense because the characters do not just communicate through voicemail. They mention other calls and emails that they’ve exchanged, so it feels more realistic.

The only bit of the framing that I’m not wild about is Olivia turning the voicemails into a podcast. It’s meant to be a sort of “passion project” (so to speak) of hers, but I don’t really understand why she only listens to a couple at a time if she’s invested in the story, or why she doesn’t just ask her mom about it. But the framing device is so much fun that I’m willing to overlook it. It also adds to the tension of the show, because you know it will (hopefully) end well, but not how it will end.

Overall, Y2K is a fun story about friendship and love that can last the hardest things and the furthest distance. I would recommend it to fans of shows focused on friendships like The Beacon, or voicemail framed shows like Love and Luck.

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cw: abuse, suicide, transphobia, homophobia, alcohol, gaslighting, manipulation, toxic relationships

Review: McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop

★★★★

This is why you don’t trust random old men.

McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop takes place in 1921 after Maude gets herself a diary. Her first few entries are boring because nothing happens to her. And then she acquires a piece of china with an eye on it, gains magic powers, is hunted by a cult, accused of murder, and almost dies a bunch. So her entries get about a thousand times more interesting.

McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is what I want every single narrator show to be. Minerva Sweeney Wren is a fantastic actor who is absolutely captivating even when reading about Maude’s boring pre-magic life. While she doesn’t do character voices in the traditional sense, it’s always clear who is speaking because her inflection changes. This allows for the smooth transition between characters and scenes without being distracting or irritating.

I absolutely adore all of the characters of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop. As you likely know by now, strong, well-rounded characters are my weakness, and McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop has more than enough of those to satisfy me. Maude herself is an absolutely fantastic lead. She operates from a place of such kindness, while not being too quick to forgive those who wrong her. “The Twenty-Four Hour Death” is a particularly good Maude episode. You know that picture of a puppy looking in a mirror with the caption “aren’t you tired of being nice? don’t you just want to go apeshit?” That’s Maude in that episode and it’s beautiful. Her two “sidekicks” (I guess? Companions? Sometimes best friends?) (I think they fall more into the category of love interests, but), Ariana and Noble, are both absolutely wonderful and complex characters in their own right, and I can’t wait to see the three of of them have more adventures in season three.

I find that choosing the right length for your episodes is such a difficult balancing act for creators. Too short, and the episode is forgettable and doesn’t advance the plot. Too long, and it drags. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is exactly the right length. Each episode manages to fit so much into its 10 minutes, but is short enough that I can remember everything that happens. It’s short and snappy, without a single word wasted.

Overall, McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop is a beautiful show about staying strong and true to yourself in extraordinary circumstances. I would recommend it to fans of historical fantasy shows like The Infinite Bad or strong single narrator shows like Quid Pro Euro.

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cw: violence, death, murder, kidnapping, injury, cults

Top 30 Audio Dramas of 2019

Happy end of 2019/almost start of 2020! This year has been quite busy for audio dramas, with a lot of premieres of new fantastic shows! Here is my list of the top 30 audio dramas of 2019.

Criteria:

  • Must have at least three full episodes out
  • Must have released at least one full episode in 2019
  • Full episode can be of any length, but must not be a teaser, trailer, or mini-episode
  • Must have some element of fiction

30. It Was Never Just About The Revolution 

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If you missed this gem, now’s the time to catch up. At ten minutes an episode and six episodes total, you can hear its glory in just an hour. For such a short show, It Was Never Just About The Revolution packs a lot into each episode, and has built a beautiful (if terrifying) world. Sunny Chang does an incredible job as Jemma, the lead, and is able to bring the world to life even without anyone to play off of. 

cw: grief, violence, death 

29. Quid Pro Euro 

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Another short show that you can listen to in the same timespan as an average blockbuster movie, Quid Pro Euro is a clever comedy podcast. While I don’t always get the jokes (I am Canadian, so it’s inevitable that some won’t land), the ridiculous nature of the show means that I’m always finding something to enjoy. 

cw: violence

28. MOONFACE 

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Have a box of tissues next to you for this one, it’s a hard hitter. The powerful story of a Korean American son and his immigrant mother and their struggles to connect as they don’t speak the same language, MOONFACE focuses on Paul trying to figure out how – and if – he should come out prior to their trip to Korea. 

cw: homophobia, racism 

27. Oracle of Dusk 

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Oracle of Dusk is a powerhouse of what I am going to call “vague storytelling” (there’s probably a proper theoretical name for it, but I don’t know it). This is a story that is told without any real details – the clients are not named, the Oracle is not named, and many details are brushed over (e.g. “after that day in your office” but the events of said day are not described). Despite this lack of detail, you always know exactly what the Oracle is talking about because the emotions are there. It is absolutely beautiful. 

cw: grief, abuse, gaslighting, manipulation, addiction, death, choking 

26. Love and Luck 

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Love and Luck is the soft queer romcom you’ve been waiting for, with the wonderful addition of stories of resistance and strength right alongside the romance. Season two focuses on queer history and how it ties in with modern queer resistance movements, and is just as gorgeous as season one. 

cw: homophobic & transphobic violence, abuse, raised voices, alcohol, panic attacks, poverty, ableism (addressed), injury, blood, medical procedures, loud noises, anxiety, PTSD, grief, death  

25. Oblivity 

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Looking for a fun comedy to relax to on the weekends? I recommend Oblivity. This podcast about the crew of a Pluto research station is absolutely hilarious and will have you falling in love with the main cast by the end of the first episode. Oblivity’s episodes are largely stand alone, so it’s also good for a more interspersed listen if you need/want to listen to something else between episodes (which I always appreciate). 

cw: violence, death, war 

24. Mission Rejected 

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Mission Rejected gradually turns on the heat, building to a season finale that ties everything all together. Mission Rejected plays to one of my weak points, which is a ragtag crew of misfits tasked with stopping complete destruction. It’s funny, it’s emotional, it’s well written and well acted; in short, it’s wonderful. 

cw: violence, guns 

23. Barjory Buffet: The Cruise Detective 

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If your weakness is mysteries but you don’t love how sad most end up being, I highly recommend checking out Barjory Buffet. It takes the premise of mysteries – a detective skilled in deduction with a reoccurring sidekick and an intriguing murder premise – and makes everything twenty times more ridiculous. Add to that the absolutely incredible acting of the two leads, played by Rachel Crowe and Brad Beideman, and you have a recipe for a fantastic show. 

cw: violence, death, vomiting, murder, alcohol, teeth, death threats, gambling, enclosed spaces, fatphobia, animal death, crowd noises, kidnapping 

22. How i Died 

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There are a few common premises for audio dramas. One is a missing person. The other is a small town with a secret. How i Died falls into that second category and puts a new spin on it with ghosts and murder. The acting is fantastic and the audio editing is absolutely gorgeous. It will pull you in right from the start and has me sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for season two. 

cw: violence, death, terrorism, grief, rape, abuse 

21. Moonbase Theta, Out 

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Moonbase Theta, Out broke from form this year by switching to 20 minute episodes for season two and expanding the cast beyond Leeman Kessler’s Roger Bragado-Fisher to retell season one beyond the formal communications back to Earth that we saw in season one. While I had already been a fan of Moonbase Theta, Out, season two cemented it as a show that I truly loved with amazing performances delivered by all the cast. 

cw: death, enclosed spaces, grief, injury 

20. Nym’s Nebulous Notions 

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This is another one of 2019’s hidden gems. Nym’s Nebulous Notions dropped all on one day and is a contained story, so wasn’t talked about much after the first few days. But it is truly fantastic. The voice acting is wonderful, and the story is so engaging. It’s one of those stories that really stays with you. 

cw: death, grief 

19. VAST Horizon 

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The sound editing for VAST Horizon is exemplary. The show takes place on a spaceship that is falling apart and focuses on Dr. Nolira Eck as she tries to make her way to safety, and it really feels like you’re running right alongside her. Siobhan Lumsden and Tanja Milojevic give absolutely incredible performances as Nolira and AI respectively. 

cw: death, violence, genocide, injury, grief, war 

18. Fan Wars: The Empire Claps Back 

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Microfiction has become increasingly popular in recent years, and is incredibly difficult to get right. No show has captured the beauty of what microfiction can do quite like Fan Wars. A show built on a love for Star Wars and a romance that blossoms out of that love, Shenee Howard has created something truly unique. 

17. The Amelia Project 

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The Amelia Project also broke from their season one form this year, introducing an overarching season long plot and including more details about the mysterious Amelia Project and its origins. Season two included some of their best episodes, and took risks that 100% paid off. The Amelia Project is doing some fascinating new things with the “characters are recording this dialogue” format, and you should be paying attention to them. 

cw: violence, death, suicide, kidnapping, transphobia, murder, guns, medical procedures, broken glass, not safe for driving 

16. Timestorm 

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Timestorm rereleased their first handful of episodes and the rest of their first season this year and is one of the most beautiful audio dramas I’ve heard. Timestorm has struck the perfect note and created a show that is informative, important, and enjoyable to adults and children alike. 

cw: sexism, bullying, deals with Hurricane Maria, but does not portray the hurricane itself 

15. McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop 

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This is a last minute edition to this list because I literally just finished it two days ago at the time of writing, so that should tell you everything you need to know. The writing is incredible. Every episode is only ten minutes long yet so much happens in each one because Minerva Sweeney Wren doesn’t mince words. The characters are all so real and complex, and pull you right along on the adventure from the moment you press play. 

cw: murder, death, violence 

14. Centered 

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Oh, Centered. The brief great love of my life this year. Centered has only released four episodes so far (thus making it JUST BARELY ELIGIBLE for this list) and is currently between seasons, but it was an instant fave. Panic attacks are depicted realistically without being likely to trigger one in listeners, and complicated family dynamics are portrayed realistically and respectfully. 

cw: anxiety, panic attacks, drugs, NSFW

13. Quietly Yours 

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I don’t know how, but Quietly Yours has perfected what I’m going to call “comfort horror.” That’s when they’re saying something truly horrific but their voice is so soothing that you still want to listen to it before bed. Despite being an anthology, each episode features fully fleshed out and interesting lead characters, even though the story is the main focus. 

cw: death, zombies, violence, death threats, murder, drowning, existential talk, war 

12. Prism Pals 

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Prism Pals has released some absolutely buckwild episodes this year, but they’ve kept their focus on developing the party and plot. The cast is composed of some strong personalities, which makes every episode fun to listen to, without having one player overshadow the others or get left in the dust. The characters are a delight, and while there are a lot of NPCs, they’re all distinct and memorable. 

Disclaimer: I did appear on their Pride Week Q&A. That did not affect the show’s placement on this list. 

cw: violence, death, child endangerment, guns, death threats, enclosed spaces, grief, manipulation, injury, blood, electrocution 

11. Greater Boston 

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In 2019, Greater Boston released the conclusion to their third season, which dealt with the aftermath of the mayoral election. It’s a powerful ending to a powerful season that tackled social issues ranging from racism to classism and how those problems intersect for many people. Alexander Danner and Jeff Van Dreasen approach these topics with care and respect for the real life people listening to the show. 

cw: violence, death, suicide, child endangerment, racism (addressed), screaming, vomiting, NSFW, guns, alcohol, drugs, fire, existential talk, medical procedures, blackmail, explosions, trivializing mental illness (addressed), enclosed space, claustrophobia, agoraphobia, kidnapping, manipulation, panic attacks, poverty, victim blaming, grief, brainwashing, racial profiling, addiction, crowd noises, injury, raised voices, loud noises, PTSD, OCD 

10. Bike Brigade 

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Bike Brigade finished their series this fall, and while I’m sad to see it go, I can’t say I didn’t love the ride. Bike Brigade is absolutely hilarious, and while each episode had me nearly crying with laughter, they also always had at least one strong emotional moment. This year’s episodes have dealt with being closeted in the sixties, the loss of a parent, and the after effects of trauma. Each issue is tackled with respect and thoughtfulness, with enough time for listeners to sit and reflect before the party moves onto the next scene. 

cw: gore, raised voices, blood, injury, brainwashing, choking, grief, manipulation, gaslighting, kidnapping, death threats, fire, murder, screaming, child endangerment, abuse, death, violence, drowning  

9. Solutions to Problems 

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This year was big for comedy shows getting a little bit more serious with their overarching plotlines. Solutions to Problems always dealt with questions that were somewhat serious in nature – though it was always a comedy show – but this year it tackled why one of the leads, Loaf, had left his home planet and what the repercussions of that for his family were. This year also featured the fantastic “Hot Messes Together” which is quite possibly the best comedy episode I have ever heard. 

cw: raised voices, death threats, war, existential talk, death, violence 

8. The Beacon 

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The Beacon may have only just returned for season two last month, but it’s already showing why it’s one of the current greats in the audio drama world. Each line is nailed by the actors, each episode has a focus so that information is concisely imparted on the listener, and the writing is absolutely stunning. 

cw: violence, death, homophobia (addressed), screaming, alcohol, fire, medical procedures, explosions, panic attacks, animal death, crowd noises, injury, blood, raised voices, insects, loud noises, anxiety, grief, mentions of bullying 

7. Quest Friends! 

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Quest Friends! has quite possibly the cutest aesthetic of any audio drama currently airing. It is promoted as having “tone and worldbuilding reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender,” and I really can’t think of a better way to describe it. The players all do a fantastic job at developing the world through their characters, and the GM, Kyle Decker, does an incredible job describing the scenes, even if his descriptions are a bit cursed at times. 

cws: violence, death, spiders, murder, existential talk, death threats, gambling, manipulation, toxic relationships, grief, drowning, miscarriage, injury, blood, choking

6. CARAVAN 

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CARAVAN is the queer audio drama that you’ve been waiting for. It plays with pre-existing conventions of storytelling (narrator, cliffhangers, etc.) but makes all of them seem fresh and exciting, like CARAVAN was the one that invented them. CARAVAN delivers an exciting story with some absolutely fantastic performances from its leads, especially from Sushant Adlakha, the voice of Samir. 

Note: CARAVAN is 18+ 

cw: violence, death, guns, existential talk, anxiety 

5. Lakeshore and Limbo 

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My one weakness in life….. mysteries. Add to those mysteries a team of loveable idiots, and you have an irresistible show that also happens to be Lakeshore and Limbo. The mysteries are well developed enough that you actually do have a mystery each time, rather than a “how have you not figured this out yet” each time, and it’s 100% possible for the listener to solve the mystery alongside the players. The players are all fantastic, and the way they play off of each other is incredible. There’s never a missed beat, and the story keeps moving in interesting ways, even if the team’s just talking in the Winnebago. 

cw: violence, death, child endangerment, vomiting, body horror, murder, guns, alcohol, fire, blackmail, death threats, enclosed spaces, claustrophobia, kidnapping, injury, blood, raised voices, gore, zombies

4. The Magnus Archives 

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The amount of effort and build up that has gone into The Magnus Archives is absolutely incredible. There were reveals this season that had been built up since episode one. Not one word is wasted. The Magnus Archives is a horror podcast, but rather than the moral of “everything’s terrible and everyone’s going to die,” it insists on hope even in the worst situations. I think saying that it’s purely a hopeful show is a stretch, as bad things do happen, but it never tries to tell the listener that it’s impossible to beat the Entities or that rebuilding is impossible. It will be hard, and people will be lost, but The Magnus Archives never loses itself to despair. 

cw: violence, death, gore, body horror, murder, police brutality, cults, paranoia, loud noises, insects, brainwashing, grief, manipulation, gaslighting, torture, kidnapping, enclosed spaces, spiders 

3. Queer Dungeoneers 

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This is quite possibly the most ridiculous serious show I’ve ever listened to. Now, I know that a lot of the shows on this list fall into the category of “this is hilarious but also very serious” (I might have a type), but Queer Dungeoneers really is absolutely batshit crazy for a story that is all about stopping the apocalypse, fighting Death, and reuniting with dead loved ones. Queer Dungeoneers covered a lot of ground this year (41 episodes!) and I don’t think there was a bad episode among them. Episode 35 even earned my first (and only!) six star ruling. 

cw: zombies, raised voices, blood, injury, death, grief, fire, murder, violence, toxic relationships, manipulation, child endangerment, enclosed spaces, abuse 

2. Stellar Firma 

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Stellar Firma was the first of two podcasts that got a perfect score while I was making this list. That means that I can think of absolutely nothing that I would change about it. The acting is perfect, the soundscapes are incredible, the improv is hilarious, I love it all. It’s the kind of dark satire that weirdly makes you feel better afterwards, even after jokes about a planet blowing up because of the characters’ ineptitudes. It just works. 

cw: violence, death 

1. Inn Between 

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This is it, folks. The top show of 2019. A soft, found family story about an adventuring party trying to save a kingdom and keep themselves together. The actors give absolutely stunning performances, and the writing is incredible. Inn Between has been getting five stars from me almost every episode since season two began because oh my gosh, this show is so emotional and beautiful. Hannah Wright has created a modern classic. 

cw: enclosed spaces, death, violence, alcohol, choking, references to child endangerment, murder

Review: Sage and Savant

★★★★

*kicks leg in the air* TIME TRAVEL NARRATIVE

Disclaimer: I have not finished listening to the full show yet! This is based on the first two seasons (approximately). This is important because I might be missing some content warnings. If you know of any that I missed, please let me know and I will update the review on my website (though this applies for any review).

Dr. Sage accidentally invents time travel and she and Professor Savant travel to the past to learn more about history and transmigration. Every time they travel they end up in the bodies of the recently deceased, so their travels are fraught with potential danger. Add to that a fellow professor who has it out for Dr. Sage and wants to get rid of her however possible – including planting a spy in her lab to find out what she’s secretly working on – and a super secret organization that wants Dr. Sage to succeed however possible… Let’s just say they have a lot on their plates at the moment.

So if you’re new here: I am a massive history nerd. I love the range of times and places that Sage and Savant travel to. I love that they don’t always go to somewhere noteworthy. I love that sometimes they accidentally land in the bodies of very important people. I love how the show creates the historical scenes. But most of all, I love how the show struggles with the complexities of history. All of the scenes in the “present” (late 1800’s) grapple with the realities of Sage being a woman and a scientist and what that truly means for her career. All of the scenes that grapple with the harsh realities of the past are done respectfully.

The characters are also wonderfully realistic to the time period. Surprising absolutely no one, my favourite is Abigail, who appears and immediately crushes the gender binary in her fist. The main trio (present trio – not sure where the Narrator fits into the “main trio” idea of Sage-Savant-Narrator vs. Sage-Savant-Abigail) are all fantastically 1800s while still keeping the ideas and values of the 20th century. Savant struggles to understand the double standards applied to men and women in science, but wants to understand so he can better respect the women around him. Abigail’s use of the prefix Mx. confuses Sage and Savant, but they make an effort to remember it and encourage others to use it: including calling them out when they purposefully ignore Abigail’s preference.

Also!!! The reveals are so well done. As I said in the disclaimer, I’m not fully caught up on the show, but ohhhhh my gosh. Each reveal of new information about the bigger picture has me literally gasping out loud. This series is beautifully written.

Overall, Sage and Savant is an amazing historical story told with dual respect to modern audiences and respect to those in the past who had to suffer under persecution. It’s a fantastic tale of friendship and morality and what one is willing to do to achieve the knowledge that they so desperately seek. I would recommend it to fans of slightly out there tales of mysterious organizations like The Amelia Project or narrated tales with a real narrator like Greater Boston.

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cw: violence, death, blood, cannibalism, rape, abuse, child endangerment, vomiting, racism, murder, guns, existential talk, drowning, war, sexism, poverty, animal death, electrocution, discussions of suicide

Review: Six Cold Feet

★★★★

What. The. Heck.

Disclaimer: While this is a requested review, all thoughts expressed below are 100% my own.

Six Cold Feet is about “musicians in trouble” but it’s also not just that. It’s about friendship, and family, and cults???? and so much more. Season one follows River as he looks for his sister Harmony, who went missing a few months earlier. He is recording broadcasts that tell the story of their life together in hopes of gaining attention and help in finding Harmony. Season two (which just started in October, so now’s a good time to jump in) follows Athena as she writes the biography of her idol, Juliet Knives, and how everything goes wrong from there.

I’m going to try my best to talk about Six Cold Feet without spoiling anything, because there is a LOT that happens, and I think the best way to listen to it is to go in without much knowledge because oh my gooosshhhh this show is a mindfuck in the best way. But please: pay attention to the trigger warnings at the bottom of this review. It gets really intense.

Season one was… a trip. It started out kind of average for me, cause River is very much the “pretentious musician” character, and it’s a bit much at times. But once Harmony comes into the show, things get a thousand times better because she is just… fantastic. I love her. She’s the voice of reason that the show needs, and she throws everything that’s happened thus far into question, and just… The show jumped a full star for me just from that one episode, and it just keeps getting better. The dynamic between River and Harmony is fascinating, and the actors do an incredible job portraying them.

Season two is my favourite so far. The end of episode two got me completely hooked. I’m a big sucker for biography stories, especially when there’s an element of mystery to them (think The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo), and Six Cold Feet is doing it beautifully. Juliet’s life is so intriguing, and while I don’t know that I would like her if we met in person, she’s such a fun character to follow. Also Athena and her wife have the absolute cutest scenes together. Just saying.

My one wish for the show has to do with balancing the sound. Six Cold Feet uses the characters recording scenes as a framing device, and while I think it largely works for the purpose of the show, it does mean that there are a few scenes that have characters speaking too quietly to be heard because they’re whispering or being so loud it’s painful because they’re yelling. That’s one of my personal pet peeves with this particular framing device because it means that I have to adjust my volume way more than I would like, but it doesn’t happen so often that I’m actively frustrated.

Overall, Six Cold Feet is a fascinating show about the secrets that we keep buried and why we need to hide behind a persona. I would recommend it to fans of darker mysteries like Blackwood or Arden.

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cw: violence, death, suicide, self-harm, rape, abuse, child endangerment, homophobia, screaming, murder, pedophilia, childhood sexual abuse, guns, alcohol, drugs, sexual harassment, slut shaming, cults, sirens, broken glass, blackmail, not safe for driving, death threats, sexism, trivializing mental illness, kidnapping, drugging, gaslighting, manipulation, toxic relationships, grief, brain washing, addiction, crowd noises, injury, blood, raised voices, depression

On Finales: The Magnus Archives 160: “The Eye Opens”

Now this… this is how you build up to a finale. The episodes leading up to “The Eye Opens” is its own separate story, yet is connected enough to feel like this was all one big finale. However, there’s enough distinction between each episode that I stayed on the edge of my seat the entire time and felt like yeah, those did need to be their own separate episodes.

I’ve seen a few complaints from fans that “The Eye Opens” felt too abrupt and there was not enough time for the characters to process the events of the last few episodes. But I think that’s the point. So much of The Magnus Archivesis about the characters not being allowed the time to process the trauma they have endured before new trauma is foisted onto them. As fun as it is to talk about how we just want Jon and Martin to look at some good cows and process the entities that are slowly killing them, that’s not the reality of their situation – or many people’s.

Despite that, The Magnus Archives kept some optimism in their finale. I find “The Last” to be a good example of this. “The Last” says that there is never no hope. That you are never truly lost. That those you love are never truly lost. That there is a way to win. That someone will always come and find you. It is remarkably hopeful for a show that features someone stapling meat to their walls. And that is why I think that The Magnus Archives will someday have a good ending. Maybe not a happy ending. I think that “happy” is too simplistic a term for a story that has always included loss and fear. But I think a good ending is entirely possible. And can we really ask for more?

Review: Grimm and Glitter

Please note: I mixed up the order of their names in the initial newsletter email blast. The podcast is in face Grimm and Glitter, note Glitter and Grimm like I mistakenly said.

★★★☆

Goth and prep BFFs with superpowers and the power of queerness!!!!!

Stuck in Calamity Beach for the summer, internet best friends Glitter and Grimm finally get the chance to meet up. They immediately fall through a hole in the ground, find a creepy red door, and gain magical powers. You know. The usual summer fun. Glitter can now see the dead, while Grimm can hear people’s thoughts. They now have to unravel the secrets of Calamity Beach before the end of the summer and oh yeah, try not to die, because sometimes ghosts or other people with powers try to kill them.

Okay, so I absolutely addddoooorrreee Glitter and Grimm. As someone who has had internet best friends before (and still does!), their relationship is so realistic. I love the weird dynamic between “we know each other super well” and “okay but who the HELL are you?!”. And I adore how they keep calling each other Glitter/Grimm in person. It’s adorable and very realistic.

They’re also fantastic characters in their own rights. Like I said in my intro, they are the prep and goth BFFs that everyone wants in their media. There is literally a scene where Glitter makes Grimm drink a super sugary “unicorn drink” because she lost a bet. Glitter is a squishy bean who is also one hundred percent ready to punch someone in the nuts. Grimm is mysterious and angry (and y’all know how much I adore angry women in my fiction) and is described by the creator as “a chill troll goth vamp” so like… what more do you want?

The creator, Sophie Fae, does a fantastic job giving the characters interesting super powers. Glitter’s ghosts can sometimes influence the living world and Grimm’s telepathy has stipulations that add complications and also maybe demons talking to her? Chill. It’s hard to talk about the other character’s superpowers without giving out spoilers, but they are all just as fantastic.

My one complaint about the show, and the reason it’s at three and a half stars rather than four stars is the music. It is a bit too loud, so it makes it hard to hear the characters at times. It also features vocalization sometimes, which I found made it really difficult for me to focus on the story. Sometimes this works well, such as when they are in the coffeeshop, but otherwise it’s kind of distracting. The upside to this is the music tends to be pretty good, but I think it would work better as either transitional music or just a touch quieter.

Overall, Grimm and Glitter is a fantastic show about teens with superpowers and small towns with a dark past, perfect for fans of Life is Strange or SuperOrdinary.

Also the cover art is beautiful.

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cw: violence, death, suicide, homophobia (addressed in show), screaming, murder, guns, alcohol, drugs, fire, sexual harassment, slut shaming, forced outing (addressed in show), sirens, not safe for driving, broken glass, claustrophobia, gaslighting, bullying, poverty, toxic relationships, grief, animal death (past), injury, blood, raised voices

Review: Bad Heroes

★★★★

Vampires vampires vampires vampires vampires!!!!

Disclaimer: Although this is a requested review, all the thoughts expressed below are 100% my own.

A team of, you guessed it, bad heroes, team up to take down various supernatural creatures for the queen. Who may or may not be a demon. I’m honestly not sure if she is or not. She sure is evil though! She also has a tiny snake buddy, who I adore just because tiny snake buddy!!! Yes!!! Also there’s another cat in this show. I promise I listen to shows that don’t have cats as the main characters.

I think the top feature of Bad Heroes is the characters. As with most actual play podcasts, Bad Heroes follows a ragtag group of adventurers who really shouldn’t have been given any form of responsibility. The players do a good job of balancing the ineptness that makes the show fun with having their characters be somewhat competent so it still makes sense that they’ve been hired for the quest.

That being said: I love that the characters are meant to fail. And I love that you’re shown that from the beginning. The Queen expects them to die. Which makes me really curious as to why? Is this random? Or did these four do something to anger the Queen? I gotta know! Bad Heroes has piqued my curiosity after just a few episodes, and I desperately want more.

Overall, Bad Heroes is a fun story about useless heroes and a great new addition to the world of actual play podcasts. I would recommend it to fans of Queer Dungeoneers or Heroes Not Included.

cw: violence, death

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Review: Lakeshore & Limbo

★★★★☆


If you haven’t heard me talk about Lakeshore & Limbo yet, I’m surprised. You also probably have, since I keep tweeting about Nef and Sassy. That’s this show! I get to talk about one of my faves! Yay!

Disclaimer: While this is a requested review, all the thoughts in this review are 100% my own.

Lakeshore & Limbo is… I honestly don’t know how to describe it. It’s about a team of private investigators who look into supernatural mysteries and it’s a good day when they don’t accidentally kill someone, or steal a baby, or kidnap the Grim Reaper. One of them used to be a cat. They adopt a teenage girl who has spent the last however many thousand years living in people’s dreams. They have a group of fans that are literally called the Necropunks. I love and hate them at the same time. It’s a good show, y’all.

The mysteries are of course, amazing, and I’ll get to them in a minute, but the real strength of the show are the leads. The main team are composed of Vince Melody, a former movie star who is immortal somehow, Abe Cohen, an immortal mage who spends all his time reading romance books, and Sassy, a cat thief who used to be a literal cat. Now, all of the characters are fantastic and I love them all very much. But SASSY. She is such a good character. She steals things from everyone but pretends to have broken the habit through Vince’s good morals… rubbing off on her? I guess? It’s okay, Vince is clueless, she doesn’t need a good reason. “Hardened Criminals” is a really good Sassy arc, and shows her truly struggling with what direction she wants her life to go in. Also, basically every Sassy line is perfect. Tina Arfee is absolutely incredible.

One of the reasons the show works so well is that the players all know each other really well and can play off of each other’s strengths to make the story the best that it can be. They have really great chemistry, and they seem to have a good understanding of what will make the other players uncomfortable. Their improv is absolutely amazing, with no lags or moments that feel wasted. Add to this well developed and interesting mysteries, and you’ve got a show that knows how to deliver a good product.

Overall, Lakeshore & Limbo is a fun show for those looking for a bit of a lighter mystery show. I would recommend it to fans of TAZ: Dust or Stellar Firma.

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cw: violence, death, child endangerment, vomiting, body horror, murder, guns, alcohol, fire, blackmail, death threats, enclosed spaces, claustrophobia, kidnapping, injury, blood, raised voices, gore, zombies

On Finales: TAZ: Amnesty

So the The Adventure Zone: Amnesty finale came out last week. And it was, well, bad.

Episode 36 was a two and a half hour final episode and Amnesty’s official “finale.” But the McElroys have been referring to the episodes as part of the finale since about episode 30. Episodes 30-35 ranged in length from just over an hour to a full two hours. Which adds up to over seven hours of “finale” material before the actual finale. For comparison, the TAZ: Balance finale wasn’t even six and a half hours.

To be clear, I am not of the opinion that Amnesty was never going to be good because it’s not Balance. I have always maintained that Amnesty had great potential and that, until recently, it was living up to that potential. So what happened?

Well, I think a big part of it was an emotional disconnect. Amnesty ran for about a year and a half, only half the time that Balance had. Obviously not as much time to get as attached to the characters. But I don’t think it was the audience’s disconnect that ruined the finale. I think the McElroys didn’t feel as connected to their PCs this time around.

Now, obviously, I can’t say what these four men I have never met feel. Maybe they did feel a strong connection to their characters. But that ~10 hours of finale content? It’s a heck of a lot of goofs for a story about stopping the end of the world. Especially considering that these goofs came from characters who should be mourning their friend. 

If you read The Podcast Dragon regularly, you’ll know that I completely missed that Ned died until the beginning of the finale when Clint began playing Thatcher. And while part of that is on me, I think that the McElroys really fell short in how they dealt with Ned’s death. We get nothing from the rest of the Pine Guard about how they feel after their friend died. Even Aubrey, whose last interaction with Ned was tense and should have been the catalyst for plenty of emotional turmoil, feels absolutely nothing.

And I’m sorry, but how am I supposed to believe that the world is in danger when a scene is interrupted for a dick joke?

A lot of the finale also felt very unplanned. Nothing shows this more than Griffin’s reaction to Duck calling Minerva honey. That was clearly not discussed beforehand, and feels very tacked on. Which is what much of the finale felt like. Seeing what the characters I loved went on to do felt like… nothing. I just did not care because the finale made me feel so disconnected from the characters.

Finales are difficult. Obviously. You have to wrap up an ENTIRE SHOW in just one or two episodes. But with ten hours at their disposal, the McElroys could have delivered something absolutely incredible. Instead, they absolutely destroyed their second arc.