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

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

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

Review: Husk

★★★☆

Your alien fix without having to go into space.

Husk is a sci-fi podcast that deals with the aftermath of Dmitri Ivanovic’s disappearance while on a trip with his best friends. Both are abducted, but when only Rebecca returns, suspicion falls on her. The first season focuses on a different character each episode. They are currently releasing season two, which breaks this format to feature multiple characters per episode.

All of the actors do an incredible job, but I want to focus on Skye Stafford’s performance as Olga. She has to embody a single mother with a missing son, a role that is not only difficult to do well, but also incredibly emotionally taxing. Stafford rises to the occasion and delivers a fantastic performance. Her episode is absolutely devastating.

Husk’s approach to aliens and their relationships to humans is quite interesting. Rather than the usual “aliens experiment on humans,” the Borrowers have no interest in Rebecca, and are instead only focused on healing Dmitri because he’s sick and they can make him better. I’m really interested in what Husk decides to do with the Borrowers, especially considering the current situation on Earth.

One part that I don’t love is actually in the most recent episode, in which one of the police officers, Gina Sorenson, complains about people not seeing police officers as human and thinking of them as unsympathetic and heartless. And while I do agree that there are police officers who think like this, it was annoying hearing it from someone who we’re supposed to be rooting for.

Overall, Husk is an interesting new take on alien abductions. I would recommend it to fans of The Van or Blackwood.

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cw: violence, death, guns, drugs, medical procedures, enclosed spaces, grief, raised voices, illness

Review: Oblivity

★★★★

I still think the logo looks like an alien (it’s not).

Oblivity is a comedy scifi podcast about a research team studying on Pluto and the commander that has been sent to look after them after years on the front lines of an intergalactic war. There’s also a cyber gerbil, but definitely no danger.

The stars of Oblivity are obviously the fantastic cast of characters. Each episode deals with a new definitely-not-life-threatening danger that the team has to work out, and they’re just the right level of dysfunctional to be interesting to listen to. Enough that it’s funny, but not enough that it’s infuriating. The actors all do a fantastic job, and most episodes feature a guest to the station. Often the guest is the one bringing the danger, but not always. The team definitely provide enough danger to get by.

I loved how Oblivity approached their plot. It reminds me quite a lot of EOS 10’s first season. The first chunk of episodes are stand alone comedy, and then the last episode throws the ragtag group of disasters right in the middle of an intergalactic conspiracy. The pacing is beautiful, and I was on the edge of my seat for the entire finale, trying desperately to figure out what was going to happen.

Overall, Oblivity is a fun, optimistic story about how you can be isolated and around family at the same time. I would recommend it to fans of EOS 10 and We Fix Space Junk.

Oblivity is currently running a Kickstarter for their second season!

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cw: violence, death, war

Review: Arca-45672

★★☆

Or: Saving the world doesn’t have to involve genocide.

Disclaimer: This is a requested review, but the opinions expressed below are 100% my own.

Arca-45672 is the story of a group of military personnel (and one scientist) sent to the exoplanet Arca-45672 to connect with the new branch of humanity there on the eve of humanity’s collapse on Earth. Once there, they must contend with both the new branch of humanity that emerged on Arca-45672 and the native species on the planet, as well as each other.

I am disappointed with Arca-45672. And it’s not for any particular reason. It’s just… very average. There were a few plot holes that I found frustrating, and I think the show could have benefitted from a less condensed narrative time-wise, but it’s not as if it was a bad show. I think it has the start of a lot of really great, interesting things, but just needed to fix a lot of smaller issues.

For example, I think that the species on Arca-45672 and how they interact with one another is interesting, and I think a strong story could come out of them. However, a lot of what we’re told about them is a bit info-dumped, and so it gets confusing to jump from lore into action and leaves the listener feeling more than a little lost.

I think the easiest way to fix this would be by expanding the timeframe that the narrative has, both in world and in terms of actual episodes/episode length. Arca-45672 is 8 episodes running about 30-40 minutes long each, and has a lot of complex lore and political intrigue going on in there. If the story were spread out over more episodes and gave the characters time to breathe between scenes (the entire story takes place over the course of about two days), I think it would be a lot stronger.

Overall, I think Arca-45672 has the foundations for a good story, and I’m excited to listen to more of what the creators produce in the future, even if I didn’t particularly care for this story.

I would recommend Arca-45672 to anyone who enjoys a good humans-die-off-through-infertility story like Lesser Gods or a small cast adventure story like Continuum Force.

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cw: violence, death, suicide, screaming, body horror, murder, guns, fire, war, death threats, enclosed spaces, grief, colonization, injury, blood, raised voices, loud noises, gore, genocide

Review: The Ordinary Epic

★★★☆

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

An actual play show but even the players are fictional.

The Ordinary Epic follows a group of five friends as they play DND. It follows both their imagined, in-game lives as they try to stop the world from being taken over by an evil god, and their real lives as they fall in love and try not to kill each other.

I really loved how the story switched back and forth between the game world and the real world. The listener becomes attached to both versions of the characters, and they want both to succeed in their goals, rather than solely focusing on caring about the real world characters. It reminds me a lot of The Guild, but if The Guild actually like… showed us their characters and game lives.

I also adored the characters. I was attached to them by the end of the trailer, and that attachment only grew. They’re all so dynamic, with their own strengths and flaws, and the actors play them beautifully. It also makes sense that they’re all friends, while still allowing for differences and points of conflict between the different characters (particularly Emo and Dom).

Spoilers ahead!

One part I didn’t like was the last episode with Athena getting angry at the others. It felt like we were supposed to side with Athena, but she was kind of really in the wrong? It’s the DM’s job to set up an enjoyable story for their players, but no episode demonstrates how bad Athena is at this than “Modern Day Thack-tivism.” You have a player who repeatedly says they don’t want to fight orcs and it causes conflict each time? Stop making the party fight orcs. You’re just a bad DM now. I’m hoping season two deals with this in more depth.

End of spoilers. 

Overall, The Ordinary Epic is a fun show about how our real lives and imagined lives can intersect in ways we can’t begin to imagine. I would recommend it to fans of The Guild (a fun webseries here, not a podcast) or stories about unlikely fandom friends like Fan Wars: The Empire Claps Back.

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cw: raised voices, blood, injury, toxic relationships, violence, death