The plot thickens, and by “thickens” I mean it gets very intriguing and mysterious. As I’ve said before in previous reviews, audio drama’s have their work cut out for them in terms of a mystery plot. Mostly it’s trouble’s with foreshadowing. It may make sense on the page, but the execution always doesn’t do it for me. The ending of The Kingery season four is such an example. I’m sure outlined and on simply reading the script that it works, but the point of audio drama is to listen. That’s not say that it’s the actors faults. I’ve yet to listen to an audio drama where I could blame a failure entirely on the actors. As like filmmaking, audio drama is a collaborative medium.
I’m also really liking the various subplots like the one involving “the muddy man.” Th subplots have a sort of space opera-esque feel to them, at least in the way they’re being executed. Your not going to find many supernatural thrillers like Wormwood. My first listen of this episode wasn’t nearly as exciting as the one I base this review on and I’m just glad I gave this serial a second chance. The first listen wasn’t too memorable.
Voldemort has always been on my list of top 20 villains in any story, mostly do to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and the Horcrux chapter. I know it sounds weird, and contradictory to what most professional writer’s talk about, but I enjoy reading info dumps. Maybe it’s just my love of learning – but when I read a paragraph, chapter or scene about how a magic system works (or technology, if science fiction) I adore it. The weirdest thing is I don’t generally write a lot of info dumps in my prose fiction stories.
I love the connection to World War II and the holocaust in episode two. In the books, I completely missed the subtext of “mudbloods” being allegorical to Jews. It wasn’t until the movies made it blatantly obvious that I saw the connection. I suppose that may have been the filmmaker’s call and not J.K. Rowling’s, but it made for interesting similarities that I love in stories. Basically I enjoy allegorical stories like The Crucible, because I love history and a good story and when those are combined in a unique way I enjoy the book that much more and can overlook some problems.
What I don’t get, and maybe this is just an example of same actor, different role, but why are Voldemort’s posse, practically the same actors as in Snape’s Diaries? This wouldn’t be a problem, but seeing as Tom Riddle’s Diary is set during World War II I can’t suspend my disbelief that Voldemort’s cronies survived when Snape was at school. Maybe I thought that the two Harry potter Series’ from Misfits Audio were connected in some way. I can believe Voldemort surviving all these years, because of splitting his soul. The more I think about it, the more confused I get with the timeline of Harry Potter (before the books begin).
What really brought it home for me was the way the writers tied in the flashback in The Chamber of Secrets. It was one of those nostalgic moments that I completely forgot about until the very last minute, when the credits rolled.
Going into this I thought the series was complete, but the end of episode four gave no closure to the series. In fact that’s when it started to get good. Not that the first three episodes were bad. They were okay, just not on the level I’ve come accustomed to when listening to a misfit’s audio production.
The acting, while not bad, I would imagine different takes could’ve been used. To put it simply, the actors didn’t match each other’s emotions. Yes I am aware that most online audio dramas don’t have people in the same room, feeding off each others performances. However, since there are many online audio dramas that have scenes and sometimes entire episodes where I suspend my disbelief and actually think they are in the same room. Those happen enough times that I can safely say that those instances are not flukes, but good choice of takes compiled together to form the illusion that these people are in the same room.
Episodes one and two were the setup episodes, but I don’t think many non-Harry Potter fans (whether that be the books or the movies) would be listening to this series. Then I read the release year on itunes: 2008. All that backstory was necessary, because the last Harry Potter movie hadn’t come out yet. And since quite a few people only watch the movies, they would have no idea that Snape loved Lily Evans/Potter. I felt the writer handled their relationship in a unique way that added to the Harry Potter universe, rather than crowbarring a story into the wizarding world of J.K. Rowling.
When I hear the tagline for “This Thing of Ours” (“A story about life in the mafia”), I imagine the fancy way of living that most mafia members probably enjoy. The holiday party scene was exactly what I think of when I hear the words, “mafia lifestyle.” The scene had great ambiance, it felt like I was sitting in the fancy room. As I’ve probably said before in another review, I’m a pretty vision-oriented person. For example: I rarely see what a character looks like inside my head. The fact that I could visualize it speaks a lot to the mixing side of the episode. On top of that, as I said before, I felt as if I was in the scene; immersed in it.
During that scene I felt like I was a character, witnessing the story first hand. Most of the time, when I listen to audio dramas I hear the story, rather than experiencing them. Just like movies, there are some audio dramas that are better than others.
I define “okay” audio dramas as ones where I only hear the story. “Great” audio dramas immerse me in the universe. A “bad” audio drama is where I have no idea what’s going on, whether it be the mixing or the writing. If I can’t follow the story, then you’ve lost me.
Scott Spaulding did this twice in the same episode. The final scene, where we are constantly shifting POV from Frank and Mickey to the people outside is so tense that I found my self saying: “Sh**, sh**, sh***” Luckily I was home, so no young minds were corrupted. But man, that was so nerve wracking. I only thought that cutting back and forth between shots worked in movies. After hearing this, I have to say that if I saw this scene on the screen, I wouldn’t be half as scared.
Episodes 2 and 3 were not the best, but the last two episodes more than make up for it. Generally the second act of a story is the boring bit, because your in between an awesome beginning and the climax. You still have to get from point A to point C, but point B is where things can get tricky. Episode 4 really brought me back into the lives of the mafia. The meeting between Frank, Carmine, Mickey and Steve is one of great suspense and conflict, because based on what you know about Frank and Mickey, you’re expecting one thing to happen. But what you get is both satisfying and inevitable.
Another plus of this episode was the “double doors” scam, implemented by Carmine and Joey. I’m not sure if it’s an actual mob practice, but it sure is simple and ingenious; not that I recommend people do it. A part of the scene I really enjoyed was when Joey is telling Carmine how to act. For example: “Look Happy.” It’s very clever in that he’s also telling the audience at the same time.
Since audio drama can be considered a “blind” medium, lines of dialogue that explain exactly what’s going on are difficult to pull off. The reason being is that when dialogue is badly written, it will often come in the form of “I found a…” The character’s can see the object or whatever it is they see, because they are part of the story. The audience, obviously, can’t and will sometimes groan when they hear dialogue like that (or maybe that’s just me).
Anyway, this is my second favorite episode of Season 1. Episode 5 is my favorite, but more on that next week.
I know I said before that I wish audio dramas would use more serious voice over narration in their story telling, but there are better ways of expositing, than an info dump. The whole spiel about the garbage service of New York City being the new prohibition was interesting, but wasn’t really relevant to the story. I know there are going to be some people who need an explanation as to why having two guys threaten to take a stop from Carmine, but they already established that without an info dump. I bought into the fact that it was a big deal, I didn’t need the whole story.
I will agree that some plot points need to have proper setup, but I just couldn’t figure out why the whole lecture about collecting garbage being the new prohibition was important to the story being told. I love alternative history as much as the next guy, but it just added fat that needed to be trimmed off. There seems to be a pattern in regards to how the story advances. We only get one advance per episode, which is fine in a (I assume) ongoing series, but when you add in all the exposition/voice over there isn’t much substance.
The production value is top notch, as always, but the episode barely had any meat on the bone. It was mostly just fat.
That being said, episodes 4 and 5 are the best in the season, so don’t think it only goes downhill from here. In fact, it does the exact opposite. But, more on that when the time comes. 😉
Starting off the second episode with a long expository voice over isn’t the best way to start an episode. It was interesting, but border-lined on being a simple info dump. The first episode never crossed that line into the boring info dump. It came close, but it never crossed. That, and it didn’t start the episode with a monologue. I know in the review of the first episode, I said that I wished there were more serious examples of voice over narration. The first episode blew me out of the water. However, the second episode walked the carefully constructed line that episode one created. There wasn’t that much new and exciting. The production value, again, really amped up the experience for me. But that can only do so much. And with a mafia story, there can always be room for increasing the interest.
The main point this episode makes, in terms of the plot, is that two guys threaten two of Carmine’s workers. Other than that scene, the rest of the episode is just exposition and an occasional, somewhat funny, joke/wisecrack. Using the lyric: “reunited and it feels so good” as a joke, in my mind, is kind of cliche. I use that song as the butt of many of my jokes, so that’s probably why I think it is overused. To someone else, however, it may be original. The joke also seemed forced, but that’s probably because of it being a potential cliche.
The first episode of Scott Spaulding’s “This Thing of Ours” is a great mixture of first person viewpoint, production value and what can be accomplished in an audio drama. The story plays out like one being told in the first person point of view. Normally, in film and radio, it’s often a cheap trick to give away exposition and often times is not received well by audiences. This, however, is an exception.
My favorite kind of stories to read and write are first person viewpoints. So far, this show sets my bar way above other audio drama that use voice over narration. I say this, because they are often used as a comedic element of the story. “This Thing of Ours” just proves that you can treat this story technique seriously. I honestly wish there were more voice overs that didn’t put a joke in just to poke fun at the fact that it’s a voice over.
When Carmine Santorelli is describing Joey “8 ball” Scarfidi he just flat out explained how he got his nickname and the story continued. Most of the time a sequence like that would detach a reader from the story; The dreaded info dump, if you will. Maybe this is just a perk of audio dramas, but I didn’t get derailed at all. It could have been the acting, the amazing production value or the script that made it work. All of these basic elements of any audio drama have to work together. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been turned off, because of a sound effect or audio filter.
I never really have much to say about the acting component, because usually the actors do a great job at their performances. “This Thing of Ours” is no different. The production was phenomenal and rivaled that of “The Leviathan Chronicles.”
When I first listened to the second season of the Kingery I thought there was no way the writers could top off the explosive ending of the first season. I was wrong. The writer’s were fulfilling promises made way back in episode three of the second season that I completely glossed over the first listen. The deaths of various Kingery employees was still a mystery, even though we had evidence of who it was right from the first three episodes. I either didn’t want to believe it or the writers did a fine job of masking that fact and treating it like a red herring, rather than an actual clue. To accomplish both at the same time is quite remarkable.
However, and this goes more into season three and four of the show, I feel that since the second season the finales have been less satisfying. Season three’s ending was half character-driven and half huge action set piece. They blended them quite well, but it kept me from saying to myself: “that was a GREAT ending.” Season four’s ending seemed to tack on the SOL body swapping at the very end just for a huge plot twist. But, introducing a promise that late in the season feels more like bad foreshadowing. The biggest question I have for that season’s ending is “why?”
Going back to the second season, the performances were all top notch. I really enjoyed the scenes with Fix and Tommy. Their chemistry was great and that scene in season 2, episode 7 blew my mind and I said “yeah!” out loud, when Fix got what was coming to him.
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