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Hobo Code: A Non-Linear Audio Drama

There comes a time when you think you’ve experienced all audio drama has to offer. As a critic for over a decade, that path to becoming jaded about the thing that brought you so much joy is a very real possibility. That goes for any critic in any medium. Part of it is how well they can argue their case of why the story is good, bad or neutral. Another is when you’ve experienced so many stories, you begin to see more of the faults than the elements that are actually working. This audio drama is the first one in a long time where that sense of boredom and the “been there done that” mentality became mere white noise to this non-linear miniseries. A podcast called “Hobo Code.”

The Best of American Lit Class

“Hobo Code” feels the culmination of every story read for English class. It borrows from “The Grapes of Wrath,” has the dramatic weight of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and complexity rivaling “As I Lie Dying” by William Faulkner. I didn’t read Mark Twain’s great American novel or Faulkner’s multiple first-person story until college, and I’ve only read one Steinbeck story. It wasn’t “Grapes of Wrath.”

Out of all the two books I did read during my K-12 and college educations, “As I Lay Dying” is a story that’s stuck with me. I remember finishing it on a train ride. To say it blew my mind might be hyperbole, but after an entire school career of mostly skimming the required texts, this was the first story with staying power for me.

The Code and Emotional Intelligence of the Hobo

The structure of “Hobo Code” is simple to understand on paper, but can be difficult to grasp when listening. The podcast follows three characters in three different point in their lives. Of the three, in order of most engaging backstory, are Brother Isaac, Elizabeth “Buts” Wyland, and Gadabout Jack. Of course an engaging backstory doesn’t automatically make a character stand out. Buts is the emotional core of the audio drama with Isaac coming in close second. The scene with her in the candy shop is heartbreaking in episode. The third episode takes place before the Great Depression and focuses on a character named Nick.

My intellectual curiosity peeked during the penultimate episode of the series. I could spot the creator’s plan for nick early on in the final part. Those who paid closer attention might’ve been able to spot the twist. Surprisingly, the impact of the reveal wasn’t lessened as one might expect. Rather than treat it as a revelation, creators Paul Pakler and Shane Portman downplayed the moment and made it fit the scene instead of the other way around. The moment may be small, but the impact on the listener is much greater. That’s a magic trick not many can pull off. “Oppenheimer” does it well and “Hobo Code” achieves the same result.

9.5/10+ Stars