Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Review: The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries Series 2, “The Mystery of Stone Heart Studios”


Forget it Jake, it’s SPOILERS AHEAD.

Get the episode HERE.
Our favorite supernatural detective duo return in The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries Series 2! Picking up a few months from the finale of Series 1, Tony Peterson and Cassandra Collins find themselves investigating the weird deaths of voice actors and taking on murderous cartoon characters in “The Mystery of Stone Heart Studios”. Written by Philip Meeks and directed by Darren Gross and Joe Lidster, this opening gambit for Series 2 brings all the charm and macabre comedy of the series back in full force, spearheaded by the wonderful performances of Jerry Lacy and Lara Parker. I will admit that this series will always hold a special place in my heart as it was my first major Big Finishverse experience (that wasn’t Doctor Who related) as well as my first interaction with all you lovely people here at the Society. But that said, it makes my job so much easier when the episodes are as fun and as well produced as “The Mystery of Stone Heart Studios” is. And from the sound of this opening entry, The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries Series 2 is going to be a hell of a lot of fun.

So Tony and Cassandra are back on the beat, trying to work in harmony together, while also resisting their clear attraction to one another. I love a good “Will They/Won’t They”. Thankfully they have plenty of casework to distract them and this episode’s case is a real doozy. Hired by a newly reopened cartoon studio to investigate the bizarre killings of their voice actors, Tony and Cassandra quickly find themselves hip deep in ancient Chumash magicks, haunted animation cels, and Hanna-Barbera analogues hellbent on feeding the trickster entity that spawned them.

Just as a hook for a mystery, this series opener has a real fun one. One that seems innocent enough at first, but reveals a real nastiness; something that really struck me about the first series and drew me deeper into each episode. Furthermore, this episode’s wryly funny tone and the script’s hilariously meta moments (Tony at one point wonders if there will ever be a long running TV horror serial) really starts this series off with a bang. Though I could have really gone without some of the script’s casually flippant fat-shaming of one of it’s characters, this opening episode effortlessly resurrects the charm and twisty fun of the opening series.

“The Mystery of Stone Heart Studio” is also a fantastic introduction to this series’ new cast of wonderful actors. You don’t need me to tell you that Jerry Lacy and Lara Parker rule. You are here, aren’t you? Well, it really does bare repeating. Lacy and Parker hardly miss a step, easily bringing back their bickering, but warm dynamic as they attempt to coexist and run a successful business. Tom Michael Blyth emerges early as a favorite as Myron Ratzenberger, one of the studio’s surviving original actors, who sounds like a hilarious mixture of Vincent Price and Paul Lynde. Jake Wardle, last seen being the Iron Fist we deserve in Twin Peaks: The Return, also makes his debut here as starry-eyed audio tech Randall Merrick. Armed with an impeccable American accent, he brings a real Jimmy Olsen-esque energy to the episode. I really loved his short, but vital part in the new Twin Peaks (which if you haven’t seen yet, jesus christ, what are you waiting for?) so I am really excited to see what all else he gets up to in this series. Abi Harris and Doireann May White round out this season’s troupe and they really go for the gusto here, the latter pulling double duty as one of the past victims and the episode’s antagonist. They both really display a vast vocal range in this opening episode and I cannot wait to see just how much more they can bring to this second series. I also really love the idea that this show has a gaggle of actors just at its disposal and they get to take on multiple parts throughout. Voice actors are brilliant just all around.

So with a killer hook, a deliciously talented cast, and charm to spare “The Mystery of Stone Heart Studios” starts The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries Series 2 off on a great foot. We even get touches of serialization like Series 1 which was an unexpected, but delightful turn for rubes like me who didn’t know what to expect from the release. This new series should drop here any day now and I really think, just based on the strength of this opening episode, that Series 2 is going to be another winner for the Dark Shadows Special Release range. And just to make sure, I am going to hole up in my office/sarcophagus here at the CHS and comb through each episode with a fine tooth comb! Join me will you? Wallace said he would let me see the sun again if y’all read these.

NEXT TIME! “The Mystery of West Vale Sanitarium” by Joshua J. Price & Tanja Milojevic! Tony and Cass need a new secretary and I think I have a sneaking suspicion of who that might be. Be seeing you.

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at justin@betweenthepanels.com Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.  

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