Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Review: The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries Series 2, “The Mystery of the Soulmates Hotel”


It is the brain, the little grey SPOILERS AHEAD on which one must rely. One must seek the truth within-not without.

“A creature from an unknown Hell dimension breaks into our world to run a MATCHMAKING service?!” “Well, everyone’s got to have a hobby…”

Get the episode HERE.
Hello again, creeps! It is your old friend Justin. Back at it again in my cramped vestibule of an “office”, hunched over my roll top, typing into a void, and desperately seeking some kind of contact to the outside world. I mean, reviewing audio adventures set in my not at all haunted hometown! HA! HA! We have fun here. In all honesty, this weekend was tough for me and while I avoided a stint in Windcliffe (THIS time) I want to thank you all for your patience with me as the new guy and for all the kind words and suggestions the community has offered since I’ve come on. Fandom isn’t always the horrid sludge pits you read about online and the Dark Shadows (and Big Finish Productions staff and fans) fandoms is a sterling example of how fandom can be such a welcoming and rewarding thing. Or everyone is secretly talking about me behind my back WHO KNOWS?! But from the bottom of my heart, thanks for making a yokel like me feel welcome.

Anyway, enough of my millennial touchy-feely nonsense, because boy, oh boy, do we have a treat of an episode to talk about today. The closing story of The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries Series 2, “The Mystery of the Soulmates Hotel” by Grace Knight! A little bit ago, I wanna say like a week or so, one of the Big Finish staffers, I can’t quite remember which, said that they were honestly shocked at how crazy this series of Tony & Cassandra was. At the time, I took it in stride, thinking “Okay, well that sounds fun.”. And then, holy cats, they were bloody right. Not only does this finale story have genuine heart and a cracking central mystery, but Grace Knight’s script completely explodes the scale of the series, sending our heroes bounding across TIME ITSELF, like some sort of unholy Doctor Who spin-off. After last episode’s intimate, but truly clever concept, “The Mystery of the Soulmates Hotel” sends Series 2 off on what could be it’s strongest episodes to date.

So before we dive into the episode’s core conceit and bananas cliffhanger (which can only be described as “cruel”), I want to talk about this episode’s not-so-secret weapon; it’s heart. Turned onto the Bar Harbor singles resort by a concerned friend of a missing former client, Tony and Cassandra go undercover as lovelorn singles, desperate to find their soulmates. On paper it sounds very Moonlighting, but Knight’s script really delves into genuine emotions here, with the whole cast, providing genuine pathos to enrich the supernatural intrigue, which is already pretty freaking rich to begin with. But these stories in particular have really endeared me to Tony and Cassandra’s relationship, amplified by Lara Parker and Jerry Lacy’s tremendous chemistry. While this episode may have not provided quite the closure I want (JUST KISS ALREADY), Knight’s story felt like a proper emotional payoff for them.

May I also just say, I am sincerely astounded by the way these Big Finish stories have integrated queer characters and relationships into their folds? In a time where major television and film productions are clumsily fumbling around with or coyly sidestepping the issue altogether while at the same time queer-baiting the absolute bloody hell out of an audience, stories like this one and Bloodlust and probably a whole bunch of others I haven’t even heard yet are just casually, and organically weaving gay characters into their narratives and making it look EASY. There is a lot to love about these productions but this has to be one of the biggest things for me.

And I haven’t even gotten to the best bit! That Tony and Cassandra basically act out a Doctor Who episode! It turns out the big bag of this episode, the stoically psychotic Mrs. Hill (played with relish by Abi Harris) is extracting the attribute of a person’s personality that means the most to them in exchange for depositing them in TIME through enchanted rooms in her sprawling hotel. Oh, she also EATS the personality trait in the form of a flesh pearl. Friggen nuts, right?! I knew that time travel wasn’t exactly something that was off the table in the Dark Shadows universe, but seeing it deployed in the fairly grounded sandbox of this series was a real hoot. One that pretty much allows this show free reign when it comes to stories from now on. This episode ends with a particularly juicy cliffhanger that shows that they are at least planning to run with the craziness. Series 2 really sticks the landing but stands ready to hit the ground running once again once Series 3 comes round.

I really can’t wait, but for now I am happy with how “The Mystery of the Soulmates Hotel” ends the series. Even if I do have to wait another year until I find out just what the hell happens. I suppose for now we can just be happy with the stellar audio adventures. Being a Dark Shadows fan is such a hard lot in life, isn’t it? And that is another beat walked for your humble narrator! And I hope you had just as much fun walking it with me! If you didn’t, take it up with the head office. I just work here.

Until next time, please please please send along any suggestions you might have about what I should listen to or read or watch next! I actually have a TV in my room over at the Collinsport Inn so I can watch stuff! It even has TWO knobs! Can ya believe it?! I have also heard some chatter about me tackling more of the “1983” stories post-Bloodlust, which would be fun to hear before Bloodline comes out (but keep your eyes peeled for something special possibly happening for that particular serial, my good ghouls). Admittedly, I have had my eye on one or two of the “1973” series myself. Stories like Beyond the Grave, starring my beloved, doomed Kate Ripperton and The House by the Sea starring my favorite classic Doctor (don’t @ me) Colin Baker. It is an embarrassment of dark riches, friends, but I wanna hear what YOU think either by e-mail or Twitter, or Facebook, or even dark words on dark wings. I am pretty sure we have a rookery here.

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 Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.  

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...