Friday, January 4, 2019

Dark Shadows, The 1973 Tapes: The Flip Side


Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey Spoilers Ahead.

“I don’t come to The Blue Whale to get introspective…”

Girls’ night turns into a standoff with a time-hopping psychopath in 2013’s The Flip Side by Cody Schell. The fifth installment of my current beat finds us following a spiraling Carolyn Stoddard, who is hoping for a fun night on the town with her friends Amy and Sabrina Jennings and Maggie Evans. But instead she finds a man from beyond the veil of time who seeks revenge against her and will stop at nothing will find it. Though I am getting a bit perturbed at this series’ continued use of single locations, The Flip Side is a fantastic Marvel Comics’ What If? -like exploration of the franchise, hinged around one of the show’s secret weapons, Nancy Barrett. It isn’t quite Doctor Who, but it is the next best thing and an emotional thrill ride to boot.

Amy Jennings is back from her recent side quest into ghost busting and Carolyn wants to celebrate! Naturally she gathers the squad and heads down to The Blue Whale. But instead of finding a good time and cheap drinks there, she suddenly finds herself alone with Jonah Rooney, the nephew of the owner. But there is something different about this Jonah. Something ... sinister. And why does he keep fiddling with that strange coin?

Like I said, I am kind of tired of the writers using just one set. Especially after I have heard just how WELL they have employed multiple sets and scene changes in other stories like the Tony and Cassandra Mysteries and Bloodlust. I know I should probably ease up on it a bit since I am still in the relatively early days of the range and they were just finding their feet with larger stories, but it is one of the pitfalls of where I started as a listener. It honesty isn’t even THAT big of a deal, I just wish some of these early stories were a bit more ambitious in their, I dunno, audio set design? I might just be nitpicking.

Because honestly, I have to find SOMETHING negative to say about this one, because everything else about it is pretty much perfect! I have often thought that Nancy Barrett was one of the show’s better presences and The Flip Side pretty much proves it for a solid hour. Provided a worthy sparring partner in the cooly menacing Christopher Ragland, Barrett commands throughout this episode as the script and directors David Darlington, Darren Gross and Jim Pierson take us through a sort of walking tour of alternate Dark Shadows timelines, centered around Carolyn and the choices she has made.

The irony isn’t lost on me that I listened to this in the aftermath of the new Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Black Mirror episode, but I found this audio to be a lot more focused than that. Schell picks a few choice moments in the canon to mess with (shout out to all my fellow Leviathan fans out there) and even lobs a pretty hilarious knuckleball at the Tim Burton movie along the way. Of course, nothing is really changed thanks to Jonah’s coin from another timeband, but the idea is still a really fun on and delves back into the time-traveling hijinks that we know and love from the franchise.

But really Nancy Barrett is the reason this audio really shines and if you are a Carolyn stan (I hope I’m using that correctly as I am a piss poor Millennial) The Flip Side is essential listening. I had been grousing that Carolyn really hadn’t been given her proper due in this arc thus far, but man, oh, man did this episode more than make up for it. I defy anyone to listen to her performance of her final scene, one involving a tearful phone call to her estranged mother, and not at least feel SOMETHING. Weird, emotional, and a fantastic showcase of yet another immensely talented woman in the cast’s roster, The Flip Side might very well be one of the best efforts from this entire arc.

NEXT TIME! Beyond the Grave! My most anticipated episode since starting here! Until then, be seeing you.

The complete 1973 saga:

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.

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