REVIEW: Welcome to Night Vale (season 4) by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

Standing and Breathing

Fan art I made using the poster for “Ghost Stories”

As script books have only been released for the first two seasons of Welcome to Night Vale, all further reviews of the podcast itself will be based solely on the content of the podcast and the plots therein. In season four of Welcome to Night Vale, Night Vale faces a threat so terrifying that there seems to be nothing they can do to defeat it: a terribly cute beagle puppy and his army of tall, faceless strangers who only stand and breathe. Hiram McDaniels faces trials for his crimes against Mayor Cardinal, Desert Bluffs and Night Vale become one city, and all of Night Vale is under threat from one cute puppy who may not be all that he seems.

This season is probably my second favorite season, after season two. The first few episodes of this season are mostly one-offs, leading up to the release of the first Night Vale novel and its accompanying tie-in episode (which was itself a great episode and also great promotion for the novel). But after that episode, the plotline for the season really kicks it into high gear with the introduction of the tall strangers who only stand and breathe and never seem to move, but somehow get closer than you thought they originally were. This concept alone is the stuff of nightmares. The way it’s executed and resolved in the season continues to be creepy as hell.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some really good episodes in those first six episodes because there are. Particularly episode 73: Triptych, which gives Kevin (the radio host from Desert Bluffs and one of the main antagonists in season two) some much-needed backstory and character development. The episode is moving, and odd, and seeing Cecil’s confusion and empathy for Kevin’s situation is really moving and gives Cecil’s character some more development as well. This episode is one of my favorites from the series as a whole.

This season deals with some of the fallout from Night Vale Community Radio’s insanely high mortality rate for its interns as former interns Maureen and Chad team together to usher in this evil beagle and his deadly plans into existence. I wish more of the season had been dedicated to exploring the fallout of the deaths of all the interns, but I like that the concept was explored at all. Maureen’s increased role in the season was also nice, giving her character some development served the show well as it gave another interesting female character to the audience and one who wasn’t terribly fond of Cecil, at that.

This season leans more into horror than last season did. Last season dealt a lot with interpersonal drama and relationship woes between Cecil and Carlos. This season really feels like its goal is to scare the pants off of the audience, and it succeeds. The first part of the two-part finale, Who’s A Good Boy?, is perhaps one of the creepiest and uncomfortable things I’ve ever listened to. It was the first time that Night Vale had really actually scared me. Kudos to Cecil Baldwin’s acting in that episode.

This season as a whole is a really strong one. Every season has some duds, but this one really doesn’t. There are some experimental episodes like The April Monologues (which furthers the ongoing plotline in a really unique way that I loved) and Lost in the Mail (which primarily focuses on the relationship between a girl and her father who’s gone off to fight in the Blood-Space War), but much of this season is really focused on advancing the plotline. More than any other season so far, this one really feels like a serial. Things happen in one episode that are often directly followed up with in the next episode, and I love it. It really makes you want to listen to each episode the moment you’re able to, as you’ve spent the last two weeks speculating as to what exactly is going on.

This season of Night Vale is scary, interesting, emotional, absurdly funny, and full of good and unique storytelling. It’s perfect for fans of podcasts, fans of science fiction and fantasy, fans of horror, or just fans of good stories in general. I give this season of Welcome to Night Vale 5 out of 5 wands.

Welcome to Night Vale can be found on iTunes, YouTube, Soundcloud, etc. Their website has more information and can be found here.

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