The Black Tapes Podcast: Episode 201 - Sleepless in Seattle
January 19, 2016 8:02 AM - Subscribe

In the Season Two opener, Dr. Strand's search for his missing wife has begun to take its toll. Meanwhile, Alex follows a tip about another mysterious child, and the appearance of some strange but familiar symbols.
posted by Tevin (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Bit of a reset here - I suspect most of Season 1 was by plotted by the seat of their pants (or at least not plotted out well in advance) so it feels like they are going back to basics with Season 2. Alex and Strand are again awakward together, there's another potential missing kid, etc. This isn't a bad thing, mind you, but it will be tough to balance between using what they've learned from making Season 1/TANIS and retreading well worn, rune-carved ground.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:33 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I posted this when I first saw it because I figured I would want to talk about it and ... well, yeah, I DO want to talk about it.

I stopped listening and unsubscribed when Strand confronts Alex about misconstruing what he said in interviews. It felt wildly contrived and wholly out of character with the rapport that has been established between the two of them. I get wanting to "reset" a little bit - but this was so clumsy, and so out of left field, it just made me say "ugh" and turn it off.

That in itself wouldn't have been so bad - but it followed the scene where Nick info dumps on Alex, rattles off some names, says he'll do some, and drop back in later. I'm so tired of that. Alex, as it is, has zero agency. She doesn't do anything. She just kind of waits around for something to happen and bumbles along until she runs into a Plot Device. I like the creepy vibes the Plot Devices generate but (here's that word again) it all feels so contrived. I had hoped they would come back to this season with more creative ways to tell their stories but I don't think that's happening.

The aforementioned lack of agency bothers me in Tanis, too. Nick, for all intents and purposes, is an idiot. MK does all the work and he acts surprised. The exact same dynamic is at play in TBT except Nick/Strand are the all-knowing researches and Alex is the idiot.

This is an issue in Limetown, too. But that doesn't bother me because lack of control is an explicit theme so there's a reason for Lea to be strung along. It is frustrating, but it feels like there's little she can do besides wait for someone else to contact her because it's all anyone can do. In the first episode of TBT we're introduced to a bunch of interesting amateur paranormal investigators who provide a nice template of what Alex COULD develop into.

But characters don't really develop in this world - they just bumble along until they run into something interesting.
posted by Tevin at 7:46 PM on January 19, 2016

I see where you're coming from, Tevin. I'm hoping this sort of reboot/reframing will help make Alex a more active character, in so much that she can be given the limitations of the "Serial Knockoff" format. Hopefully Limetown's Lea Haddock has had an influence on Alex Regan (Lea at least goes out and tracks people down, Alex tends to be approached by weirdos).

That said, there's only so much that the narrator of this sort of show can do.

As characters that exist "In Universe," Alex and Nic already know the answers to the questions they've raised ("more on X coming soon..") and they choose to manipulate the audience in order to build suspense. For the most part, you know the main character is not in danger otherwise there'd be no podcast. The Message played around with the unreliable narrator and I wonder if Alex's new insomnia is an attempt to twist things in that direction as well. The addition of an "ongoing" case means we can get Alex on the scene of a bird strike or similar weirdness (like she was with the ghost hunters) and away from the format of Updates - Strand/Nic Explains It All - New Witness Statement - Interview - Promised Update.

I think the tension between Strand and Alex is required going forward in order to keep her from becoming his Watson. By having Strand unwillingly reach out to her, we give them reason to stick together although at the risk of drowning in 'mythos' related stories (way too many loose missing person threads at the moment). I agree it would be nice to have them bicker while standing in a field looking for UFOs or something. They really need a bottle episode or something.

As for Tanis, I think Nic being lead around by his nose is intentional as MK is the runner he asked for before he knew what was going on. But we can save that for another thread.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:51 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

See, I have this pet theory that Strand is the Devil, or at least working for him. (Theme: The devil's finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.) So Strand sets up this bogus million-dollar bet to:

1) Provide a reasonable, science-based explanation to throw people off,
2) Create chaos, and
3) Keep a pulse on who exactly is seeing and reporting demonic things.

I mean, if I were the Devil and had the excess of free time one gets when living through eternity, trolling the media is pretty much exactly what I'd be doing to amuse myself right about now.

So I didn't really like him getting defensive with Alex. He was so arrogantly confident last season, even in some ways conspiratorial with Alex and loving the attention the show was affording him. I get that he draws the line at the investigation of his wife, but it seems more his style to stick to plausible deniability.

I did, however, really like the Katie story. I got some chills at the description of her talking to no one and turning around, slowly, with a wide and unsettling smile. I liked the scratching noises. And Katie staring at the camera. I like how Katie's mother's story was undermined, quite possibly deliberately.

And I agree they need to bump up their foley and go on location a bit more.

A friend (hi friend!) and I were digging through, trying to find the voice actors for Alex and Strand but we're coming up empty. The showrunners seem to be trying to keep this as realistic as possible. Is there any way to find out?
posted by mochapickle at 10:52 AM on January 20, 2016

Alex Reagan is voiced by Alex Reagan. I suspect Strand is done by one of the other producers (digitally altered) with the other being Nic.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:16 AM on January 20, 2016

That's part of the construct. There's no Alex Reagan, no Nic Silver, no Pacific Northwest Stories. Every photo or reference to Alex Reagan is connected to the podcast.

The two producers, Paul Bae and Terry Miles, are real, though.
posted by mochapickle at 11:33 AM on January 20, 2016

Speaking of foley work: how bout we get some other effect to denote an important plot development besides the bass-drop-thingy they use twenty thousand times per episode? Getting real tired of that little nugget.

I think I might need to get some space from TBT and Tanis.
posted by Tevin at 11:56 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Huh. I thought that Alex was a real person playing a fictionalized version of herself - they show the pictures of her, Paul, and Terry on the site. Nic and Strand are fake, sure.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:09 PM on January 20, 2016

For what it's worth, you had me checking! :)

I couldn't find any trace of her before last August.
posted by mochapickle at 12:35 PM on January 20, 2016

dude i think we have a podcast to do
ill get the bass-drop sound effects
you start recording a folksy intro song
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:48 PM on January 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

I hope they do something to play up Alex's sleeplessness. She should go a little mad this season.
posted by mochapickle at 1:05 PM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I haven't finished this episode yet as it just doesn't seem to be able to keep my interest, though I'm glad to hear other people complain about the "a spooky thing!!!" noise they overuse.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 8:06 AM on January 21, 2016

The best thing I can say about this episode is that I have absolutely no idea where they're going to be going from here. Where's Coralee? Who's hunting Richard? Why is he mad at and then cool with Alex? Was Rebecca's apartment really haunted?

I haven't unsubscribed yet, but I'm not drooling with anticipation when this shows up in my podroll, either.
posted by Etrigan at 9:16 AM on January 21, 2016

Hmm, I had a really different impression... I thought this was one of the best episodes so far. A lot of the episodes felt pretty predictable or repetitive, like people would keep repeating the same thing... I liked the conversation with the nanny and how it put everything in a very different light. Also the idea that the mother had been listening to the podcast, which made me think that maybe the podcast itself is becoming a vector for the shadow people or whatevs. But I'm a sucker for metafiction...

I do agree that it's annoying when they're like, "We'll update you about that later this episode..."
posted by overglow at 9:34 AM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also the idea that the mother had been listening to the podcast, which made me think that maybe the podcast itself is becoming a vector for the shadow people or whatevs. But I'm a sucker for metafiction...

You should check out The Message.
posted by Etrigan at 9:55 AM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Etrigan, I have, it's one of my favorite podcasts!
posted by overglow at 10:01 AM on January 21, 2016

I kind of liked Alex's line about "oh great, now I have to be the rational one discovering that something spooky is bullshit." Especially if Strand has gone around the bend and is seeing conspiracies. I mean, it's not the most amazing twist ever, but it could give the show a bit of a shake-up and getting moving more precisely.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:54 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

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