Internet podcast sensation Welcome to Night Vale‘s second season finale (and two year anniversary) is July 1, 2014 (well, Part A dropped June 15th; Part B will drop the first). I’m not obsessed with Night Vale, I just love it with every fiber of my being. It makes me laugh and cry, but also gives me strength. And so, dear readers, I’d like to share ten episodes with you that you can listen to in anticipation of the season finale.
If you’re not already listening to Night Vale, you’re probably trying to avoid it because its fans can be rather obnoxious on Tumblr. But creators and writers Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor have crafted a deeply layered world, a liberal’s dream version of The Simpson’s Springfield or Lovecraft’s nightmares: “Voice of Night Vale” Cecil is gay; the object of his affection is Hispanic; the mayor is female; two old women (Josie and Faceless) are important recurring characters; and 13-year-old Tamika Flynn is a revolutionary.
Strange lights hover above the sky in Night Vale. Angels, which of course don’t exist, change light bulbs. Entering or even looking at the dog park is forbidden. Cats float in the bathroom. The strange is normal, and a better alternative to whatever lurks in nearby rival city Desert Bluffs.
Check out this amazing fan-created trailer:
Obviously I think you should listen to every episode, but this sampling will get you started if you just want a better understanding of those weird posts on Tumblr.
1. Episode 1: Pilot
Many people will tell you that while the first few episodes are pleasant, Night Vale doesn’t pick up until this ep or that ep. Those people are wrong. The pilot episode is just as weirdly charming as all the others, and lays the groundwork for many important arcs and characters to come.
Major events: Cecil falls in love instantly with perfect Carlos, the scientist. Old Woman Josie is visited by angels. The dog park opens, and everyone is forbidden from entering. Khoshekh, the cat, floats in the men’s room and in our hearts.
2. Episode 12: The Candidate
Previous episodes certainly set up important characters and events, but the effects of Episode 12 are being felt even now in the Season 2 finale. Hiram McDaniels, the fugitive five-headed dragon, is caught and blogs about the changes he’d make if he were mayor. Cecil takes this as a serious bid to run and endorses the dragon.
Major events: Hiram’s bid, of course, but I actually don’t care about the election stuff, as I like Mayor Pamela Winchell. As the episode draws to a close, Cecil explains that “the past is over and cannot hurt you anymore.” And when I feel sad and desperate I remember this and recite it as a mantra.
3. Episode 13: A Story About You
For this first time, Night Vale makes a shift in story-telling format. Told in second person, the episode details how you found yourself in Night Vale and ends with you being consumed by the Void (maybe).
Major events: We learn more about Night Vale’s geography and some of the sinister forces at work behind the scenes.
4. Episode 14: The Sandstorm Part A and Part B
A sandstorm consumes Night Vale and Desert Bluffs, causing citizens to encounter and kill their doppelgängers. Cecil travels through a—tunnel? worm hole?—and lands in the radio station in Desert Bluffs, while Kevin, the radio host in Desert Bluffs, finds himself in Night Vale. An ambitious set of episodes with a rather beautiful weather forecast.
Major events: Meeting Kevin and learning more about Desert Bluffs, including StrexCorp and the Smiling God. The first mention of Intern Dana.
5. Episode 25: One Year Later
My favorite episode. Tensions in the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex come to a head (finishing an arc first begun in the pilot). Also all of the children are missing.
Major events: “I just wanted to see you.”
6. Episode 26: Faceless Old Woman
Like the pilot, episode 26 sets up important plots and characters. Intern Dana (or her double) has not died, like previous radio interns, but is trapped in the forbidden dog park. Even as she becomes lost in time and space, Dana will continue texting and calling.
Major events: Turns out there’s a Faceless Old Woman who lives in your house.
7. Episode 28: Summer Reading Program
Several of Night Vale’s children have been abducted to take part in the summer reading program. Twelve-year-old Tamika Flynn leads the children to safety by killing several librarians. (Much like on Parks and Rec, librarians are evil in Night Vale.)
Major events: Introduction of Tamika Flynn and her child soldiers. Proof that the librarians can be defeated.
8. Episode 31: A Blinking Light up on the Mountain
Despite previously informing us mountains don’t exist, Cecil informs us there is a mountain and it has a blinking light. And that a masked army is approaching across the muddy plain. Carlos claims it is all but a mirage.
Major events: Mountains. Armies.
9. Episode 46: Parade Day
Tamika Flynn has been missing for some time and StrexCorp wants her. She and her child militia lead a revolt against StrexCorp. Unfortunately, no one else shows up. Cecil, part of the revolution, is also captured.
Major events: Revolution. Ruin.
10. Episode 48: Renovations
Kevin and Lauren from Desert Bluffs have taken over the show. Everyone in Night Vale is at a StrexCorp company picnic! The helmeted party captains ensure everyone has a good time. However, a few citizens manage to escape.
Major events: The revolution resumes.