Season Two is not “woke” like some other reviews are complaining, it just follows different characters and a different perspective. Unfortunately, the new story lacks in the same convincing acting, writing, and direction. Season One was groundbreaking in its sound design, and that shows up occasionally in season two, but the writing is so bad it’s not really worth it.
Our new heroine, Wren, is an annoyingly one note character ineffectively written to be an anti-hero who never gives people second chances. Her lack of dimension is carried throughout the entire new cast, full of tropes, cliches, and strong/wrong choices.
There isn’t enough character or story development. Season one worked because we got to know people, we got invested before they switched, but season two doesn’t give us the same slow build. There’s too many characters flipping between too many opposing motivations without any explanation as to what’s driving their motivations.
Two terrible choices that highlight the ridiculousness of season two: the main antagonist having a comical speech impediment. Sure, all people can be all things, but when you’re creating an AUDIO show, every detail of the sound is important. Audiences have preconceptions, and I couldn’t help but compare him to the befuddled Elmer Fudd. WHY does that character have that affect, why is it important? Never addressed or answered, just a professor who is up to some ‘willy bad things fow no weason in his spawe time.’
And the most annoying choice *spoiler* is killing off Simon (Rami Malek) for no reason with a fallen branch. Even if your billboard lead doesn’t want to continue working on the project, but agrees to record himself getting killed off so the story and project can continue, kill him in a better way. It’s also hard to say he “stars” in season two when he’s in all of 10 minutes of the entire season. Clearly there was a contract dispute or something, but a fallen branch in a storm after surviving so much in season one is insulting to the audience and the integrity of the storytelling. If I wasn’t on a long drive with the whole season queued up I would have stopped there.
Finally, some of the other reviews were complaining that the finale was behind a paywall (out for free now), but it’s just a bonus episode. And, if you’ve made it this far in a Podcast review, that goes to show you the quality of the writing this season. The finale is so lackluster and inconclusive several other reviewers didn’t even realize it was the finale because nothing significant enough for a finale happens. You have characters switching motivations for no reason and helping their “enemy” with no sense for “why now.”
I wrote this long review because I’m bored and on vacation, and while I know it takes teams of people to build something like this and this changes nothing, I still hope that season three might be able to course correct. Season one was the first fiction podcast I felt matched the quality we see on video streaming platforms, it was great to have something so captivating and transporting I could listen to while driving or out on a walk, or listening to on my sound system (maybe repeated listening because I wanted to hear the sound design properly). I felt like this Podcast was really raising the quality and standards. So I’ll give season three a listen, but if the characters are just as flat, I’ll probably only give it an episode or two.