I guess this a quick follow-up to that earlier post where I criticized paranormal news show Welcome to Night Vale for not having real character or a discernible plot. Well, it’s time for me to eat some delicious crow because Episode 13 — A Story About You — handily bucked the trends of the other episodes by having just enough story and plot to handily redeem the show. The episode features a story told in second person about a seemingly average person who ends up in Night Vale, has an odd job unloading strange crates and the resulting bizarreness that confronts him. It’s a good mix of Barton Fink-esque Cohen Brothers, Kafka and David Lynch — all narrated in Cecil Baldwin’s dulcet tones. The story succeeds because it has all the lovely imagery that Night Vale packs on, but puts that into a nifty narrative to great effect.
Plus, I really have to give credit to Welcome to Night Vale for the construction of a complex fictional place. After twelve episodes, I get to know the town like I know all of my favorite fictional locations. I know the landmarks, the inhabitants, even the bizarre history and the freaky phenomena. The previous twelve episodes create the setting and episode 13 — and I hope more episodes — tell the story using that setting. I’m a guy who really likes coherent and well thought-out fictional settings and Night Vale passes that test with flying colors. It’s also kind of cool to see how seemingly separate elements are called back and combined to organically create a coherent mythology. And now that the coherent Night Vale mythology is used for an actual story, it makes it even better.
I really hope subsequent episodes will follow this format — or at least start hinting at a larger narrative, maybe about the Dog Park. Night Vale’s often compared to the Lake Wobegone segments on Prairie Home Companion and while it’s true that both are radio news updates about a fictional town, there are substantial differences. Lake Wobegone’s installments aren’t just lists about quirky events dealing with the Whippets and the Chatterbox Cafe. Instead, each bit tells a story, and somehow makes you care about Lake Wobegone’s residents in a short amount of time. I think Night Vale needs to follow that example. Basically, I want my Garrison Kellior Meets David Lynch Fix and A Story About You handily supplied it. I look forward to staying tuned and listening for more.