"Second Last in a Long Line"
Written By: Shadowpaw
A funny thing happened last December. Being blessed with the knowledge that Eugene Meltsner was returning to the show (and being so comfortable with that thought), I let slip on the Town Hall that this episode was in production. The Adventures in Odyssey games were being discussed (in particular Treasure of the Incas), and I was saying how incredibly disappointing the ending was. We went away from the game having zero information about the fate of Eugene's parents when (at least from my perspective) the game was setting us up for some major revelation. One evening, some members of the board who had not played the game asked me to at least give a general idea of what we learned about his parents during the course of the adventure. I gave a brief run-down of the story, followed by a simple statement forgiving the game since we'd learn more in a future episode.
Whoops! Talk about a momentary lapse of thinking. It wasn't until the following morning that I checked in on that thread and noticed some understandably shocked posts. Oh sure, I was always very careful to never give any obvious clues that Eugene was coming back, but this indirect reference about his parents was something that slipped through my internal secret-keeping filter ;o). I removed the post, explained it away to those who had seen it, and slapped myself for being so stupid. Well, if you're one of those lucky ones who read that post before I covered up my mistake, this is the show that lead to my goof-up!
But wow, I'm glad the writing team did wait to include this kind of information in the radio series. The video games, while they provide a back story to "Prisoners of Fear I, II, III", are not required to fully enjoy this episode (and I may go as far as to say playing the games will be so unenjoyable that the net enjoyment will be significantly less!). Thankfully the games are so forgettable, I can just pretend they never happened (and so should you).
Alright, alright... enough negativity. This three-parter had a bit of everything: parallels to past episodes, an epic adventure with Eugene, a great life-changing revelation, and a cheesy villain monologue. However, one of the strongest elements of the episode was the amazing music by Jared Depasquale. I do not believe it would be too much of an exaggeration if I said the music in this episode is the best musical score for any Adventures in Odyssey episode to date. The soundtrack alone rivals that of motion pictures and the epic feeling was a welcome change from John Campbell's regular tunes. The acting was also terrific and having Eugene back (it just can't be said enough) improves the quality of each and every show ten-fold. And I didn't even think about Audrey Wasilewski playing Katrina once during the show.
Did anyone else find it funny that this is the second time our beloved characters have been involved with "a curse" when a great advancement in communications is being made? I'm of course referring to the events of "The Curse", where the gang at Whit's End try to stop a curse from killing Whit for installing a microwave dish. Another funny parallel is that this is the second time Eugene has just barely missed meeting a relative. In "Last in a Long Line", he had missed his grandfather by a week. In this episode, he was three months late to see his dad... remarkable, considering his father was there for over twenty years. Talk about tough luck.
Another enjoyable element that was borrowed from past episode was Eugene typing out the adventure, similar to his dictation tapes in "The Cross of Cortes". It gave the story a nice framework that helped increase the pace of the episode and provided an opportunity for the writers to give an explanation for the english speaking villagers. It was also refreshing to learn that the time Eugene and Katrina spent on the run wasn't completely wasted on adventures we wouldn't get to hear. I'm hoping there will be more stories similar to this - though I'm not sure what they could be!
And finally, the point of the actual episode - learning that Leonard Meltsner may still, in fact, be alive. Growing up, I always wondered if we would learn more about the fate of Eugene's parents and fourteen years after "Last in a Long Line" aired, we finally get some progress! Since we, as listeners, were never given any indication to believe his parents were definitely dead, this twist is quite plausible and definitely entertaining for fans. However, the way the writers have handled this story line is a great step for Adventures in Odyssey. We are used to story arcs that feature villains trying to take over the town or even the world, but most of the time we are given stories that are wrapped up in 25 minutes or less. By this show's end, we are left with hope instead of answers and that's a powerful tool for fans. There is nothing I enjoy more than over arcing story lines. Unlike "The Search for Whit", which was started and completed during the same three-parter, the search for Leonard Meltsner did not end this weekend and I wager it will not end for some time to come. There are going to be several character-based story arcs occurring simultaneously for the next few seasons, and I am certain this search is going to be an ongoing plot point.
Am I excited about the future of Adventures in Odyssey? Yes... we all should be!