Links and Links and Links
Well, I’ve decided that this retrospective wouldn’t be complete without covering the second Midnight Society at least once. Are You Afraid of the Dark? Originally went off the air in 1996, but Nickelodeon revived the series in 1999. They decided to recast the show, but to keep a link with the earlier seasons, they brought Tucker back, just a bit older. Today’s review is the first episode of AYAOTD with The Midnight Society 2.0
We begin with Tucker leading his friends to the old meeting place, which appears to have been left abandoned, but untouched, for a few years. Soon they all gather around and Tucker explains the whole concept of The Midnight Society and basically inducts all his friends into it without them ever having to tell a story. So, let’s briefly go over the new Midnight Society:
Anyways, Tucker drones on for a bit about how they’re going to leave reality behind and enter a spooky world where anything can happen. It’s a speech that would have sounded much better if Gary gave it, or older Tucker didn’t sound like he’s permanently congested. Of course, being the first meeting, Tucker’s the first to tell a story. He throws some of the magic powder, obviously ground coriander, which is still in it’s stump hiding place after all these years, onto the fire and begins. Submitted for the approval of the NEW Midnight Society, he calls this story…
Our story begins with three people biking through the woods. It’s Peter, his friend Mark and his sister Monica. See if you can guess which one is the episode’s douchebag de jour
Of course it’s Peter, who treats his sister like shit and apparently used to treat his friend the same way. They soon find an unmarked bike trail and of course Peter decides that they have to go down it. Things don’t go according to plan and they keep going in circles, winding up at the same strange looking tree.
Peter decides they should all split up to try and find a way out, what could possibly go wrong with that. As Mark and Monica take off, Peter hears some strange sounds coming from within the tree and decides to investigate. He gets sucked into the tree, where he finds this guy, and his crazy looking board game.
He introduces himself as Nathaniel, he’s very happy that Peter could join him. His game is called The Forever Game (oh! Now I get it) and when looking at the board, he can see Mark and Monica roaming the forest. Peter has a really dark moment where he declares Monica to be a waste of space, before Nathaniel explains the rules of the game. Spin the spinner, choose a path and be the first to make it from start to finish. Start being the tree Peter just fell into, and finish being a door in the side of a rock.
Peter agrees to play, and Nathaniel spins first. He lands on a space with a flower on it, and says “potpourri” while flower petals begin to fall on a delighted Monica and Mark.
Peter is impressed and spins the wheel. His choices are a space with rain clouds or a space with lightning bolts. Being an asshole, he chooses lightning bolts and scares the crap out of Monica and Mark. Next it’s Nathaniel’s turn, and after his spin, he gloomily states that following each spin, the last event stops, except for one. The Burden Beast, which he’s coincidentally landed on. Once he comes, he never goes away.
Peter of course thinks it’s a joke, but he changes his tune when he watches Mark and Monica get attacked by this shaggy haired fellow.
Peter gets upset and tries to quit the game, but Nathaniel says he can’t. They have to play till someone wins, the winner gets to leave and loser has to stay in the tree, forever. That’s why it’s called the Forever Game. Of course when he says forever, he obviously means until they find someone else to play the game with them and then win, but The Stay in the Tree until You Find Someone Else to play and then Beat Them Game didn’t sound as marketable.
The game continues after Peter gets another explanation from Nathaniel about how the game has to be completed before anyone can go free. He’s a douche and he’s stupid, all my favorite qualities in an AYAOTD character. Peter’s next spin lands him on Sticky Pit, and as a result, Mark begins sinking.
Of course he’s saved once Nathaniel spins again. Next we’re treated to a montage of Peter and Nathaniel moving their pieces while the wheel spins in the background. This scene would have been better had it been a montage of crazy shit happening to Mark and Monica, or just the Burden Beast hanging out in the woods.
Meanwhile, Monica and Mark end up back at the tree, and Monica begins to figure out that everything that’s happening is aimed directly at them. She seems close to figuring things out when the Burden Beast shows up and gives chase. Back in the game room, Nathaniel lands on Instant Night, and it’ll be nighttime until the end of the game for Mark and Monica.
Luckily for them it seems the Burden Beast has horrible eyesight at night, and he passes right by them.
Peter soon finds himself in a conundrum, as he can choose to land of the Switch space, or the space that sends him back 15 spaces. Nathaniel explains that if he goes with Switch, he can choose either Mark or Monica to take his place. Peter’s conscience finally shows up however, and he opts to go back 15 spaces instead.
Nathaniel is gleeful that he’s only 5 spaces away from winning, but his next spin is only a 3. Take that overconfidence! Monica and Mark decide that the strange tree is somehow involved in their crazy circumstances, and being to attempt to knock it over. Peter tries to help them by moving backwards and again landing on Lightning Bolts. Lightning starts flashing, but Nathaniel doesn’t care and spins the wheel, much to Peter’s dismay. Nathaniel has the worst luck in the world however, and the spinner lands on a 1. His piece moves to space called “Broken Stick” which for some reasons translates into the last event not stopping until the next spin. So the lightning continues, and Peter is more than happy to sit back and douchily watch.
In the climactic finale, lightning strikes the tree just as the Burden Beast attacks Monica and Mark. The lightning travels into the tree and strikes the game board, and the board explodes in a spray of fireworks.
Everything reverts back to normal and Peter is set free. He’s now got a newfound respect for Monica too. Everyone lives happily ever after. Except for Nathaniel, presumably, as he’s escaped from the tree, but he’s now really old and it’s revealed that he’s been stuck in the tree since 1929. I assume he dies from shock soon after.
So there you have it, The New Midnight Society. They fared about as well as Saved By the Bell: The New Class, only lasting two seasons. But hey, we got Elisha Cuthbert out of the deal, so that’s a win in my book. The only other story I would consider doing from these seasons is The Tale of Zombie Dice, because the villain is delightfully over the top. It stars Jay Baruchel, who manages to star in 3 episodes over two seasons, guess someone was a big fan. My major problem with the relaunching of the series wasn’t the cast, it was the incredibly uncreative names for stories. The Tale of Vampire Town? Really?
As for The Forever Game, I find it to be a really solid episode, even if it’s just a Jumanji rip off. Evil board games are a cool concept in my book. Add to that the fact that the actors aren’t annoying and the effects are decent, and you’ve got a perfectly acceptable AYAOTD episode. It’s also got what may be my favorite supporting cast member ever, in The Burden Beast. Nathaniel says he never goes away, and they technically never ended the game, so I hope he continues to stalk Mark and Monica for the rest of their lives.