The Unsleeping City Season 2 Episode 1 Review: ‘The Fall Of New York City’
In ‘The Fall Of New York City’ we get to catch up with a bunch of people we love and meet a couple of hilarious new additions. There’s also some ominous foreshadowing of trouble to come- something that could be outside the Dream Team’s power to fix.
Not gonna lie, the title of this episode scared me. ‘The Fall Of New York City’ suggested that the first episode was going to be heavy on the angst. I went in with a tense stomach, wondering if this was going to be like the first book of Game of Thrones. You know, where we got fond of a bunch of people then things went South real fast? (I know D20 wouldn’t really do that to us, but I also know they like to hint at things with episode titles.)
We don’t start anywhere scary. We jump straight into a flashback origin story for Kingston Brown. For a bit over half an hour he climbs around in dragon tunnels and learns about being the Vox Populi with the Dragon of Bleecker Street. It was very cool- but I can’t help but wonder… are we starting with Kingston because he DIES at the end of the season?
The tension, you guys. I can’t take it. (I hope it lasts.)
It’s just in my stomach, not on screen, because the first half of the episode is deeply cozy. Modern-day Kingston lives with Liz in a nice apartment. She steals his clothes to wear around the house. They have a fat old dog named Bruce. It’s a good life, and I love they’ve been living like this for a few years.
They aren’t the only happy couple. How amazing is Ricky and Esther’s snuggly little world? Dog cuddles, morning coffee, smoothies, casual conversation… Ricky’s introduction is a treat. We don’t get enough happy couples in fiction, so watching those guys make it work despite their vast differences gives me the warm fuzzies. Former Fury turned Aspiring Grandmother Gabriella dropping hints about a jewelry store that go straight over Ricky’s head is just the cherry on top of our big bowl of domestic bliss.
Pete is having a rough day when we catch up with him, and it’s the first step outside the cozy bubble the other characters are living in. ‘The Fall Of New York’ picks up three years after the event of Season 1, and Pete is still working in the bookstore Uncommon Knowledge. He does get a cool interaction with a small gender-questioning kiddo which is cool, but he’s clearly a little uneasy in his quieter life.
We learn later he’s only been sober for 60 days when the season opens. Apparently he “pregamed” for a meetup with Rowan and her friends and made a huge mess of himself.
Side note: I don’t know if I ship Rowan and Pete, to be honest. I know he likes her and she’s awesome, but the Faerie world (not to mention the theater life) is not something he needs to be around while he’s struggling.
Fellow sober Dream Team member Sophia Lee isn’t having quite as bad a time, but she’s also struggling a bit. She lives with her mom in a one-bedroom apartment above the Spaghetti Bakery. That seems like a terrible idea for her sobriety- and we do in fact get our first look at the Recovery Mechanic Brennan told us about in our interview! (Read about it over here if you missed it.)
The short version is that they’re using a textured mechanic to govern the characters’ sobriety. If they take care of themselves, the rolls are easier. If they don’t, they roll ever-smaller dice which drop every time they roll a 1. Going to this length to create a sensitive mechanic for managing sobriety is just so on-brand for D20. Why doesn’t every show with sober characters use consultants? Or if they do, why aren’t they listening to advice like this?
Back to the show- fighting with her mom is one of Sophia’s listed triggers so she rolls a d20. A 5, not a 1! She gets to maintain her sobriety streak, which we learn is 2 years 3 months and 17 days.
Did anyone else get a little pang when she reveals she went on a 9-month bender after Kugrash died? Or when she says she’s been hunting with La Gran Gata every single night and uses traffic to fill the time she used to spend drinking? Sophia really needs to cut herself some slack. Then again, it is working for her sobriety right now, so who am I to judge?
Sophia serves as our introduction to Siobhan Thompson’s new character, Madame Anastasia, a tarot reader Sophia is using as a therapist. She’s already part of the Unsleeping City which makes it possible for Sophia to be herself. This is absolutely hilarious because “Madame Anastasia” is actually a cover for Iga Lisowski, a money launderer for local mafia types.
I have to give it to Siobhan: she doesn’t shy away from giving her characters accents. It’s pretty consistent, too- a little thicker when she’s Madame Anastasia and lighter when she’s Iga. I wonder if she’ll drop to the lighter accent when Sophia and she start fighting together.
Iga brings something new to the Dream Team- a kid! And a husband who’s alive! Kugrash had kids of course, but they were grown. Oscar and Jessica are part of Iga’s daily life. I’m curious to see how throwing an actual family into this mix changes the game.
Speaking of children, Murph’s new character Cody “Night Angel” Walsh is an absolute riot. He’s leaning hard into the cringe. It’s MAGNIFICENT. If he tried to softball this it wouldn’t be fun, but since he’s rolling around in the cringe pool it works. When he volunteers enthusiastically to sell his soul the other players laughed so hard the game had to stop for a minute.
Obviously, Murph is upholding his tradition of playing characters that move the plot along. He’s the only one so far who’s hating on Gladiator, who are this season’s Big Bad. (Gladiator is very clearly Darkest Timeline Amazon. No need to dance around that. It’ll be interesting to see how far they push that.)
The tension I was feeling doesn’t break out into battle this time. Instead, it’s threaded through all the cozy slice of life scenes in ‘The Fall Of New York City’, growing stronger until we see the cracks forming. Sophia is working herself into the ground. Pete’s not doing well; he’s struggling to find meaning in his new life and is down to a d4 on his sobriety checks (which is very bad since he is the Vox Phantasma). Local stores are closing down to be replaced by faceless chains. Cody released a devil into the world who seems to have some kind of Plans. Kingston had that tiny wisp of warning in his friend’s text message.
Seriously. Before we even see Iga have to subdue her heirloom Polish wood chest, we know there’s another mystical struggle brewing. We as viewers know it’s going to center around unchecked capitalism in the form of Gladiator, and that scares me. What can one city full of magic users do against an international corporation?
I cannot wait to find out.
Bright side! it looks like Esther and Ricky are going to get to live dangerous lives together, after all.
On a practical note, the new visuals are a mixed bag so far. I like the image on the greenscreen background for consistency and style. I did find it a bit distracting when the players lean back and Zoom hides parts of them, or when Brennan does a big gesture and his hands flicker out of sight. However, the generous helping of character illustrations by Kendra Wells adds a lot to the story so I’m calling it a net gain.
Besides, maybe they’ll get used to gesturing within the “visible window” as the season goes on.
- Sophia’s mom should really guess that something other than hair styling is going on if her daughter’s heading out every single night to patrol.
- I googled Borscht Bites. It’s not a thing, but I might try making it based on her description. Jellied borscht sliced into disks might have been easier, I think.
- Love the Game Changer callout. If you aren’t watching that, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s my favorite game show of all time.
- Ally half-drowned themselves listening to Cody loot the Hot Topic and I am still laughing.
- “Where am I?” “You’re home, this is where Darkness is born. Are you Lucifer? Because I’ve been waiting for you my whole life.” Oh man, I love Cody so much already.
- WHAT IS IN THAT CHEST, IGA?? She has to have looked in there.
- How is Ricky Matsui going to react to the brand new baby warlock? I foresee Cody trying to get under his skin and Ricky just… not responding. Sophia is going to be deeply annoyed, though.
- I realized only while typing this that maybe it’s called ‘The Fall Of New York City’ because it’s FALL in NEW YORK CITY.
The next episode will air next week at 7 pm on College Humor’s YouTube. If you missed ‘The Fall Of New York City’, you can watch it on DROPOUT. If you caught it, well, head down to the comments and let us know what you think is in that chest.
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.
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