‘The Unsleeping City Season 2’ Episode 5 Review: Trouble At The Tunnel

Trouble at the tunnel

Cody may be getting an education in how to be a Champion of New York, but his learning speed bumps have caused a first-class Situation at the Holland Tunnel. In ‘Trouble at the Tunnel’ the group has to deal with the Jersey Devil- plus one major plot twist I did NOT see coming.

Though we know ‘Trouble at the Tunnel’ is going to be a combat episode, the story pulls back a bit from the ominous music we ended on last time to get a few things in motion. For starters, Lowell finally has time to take care of Iga’s chest. That was just as hilarious as we all knew it would be. I mean, that dude has really made a solid back-end business running. Add in Iga’s revelation that, because she’s psychically linked to the chest, she will be able to sense everything that happens to it- 

I just can’t stop laughing. Poor Iga. She’s going to need so much brain bleach.

The other major pre-combat bit is also something I full-on did not see coming. Ricky has been trying so hard to relate to Cody, to find ways to relate to him as a fellow paladin and help him adjust to life in NYC. The zen, kind, not too bright but heroic in every way beefcake Ricky Matsui couldn’t be more different than Cody, an impulsive, spastic cringelord with a (very hidden) heart of gold who sold his soul 30 seconds after realizing magic was real.

Except, maybe they’re more alike than anyone expected.

Because when Sophia brings out the Questing Blade Ricky gave Dale last season, expecting it to become Ricky’s ax again, it instead takes on a heavy metal double-bladed form- for Cody.

Trouble At The Tunnel Ricky Reaction
Left is Ricky waiting for his old friend the Questing Blade to return to him. Right is Ricky watching Cody making lightsaber noises while swinging the Blade around. *Chef kiss*

WOW. Cody Walsh is more worthy of the Questing Blade than Ricky Matsui? Talk about a PLOT TWIST. I was as astounded as the players (seen up there in our header image right after the reveal).

Don’t get me wrong, I love Cody. I think he’s an amazing addition to the team. Brian “Murph” Murphy plays him perfectly, which we knew would happen as Murph has great characters. How cool is it to have another hot mess character to make Pete realize how far he’s come? And for that character to be played by Murph, who is one of the most skillful players at the table? Perfection.

Even if I can occasionally see that Murph as a player is dying at being the problem child when he usually plays strong support. We appreciate your efforts here, dude.

Still, I have to repeat that WOW. This twist shakes Ricky like nothing has ever shaken him. Ricky was Zen even in the face of death last season. Now, watching his Questing Blade (which he only gave up to keep two wrongfully separated lovers together) choose Cody like he wasn’t even there, he’s experiencing the first real moral challenge he’s ever gone through in his charmed life. Watching him struggle against envy and dislike for probably the first time in his life is really interesting.

I’ve seen some chatter over on the Dimension 20 subreddit about how Ricky was underused last season. I don’t think he was, but I do think anyone who shares that concern will have it answered with a vengeance this season. (At least, if ‘Trouble in the Tunnel’ is anything to go by.)

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the acting of the players here. Zac Oyama hits exactly the right note: blank incomprehension, then a rigid stillness as his eyes slowly widen in suppressed rage. 

Zac is such a perfect guy. He works out. He spends all his time volunteering at a homeless outreach center. He acknowledges his many virtues without vanity. He’s kind and seems to love everyone without real struggle- except Cody.

Cody is a challenge. When he put the Questing Blade away mid-combat I thought Ricky was going to scream.

I can’t wait to see where this goes in the long run.

Zac was so priceless I almost didn’t notice Emily Axford playing Sophia Lee. Sophie is FURIOUS. That Questing Blade is what made it possible for her dead husband to fight his way out of Heaven to visit her. He gave it back in a deeply moving scene a few episodes ago. She could stand Ricky having it; they’re old friends now and it was Ricky’s to begin with.

But Cody? Yikes, man. She is going to be holding him to a HIGH STANDARD going forward. If she doesn’t just knock him out.

From a story perspective, this is probably necessary to keep Cody in the party. It proves that he has a good heart under his black trench coat, despite everything we’ve seen him do. It’s something like Pete being the Vox Phantasma last season. The Blade choosing Cody shows the Champions that he’s Someone. He can’t be locked away or shut out of the group, though he needs some guidance to reach his potential.

The Jersey Devil Trouble At The Tunnel
Anyone who’s ever spent time in NYC or New Jersey is probably having a good laugh at this guy. I mean he’s absolutely devastating in combat, so that laughter might be short-lived if you were actually facing him, but still.

If he lives that long, anyway. When we finally get to the battle with the Jersey Devil that takes up the majority of ‘Trouble at the Tunnel’ Cody immediately pulls a Leeroy Jenkins on the Jersey Devil. Within a round he was fully down and a few death saves from being zombified, despite Ricky taking two hits for him. At least it humbled him a bit? Temporarily? Everything he did after was a little more thoughtful.

Iga seems to be more willing to take part in Unsleeping City shenanigans now. Her magic comes into play much more in this episode. Her magical “flavor text” is probably my favorite of the season. How cool is it that her real actual magic takes the form of cheesy 90’s special effects? She actually did more damage than Ricky for the first half of that combat.

Kingston Brown has a unique challenge this episode. As the Vox Populi of New York City, he can’t use his magic outside the city. I’m not even sure he can leave the city himself. Player Lou Wilson finds ways to make it work, though. He stays near baby wizard JJ, who’s trying to reactivate the city’s wards, and provides magical support from afar.

His little trick with the Tesla is sheer brilliance. Like Lou, I thought Brennan was going to shut that down, but on reflection, there’s no reason he should. It’s an electronic device and it has New York plates. That’s fully within Kingston’s domain. 

As a whole, this is a more epic fight than we’ve ever had this early in a season. I yelled out loud so many times my service dog came over to see if I was okay. I mean, magic effects and cars are flying everywhere. Player characters get dropped to unconscious more than once. Charging demons are rolling 7 dice of damage at a go. The entire fight hinges on a Level 1 wizard who has to figure out a complex warding spell he’s never seen… and we end on a FULL ON CLIFFHANGER. 

BRENNAN. WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS?

Sigh.

This review is getting a bit out of hand, so as is tradition I’m going to close with some of my random thoughts from ‘Trouble at the Tunnel’.

  • Pete, talking about Cody: “That guy was made in a lab to get under your skin.” I’M SCREAMING. 
  • Anyone else getting the impression that the Questing Blade was never really happy with Ricky? I think it chose Cody because it WANTS to do huge flashy ridiculous things, not because Ricky was Unworthy. That peasant sword is going to be a better friend for Ricky. 
  • Sophie going 1v1 with the Big Bad is a phenomenal example of leveraging lower-level powers (5th level, and they’re all 10th now) into something that can take down threats above your weight class. Emily Axford is such a great player. 
  • What if Iga’s box is changing to draw her more into the Unsleeping City? Or as a consequence of her holding herself apart, meaning she would have to stay involved moving forward? I’m so sad about things disappearing in there last episode. I hope she can bring them back through celebration of culture with her daughter later. 
  • Cody’s paladin mount is his moped? For real? I can’t stop laughing. 
  • Ricky will always be Mr. March to all his friends and I feel like that’s very special.  
  • JJ is seriously going to pass out later. Level 1 is waaaaaaaaay to early to be messing with endless hordes of devils. 

Be sure to tune in next week for the resolution to this cliffhanger. Like always the episode will air next Wednesday at 7 pm on CollegeHumor’s YouTube channel. If you missed ‘Trouble at the Tunnel’ it’s already up on DROPOUT‘, along with the rest of Dimension 20 which is literal weeks of incredible content. 

Author: Khai

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 being 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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