Edict Zero Episode 4

A Man in the Alley, a Man in the Elevator, and a Man with(out) a pan.

The Deep Dive Into…

Edict Zero – FIS

by Lex Scott

Welcome to part four of my deep dive into Edict Zero. If you’re new here make sure you check out my previous episode reviews (part 1) (part 2) and (part 3), before joining me for the rest of my journey.

And as always, spoilers ahead

Episode 4, Beautiful Lies

A Man in the Alley, a Man in the Elevator, and a Man with(out) a pan. A tactical unit commander acting as technical support, and a military presence despite the assertion that humanity (and the planet they occupy) are no longer divided into competing countries.

Continue reading “Edict Zero Episode 4”

Edict Zero Episode 3

The plot kicks into motion in this episode, with Briggs being rescued from his brief captivity in the sewers; Wakeman being suspiciously helpful about it, and a concrete confirmation that there is indeed a group conspiring (either directly or indirectly) against our protagonists…

The Deep Dive Into…

Edict Zero – FIS

By Lex Scott

Welcome to part three of my deep dive into Edict Zero. If you’re new here make sure you check out my previous episode reviews right here (pt1) and here (pt2), before joining me for the rest of my journey.

And of course, spoilers ahead

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Episode 3, Dead Canaries

The plot kicks into motion in this episode, with Briggs being rescued from his brief captivity in the sewers; Wakeman being suspiciously helpful about it, and a concrete confirmation that there is indeed a group conspiring (either directly or indirectly) against our protagonists.

Now this was a good episode, in that it definitely advanced the plot and gave us new information, but it also succeeded in highlighting what I’ve discovered is my main underlying issue with this series so far: The episodes are far too long, especially given how little actually happens in each one. It’s been three episodes so far and we’ve elapsed significantly less than 48 hours in this series of events.

That’s more than three hours worth of solid, jam packed story time, covering only two days. Now, you might be thinking that a lot has happened in that time but let’s recap. A bomb went off, agents were assigned to investigate it and evidence was reviewed. Suspects and witnesses were interviewed, more evidence was collected and presented, and our protagonists were assigned to the case. Then one of our protagonists was incapacitated and promptly rescued.

That’s it.

That is the entirety of the plot that has been covered in these three plus hours.

Now I don’t want to be giving out praise to TV procedurals, but that’s the kind of story they can (and do on a weekly basis) cover in a measly 35 minutes, with time left over to gossip about office scandals and hookups.

‘But Lex,’ I hear you saying through the magic of modern day spyware, ‘there’s been so much more covered! Important stuff, like character development, motivation, interpersonal relationships, all that vital good stuff that makes compelling human drama!’ And to that I say, everything I know about our characters I learned in about five minutes of “screen” time. Total.

I know Kircher is idealistic, moral, and honest. She genuinely cares about her job, her coworkers, and helping people. She’s also criminally underserved by her employer and unfortunate gender politics.

I know Garret is a widower, very unexpressive of his emotions (though the show would like me to believe he lacks them completely), and makes a very real and genuine effort to understand people and their motivations, but lacks the personal experience necessary to do so on anything more than a purely academic level.

I know Briggs was once in a relationship with Kircher, likely throws himself into his work to avoid confronting his personal and emotional issues directly, and tends to work alone and resents being anything less than self sufficient.

So much of the character and world building on display here is so gingerly holding my hand and carefully walking me through everything that it’s all but hammering me over the head. The show, and of course the writer, director etc, don’t trust me to follow along with it all.

They say show don’t tell, and Edict Zero has that down. They absolutely show me how everything fits together and works, and they show me how everyone relates through their interactions and genuinely good performances. But it also tells me all of that too.

The scene where the random drunk finds the briefcase floating in an alley (gravity bomb) was excessive. I don’t need to know that he’s late on rent and laid off from work, I don’t need to know that his wife is cooking and he’s ungrateful because he wants to go out drinking…

Side note: If your wife is generous and cares enough to cook for you don’t berate her, that’s just shitty.

…I just need to know that he’s drunk, it’s new years eve still, and he found a floating briefcase that he intends to pawn. It’s simple, it’s maybe a minute, and it’s far more engaging.

I should say though that there was one very satisfying moment, where Garrett’s brother-in-law confronts him and Kircher actually calls him out on it! It was a very typical moment between two characters where one says something confrontational and entirely unprofessional that just wouldn’t fly in a real workplace, that usually goes uncommented on by other characters. But in this instance Agent Kircher takes notice, and actively dresses down the man and defends her colleague.

It didn’t go as far as I personally might have liked, but it’s giving me hope that the writer will actually treat her character with a more deft hand than I previously thought.

Look don’t get me wrong: I like this show. It impressed the hell out of me the very first time I turned it on, and from a technical standpoint it’s goddamn genius. Each new episode I turn on I’m engaged with the plot and I genuinely want to know what happens, not to mention the director getting very good performances out of the actors (and of course the actors giving those very good performances).

But wanting to know what’s next isn’t always enough for me, I know that most recently from Wolf 359. The show started pretty strong with a fun irreverent vibe but now I’m half way through and I’ve been on the verge of giving up for a while now.

Now you should know that I’m obsessive when it comes to story: I have to finish them or it eats away at me. But in this day and age if something isn’t keeping me invested with good execution I have the option to just look up the plot online. I want new exciting shows to immerse myself in and get obsessed with, but you’ve got to be more engaging than simply reading the wikipedia page for your show or I’m not going to finish.

I like this show. I want to enjoy this show. I desperately hope it’s not losing its lustre for me so quickly.

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Theories and Predictions:

Socrates is actually an agent of Edict One (can’t remember if I suggested this previously) but somehow had multiple peoples consciousnesses transplanted into his brain. He’s clearly got more than one, and it would explain the word salad verbal diarrhea thing he’s got going on.

Side Note: Also I forgot to mention the reveal of his invisibility ring, another artifact briefly mentioned previously, and shown to have failed him in his moment of need. Clearly these Paradox Artifacts are then fallible, so they run of tech as opposed to a kind of magic.

A bit of a fringe theory, but what if Edict Zero is actually a computer simulation. We know that the trip from earth took a huge amount of time, and that most were in cryosleep. What if the reality they’re experiencing is actually generated for them while they sleep? I still firmly believe(/possibly proven) that edict one is actively conducting experiments on the gen-pop, so this isn’t that far removed from what we know.

What do you think of my theories? What do you think of my criticisms: are they genuine but harsh, or the bitter ravings of an amateurish failure? Let me know in the comments below, let me know your own theories, or better yet let me know if you are listening along with me in this deep dive. Just please no spoilers for upcoming episodes, as I will absolutely be reading your comments.

And of course, go download episode 4 right here, and join me next time as I continue my deep dive into Edict Zero – FIS.


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Edict Zero Episode 2

By Lex ScottWelcome to part two of my deep dive into the masterclass in audio drama that is Edict Zero. If you’re new here make sure you check out my episode 1 review right here, before joining me for the rest of my journey.

The Deep Dive Into…

Edict Zero – FIS

By Lex Scott

Welcome to part two of my deep dive into the masterclass in audio drama that is Edict Zero. If you’re new here make sure you check out my episode 1 review right here, before joining me for the rest of my journey.

And of course, spoilers ahead!

Episode 2, 2415 Part 2

3 seconds. In all my studies and my own experience in content creation, 3 seconds is all the time you’ve got to hook your audience in the online space. This of course is not true of all content: watching a movie you’ve usually got a few minutes to grab your audience’s attention, and just a few fewer for television. But online content: web series, social media videos… podcasts? You’ve got precious little time to really get to the point before your audience decides to move on to a more immediate gratification.

This is what was going through my mind in the opening moments of Episode 2. Now granted, as I’ve said before this show is quite a few years older at this point and it’s possible a lot of this information hadn’t really been gathered at that point. But still the scene setting in this show is excruciating from a modern viewpoint. They spend so much time setting the scene that I honestly believe if you decided to recut this show you would potentially lose about ten minutes of run time (probably an exaggeration but I really needed to get that off my chest).

I think the most maddening aspect of the scene setting is that most of it isn’t just establishing location through background noise like traffic etc to go along with any “new location” voice announcement. Most of it is actually world building and lede burying, BUT it all ends up being superfluous because they give us the same exact info in actual dialogue during the scenes being set up! It makes me feel like the show believes it really needs to hold my hand and lead me through it’s oh so labyrinthine and difficult plot, which makes me think either it doesn’t respect me enough to be able to follow along, or thinks it’s much much smarter and more elaborate than it is.

It all comes across really as clumsy exposition, compounded further by more clumsy foreshadowing and exposition. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of hiding info dumps in radio broadcasts that our characters are listening to in scene, that slowly fade out as the scene in actual starts to play out, is genius. But the problem is simply that too much time is taken with it all being repeated anyway, when each episode is already bordering on an indulgent run time.

Much like I’ve spent so much time on this one gripe I have with an admittedly high quality and objectively good show.

Side note I’m always genuinely torn when reviewing something; between being a creator and knowing what an achievement it is to just make something (especially independently) and thus shouting down excess criticism, and picking everything apart down to its tiniest components and being very critical indeed. I am really riding the line with this series, but it might be because I’m both reviewing it for work and also dissecting it to better understand what I want in my work.

 

Anyway, episode two is definitely a part two. Everything going on is just wrapping up previously established plot points aimed at putting everyone where they need to be before the action really gets going. We get some great world building in Kircher’s interactions with her AI butler Jasper (sassy or bitchy? Let me know in the comments) and her cars built in AI slash some kind of phone/ PDA system? It’s a fun taste of the futuristic tech that’s just helpful enough to not castrate our investigators in this mystery, and just broken enough to be entertaining.

 

Side note I don’t know what it is specifically but a lot of this whole show just feels really nineties to me. I don’t know if it’s the dialogue or the music or what but so much of it reminds of nineties storytelling and aesthetics.

 

Our trio of main characters (Kircher, Briggs, and Garrett) are thrust together in a mini task force operating independently within the main task force (ed: task-ception!) in a manner that makes Kircher suspicious of it’s ease, and the others exasperated at having to work with each other. Once they’ve each debriefed the others they set out to do some boots-on-the-ground investigating.

Briggs follows up on the homeless angle, given Garrett is “terrible” at interacting with anyone but the hard done by in particular would not put up with him, Kircher follows up on an asylum lead to learn hard info about Cooke and Socrates, and Garrett lets us all learn more about the Paradox Artifacts and in the process introduces us to one of the most teeth gritting characters that are unfortunately seemingly emblematic of this series.

I don’t know Jack Kincaid, and I’m not readily familiar with any of his other work, but he seems to have leaned far too heavily on a kind of excessive pomposity for a lot of his characters. I suspect this has a lot to do with his voice acting: a quick and dirty trick for voice acting is to put on an exaggerated accent as a kind of shortcut to character creation, and his characters all seem to share a similar upper class pastiche that lends itself to verbosity and pompousness. I don’t know if this is still true, or even if it will hold true in the near future of this series, but for now that’s what i’ve seen.

Oh and Mister Cooke returns (totally called in my last review) and reveals that Captain Socrates’ beloved pan was actually gifted to him by Cooke. So I guess I’ve got one more reason to dislike that arrogant eyeless churl.

 

Conclusions/ Predictions

All in all, though I do have one or two specific complaints that come primarily from my own instincts as a writer and thus are entirely subjective to my personal style of doing things, I am enjoying this show. I’m looking forward to finding out how they rescue Briggs, which from the preview will be the main focus of episode two, and I’m genuinely interested in these Paradox Artifacts. Now I lean more towards the fantastical than the realistic, so that could be why, but I really think the show will benefit from leaning more into the outlandish aspects that have been hinted at so far.

 

Side note if I don’t get a scene on a boat with those weird sea monsters they mentioned I’m going to be very upset.

 

A solid episode overall, very functional in what it needs to do. That might sound like a backhanded compliment, but I think not enough people are willing to make functional. All too often people eschew necessity for spectacle and neglect to put in the work, so I respect this episode all the more for it.

I’m working on a theory for the Paradox Artifacts, though admittedly I’ve still got very little info to go on. So far we know they exist. No matter what, that briefcase bomb does exist, and it has a voice activated trigger. We can surmise that some kind of personal teleporter also exists, thus it is likely if two exist there are others that exist as well.

We also have been told that Edict One, the people who developed on the spaceships in the (as yet unspecified length of) time that passed on the trip from earth, keep themselves separate from society and also somewhat prohibit laboratories (and thus probably scientific advancement to some degree?). We can surmise that they have developed technologically as well as socially. We’ve also been told that two other ships “disappeared” on the journey.

So my theory is that Edict One didn’t wake everyone up immediately, instead seeding the planet with these artifacts first so as to facilitate part of the experiment they are so clearly running on human society. Not invasive tests or anything, but sociological observations on how they’re developing as a people. They also probably terraformed the planet at least a little bit. Either way they’ve definitely got their own sixth continent they’ve set themselves up on.

What do you think of my theory? Leave a comment and tell me know your own theories, or better yet let me know if you are listening along with me in this deep dive. Just please no spoilers for upcoming episodes, as I will absolutely be reading your comments.

 

And of course, go download episode 3 right here, and join me next time as I continue my deep dive into Edict Zero – FIS.

The Deep Dive Into…

Some 400 years into the history of the New Earth – or Edict Zero as it is officially designated – the first act of terrorism has been committed by one Mister Cooke.

Edict Zero – FIS

By Lex Scott

Ever since I started getting into scripted podcasts, I’ve wished I could find proper full episode reviews and breakdowns. I could never find them, but that might because I never looked in the right place. So, when Podern Times started up and I was asked what I wanted to work on, that was of course the first thing I said. I was recommended a show to check out and review and it was off to the races.

The show was terrible. I thought “I don’t think I can stomach listening to two more seasons of this show”

It turns out it was a joke! I was supposed to hate that show (ed: SORRY! ) and there was something far more substantial, and of significantly higher quality waiting just up next in my podcast queue. The second recommendation: Edict Zero – FIS.

Here was a show that, at eight years old, is still held up as a benchmark of quality for audio dramas, and is regarded by many in the community to be one of the best the medium has to offer. And that’s not just in sci-fi: every new show, regardless of genre, is measured against the astounding quality of writing and production design on display here. And yet no one has really broken it down or analysed it before.

It was everything I’d been hoping for, and almost everything it’s reputation promised: big long meaty episodes roughly an hour each. Excellent technical quality and absolute masterful sound design. I knew, if I could get into the story there would be plenty to sustain a series of articles of analysis, conjecture, and gushing over this veritable audible feast.

So, please join me as I take a long journey, episode by episode, deep into the future of New Earth and the Federal Investigative Services, as presented by Jack Kincaid and Slipgate Nine Entertainment.

And of course, spoilers ahead.

Prequel/ Episode 1, 2415 Part 1

Some 400 years into the history of the New Earth – or Edict Zero as it is officially designated – the first act of terrorism has been committed by one Mister Cooke. An interesting if overly hostile character, our time with him in this episode is sadly very brief.

He unfortunately is emblematic of one of the main issues I had with this episode though: an overly wordy talker, unnecessarily hostile to everyone he meets. It’s a trope I’ve seen time and again in every medium imaginable and I always find it tiresome, because it’s just not believable.

People just don’t get to be that openly hostile to others and still interact with them. He’s rude to the butler who ushers him through the building, he’s rude to security doing his job, the only person he’s not rude to is the girl he rescues.

Side note: I’m assuming both Cooke and Melissa Parker survived, otherwise the entire opening is pointless.

Maybe Cooke’s whole demeanor is meant to make him one of these “characters you’re supposed to hate” but I’ve never bought into that trope. Either engender sympathy for your hero’s plight to make us hate the villain as an obstacle, or make us fear the villain for his actions. Making a vaguely hostile and oddly verbose character just takes me out of the moment and reminds me it’s unrealistic.

Near the end of the episode we learn that Cooke was involved in procuring mystic items for this now deceased mob boss. I’m inclined to believe this suitcase bomb was one of these Paradox Artifacts, and can probably be used more than once. My guess is some sort of black hole or gravity distortion bomb. And the fact that Cooke and Melissa probably survived indicates he probably has more than one in his possession, likely one for some sort of teleportation. It’s debatable whether he also actually does possess the Hex Gate Disc he was supposed to trade for Melissa Parker’s life.

Edict Zero is on the whole an extremely impressive piece of literature. On a technical level it is nothing short of astounding, with sound effects, music, and background noise all expertly layered together to form a truly impressive soundscape that really does build a picture in your mind of where you are. Every scene transition is smooth and flawless without being unnecessarily telegraphed. There is the occasional robotic voice telling us of our new location when it’s necessary or pertinent, but it always feels like it too is part of the world.

It actually feels like an automated train announcement, telling us what stop we’ve just arrived at. This even gives us an extra layer of subconscious detail by subtly telling our brains that time has passed while we travelled here.

Another scene transition that blew my mind in its simplicity was a simple change in audio quality. There are a few instances where a character is on the phone with someone, and we hear their voice as though through a phone. Now in video you can quickly switch back and forth, showing the different locations, but here we slowly transition from hearing one character through the phone’s distortion to the other. And we end the interaction now following the second character, in the new location.

It’s an incredibly subtle change, and I doubt most listeners would pick up on it consciously, but  no one would fail to realise that we’ve suddenly changed perspective.

It’s simple, almost consciously imperceptible, and impressively effective.

There were unfortunately a few times where they spent too much time setting the scene, and the whole thing felt a bit too audibly busy, with sound effects and background noises building and bustling. But, as this is the first episode and almost a decade old at this point, I’m expecting this to be improved as the series progresses.

Our second major character is another trope I’m generally a bit tired of, but in this instance I’m more bothered by the people around him than the actual character.

That is one agent Nick Garrett, an example of the Sherlock type character. He’s studied it all, is well versed in the various sciences, but lacks the intuitive understanding of actual people that most develop in their early years. He lacks the “correct” emotional response to most situations, and comes at everything with a critical, analytical mind.

As this character trope goes he’s not bad, but it’s the others around him that make it aggravating to me as an audience.

He lacks any hostility or superiority in his tone to be truly rude, but everyone he meets acts as though he’s the foulest most offensive thing they’ve ever had the displeasure of enduring. Though admittedly this seems limited to FIS agents, in particular those who seem to really lean on their authority and positions. The son of the murdered mob boss seemed to be pretty reasonable in talking to him. This leads to us immediately distrusting most of the other (non-pov) agents. In particular one Agent Whiteman of the organised crime division.

Side note: in regards to Whiteman, they spent so much time showing us how incorruptible he is that if he doesn’t end up being a traitor I well be genuinely shocked.

A counterpoint to the Agent Garrett character is presented in the form of Agent Kircher, and the way she’s treated by the narrative/ other characters is troubling.

In the briefing scene there are two people interrupting Agent Whiteman: Garrett, and Kircher. While Garrett is removed from the room and verbally dressed down, he’s otherwise allowed to continue his own personal investigation. Meanwhile, Kircher is tolerated in the room but later simply removed from the case entirely.

She’s not given the same opportunity to pursue her (entirely relevant) leads, or even confronted about her somehow “disrespectful” behaviour. She’s simply removed without ever being given the same opportunity to defend her position. This is unfortunate but probably unconscious gender politics on display, and the complete difference in the way their actions were responded to warrants further thought and discussion. I don’t believe this was a deliberate or even conscious choice by the writers, but in 2018 it really sticks out.

We close out the episode with a final scene introducing us to our major lead in the case: the homeless, probably mentally ill “Captain” Socrates, an associate of Mister Cooke.

This scene with Socrates is honestly one of if not the single weakest in the entire episode. I know people say in acting you make a choice and it’s better than not making a choice, and Jack Kincaid – the creator of this show, and actor of this role – certainly made a choice.

The trouble is I think that choice was bad.

It’s a tired and, once again overly verbose, caricature of a mental patient from the 1950’s. Speaking in a pastiche of upper class gentleman explorer vernacular, he seemingly speaks in an interminable mashup of movie quotes and pop culture references that lose all meaning when jammed in next to each other. I get that this is probably the aim, presenting an unhinged character with a scattered brain and neurons firing every which way all at once, but it is so world breaking it completely takes me out of the moment every time I hear it.

I cringe, every time, and not in the way the writer probably intended.

Conclusions/ Predictions

Overall I like this show. It is a master class in audio presentation and mixing, truly the most complex and technical show I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear and I genuinely feel like I learned a lot about the craft just by listening to it. The world building is top notch and genuinely engaging, and I really am looking forward to hearing the next episode and knowing what happens to our characters.

One of my favourite things about finding a new (to me) show with a big back catalogue spanning years is getting to see a kind of time lapse of their skills, as the creators grow and develop as people and artists. Getting to go back to the beginning of a journey and looking for all the kernels of promise present right from the start; crossing your fingers and watching them tease out their problematic or tired tropes into well defined thoughts is always engrossing.

I am genuinely looking forward to continuing with this series and seeing where it leads. And, hopefully seeing them outgrow some of these things that bothered me.

Go download Episode 2 right now, and join me next time as I continue my Deep Dive into Edict Zero – FIS.