“Making Adjustments” Is A Very Different Episode
“Making Adjustments” serves as a hard swerve from the first episode, moving the series back into more familiar anthology waters. I’m writing these as I listen, avoiding spoilers, so I knew I would get predictions wrong, but I still didn’t expect to have my first article contradicted this heavily. “Making Adjustments” feels like an episode that we would’ve gotten in season three and onward from The Magnus Archives. A story of a spooky moment told via diegetic conversation. The whole premise of cases arriving through a computer system is left basically as a framing device. It’s easy to forget that it’s even the reason the story is being told. “Making Adjustments” heavily reminds me of Georgie Barker’s tale of losing her fear or Melanie King’s exploration of that bleeding vehicle.
This episode also removed any concern about the stories not being scary enough. “Making Adjustments” made me squirm and had all the hallmarks of the previous series. This is the powder keg of inexplicable cosmic horror moments tied to more standard horror tropes I remember.
“Making Adjustments” Has Upsetting Body Horror
That said, “Making Adjustments” has a list of trigger warnings—and for the love of God, please read them before listening. This episode has a turn, and the description of a certain knife-related action made me pause it for a moment. Somehow, the horror being mostly alluded to only highlights the gore. Not a ton of episodes of The Magnus Archives went right for this heavy of a real-world subject—and it’s not my place to weigh in on how respectfully it’s handled as a horror premise—but this also isn’t Archives. Maybe Protocol is going to be more focused on personal horrors, the supernatural preying on people with preexisting reasons for seeking it out. That is how all three stories so far have gone. That said, I’m unsure how much the Dread Powers are involved with this narrative—but half the fun of a listen-along article series is seeing what I’m getting wrong. So, my best guess is that The Dread Powers are weak enough that they can’t even aggressively hunt yet, only lure.
As to the meta-narrative, I love the little moments that really cement this as a boring job office job. That little guessing game at the beginning was an excellent way to remind the listener of the guidebook of horror tropes in an organic way. I know Sam and Alice and everyone else will eventually be directly faced with some nightmare or another—but I wouldn’t mind an entire season of these cozy moments interspersed with mind-breaking horror stories before then.
If it wasn’t clear, this is an absolute improvement compared to the first episode. “Making Adjustments” sets a great framework for how this season/series will be structured and brings a suitable level of disturbing concepts. The audio design was wonderful (barring one moment where it was a little hard to make out individual words), the storytelling was paced really well, and I had no name overload issues this time. It’s just a great second episode of The Magnus Protocol.
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