Walzon Prime Makes Me Incredibly Uncomfortable… As It’s Supposed To
A review of Walzone Prime for Great Pods
For this week’s review, I checked out the first episode of Walzon Prime, a not-yet complete audio drama podcast from actor, podcaster, and writer Joe Godley.
Let me get this out of the way first; there’s a couple of caveats I have to give before I get into the review. The first is I know Joe and like him personally, which always colors my perspective. The 2nd is, as I stated when I reviewed that awful Batman show, I generally do not like audio fiction. Which is odd to me because I like all the components of audio fiction. I attribute this conundrum to what I like to call the Chicken Pot Pie Paradox. Chicken? Fantastic. Pot? Duh. Pie? The best! Chicken Pot Pie? Just terrible.
Anyway, on to the show. Joe and his team recorded the first episode, or pilot if you will, and are undertaking a fundraising and awareness campaign before they complete the series. Which is fun, in a seeing how the sausage gets made kind of way. And it means I can write a review without worrying about any spoilers because I’ve only heard what you can hear live right now.
The show follows Jae (I love that name), a genetically modified human in the future “born” of the all-encompassing company Walzon (see what he did there?). But just a few minutes into the first episode, the people who ordered him, his “parents” cancel the order, and Jae decides to flee rather than waiting around to see what happens to unwanted orders. The rest of the pilot follows Jae as he learns about the world and encounters people, some of whom want to help, and others who mean him harm.
Right off the bat, let me give a giant round of applause to Joe and his team for the sound quality. If you didn’t know better, you’d think this was a professionally produced show instead of the independent that it is. The audio is incredible. You know when you see someone who works in the same world you do just do it better and instead of being jealous you simply give it to them for being that damn good? Like a rookie watching Ken Griffey Jr. hit a baseball. That’s how I feel about the quality of this show.
The other major plus to the show is how it’s, I don’t know if I’d say believable exactly, but certainly convincing. Joe does a fantastic job setting up a world where everything that follows is plausible. There’s no, let’s say Dom Toretto going to space. And as someone who enjoys a good amount of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, I know world building is hard! So bravo to Joe and his team!
The biggest negative, for me, was one of the major reasons I struggle with audio fiction. Because the listener is only relying on their ears to sink into the medium, mole hills of rough dialogue or poorly done acting become mountains quickly. Think about the last time you watched a movie or TV show where one of the actors was simply flat, or delivered a line so poorly it ripped you out of the story and made you go ughhhh. Happens occasionally, but you can quicky get back in because both your eyes and your ears are engaged. Not so with audio fiction. Without that second level of engagement, when you’re ripped out of the story by a heavy clunk, it’s that much more distracting.
This is why I hated the Batman show. Some of the acting was so laughably bad, some of the writing so cringy, that it was impossible for me to get engaged in the show. I can say with absolute certainty that Joe and his team did a better job than Warner Brothers and Spotify did with Batman Unburied, and that’s saying something! There were only a few moments that were cringy enough to me that I paused the show. Namely, a moment where Jae is assaulted by a man who wants to rape him, and Jae tells the listener the man has an erection. I am shuddering remembering that awkward moment. And, secondly, when Jae meets a kindly old woman, voiced by someone who sounds like your little sister trying, and failing, to do a Lisa Simpson voice. Were either of these moments actually that bad? No. They weren’t. But they were enough to rip me out of the story and make me pause the show for a while. Both times I waited until I was in a more ready listening headspace to go back. But, unlike Batman, I did go back.
I’ll say this as a way of wrapping it up. If you are the type of person who likes audio fiction, especially Sci-Fi, you are probably going to like this show. Further, if you are a person who, like me, enjoys Sci-Fi and podcasts and want to give audio fiction a try, I would be willing to bet that this would be a good entry for you to the medium. As I said in the title of this review, the show is eerie in a really great way! I don’t think it’s enough for me to listen to the rest of the series personally (one day I’ll find an audio fiction podcast that I actually want to listen to all the way through), but I could see this show being incredibly popular. I mean, there’s a reason they were a nominee for the Best Indie podcast at the Ambies without even releasing the entire series.
I give it a 4.25 out of 5!