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All Good Things…: Night Vale Tackles Retirement

Before I begin my ramblings on this weeks delightful Night Vale misfortunes, I have a disclaimer. In order to say everything I wish to about this episode (Episode 52: The Retirement of Pamela Winchell), I will have to have some spoilers. If you haven’t listened to the episode and hate spoilers, take a listen before you continue. Also, for the interest of any musicians that are fans of the show, WTNV is finally taking new submissions for the weather. Do it soon, as I highly doubt the opportunity will last long.

This week, Night Vale’s tribulations were home-grown as former mayor Pamela Winchell unleashed the fury of hobbies she had picked up since retiring. Calling emergency press conferences to display her new interest in “fishing” (with a bullwhip affixed with a cartoonishly oversized hook) and “bird-watching” (somehow conflated with arson), Night Vale, as usual, faces its doom. Mayor Dana Cardinal tries to assuage Winchell’s frustration with retirement by offering her a job as the Official Night Vale Director of Emergency Press Conferences, but she refuses, acting as her own proviso of authority, and claiming to be too busy being retired to take the position anyway. The crisis is brought to an end when, holding an emergency press conference on the steps of the radio station, former mayor Winchell is talked down the Man In The Tan Jacket. After delivering a moving speech that no one can seem to remember, he disappears, leaving Cecil to ponder the lost sense of self that comes with outliving a role.

The ultimate message is, as I cleverly deduced from the title of the episode, about retirement. More than that though, this week’s episode leaves the listener to ponder the continuity of a life role in general. Cecil leaves us with some bitterly true remarks about life as a series of hops, skips, and jumps as different people doing different things, rather than existing as one person in one unending sequence. As I, a senior in college, begin to panic about plan the rest of my life, the message on falsely presuming a loss of self prove evocatively relevant. What does career-me look like? What will how-the-hell-did-I-get-to-forty-so-fast me think and act? But then again that’s not fair. I’m still a kid to most people. Honestly, I can’t even imagine what’s for dinner tomorrow, much less retiring. My playpen doubt and ennui will, I think, pale in comparison for the moral taken home by older listeners.

But, as I mentioned, I’m a college senior. Like the Greek wisemen of yore or the Star Trek writers that brought you Space Lincoln, I’m probably being too philosophical about this. What’s the blogosphere have to say about all of this?

This week, Cecil again mentioned the new hot restaurant in town; Tourniquet. Earl Harlan, Cecil’s childhood best friend, possible past lover (Episode 23), and scout master who disappeared over a year ago (ibid), seems to be alive and well as Tourniquet’s sous chef. Cecil declared intentions to get Harlan on the show to give some cooking tips, at which point the WTNV fandom apparently exploded (that last link is highly NSFW, FYI). I’m not really sure what I was expecting. Fans of any stripe tend to lose it at even the slightest hint of any sort of romance between any characters in any series ever (see: Shipping). The level of dedication some fans make to such things is daunting.

On second thought, I think maybe I’ll stick with being overly-philosophical.


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