The most intense set of episodes in AIO history is contained in this album, Darkness Before Dawn. It is such a remarkable accomplishment for any program to have an eleven part series that is so well tied together and at each step raises the tension level.
So many storylines are brought together here, it is difficult to name them all, but here are a few:
Aside from these, we learn so much about so many characters and so many things are wrapped up and revealed that we've been waiting for so long to know.
All of this sounds very complicated and it is. The episodes are slightly confusing on first listening, but if you just "sit back" and take the stories as they come, you get most of the important info. After listening a few more times, you begin to pick up other subtle details written into the stories. Like how Butch and Sam's talk parallels a talk they had back in The Good, the Bad, and the Butch in album 23. Or how Jason and Jack switch roles from the beginning of the series to the end. Or how many of the tiny incidents near the beginning of the series have a profound impact on its ending (like Jack's initial dream, or how Glossman's conversations with the "higher up" relate to the conversations with the "old" mayor in Tom for Mayor in album 22). With basically the entire AIO series building up to this collection, it has a lot to live up to and explain. It does a very admirable job on all accounts.
And yet the stories themselves are genuinely entertaining, grabbing, and, toward the end, full of "edge of your seat" tension. The set begins with a nearly completely unrelated episode about responsibility. It is probably the least in the album, but that's only because it is in such good company.
The first few episodes of the series simply get things going and build our interest in the many strange incidents happening in Odyssey. We learn all about how various things from Tom's reputation to vandalism in Odyssey to a new good gang are all becoming essential parts of the story. Personally I think that there is just slightly too much "introductory" material in all this. For instance, why must we be put through the entire subplot of Lucy and Connie not knowing about the Israelites only to have them discover them a little later. Most of the entire episode "Angels Unaware" is devoted to this plot, and its really not needed for the "bigger picture". I think the whole series could have been shortened by about one episode to get rid of all this excess, but anyway...
Things really start getting going in Moving Targets as Bovril and Glossman show up to look at the tunnel and Jason takes over the Israelites as Jack quits his job at Whit's End. Hard Losses gradually raises the stakes with Tom Riley's problems growing and the arrival of Richard Maxwell. Much of the core of Hard Losses builds up to Blackgaard's appearance in The Return. The Return mainly consists of reactions to Blackgaard's return, an essential meeting between Jason and Blackgaard and finally, the closure of Whit's End.
The Time Has Come is one of my very favorite episodes in all of AIO, certainly in the top five. The central section where we dramatically relive Eugene's life in Odyssey is so powerful that I still shiver whenever I hear it. And then the ending, with Eugene's Christianity finally in place after all these years, fits so perfectly with everything that has happened.
The final four episodes of the album consist of one big event after another, with each getting progressively more dangerous and more "earth-shattering". First in Checkmate, Lucy is kidnapped and Eugene nearly figures out the entire mystery of the mineral in the tunnel. Lucy is saved in a dramatic scene, but then Whit's End is viciously attacked. Finally Blackgaard has complete control of Whit's End in another shocking ending. Another Chance reveals incidents of Blackgaard's questionable health status and Eugene and Richard's uncovering of the mineral's nickname, "the silent one". By far the most important incident, however, is Maxwell's confrontation with Blackgaard and the resulting attempted murder. The scene of Richard's near death experience nearly leaps from the speakers with excitement.
Some of The Last Resort is a surprisingly less intense style that contrasts with much of the series so far. We get a few rather humorous scenes with Bernard in the midst of all this chaos. Also, it is here that Tom and Richard and Jack and Jason both finally forgive each other. I think lesser authors would have placed these scenes in the final episode of the series, but putting them here opens the final episode up for a much more powerful ending. Many of the final pieces fall together in this episode. We know nearly all of the details about TA418, Tom, Richard, Jason and Jack, Jellyfish, Rodney, Bart, Bovril, Glossman, and nearly every other character involved by the end of the episode. The only thing that The Final Conflict has to do is tie all of this information up into a thrilling, dramatic conclusion and it certainly doesn't fall short. After slowing "picking off the bad-guys one by one" there is only one left by the end to deal with—Blackgaard of course. The final dialog with Jack Allen is just about the most powerful five minutes in the entire AIO series. The ending in some ways seems abrupt, with all that depends on it, but those final few minutes, as we learn of all that happened during this time are really all that's needed. Anything else would have taken away from our feelings of amazement at this series. The final reporter's monologue as the music eventually swells is very appropriate. We've been through the entire range of emotions with Odyssey.
Favorite Episode: The Time Has Come
Rating: 4 stars
Read the Soda Fountain Review
This was the first album to have all twelve episodes contribute to one central storyline. Battle Lines (38) is the only other so far.
One of the most interesting and "grabbing" names for a collection.
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