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Welcome to Night Vale Recap: Episode 25 “One Year Later”

We’ve come a long way and it’s time for some things to change.

Welcome to Night Vale Logo

“One Year Later” is, naturally, Welcome to Night Vale’s one year anniversary. The anniversary episodes tend to be where really pivotal plot changes happen. As we’ll see, this episode is no exception, but I also feel this first anniversary is the one that does the most to acknowledge the legacy and continuity the show has created. We open with exact echoes of the opening of the very first episode. We are in “A friendly desert community where the sun is still hot, the moon still beautiful, and mysterious lights still pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep.”

Today is a day for action in Night Vale. Everyone has been keeping an eye on the civilization underneath lane five of the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex for months now. Well, today must be D-Day because owner Teddy Williams is telling everyone “They are here!” This has unfortunately ruined Jeremy Goldstein’s 50th birthday party, which was being held at the bowling alley. No one cares. However Carlos is there and very concerned about this underground civilization. He resolves to get to the bottom of this (no pun intended). The Apache Tracker is also there, shaking his head ominously.

Thoughts of Carlos make Cecil remember why this is such a special day. It was exactly one year ago when the City Council opened the Dog Park (which is still forbidden and will not be mentioned again). More importantly, it was one year ago that the beautiful scientist Carlos first came to Night Vale. Since then, Cecil has had a wondrous year full of fluttering heartbeats and flirtations. Of course, Carlos hasn’t exactly responded to any of those flirtations, despite Cecil’s desperate attempts to twist Carlos’ every word and action into something romantic. At this point it’s still a mystery if Carlos has any interest in Cecil at all or is just really, really bad at picking up hints. In any case, Cecil is happy to celebrate Carlos surviving for a full year and has even planned a little ceremony for the occasion. He got Carlos a trophy and everything.

Thanks to this whole “investigating the underground city” thing Carlos may be a bit late, but Cecil takes it well.

“But I am not worried. I am not upset. I know that Carlos will be here for the ceremony. I have the trophy here in my hand. I am holding the trophy and I am not upset. Carlos will be here. He will. I am holding the trophy!”

Continuing with the list of ties to the first episode we also get to hear about that airplane that briefly appeared in a school gym to disrupt basketball practice last year. The plane, or at least a very similar one, has just appeared in the home of Becky Canterbury. It roared down her hallway and then was gone, leaving everyone even more confused about this plane about its relationship with time and space. Cecil admits that he has no proof this is the same plane as last year, but declares that he is already invested in this opinion and will defend it against all nay-sayers, just as he already does against anyone who believes in snow or mountains. (Which is a weird stance to have for someone who’s been to Europe. It’s a little hard to miss the mountains out there.)

We also get a new story about the NRA and the NEW new slogans they’ve come up with. My personal favorites are “Guns don’t kill people, blood loss and organ damage does” and “If you say guns kill people one more time, I will shoot you with a gun, and you will, coincidentally, die.”

There’s also this bit that I’ll include just because it’s hilarious:

“Parents, let’s talk about safety when taking your children to play out in the Scrublands and the Sand Wastes. All children in Night Vale are missing this week, so there’s no current safety issues.

Hope we find ‘em!”

Back with Carlos and the underground city, we get a shocking update. For a year now the people of Night Vale have been dreading the people of this city and speculating about its inhabitants. However, apparently no one ever tried to go to the city or learn anything about it. Now that Carlos has looked into it, he’s made an interesting discovery: the underground city is not, as people thought, miles below the earth. It’s actually only a few feet down and made up of tiny buildings and even tinier people. Carlos demonstrates this to the people in the bowling alley, explaining that there is nothing to fear and never was. Cecil is delighted, but does not go so far as to agree with Carlos, just repeat what he says.

In another tie-in to the first episode, the City Council reminds us that angels don’t exist and that we aren’t allowed to know anything about the hierarchical structure of heaven. Amusingly, they say this to a group of annoyed angels. Over the past year Cecil has gradually gone from blatantly acknowledging that angels exist to carefully clarifying that they don’t whenever the angels come up. Maybe the Council has been putting pressure on him about it?

Suddenly Cecil’s tone changes to a scared, sad one. He’s just learned the horrible news that Carlos’ triumph was short. The underground city, while much smaller than previously thought, has proven itself to still be deadly. They launched tiny explosives at Carlos and he fell over. Now he is on the ground, dead in a pool of blood. Cecil is quickly overwhelmed with grief, still clutching the trophy he’d planned to give to Carlos. Cecil curses the town and himself for letting Carlos die and then can no longer even speak. Instead he plays a pre-recorded message.

In our final major tie-in to the first episode the commercial is actually from Carlos’ team of scientists. They’re still trying to understand the house in the Desert Creek housing development that doesn’t exist, but looks like it should. (Also, this house seems to be solid and everything so I’m not sure on what basis they’re saying it isn’t really there.) The scientists still haven’t had the courage to ring the doorbell on the house, but they’re offering five dollars to anyone willing to do it. They assure us we’ll probably be fine.

When we get back Cecil sounds surprisingly happy. It turns out that Carlos isn’t dead after all. While everyone else just stood there watching the attack, the Apache Tracker rescued Carlos and pulled him out of the hole underneath lane five. While he did this he shouted something in Russian which apparently means “Finally, my time has come!”

Cecil is thrilled to learn that Carlos is going to be fine and thinks happily about all the opportunities that suddenly exist again. However, he soon learns that his joy has come at a price. The Apache Tracker was under attack the whole time he was rescuing Carlos and now has mortal injuries of his own. Cecil begins to mourn him before he even dies saying that, although the Apache Tracker was a racist embarrassment to the town, he was also a hero who worked with the angels and the Man in the Tan Jacket to protect us from the underground city. As such, he should be remembered with at least some honor.

The last words we hear from the Apache Tracker are another sentence in Russian, this one meaning “It’s fine, it’s fine. I knew this would happen. You can have my car.” Knowing that he knew this would happen raises a lot of questions, but I’ll get to those in a bit. For now Cecil says good-bye to the Tracker and then nearly says good-bye to us, but is interrupted by a phone call. Incredibly, Carlos is calling! Cecil doesn’t know what it could be about but he certainly has no qualms about interrupting his show to take the call. As he answers he takes us to the weather.

This episode’s weather is “Sunday Morning Stasis” by Joseph Fink.

When we get back Cecil describes meeting Carlos in the Arby’s parking lot. (There are still lights above it and Cecil still understands them.) Cecil claims that he started the meeting by being super professional and asking what important information Carlos might have for him, but I don’t buy it. Cecil is the guy who has been trying to stuff romance into his every glance at Carlos for a year. There’s no way he wasn’t gushing on some level. Though I’ll concede that he might have reined himself in out of respect for Carlos’ near-death experience.

In any case, this is the scene every shipper has been waiting for since Welcome to Night Vale began. Carlos says that he actually just wanted to see Cecil after everything that had happened. Carlos talks indirectly about the way Night Vale, and probably by extension Cecil, has scared him in the past. But now he sees them in a new light, as something good. He and Cecil touch, and the moment is perfect. It’s the moment where a beautiful relationship begins.

But, as always, not everything is perfect in Night Vale. The Man in the Tan Jacket still has an agenda with the mayor. The tiny underground civilization is still moving toward war. The Apache Tracker is cold and dead, having died a hero. Cecil acknowledges these things and moves on, happy to linger on the good that came out of the day. Personally, I have few more questions.

Things have been weird with the Apache Tracker for a while now. He went someplace unknown and came back as an actual Native American who could only speak Russian. Was this done to him on purpose? Was someone trying to keep him from being able to communicate with the people of Night Vale? We know that for a while now he’s been aware of the threat under the bowling alley and even, apparently, that he would die there. Is this information he got from the angels? Did they tell him his destiny? Why did he have to die? Was it the only way to save Carlos? If so, why did he, the angels, and/or the Man in the Tan Jacket care about Carlos so much?

My personal theory touches on elements we’ve seen in “The Sandstorm” and “The Traveler”. I think Night Vale is constantly in danger, but there are actually a lot of threats people see coming or maybe go back in time to prevent. Today was a day that had two possible outcomes: one where Carlos died and one where he didn’t. A lot of powerful people seemed very invested in one of those outcomes. Was it for Carlos sake? Or could it even be that it’s actually extremely important for Cecil to have someone he loves? (For those who are up-to-date with the episodes, I’m also getting some ideas from “[Best Of?]”.) It’s worth pondering.

In any case, this is a fantastic episode that really pays homage to the series while also giving us some strong resolution on many ongoing plot threads. I’d definitely say it’s one of my favorites. The other anniversary episodes have been done well, but “One Year Later” is still the one that wins my heart every time. What do the rest of you think?

And, oh yeah, I think we’re ready to update the Conspiracy Tracker a bit, don’t you?

1. Angels are living with Old Woman Josie and the City Council wants to capture them.
2. There’s a house that doesn’t exist.
3. The Apache Tracker died to save Carlos’ life.
4. Time isn’t real in Night Vale.
5. Cecil wants to be swallowed by a giant snake.
6. There’s a city of tiny people underneath the Desert Flower preparing for war.
7. Literal five-headed dragon Hiram McDaniels wants to be the next mayor.
8. Pets become perfect when you accept them…
9. What the heck is the dog park?
10. Russian=Weirdness
11. Cecil hates Steve Carlsberg for unknown reasons.
12. Night Vale has a surprising fixation on actor Lee Marvin.
13. Night Vale is prone to duplication and Desert Bluffs is one of the duplicates.
14. A dark planet is calling to people.
15. People are shipping crates with tiny houses inside.
16. There’s an old oak door on John Peters’ farm.
17. Desert Bluffs is controlled by the evil company StrexCorp.
18. A blinking red light is coming from somewhere unknown.
19. Simone Rigadeau thinks the world ended decades ago.
20. Cecil doesn’t know how old he is.
21. Earl Harlan thinks he and Cecil could have had something.
22. Mayor Winchell is retiring, possibly not by her own choice.

Alex Townsend is freelance writer, a cool person, and really into gender studies and superheroes. It’s a magical day when all these things come together. You can follow her on her tumblr and see her comments on silver age comics. Happy reading!

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