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Welcome to Night Vale Recap: Episode 3, “Station Management”

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Night Vale is a place where even the most terrifying creatures are treated as mundane. So … what does it take to scare Cecil?

This episode opens with an announcement about the local newspaper, the Night Vale Daily Journal. The paper is apparently facing financial trouble and is cutting back on their number of issues per week. As a result, on Sundays news kiosks will now be filled with 2% milk for purposes of journalistic neutrality. Naturally.

Night Vale has also just opened a new stadium that sounds enormous and imposing. The new Night Vale Stadium will be used exclusively for one night every year for the annual Parade of the Mysterious Hooded Figures. These hooded figures are the same ones we last heard about in regards to the dog park, where many of them seem to live. Now we learn a bit more about them. Like many things, the hooded figures seem to be a frightening but iconic part of Night Vale’s culture. We’re specifically told about one that lurks under a playground slide and another that openly steals babies while everyone watching becomes powerless to stop it. Well, maybe if the parents are lucky the babies can be part of the parade too.

Next we come to the main plot of this episode. Cecil explains that it’s contract negotiation time at his studio. It sounds as unpleasant as most business negotiations, but is made worse by the fact that Cecil has never actually met or even seen whatever entity manages Night Vale Community Radio. Management only ever communicates with him through envelopes it shoots out from under its door. The only glimpse Cecil has had of it is through the door’s fogged glass. There Management’s office seems larger than is physically possible within the building, and Cecil’s gotten a brief impression of tendrils writhing around.

Upon telling us everything he knows about Station Management, Cecil quickly realizes he’s made a mistake. An envelope has come out of Management’s office and Cecil seems very concerned by its contents. He transitions to giving us a shades of the sky forecast. (Which is different than the weather.) The colors range from turquoise to void.

Then we move on to an announcement from the City Council about a drive to clean up litter. Everyone needs to do their part. We just have to remember not to touch or approach any litter with a red flag on it.

“Remember the slogan: ‘No flag? Goes in the bag. Red flag? Run!’”

There’s a brief warning that books in Night Vale have stopped working, apparently now producing things like sparks and lethal gas. No one knows why this is happening, but it does play nicely into the City Council’s ongoing agenda to keep the people of Night Vale ignorant. The Council issues a statement saying they continue to believe that books are dangerous and shouldn’t be kept in private homes.

Next we’re warned (and really, shouldn’t this show just be non-stop warnings?) that a certain discount sports store is actually a front for a World Government base. People got suspicious when they saw the helicopter pad on the store’s roof. Sadly Chad, the radio station’s intern, went to investigate and has not returned for several weeks. He seems to be presumed dead. Cecil gives Chad’s parents brief condolences then advises listeners to buy their sporting goods at Play Ball, which is only a front for the Sheriff’s Secret Police.

Larry Leroy, out on the edge of town, is another common background character for the show. This episode he’s the one to report in about a creeping fear that came into Night Vale that morning. It soon engulfed the town, filling everyone with mortal dread. Everyone, that is, except Old Woman Josie, who was of course protected by the angels who live with her. Cecil admits that even he was gripped with terror, but he’s not sure if it was because of the fear field or the ominous envelope he just received from Station Management.

“Also,” he says, “I’m battling Lyme disease.”

Soon the creeping fear left and Cecil hopes that it went to Desert Bluffs, as it would serve them right.

We then move on to a far more troubling report. The beautiful scientist Carlos has recently been seen getting his perfect hair cut! Cecil is obviously distressed and moves quickly from pained disbelief to vengeful wrath against the barber who would dare to commit such a crime. The villain in question is apparently a man named Telly. Cecil lingers on Telly’s name with blatant hatred and goes on to explicitly describe both him and the location of his shop. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m pretty sure Cecil just called for mob violence against a man for giving someone a haircut. It just goes to show you, everyone is terrifying in Night Vale.

But again we move on, this time to traffic. This whole segment consists of Cecil clearly looking at a traffic report and commenting on it, but never telling us what he sees. It’s an interesting sudden transition to something silly.

The light-hearted break is short-lived though. Suddenly Cecil sounds desperate. He begs listeners to start a letter writing campaign. We learn that in Station Management’s letter it threatened to end Cecil’s show or even, perhaps, his life. (The wording was ambiguous.) He hopes that if enough people write letters he might be spared. Although he will have to shout the contents of the letters through Station Management’s door and hope that Management has an anatomy that includes ears.

Then Cecil hears a sudden noise and takes us to a pre-recorded commercial for Big Rico’s pizza. This is one of the few commercials on the show that’s for a business that’s native to Night Vale and it’s pretty hilarious. Cecil’s voice is incredibly stilted throughout the whole thing, like he’s clearly reading from a script.

Apparently Big Rico’s is the only pizza place in Night Vale that hasn’t burned down in an unsolved arson case and it’s a misdemeanor for Night Vale citizens not to eat there once a week. But hey, they must be great! They have “authentic toppings”! Rumor has it that even the mysterious hooded figures eat there!

After the commercial we briefly go back to Cecil, who urgently whispers that we’re moving on to the weather. He now sounds thoroughly frightened, but we don’t know why.

This episode’s weather is “Bill and Annie” by Chuck Brodsky.

When we get back Cecil is hiding under his desk and speaking with obvious terror. Station Management has left its office for the first time in known memory and is roaming the halls! As a very dedicated reporter, Cecil must of course continue his show and tell us all about it. It sounds like Management is some sort of eldritch monster, emitting steam and walking around on small, clicking legs.

It has already absorbed or devoured Intern Jerry. He will be missed. Luckily, as Cecil tearfully tells us, he and Chad will be remembered at the annual Thanksgiving Day Dead Citizens Impersonation Contest. We even get to find out when and where this contest will be. There’s going to be a cash bar and two Twister boards. The contest sounds both terrible and hilarious. I really hope there’s an episode about it one day.

Right now Cecil realizes he has to make a break for it. He says farewell to us, maybe for the last time. He says good-bye and the credits music plays.

Today’s proverb: “There’s a special place in Hell. It’s really hip. Very exclusive.”

This episode is a favorite of mine for the way that it shows us that Night Vale has limits on what it can blandly accept. This is the first time something scary has gotten close to Cecil during the show and it’s good to know that he’s still capable of being afraid. It makes the stakes real.

And now for the Conspiracy Tracker! Nothing new today, but I promise that won’t last long…

  1. Angels are living with Old Woman Josie and the city council doesn’t like them.
  2. There’s a house that doesn’t exist.
  3. The Apache Tracker is investigating something evil at the post office.
  4. Time is weird in Night Vale.
  5. Cecil wants to be swallowed by a giant snake.
  6. There’s a city underneath the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex.
  7. Literal five-headed dragon and fugitive Hiram McDaniels is on the loose.
  8. Pets become perfect when you accept them…

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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