Welcome to Night Vale Recap: Episode 8, The Lights in Radon Canyon

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Yay! Carlos is back…a little.

If you went to middle school and high school in the U.S. you probably read a charming little story called “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. It’s a sweet story about a town that will draw lots once per year and the “winner” gets stoned to death. Apparently the citizens of Night Vale read it too. They then decided it was a great idea.

We open with a notification about Night Vale’s upcoming lottery as well as a PSA about ways you can try to get out of winning it. One suggestion Cecil has is to learn to sense colors, as they have different auras. I’m just going to add that to my list of evidence that Cecil is psychic but doesn’t realize that others aren’t. We also learn that lottery winners will be fed to wolves in the Night Vale Zoo. It’s apparently the only way anyone could think of to feed them.

Next is the return of everyone’s favorite scientist: Carlos! Cecil immediately tried to make a date with him, but sadly Carlos only dropped by for professional reasons. He’s concerned about strange lights and noises coming from Radon Canyon. He thinks it could be something very sinister and wants listeners to report in anything they may have seen or heard. Characteristically, Cecil doesn’t seem very concerned. He probably wouldn’t have even brought it up if it hadn’t had to do with Carlos.

Then we get the return of another fan favorite. Cecil announces that episode two’s Glow Cloud has returned and joined the school board. As you may recall, no one could remember the Glow Cloud after it left the first time. Cecil explains that the only reason he knows about its previous visit now it because a few citizens wrote about the incident in private diaries. Sadly, Cecil cannot thank those people by name because writing utensils are illegal in Night Vale and he doesn’t want to get them arrested.

This little bit is a nice example of the balance Cecil always struggles to maintain on his show. On the one hand, he has to say a lot of things he personally might not believe because the local government tells him to. On the other hand, Cecil does show hints of defiance here and there, such as applauding and protecting the law-breakers in this situation and all the times he’ll carefully word stories so they say one thing but obviously mean another.

Cecil decides it’s perfectly understandable that the Glow Cloud would want to join the school board. Obviously it was looking for a town with a good school system when it first came to Night Vale in order to raise whatever terrifying offspring a glowing cloud might have. And the Glow Cloud will obviously be a better benefit to PTA meetings than STEVE CARLSBERG with his unacceptably dry scones and terrible meeting minutes. Clearly, as Cecil has shown, Steve is an awful person with no redeeming qualities.

Cecil then gives a traffic report that’s more like a poem. It talks about a man the writer has seen running back and forth in front of their house all day with increasingly distressing wounds. By the end the writer still knows nothing about the man, but feels a kinship to his pain and desperation. It feels like a metaphor for something larger, a description of the writer’s own pain which is somehow just as impossible to explain. I see this report as a look at what a Night Vale citizen might experience any day. Maybe they personally aren’t always in danger, but they can always see the terror someone else faces and know that fear will be their own someday soon.

This has been traffic.

The next story is about a series of billboards that have suddenly appeared around town. No one knows where they came from, just that they feature a picture of a sandwich and the word “harlot”. They’ve also appeared in very unconventional places, such as directly through the middle of a somehow still living dog. Cecil then learns that the billboards are from the health department and are apparently supposed to promote healthy living for children. That or create offerings for a long dead god. One of those.

At this point calls have started to come in about the lights from Radon Canyon. People report that they’re from an intense Pink Floyd show, but somehow this news only makes Carlos more worried. Sadly, he still isn’t interested in going on a date with Cecil.

Continuing from last episode, we also learn about the ongoing scandal within local high school football. Last time quarterback Michael Sandero credited his team’s victory to help from angels. Now the awful people in Desert Bluffs are arguing that that counts as cheating. They also argue that Sandero’s second head counts as having an extra player on the field.

Interestingly, the sports scandal played nicely into the City Council’s agenda. The angels agreed to come to a hearing about the football game, only to be briefly caught in a trap the City Council had laid for them. Now, throughout the show the City Council has officially maintained that angels don’t exist. Eventually this even becomes what Cecil says as well. At the same time, the existence of angels is clearly one of the worst-kept secrets of Night Vale. Why does the Council insist on denying them instead of just saying they’re fugitives or something? And why can’t citizens know about the tiers of heaven? Does this indicate that the Council is made up of demonic beings?

Speaking of the City Council, after some quick ads we learn that they are also denying the existence of a Pink Floyd concert in Radon Canyon. Here their denial seems to be because they don’t want to admit that they used public funds to throw the concert just for themselves and to contact the ghost of Pink Floyd’s original front man Syd Barrett. Interestingly, the Council no longer seems to have individual identities anymore. Cecil is surprised to hear them all speaking in unison, but this is how they will speak from now on.

The bit about the concert sheds interesting light on the angel problem. Both are issues that the City Council wants to keep secret but isn’t very good at hiding. Why can’t people know about the angels when they can know about Glow Clouds, five-headed dragons, and evil howling at the post office? Is it because the angels are relatively straight-forward to understand? Or are they a part of a larger destiny the Council can’t let anyone know about? Hmm…

This episode’s weather is “This Too Shall Pass” by Danny Schmidt.

For our last story we get a quick update on the underground city beneath the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex. The owner, Teddy Williams, has started guarding the opening to the city day and night. Still, he feels nihilistic enough that he’s giving away free baskets of chicken wings with every game now. Naturally, that’s the part Cecil cares about the most. He even ends the episode with a drawn out metaphor for how life is really like a basket of chicken wings. As beautiful as Cecil’s voice is, I’m not always sure he thinks before he speaks.

This episode is interesting for the insights it offers about the City Council, but in some ways it feels a little incomplete to me. More recently, Welcome to Night Vale has become much more story-oriented, so I don’t think we’d be likely to have an episode be so open-ended anymore. What happened to Carlos? What was he so worried about? Was the concert really dangerous? Like with many things in Night Vale, we’ll never really know.

And now the Conspiracy Tracker!

  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 and his home have disappeared.
  4. Time is weird in Night Vale and Carlos wants to figure it out.
  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…
  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.

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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