Welcome to Night Vale Recap: “Glow Cloud”
Get ready to understand a lot of memes with this one folks. It’s time to start hailing the Glow Cloud!
This episode starts with an announcement from the Night Vale Tourism Board. They’re in the middle of a campaign for a visit-able Night Vale, which is a hilarious and impossible notion. Specifically, they’re working on getting people to visit a place called Radon Canyon. We never learn much about the canyon, but apparently the view is literally breath-taking. Apparently Night Vale has been so dangerous for so long, its citizens no longer really know what safety means.
Next Cecil announces that he’s received word about a strange, glowing cloud coming into town. The news comes from recurring minor character John Peters, you know, the farmer? That is what Peters is always called. You must always know he is a farmer. Remember this at all times.
Anyway the cloud glows in variety of colors and has already killed at least one person. That’s not enough to worry Cecil or the sheriff’s secret police though. Things kill people in Night Vale constantly. One death isn’t nearly enough to get people in a panic at this point. We also get our first hint that the sheriff’s secret police are kind of idiots, as they even advise people to “run directly at the cloud, shrieking and waving your arms, just to see what it does.”
We then transition to an update on the Apache Tracker (the white guy who dresses like a cartoonish and racist depiction of a Native American). He investigated the Night Vale post office after the evil howling that was heard there last episode. He says it smelled like scorched flesh and the wall read “More to come, and soon.” No one cares because the Apache Tracker is a racist joke. (Seriously, not my commentary. No one in Night Vale cares about this guy.)
In more adorable news, there is now a cat floating in the men’s bathroom of Night Vale’s radio station. In all respects he seems like a normal cat, except that he’s inexplicably stuck hovering in place four feet from the floor. We don’t really learn anything else about him at this point, but it’s cute to note how much Cecil clearly likes him. Incidentally, this kitty is apparently one of Cecil Baldwin’s (voice of Cecil) favorite characters. We’ll see this cat again, largely because real!Cecil wanted him back.
There’s also this tidbit: “Wish it wasn’t trapped in a hovering prison in the men’s bathroom, but listen: no pet is perfect. It becomes perfect when you learn to accept it for what it is.” I’m just putting that there for now. We’ll get back to it in a few months.
We go to a message from the sponsors and it reads like a poem about a dream. It’s about a person in sand dunes looking up at a night’s sky. They have a lingering, unpleasant taste in their mouth and are soon consumed with a feeling of oppression. It’s a feeling of being trapped in a world going out of control. The message is brought to us by Coca-Cola.
I’ll admit, the commercials in Welcome to Night Vale are one of my favorite parts. They offer an interesting insight into how Night Vale interacts with our world. They clearly get a lot of the same products and stores that we do, they just aren’t always treated the same way. Honestly, I’m not sure if the weirdness of the commercials is supposed to be a clever commentary on the products they’re associated with, or if it’s just supposed to be another part of Night Vale’s bizarre nature. Oh well. I’ll recap it, you decide!
We then get a brief note about a town meeting where everyone must assure the city council that they have seen no mysterious sights or had any strange thoughts. Everyone must be normal, so as not to become an outcast. Then we get the line so popular it made it onto the merch: “Remember: if you see something, say nothing. And drink to forget.”
Next is our first mention of the scouts of Night Vale. Boy scouts and girl scouts are both present in the town, but like in our reality they represent very different organizations. The boy scouts are what we hear about for now and, like in reality, they seem to be the more ominous of the two groups. Today’s announcement is about new levels of scout-hood that have been added to the boy scout hierarchy, including Blood Pact Scout, Weird Scout, Dreadnought Scout, Dark Scout, Fear Scout, and Eternal Scout. It also seems that no one is given a choice about joining the boy scouts. Boys just get chosen at random and are notified by red envelopes left on their front steps.
Back with the glow cloud, we now learn that it has begun to rain dead animals, but only small ones so citizens should still be good to do errands if they bring an umbrella. Also, clean-up should be easy because apparently Night Vale has a handy eternal animal pyre in Mission Grove Park. The cloud is still apparently not intimidating enough to worry anyone. Cecil even suggests using the cloud’s changing appearance to teach children colors.
In more important news, there’s a fugitive on the loose! A man named Frank Chen was recently pulled over for speeding. His license said that he was five foot eight but, funny story, it turns out that “Frank” is actually an enormous five-headed dragon. In fact, he is a certain literal five-headed dragon named Hiram McDaniels! Hiram escaped arrest after breathing fire on the officer who discovered him, but he is still a fugitive suspected of…insurance fraud. Citizens are asked to be on the lookout for Hiram with the incentive of getting a stamp on their alert citizen cards. Apparently five stamps will get you stop sign immunity for a year. We also learn that civil rights activists are objecting to the unlawful search of McDaniel’s car. They get a quick reminder of just where it is they live.
“[They were] reminded by Secret Police officials that our backwards court system will uphold any old authoritarian rule made up on the fly by unsupervised gun-carrying thugs of a shadow government.”
We move to the community calendar, which is another mish-mash of the frightening and bizarre. The library is getting unspecified but ominous renovations, “Dot Day” is coming up (along with dire consequences for what you put dots on), a local musician is offering probably fake lessons in the burnt rubble of his music shop, there’s a bake sale for a blood-space war, and there’s a free concert…somewhere. Also, Wednesday has been canceled due to a scheduling error.
And we return to the glow cloud, which seems determined to actually make people care about it. It’s now big enough to cover all of Night Vale and has started dropping larger dead animals, like lions. Nevertheless, it still hasn’t even gotten Night Vale to cancel its little league game. The most the secret police are doing is shouting questions at it.
Then…things get weirder. Cecil’s voice suddenly changes to a low drone. He talks about how the Cloud does not feel. It does not think. We must hail the mighty Glow Cloud! We are now its slaves! Clearly we are hearing the words of the Cloud itself as it takes control of our dear radio host!
You know what this is the perfect time for? The weather!
(This week’s weather is “The Bus is Late” by Satellite High. It’s also known as the “Waiting for the bus in the rain!” song. It’s fantastic and has forever cured by bus-waiting blues.)
When we get back Cecil apologizes, but he has no memory of the last few minutes. Even the tapes recording his show are blank. The Glow Cloud has now moved on and Cecil acknowledges that he may never understand just what went on today. But of course, he’s not especially bothered by his lost memory either. Instead he turns it into an opportunity to be philosophical about life in general.
At times in life certain matters (like a giant cloud taking over the minds of your town) can just seem so important. But then things move on, you move on, and you get to a point where you can’t even remember why it mattered so much. This is this first time WTNV has gotten so philosophical, but it is far from the last. It seems the weird can give us a lot to think about, even when it’s based in the absurd.
Cecil then ends with a list of things, some which are more alarming than others. Some of my favorites are a secret city of lost pets on the moon, a void that thinks, trembling hands reaching for desperately needed items, and a face half-seen just before falling asleep.
This episode’s proverb is “Men are from Mars; women are from Venus; Earth is a hallucination; podcasts are dreams.”
This episode is a classic, another one of the most widely quoted ones. The Glow Cloud tends to find a place in every fan’s heart, but it’s also where we first meet Hiram McDaniels and John Peters (yktf) as well as our introduction to Night Vale’s boy scouts.
Now for the conspiracy tracker!
- Angels are living with Old Woman Josie and the city council doesn’t like them.
- There’s a house that doesn’t exist.
- The Apache Tracker is investigating something evil at the post office.
- Time is weird in Night Vale.
- Cecil wants to be swallowed by a giant snake.
- There’s a city underneath the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex.
- Literal five-headed dragon and fugitive Hiram McDaniels is on the loose.
- 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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