The Magnus Protocol Reviews: “Anti-Social”

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“Anti-Social” Is One Of The Most Distinct Episodes

To review “Anti-Social,” I need to make some assumptions. I need to assume our main character, Madam Electrum, is an accurate representation of a type of internet personality/celebrity. The large amount of slang, sound effects, and great voice acting are so specific, with so much effort put into them, that I can’t imagine this episode wasn’t written from some personal experience or reference point. It’s not internet content I have much experience with—but it seems the most obvious conclusion.

And, with that assumption formed, I don’t actually have a lot to say about the framing device otherwise. The Magnus Protocol has made an effort to have a large cast of different characters, and to lean into more modern technology and culture than Archives—and this feels like a natural extension of that. I’ve mostly liked the different presentations of the stories, and—in hindsight—it’s actually surprising that we didn’t get online videos sooner. It’s an under-explored avenue for horror.

Case and point, “Anti-Social,” is actually quite similar to Mag 65 “Binary”—an episode that always feels like a bit of an outlier in the original series. Both revolve around a character becoming physically affected by their connection to the internet. Both deal with pain; partially emotional pain. But this one is more taken from real events. I’m a cis-male writer, so I can’t speak from personal experience, but this episode seems to have commentary about how female content creators (or any person from a marginalized group) can get truly horrific harassment for making stuff on the internet. The events of “Anti-Social” feel barely supernatural.

Though the supernatural aspects of it do pose odd lore questions. Ink5oul appears to be another avatar, but what Dread Power they serve, I can’t even guess. This is the third “evil tattoo” episode so far, and it feels like they’ve invoked The Flesh, The Vast, and now (maybe) The Extinction with their creations. It’s the first time, however, that we get the implication of the tattoos being used as pseudo-bribery. I get the impression Madam Electrum would’ve been fine if not for refusing Ink5oul’s request.

"Anti-Social"

“Anti-Social” Hints At Many Of The Plot’s Mysteries

As to the overarching plot with the O.I.A.R. employees, I’m uncertain if the predictions I made in my previous review technically occurred. I worried the ongoing narrative would undercut the momentum established by the last episode’s ending. But Alice is emotionally affected by seeing a Vast avatar, and it seems to be causing significant conflict. Similarly, Gwen bringing around a Hunt avatar did cause new information to be—hopefully—on the horizon. I could still complain about how understated it felt, but perhaps it’s more realistic that, even when something horrific happened, life would still continue; the daily grind of their jobs can’t completely derail no matter the trauma. Alice’s rent payments might be due. But it does make my many-times-mentioned impatience all the worse.

The big compliment I want to pay “Anti-Social,” though, is that it completely sidesteps the issue “Pet Project” had, while being a similarly short episode. This might be because a lot of story events are mentioned quickly, but there’s a clear arc. I know why things happened, as much as one can in a cosmic horror story. There’s a progression to matters, and the characters are distinct. I do wish this series would stop killing off its narrators, though. This is, like, the third or fourth story that ends with the narrator abruptly dying at the end of their “statement.” If that’s secretly a plot point, like how The Eye affected statement givers in Archives, then fine, but otherwise it’s starting to feel cliché.

That’s really the bulk of what I have to say about “Anti-Social.” It’s a good episode. Nothing special. I’d listen to it again. There’s a worry that invoking such up-to-date slang (if, indeed, it is up to date) will age this episode terribly—but that’s just the price of contemporary storytelling. As long as we continue to get episodes of similar quality, I’d say things are looking up.  

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