The Magnus Protocol Reviews: “Give and Take”

Story


“Give and Take” Gave Us Lots Of Interesting Clues

Give and Take” is the most aggressive theory-baiting episode I think I’ve ever heard from this franchise. Maybe back in Archives, there was a dialogue passage that was purely meant to get the mind going, but I doubt it was this blatant. For God’s sake, a character diegetically asks if there’s any pattern to which “statements” get narrated by the voices. I’ve repeatedly complained for the macro story to get moving, and with this and the last episode, my wish has been twice now fulfilled.

Turns out, though, getting what I asked for makes my reviewing job more difficult because this episode should be judged in hindsight. The reveals yet to happen are pivotal. It’s either going to be a disappointment or a remarkable act of creative writing. Is the line a reference to how statements in Archives can’t be recorded digitally and have to be done with tape recorders? Is the “liaison” job related to the people with machine guns in the statements? Is there a government agency doing a more widespread version of what Daisy was doing? Why is Colin so concerned about anyone recording him? I love guessing about this sort of thing, but it doesn’t do much to cement the quality of the episode. It’s more mysteries than media at this point.

Give and Take

The Episode Does Suffer From All The Little Hints

But we should get to what storytelling there is to examine. “Give and Take” feels like a more Stranger-aligned version of Mag 122 “Zombie” or a different take on Breekon and Hope. It also, despite those parallels, feels like a season one episode of Archives. The story of “Give and Take” is ultimately very straightforward in that way. We get a first-person, past tense, standard narrative approach to a spooky happening. There’s a prevailing sense of things spinning out of control that could work as a premise already, but if one were assigning a specific phobia underneath the Stranger umbrella, I’d say it’s a fear of crowds.

And that would’ve been enough, actually. A positive review from me exists in some alternative timeline. I’m sure the various items that get donated are some sort of cool plot clue and that we’ll meet the volunteers again in some entertaining cameo, but “Give and Take” was spooky also for the sake of itself, and I like when that cohesion is nestled within the meta-plot. It’s a damn shame, then, that it doesn’t stick the landing. No big reveal ties it all together. It’s exactly the same issue I had with “Personal Screening,” but this one didn’t even have a strong mystery element to string things along. I’m actually so baffled by this I have to assume it was a time restriction interfering with the writing or a very deliberate move for some great purpose.

So, once again, we have my conundrum. What shall I say about this one? I can’t recall a time I’ve had to postpone a review’s conclusion before. But, if I intend to be fair at all, “Give and Take” requires this historic option. It’s absolutely a standout episode in this first season of Protocol, with great voice acting and sound design, but time will tell how my use of the word “standout” should really be interpreted.  

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