The Magnus Protocol Reviews: “Marked”

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“Marked” Is A Big Step Down From The Last Entry

I couldn’t help but be disappointed in “Marked.” The hiatus after “Saturday Night” made me assume we were getting a big, important episode next. But this one just feels like a bridge to other plot points. I’d almost call it filler.

And this includes the horror story, which is borderline generic. It was obvious—without the characters also calling it out—that tattoos are important in Protocol. But, for now, they mostly function like Lietners did back in Archives. And while “Making Adjustments” used that concept to potent, upsetting effect, having a magic tattoo’s owner dead diminishes how interesting it can be in a story. Furthermore, becoming obsessed with a magical thing to the point of self-destruction is very standard for cosmic horror. I’m not sure it should be the sole thing carrying an episode anymore. We don’t even get a creepy hint about what happened to our doomed emailer.  

Marked

This Episode Does Not Seem To Want To Scare Us

Compounding its issues, “Marked” is also not the most pleasant listening experience. Having email correspondence as the storytelling method was fine. The “Re:” repetition was even used to hint at broader events. But hearing those two email addresses read out every single time started to grate on my nerves. If there were multiple perspectives to keep track of, like in “First Shift,” I’d understand its inclusion—but that’s not the case. It’s really only one person. The whole time. Commitment to verisimilitude can be a detriment.

The really interesting and more enjoyable parts of this episode happen in the many subplots. The beginning few moments have tons of questions posed—but it’s the ending that got my mind going. I worry that there’s some fatphobia inherent to how Mr. Bonzo is being depicted, especially as a horror villain, but the idea that he’s one of many pseudo-assassins contacted for jobs is an incredibly creative idea. I can’t wait to learn how the “caseloads” factor into that.

So, yeah, “Marked” is another episode mostly saved by the metaplot. This is turning into a running issue with Protocol—but it’s also showing that Archives wasn’t a fluke, and the franchise can expertly deliver long-form, organic, character-driven storytelling. As long as those two things remain true, I’m still excited for what each episode brings.

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