The Magnus Protocol Reviews: “Taking Notes”


“Taking Notes” Leans Far Too Much On Its Setting

“Taking Notes” was one of the hardest episodes to listen to, and not for a scary reason. “Making Adjustments” made me squirm. This simply irritated during sections of its runtime. It’s one of the most important episodes aired yet but contains the purpliest of purple prose.

There was precedence for this, though. In Archives, one of my forgotten complaints is that the historical episodes felt the need to make the writing complicated for the sake of verisimilitude. But it always felt like the inclusion of more complex words was at random intervals. Credit to this one: it’s at least consistent. But “Taking Notes” also runs the risk of losing the audience with them.

And it really needs to not lose its audience because this episode confirms and disproves some of my running theories. In the interest of humbly showing my misassumptions, I’ll start with what I got wrong. I had figured the final voice from the computer system would be not-quite-dead Elias—maybe setting him up as a returning antagonist. But it’s instead a seemingly totally new voice. One who reminds me more of Leitner. I’m very curious to find out why this third voice is trapped in the system with the others.

Taking Notes

Mark This Episode As A Major Series Turning Point

The idea I had that was absolutely confirmed, though, was that avatars are around. Someone spilling their life’s story and secrets just because they were asked is somehow the milder clue. That person around the fire feels like an antagonist that will return—and is certainly an Eye avatar. But the big thing of note here is the parallels to “Grifter’s Bone.” The way music mixes with violence couldn’t be anything else, and the slow descent into active lack of empathy and murder is such a clear avatar origin story that it’s obviously planned to be obvious. If I’m completely correct, we’ve seen four avatars now: Flesh, Buried, Eye, and Slaughter. Perhaps the arc of this first season will be the sneaky introduction of as many as possible.

I do hope, though, that we get a few episodes without such big changes in narrative voice. I know that the ones I’ve heavily complained about so far were written by other creators, and it’s unreasonable to expect them to match the established voice of someone who’s written two hundred similar episodes, but it would be nice to have some of that magic back around for a bit.

Don’t take this as a harsh condemnation, however. “Taking Notes” is an improvement from last time; it’s not overly predictable in its scares and has a strange dream-like middle before a solid, well-foreshadowed reveal. But it really does suffer from unnecessarily purple prose. It could’ve been an episode I’d re-listen to when I wanted a scare. “Grifter’s Bone” is still a favorite. But right now, I can only consider “Taking Notes” a step toward whatever narrative Protocol has planned for us.  

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