Are You Afraid of the Dark: Curse of the Shadows – The Tale of the Danse Macabre (Episode 4) Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
On this week’s episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark: Curse of the Shadows, The Tale of the Danse Macabre, Connor (Parker Queenan) might have returned, but he’s far from being himself and the group begins to wonder if they really broke the curse.
We start on another solid opening as we get an extended sequence of Connor being taken by the Shadowman (Kyle Strauts) and the group breaking the curse. The opening does a nice job establishing what exactly happened with Connor when the group tries to break the curse. After he’s taken by the Shadowman, Connor ends up in the “Dark House,” which is basically the gross bottom of the lighthouse, and meets others taken by the Shadowman throughout time. Just as the group is breaking the curse, Connor looks like he’s being possessed by darkness and while it looks like he just wakes up back in the light, that’s not really the case. We come to realize that the Shadowman has possessed his body and that Connor is still trapped in the dark. It’s a nice twist that keeps the Shadowman around and makes him more dangerous as a Daywalker.
It’s strange how this series actually thrives in its openings and endings but struggles with everything in between. However, that’s not fully the case this time since some of the school stuff with the group isn’t half bad and the stuff with Connor as the Shadowman has some cool visuals and moments. Everything surrounding Jai (Arjun Athalye) having to set up the “Glow Dance” and finding a date for the dance is just more comedy falling flat, but everything with Hanna (Beatrice Kitsos) was kind of nice. Kitsos has more work with this episode and it really improves Hanna’s overall character. The moment of her helping Luke (Bryce Gheisar) present a pretty cool science project to save him in science class is nice and followed up well with her adorably asking Luke to the dance. Look, their relationship is still forced, but it’s nice that Hanna adds something to care about it in this episode and Kitsos delivers a nice performance.
There’s also a nice moment where she tells Seth (Dominic Mariche) that he can audition for the Midnight Society if he can tell a really scary story that’s nice and genuine. It feels like a real moment, but Seth is going to have to learn to keep his mouth shut, otherwise he’s not joining anything. Although Luke tells Sardo (Ryan Bell) that he didn’t open the Book of Shadows, Seth eventually tells him he did, and it basically just re-affirms that the Shadowman is now immune to the light when he is Connor. Speaking of the Shadowman as Connor, he comes with some pretty cool effects. The visual of Connor having the Shadowman’s hand and the effects on his eyes look really good and Queenan puts in a solid performance that continues to make the Shadowman a daunting foe.
We eventually make our way to the dance that admittedly looks really cool and get some more awkwardness before Sardo and Seth arrive to save the day. Luke’s awkwardness is frankly what makes his and Hanna’s relationship so bland and unremarkable to watch. It’s just the usual teen awkward were used to seeing and just isn’t that fun to watch. Frankly, things don’t get interesting until Connor shows up and Jai’s comic offers some hints to him that he is the Shadowman. Just as Connor is about to turn into the Shadowman, Sardo and Seth come in to save everyone with a magic show.
The idea is nice, and Bell makes Sardo into a really compelling and attention capturing showman with some good laughs. He’s pretty much the only adult in the show that’s remotely likeable since his cartoonish antics at least fit his character while everyone else’s are just plain annoying. Regardless, Sardo’s plan to deceive the Shadowman to let the group escape works and is pretty fun as a whole. It kicks off another fun sequence that utilizes Hanna and Luke’s science project and Jai’s comic book well, but is weakened by Jai’s sacrifice for the group lacking emotional impact. Jai has pretty much been a joke this whole season and while this episode attempts to build up his desires to be brave, it’s so on-the-nose that you see his sacrifice coming from a mile away. It’s not all that unique since his character-type usually does this sort of thing. It’s a shame this episode ends on such an emotional whimper since it felt like it was building to something stronger.
This week’s episode puts the group back onto their heels as Connor’s reappearance doesn’t bring the resolution they hoped for and ends up making the Shadowman stronger than ever. While the series certainly still has its rough and underwhelming patches, especially with its big ending sacrifice, there’re some noticeable character improvements that shouldn’t go unnoticed.