Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Curse of the Shadows – The Tale of the Midnight Magic (Episode 5) 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 Midnight Magic, the group prepares to finally fend off the Shadowman (Kyle Strauts) with the help of Sardo (Ryan Bell).
This week’s episode probably makes one of the biggest storytelling missteps of the series thus far with how it handles the opening and big ending battle. It initially gets off on the right foot with the Shadowman snatching up the group one by one until Luke (Bryce Gheisar) is left on his own. Each time the Shadowman came and ripped one of them out of existence, it was legitimately surprising. There’s a swift suddenness to it all that catches you off guard and makes you scared for what’s happening next. However, it unfortunately becomes completely underwhelming with it just being a nightmare that Luke has as the group hides out in Sardo’s shop. The whole “it was a dream” trope is so overused in the horror genre and it killed the surprisingly strong momentum of the opening. Also, it made this nightmare coming true in the big final battle totally fall flat.
Where the opening feels totally unexpected, everything with the group having their big fight against the Shadowman feels totally choreographed. Instead of it feeling like Luke’s nightmare becoming reality, it’s more of a sacrifice sequence where the group basically decides to bow out one by one so that Luke can finally become a real leader. None of it is surprising in the slightest and it’s incredibly dull to watch because of how pointless these sacrifices feel. They’ve somehow made sacrifices even more unimpactful than Jai’s (Arjun Athalye), which is a tall order, and it leaves things on an unfortunately middling note heading into the finale. Admittedly, Sardo actually biting the dust was a shock and is a solid motivation for the group to finally take down the Shadowman and Ghesier puts in a good emotional performance after Luke is truly on his own. However, these two things can’t really save this truly pivotal moment from being as underwhelming as it is.
Everything in-between unfortunately doesn’t improve things either as it’s just filled with either adult character antics that are just plain annoying or mind-boggling moments devoid of character logic. Frankly, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen adult characters be so frustratingly annoying and inept in a kid’s show like the ones here. Luke’s dad is totally clueless and acts like a total cartoon character, Gabby’s (Malia Baker) mother gives an unremarkable speech about her messing up her academic future, and Hanna (Beatrice Kitsos) and Seth’s (Dominic Mariche) mom looks like a total idiot falling for their bucket trick. The parents in this show are just goofy obstacles for the group to easily get around and never come off as real in the slightest. This was the perfect opportunity to have them have real conversations with their kids and be real characters in this series as they confront them about what’s been happening, but instead they’re live-action cartoons that are just frustrating to watch.
Even more frustrating is that the group still isn’t getting the picture on how to really defeat the Shadowman even after they’ve been told that light isn’t as effective anymore. Information just seems to go over everyone’s head as they’re still hellbent on using light to defeat the Shadowman even after Sardo has told them that it won’t work. Don’t get me wrong, Hanna’s plan to use mirrors and prisms to create a stronger beam of light through refraction is interesting, even if it comes with an oddly sexist comment from Luke, but it’s like they completely forgot about everything with June or what the spell actually said. Luke finally remembers it at the end of the episode in a very overt and in your face information montage, but it’s really annoying how this group is missing something totally in plain sight or that seemed like a big deal.
This week’s episode is not how you want to create momentum going into your finale. Its big moments come off as underwhelming and everything that happens feels like unremarkable filler because the group is so oblivious to the obvious answers in defeating the Shadowman. There’s still a chance that the finale can end the series on the right note, but it sure has an uphill climb to do so.