Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Curse of the Shadows – The Tale of the Darkhouse (Finale)
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
On the finale of Are You Afraid of the Dark: Curse of the Shadows, The Tale of the Darkhouse, Luke (Bryce Gheisar) looks for supernatural assistance in saving the Midnight Society and restoring the light to rid the world of the Shadowman (Kyle Strauts) forever.
The finale opens with information regurgitation that’s totally unnecessary. It basically goes over everything that we seen and learned about the Shadowman throughout the entire season and is pretty pointless as a whole. Like I get the show is for kids, but it’s hard to believe that they need this much handholding considering the information has been pretty straightforward. It is interesting to get all this information from Connor’s (Parker Queenan) perspective and see everything that happened before the Shadowman took him, but it doesn’t really add much we don’t already know. It’s also weird that all the kids that the Shadowman has taken over the years are just absent in the Darkhouse. It would’ve been way creepier to see the entire room nearly filled with kids rather than just the group and the one girl from an earlier flashback named Zoey (Naomi Tan).
Eventually, we cut back to Luke looking to Sardo (Ryan Bell) to help him uncover how to bring the group back and we get a fitting end to Sardo’s run in the series and a nice surprise with his past. Pretty much like the group did with June (Genea Charpentier), Sardo takes Luke back through different moments within the shop to give him some clues on how to bring everyone back. From the skeleton key to a note that he throws away to help Luke in the future, Sardo brings everything together for Luke to bring everyone back. Sardo even brings Luke back to his childhood where we see June’s dad taunting Sardo’s father to give him the book of shadows and it’s adorable to see a young Sardo learning some magic tricks of his own.
Luke eventually warps back to the present and we get another solid sequence of him and group working between the light and dark worlds to get everyone to return. Aside from some of the bickering that made me realize why I wasn’t missing Jai (Arjun Athalye) last week, the group works together well in using the shadows to get them out of the dark. It was cool to see them transfer a key through the shadows and the moment between Zoe and Connor that had some good emotion behind it. However, Luke’s big speech about going against the Shadowman together and being a leader doesn’t feel earned or remotely satisfying. Frankly, Luke just never comes off as a leader and hasn’t really stepped up in the way that others have in the group. He’s pretty much where he is because others put him there and, personally, it just feels like he’s taking a spot to someone who’s shown themselves to be much more capable – like Hanna (Beatrice Kitsos). Luke is a leader because he’s likeable and the series keeps telling us that he is, not really because he presents any realistic qualities.
The big finale with the Shadowman essentially goes as expected as the group heads back in time to stop him from being created by helping June turn the lighthouse back on. Luke tries to pull a heroic sacrifice that ends up being totally pointless since Connor helps him anyway, everyone does their part that they’re assigned to do, and it ends with them changing history by signing June’s petition to save the lighthouse. Their return to the real world is much more interesting as some of their efforts in the past profoundly change the future. June is now the town mayor enacting change wherever she can, and Connor even has a small interaction with an older Zoey. Sardo is even still alive but doesn’t remember anything that’s happened. Overall, everything with the group ends as expected as relationships are vindicated and arcs finish, but it leaves a sour taste in your mouth with the unnecessary philosophical narration and ideas thrown in at the end. Luke’s final narration about who the Midnight Society are and Jai’s line about reboots really embody the flaws in this season’s approach in that it thinks it must be something more than it is. All that Are You Afraid of the Dark? and the Midnight Society really needs to be is simple, scary and real, not the over-analytical and unnecessary thematic stuff that’s just tossed in at the end. It’s a big attempt to have a “greater message” on the experience that isn’t warranted and is far from original.
Well, this season unfortunately ends in the same blandly mediocre territory it started in. It presented plenty of great ideas, but simply looses itself in its underwhelming arcs, lackluster character writing, and inability to deliver consistent and impactful scares. If anything, hopefully future seasons and iterations can learn from the missteps made here and move forward to give fans the more unique scares, compelling characters and stories, and better utilized premises this season simply couldn’t deliver.