Episode 2: A Show of Scrutiny
Surrounded by Crownsguard, the new companions cautiously attempt to explain the situation. The guards place the carnival owners under arrest and begin dragging them off to the jail. In an attempt to vouch for the carnival owners, Mollymauk is also arrested. Beau, who has completely misread the situation tries to stage an escape for the singing dwarf girl Toya, but fails miserably and ends up under arrest as well. With some smooth talking Molly manages to get himself let go from jail and promises Gustav (the carnival owner) he will do what he can to get them freed. Fjord and Jester also barely manage to make a deal with the jailmaster to release Beau as well, but they are all placed under house arrest at the Nestled Nook Inn.
Caleb and Nott, who have been hiding in the shadows, have mostly avoided the scrutiny of the Crownsguard and sneak their way back to their room at the inn and debate whether to run away and leave the rest of the party behind. Nott manages to calm Caleb and convince him to stick it out for a little longer and investigate the strange occurrence at the carnival.
Back at the Nestled Nook Inn, the new companions get to know each other a little better and try to dive into each other’s little secrets. The group comes to the decision to sneak out of the inn, past their guards, and try to find out more information about the attack that took place at the carnival. They discover the old man who transformed into a zombie was a retired fisherman, so they head to the docks to do some more digging. They are led to The Old Mudhole Tavern, where the old man often spent his evenings. Jester, Fjord and Beau recount the story of the giant river snake monster they killed in this area just a few days before. The snake beast had apparently been tormenting the residents near the docks on the Ustaloch Lake. Caleb gets a bit distracted from looking for clues when he stumbles across a bookstore. He vows to return and uncovers its hidden secrets when he has some spare change to spend.
After some rather unsuccessful sleuthing, the group decides try sneak into the carnival as a last ditch effort for information. Along the way, they are discovered by several Crownsguard. With some quick thinking, and convincing disguises they manage to convince the guards to let them pass by. At the circus, the members split up to cover as much ground as possible. Fjord and Caleb investigate the bodies of the zombies. Nott and Jester go searching for Toya and the devil toad. Molly and Beau speak to the other members of the carnival to see if they noticed anything unusual. Jester picks up a large, dark, fiendish essence emanating from the devil toad, but assumes it is just his normal…devilish….aura. After meeting back up with her other companions and recounting the evil presence the toad gave off, Molly stops her midsentence. The devil toad was not actually supposed to be a fiend, he was just an enormous, obese lizardman dressed up as a toad. A wave of realization washed over the group as they put all the clues together. Just then, a hulking shadow steps out of a nearby tent. An unseen magic twists the bodies of two guards and they crumple to the ground clutching their heads and gurgling in agony. The shadow bounds away from the carnival in vast leaps, headed towards the Ustaloch, while the two bodies on the ground begin to writhe and slough off their skin to transform into zombie-creatures.
Dick jokes, Tiefling racism, surprise monsters, what more can you ask for from an episode of D&D? This episode is chock full of hilarious, messy situations and amazing role playing. Getting to know these characters a little better is just the best. Jester’s mischievous personality and brazen attitude is a sure sign of trouble. Caleb’s eerie brooding and protectiveness of Nott show a depth to his character I hope we get to see more of. Nott’s little kleptomaniac stories of stealing peoples ‘sticks and rocks’, which actually turn out to be incredibly expensive jewelry and walking canes was a moment that had me laughing out loud.
Marisha’s role playing is still feeling a little jarring and out of place for me personally, though I am willing to take a few more episodes to give her character a chance to develop. I was a bit worried that Beau would just be a more tomboy-ish one-note version of Keyleth, and I saw some evidence of that while watching Marisha completely not understand what the DM was saying, running off on her own, and getting Beau arrested. It only took two episodes!
Nott and Jester, sleuthing it out at the carnival, are the perfect couple I didn’t even know I wanted. The ‘Scooby-Do chase’ from tent to tent while trying to uncover the zombie making monster was the most fun episode ending I’ve seen in a while. The role playing between those two is spot on.
A surprise moment for me was seeing Fjord’s character take the lead and do some serious investigation work. Travis’ voice acting was showcased when he sends Fjord in disguise to infiltrate the carnival and investigate the bodies of the zombie creatures. The way he so fluidly switches body language and accents was magnetic to watch.
The middle of the episode took a slightly…boring turn. The whole investigation at the fishing docks dead end was a bit skippable. Although, the failed stealth rolls and subsequent ‘act casual and hide’ scene got a few chuckles out of me. I’d say the first hour and a half is worth watching, then skip to about 3 hours 12 minutes in to catch back up to the story-worthy action.
Overall, this was a decently solid episode. There was a lot of good character development that foreshadows some fun backstory arcs, and a promising demon frog monster battle sometime in the near future!
Looking for the next review? Enjoy!