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– by Joseph Jammer Medina

 

Coming off of the first episode of The Vela, one of the latest written and audio productions from the company Serial Box, I wasn’t exactly enthused. It wasn’t bad, by any means, but there was nothing for me to really sink my teeth into. The world-building was a bit front-heavy for my taste, and the actual events a bit shallow on the whole. I chalked it up to the pains that every fantasy and sci-fi novel has at the beginning. Surely, things would get better as it went on, right?

I’m happy to say that, yes, things get a great deal more personal and intriguing in the latest episode of The Vela. This episode was written by Becky Chambers, and in this episode, things get a lot more intimate as Niko and Asala head on their way to try and find the lost ship full of refugees. But things aren’t as easy as going off by themselves, as they have an unexpected passenger aboard their ship in the form of General Cynwrig, the hard-headed military leader Asala was hired to protect in the first episode.

RELATED – The Vela Episode 1 Review: A Leisurely Extinction

Cynwrig is only on board since their own destination is on the way to Niko and Asala’s own supposed destination (which is a lie), and doesn’t trust that there won’t be another attempt on her life. Given the moral differences between Cynwrig (the jaded, military leader who seems to harbor nothing but contempt for refugees), Asala (a former refugee who refuses to let things get personal), and Niko (the privileged kid of the president who wants nothing more than to save lives), it turns out to be quite the stressful circumstance — which made for an engaging read.

If you’re in search of action, this really isn’t the episode for you, but if you’re more interested in sort of the moral questions that are often best tackled in sci-fi, this will be right up your alley. It certainly helps that in today’s political landscape, the idea of refugees and the war between saving lives and retaining a country’s own way of living is alive and well, making it for a particularly timely read. And it doesn’t do so with broad strokes. Nor does it attempt to take a side. Instead, through the conversations of the different characters, it brings out each one’s own perspective, giving this episode an added heft that was missing before.

On the negative side, I think there is a bit of an issue regarding the format. Because it’s working hard to keep us engaged in each episode, we have instances where characters are keeping secrets from one another. As a result, we aren’t given an opportunity to dive into their minds for extended periods of time. As such, we really only know their thoughts and motivations in a given moment, not on a deeper level. This gives the story flexibility for huge twists down the line, but it does make the experience feel shallower than I’d like.

All the same, this was a huge step up for me in terms of ideas and character, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing it all continue tomorrow when the next episode releases.

Grade: B+

+ Interesting ideas.
+ Timely political topics.
+ Step up in character development.
– A bit too shallow in motivations, seemingly to preserve some questions and tension for future episodes.

To check out the series for yourself, go ahead and CLICK HERE!

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Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.