Five Thoughts on Dead End: Paranormal Park‘s “The Watcher’s Test”

By | December 14th, 2022
Posted in Television | % Comments

Welcome back all you Dead End fans! I don’t know about you but I am LIVID this didn’t get an instant third season greenlight. What a great finale. Let’s dig into it before I start spoiling the whole thing right here.

And as always, spoilers ahead.

1. Famous Last Gords

You all know that I love this funky little fellow. He’s the unofficial mascot of the series – sorry Pugsly – and I wouldn’t be shocked if Gord merch came to a Target near you very soon. Why? Because he can do anything and is absolutely hilarious. Oh and he saves the day with his klaxon voice and stress ball physique.

Gord is perhaps the perfect encapsulation of the balance Dead End strikes between funny and serious. Here is this absolute goober, designed like a Satan possessed Mike & Ike, who never speaks except in sound effects and moves like a sock full of jelly and yet he’s the lynchpin of not one but TWO tense and emotional scenes. What’s even better is I’d forgotten Norma had dispatched him to get help because I believed, like a FOOL, that his gag exit down the prison toilet was just that: a gag. No way he was going to follow through. He’s Gord.

I’m glad I was wrong.

2. Welcome to the Hat Parade

While everyone else is escaping from angel prison – after saving Pugsly, of course – Barney is fighting Watcher!Pugsly through time using the power of current Pugsly’s magic hat. It goes about as well as you expect, with a fun romp through past episodes, recontextualizing some moments while adding background gags for others that weren’t in the original episodes. Most of that consisted of them fighting in full view behind a couple oblivious characters or after everyone had left.

It’s a fun climax, contrasting Barney’s knowledge of Pugsly and relative newness to magic with The Watcher’s lack of the former and proficiency with the latter. I certainly don’t mind the trip down memory lane (or the trip down the never ending lightning stairs, much to Barney’s chagrin) as it all builds to a poignant return to the flashback from “Going Up.” Yeah it’s cliched but they’re cliches for a reason and it’s a great way to bring Watcher!Pugsly back from his helmet-induced megalomania. Even if he does have the head of a watermelon and one glassy eye now.

3. House of Villains

I didn’t want to spend a whole thought on how spooky Fingers is again but I couldn’t resist talking about how wild he position in the show is. His role and thus character isn’t too deep – he’s literally an extension of the “divine” will – and that doesn’t change in the finale. He’s purely an antagonist and “The Watcher’s Test” is all about showing that off. Oh boy do they show that off. The facial expressions and sound design of Finger’s rampage and fight with the Dead End crew is magnificent and his demise is precisely as horrific, and cruel, as you’d expect.

Moisturize Me

Actually, I’m surprised he goes out the way he does mostly because it took me until THIS episode to realize that Fingers was a part of this “divine being” we met two episodes ago and not the hand of a random angel as I thought in the s2 premiere. Basically he gets snipped off like a rotting branch and then shrivels up in a really gruesome (for TV-Y7) way. Well done on that folks.

What’s even more fun is that Polly gets in on the action. She even SAVES NORMA!! Thanks to Gord’s warning, Logs, Badiyah and Polly launch a rescue mission and get there just in time to use her ghost powers to keep all the prison escapees from going splat. I’m glad she doesn’t get the blanket redemption for one good deed though. She was a pretty terrible person and, as evidenced by her super petty reaction to not being instantly forgiven, remains one, albeit marginally better now that she’s a doll.

4. The End

I’m so mad at you Dead End. You’re not allowed to make me cry like this. How DARE you save Pugsly only to have him go out saving Barney?! And playing the sad ukelele dog song??? HOW. DARE.

Continued below

I genuinely did not see this coming. I thought for sure Watcher!Pugsly would get the big “redemption through sacrifice” moment and I’d be tearing up over him but no. It’s even worse. Not only do both of them sacrifice themselves willingly to defeat Fingers, they do it by letting Pugsly die at Fingers’, well, finger lasers, which causes the aforementioned cutting off.

I’m mad because it’s done so dang well. Puglsy would happily sacrifice himself for his Barney and his friends and he does so here. That doesn’t make it any less devastating watching him pass away in Barney’s arms though. I’m crying again. I’m sorry.

Hamish, kudos to you and to the whole team. The shot direction, the scoring, the voice performances, the animation, all of it came out perfectly in “The Watcher’s Test” and in this scene. It didn’t feel overwrought and it wasn’t undercut by comedy or any tonal dissonance, intentional or not, which is all too common nowadays. It hit all the right notes in a tune custom built to make you weep.

5. Disenchanted

So where does that leave our characters? We don’t get any decompression for the villains or the important side-characters like Badiyah or Logs but we do for Barney and Norma. I’m fascinated by the changes they have gone through in season two. Barney had most of his big leaps in the first season, instead using season 2 to explore who he is in a relationship and independent of his family/their expectations. Without Pugsly though, he’s lost again. And that’s where we leave him at the end.

Norma meanwhile has been confronting the rigidity of her previously held beliefs within her special interests, first with Polly and then with the planar hierarchy. She’s also learning to be a tiny bit more flexible in her categorization of what is “good” and what is “bad.” Like, Evil Norma isn’t really evil, just a total jerk and a rebel, and the demons also aren’t inherently bad but they’re not paragons of goodness either. With Polly, it’s a different tension as it’s a negation of a huge part of who she was for a long time and she had to learn how to reconcile that with her idol being an absolute trashbag full of raccoons.

At first, she rejects everything but via her mom, learns to find the balance between retaining the core of what brought her joy and applying that outside of her previously held framework. Rebuilding the fake Pollyland was fun not because it was Pollyland but because she did it with her mom and because it was filled with places she had strong connections to. That said, Norma is certainly not at the end of her swing yet with regards to the planar hierarchy.

Yes, the big cliffhanger is that Norma is actively fomenting war between the demons and the angels by approaching the demon royal family. Can you believe it?? Maybe this is what starts the war that The Watcher was created to stop. Let’s hope not because that’s a real headache and a half waiting to happen.

Oh and did I forget to mention Pugsly is almost certainly in the In-Between? Yeah, that’s going to be WILD to explore.

That about does it for now! Thank you all for joining me for season 2 of this wonderfully scary and funny show. I’m so glad it came out as good as it did and I am psyched for whatever they have in store for a potential season 3. It seems like there are big plans in place and I want to see them come to fruition. Netflix, stop hating on animation and greenlight this already! Until that happens, I’ll just be here. Wallowing in my sad dog ukelele music.

//TAGS | Dead End: Paranormal Park

Elias Rosner

Elias is a lover of stories who, when he isn't writing reviews for Mulitversity, is hiding in the stacks of his library. Co-host of Make Mine Multiversity, a Marvel podcast, after winning the no-prize from the former hosts, co-editor of The Webcomics Weekly, and writer of the Worthy column, he can be found on Twitter (for mostly comics stuff) here and has finally updated his profile photo again.


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