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Weeping Cedars Did Warn Us All What It Is
Weeping Cedars promised in its description to be a slow burn. And they weren’t kidding. The first three entries have a glacial pace, relying on their other strengths to carry the listener through. Basically, not a lot has happened yet.
But this is praising with heavy damnation. As I highlighted in my recent review of Unwell, you can keep “little information storytelling” interesting with a few tricks, and in Weeping Cedars’ case, it uses two tactics to carry listeners through its first three entries.
The first and by far the most apparent of these two approaches is aggressive mystery baiting and connection seeding. Cliffhangers, allusions to upcoming reveals, namedrops, and much more are everywhere in the first three entries. The narrators frequently talk about how much there is to see, how many secrets there are to discover, and then, without revealing any of it really, pile on more. They even lampshade that they’re doing this in episode three with a pivot from a spontaneous riot to a potentially haunted field no one talks about. This method poses an interesting contrast to podcasts like The Domestic Life of Anthony Todd, which, yes, does talk about there being secrets, but gives hints and clues organically. Weeping Cedars straight up tells you, “This is going to be cool.” And fair is fair: the implied secrets and mysteries so far are engaging, potent, and held together by a supernatural spin that suits the narrative framework. But I have my worries about how the series intends to maintain such a tone across its already existing one-hundred-plus entries.
Weeping Cedars Throws So Much At Its Listeners
The other way Weeping Cedars keeps things interesting is a devotion to verisimilitude. The podcast mimics documentary storytelling to a tee, including skillfully done audio and even the characters’ cadences. This vibe is so well maintained that it almost feels like it’s not fictional. One downside to this is the same as above, though. Information overload. Presented without any help to keep it all clear in one’s head is a staggering number of locations, dates, and time periods to deal with. I’m not educated enough to speak on how to approach historical storytelling like this, no matter if the events depicted are real events or fictional, but by episode three, we’ve heard talk of multiple journal entries detailing dreams, a war memorial of some sort, usage of language and now-offensive terminology presumably accurate to the time periods evoked throughout, and historical records of a horrific (probably murder) mass death of Black people who recently escaped slavery. The horrors in Weeping Cedars so far have been focused on real horrors, and I have no reason to believe that won’t continue to be the case.
Which makes the contrast even more jarring with Weeping Cedars’ other commitment to realism. Between each of what I’ll now call “proper” episodes—at least early on—is an in-universe radio show. I listened to one of these and two proper episodes, and it’s not clear yet how it ties into everything, but it’s certainly committed to being what it is. The radio episodes are played a lot more sarcastic, a lot more organically structured, and feature older music to get across a specific mood. It also feels like a distraction. What the radio show did succeed at was slightly lightening that glacial pacing. The proper episodes, when they aren’t dealing with heavier subjects, are like listening to a literary, prose-infused historical lesson broken up by occasional bouts of personality.
The Podcast’s Storytelling Doesn’t Stay Consistent
Several of my complaints might give the impression I don’t recommend Weeping Cedars. And being honest, I didn’t enjoy it much—I have no plans to listen to it more, no matter how good the payoffs to the mysteries might be. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an audience that would enjoy it and clearly has enjoyed it. Weeping Cedars demands listeners who want a journey, and there’s a place for that in media. Much like how book genres like Epic Fantasy or Historical Romance partially thrive on steeping you in a setting and a mood, Weeping Cedars is a story about connections and history. It’s pushing the limits of letting worldbuilding supersede linear narrative. It has all the appeal and foibles of chasing down entries and curiosities in an encyclopedia. And you probably already know if you’re the type of person to enjoy something like that.
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