Please note that Wolf 359 is a serialized audio drama. This review will contain small spoilers for its final episode, but much bigger spoilers for the series as a whole. To listen to Wolf 359 from the beginning, you can go to the show’s website or any major podcast platform.
Wolf 359, a preeminent audio drama podcast started in August 2014, released its final episode on Christmas day, December 25th, 2017. The episode, titled “Episode 61: Brave New World,” was over two hours long, which creator and writer Gabriel Urbina described as an “audio-only movie”:
And the description is apt. The length of the episode isn’t the only thing that makes it comparable to a film: the writing, production, and acting are downright cinematic, some of the best the show has delivered in its three and a half years.
From start to finish, the passion for Wolf 359 seeped into the episode. After over three years, it’s easy to take Wolf 359 for granted, but this finale reminded the listener of just how immaculate the show has always been. The performances–especially from original castmembers Zach Valenti, Emma Sherr-Ziarko, and Michaela Swee–were so comfortable in their characters and willing to take risks for the sake of emotional honesty. The production was immersive and unobtrusive, setting each scene perfectly without the need of too much explanation by the dialogue. The music called back to familiar themes, floating in and out of the production as needed for just the right emotional punch.
The writing, though, was unsurprisingly what made “Episode 61: Brave New World” something uniquely beautiful. The story and character writing for Wolf 359 have always balanced its space opera plot and developed characters more gracefully than most films of similar genres, but this was even more heightened in the finale. While the writing made sure plot was building momentum and suspense, it also allowed for tense moments to be broken using flashbacks to the characters’ history. The episode felt akin to Firefly‘s “Out of Gas” episode, but the tactic seemed more deserved and well-paced here.
The episode may not have felt as fulfilling to fans who want works of science fiction to fully explain themselves or stick clearly to “hard” science fiction guidelines; however, I suspect these fans would have likely stopped listening long ago if they wanted scientific explanations for everything within the Wolf 359 world. “Episode 61: Brave New World” answered only as many questions as felt natural for the characters to ask, and raised several more. Several segments verged on feeling closer to magical realism but still at home within the universe. In some scenes, suspension of disbelief was certainly pushed–the scene with Hera facing off against Pryce, for instance–but each of these moments was rewarded by the character moments Wolf 359 fans should be focusing on to begin with.
For fans who have listened to Wolf 359 for a deep love of its story and characters, “Episode 61: Brave New World” felt a perfectly bittersweet, beautiful conclusion to a bittersweet, beautiful audio drama. Wolf 359 has always pushed the boundaries of what audio dramas can do, never shying away from dark storytelling or moments of refreshing levity. Wolf 359 consistently set a high standard for what listeners should expect from audio dramas–the show has been instrumental in how the audio drama industry has been shaped for the last three years. Its conclusion marks the end of an era in podcasting, but its legacy is already evident in the industry at large.