Let’s Listen to Limetown is a relisten and recap series for season one of Limetown released every Tuesday and Thursday starting October 9th, 2018, in preparation for its second season release on October 31st, 2018. You can see the full series here.
“A quick apology”
“Episode 3: Napoleon”
So, what happens in these episodes?
“A quick apology”
This mini-episode is one of the few that breaks the flow of the narrative to directly speak to the listener. In “A quick apology,” Lia tells the listener she’s sorry for the graphic end to the previous episode, specifically regarding the Manic Man. After he bangs on her door, she calls the police, and is told he lost enough blood to have died–but his body is nowhere to be found. She says she left it in the episode, even though APR told her not to, in order to send a message: she won’t be stopped, and they can’t scare her into keeping quiet.
“Episode 3: Napoleon”
Episode 3 is the second interview with a survivor of Limetown. The episode begins with Lia going to a pop-up sermon, listening to the gospel of a charismatic man–the survivor, a once-was large animal veterinarian Lia names as Warren Chambers, or as Lia calls him in the episode, The Reverend. The Reverend’s sermon is both typical, in its emphatic delivery and choir, and atypical, in its proclamations of demystifying death, the subject of The Reverend’s gospel. Lia is able to give these details, she says, because days after their interview, The Reverend was killed by a drunk driver.
The Reverend calls himself a salesman, which Lia calls cynical–but as the two enter his trailer, Lia finds this to be literal. The Reverend has a commercial refrigerator filled with blood that he sells to hospitals in desperate need. His unflinching, almost tender relationship with death is contrasted with his warm, loving, casual demeanor. Instead of the scatter-brained, frantic tone Winona took on, The Reverend is calm and patient. He asks Lia how she is, and comments that he’s glad Lia spoke with Winona, saying she’s “lost at sea,” the first of many oceanic references he makes. He quotes a passage from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick:
What deadly voids and unbidden infidelities in the lines that seem to gnaw upon all Faith, and refuse resurrections to the beings who have placelessly perished without a grave.
He opens the floor to questions, and Lia wastes no time. She rattles off several questions–he answers these after she asks them all, but for the purpose of this recap, I’ll rearrange to make things a bit more linear.
Who was The Man They Were All There For (TMTWATF)?
The Reverend says he didn’t know TMTWATF, unless he had met him without knowing who he really was. He says he didn’t know if TMTWATF lived or died, but that doesn’t matter anymore.
What was The Panic?
He doesn’t know. He wasn’t in the loop, and he just waited for it to end. He says, “It was quiet for me. That was the worst part of it, the silence.” He says he was “turned off” by the time it happened. Towards the end of the episode, he says he knows exactly how it happened. Lia asks him how, and he–in a manner that is cutting and sardonic for someone so warm and kind–asks her if she’s been paying attention.
Was Winona right about there being many people killed other than Oskar Totem? How and where did everyone go?
The Reverend explains his role in Limetown. He was there as a veterinarian, but specifically, he helped raise and keep pigs (valued for their similarity to human anatomy and how they could be written off as food, not test subjects, on the books) for biomedical engineering tests. Lia interjects, but he just keeps explaining, telling her he’ll get to her questions if he can get through his story. He references Winona’s story about TMTWATF, explaining that this was what they were trying to do: find a way to nonverbally transfer thought. The Reverend is no engineer, but he explains that this procedure required two steps:
- First, the subject is given an implant, set directly into their brain. This feeds the thoughts into their minds.
- Then, to regulate the intake and hone it, they are given a medical supplement daily.
Lia asks if this was the purpose of Limetown, but due to how secretive every aspect of Limetown was, The Reverend says he can only speak on behalf of his own knowledge and role.
Lia asks if they were successful, and he says initially, there were plenty of failures. They went through five iterations of devices until one was good enough for human testing, and as the person who’d been operating with the pigs the longest, he figured it only made sense to volunteer–and that yes, eventually, it was successful. Lia asks why the public hasn’t heard about this, but The Reverend laughs and says, “I don’t mean to be condescending, but I feel like you should know better than that by now.” He offers her a drink of moonshine, which she refuses.
The Reverend says that the implant and supplement system didn’t really work until he came across pig LTS-54A, a naturally calm pig who took to The Reverend quickly. The Reverend jokingly names this pig Napoleon, after the character from Animal Farm. He explains how the implant works, saying that it gave them raw emotional data in the form of tones. On Napoleon, he says, “The first time I heard him, I heard calm.” While they wanted The Reverend to be able to hear the pigs, they didn’t expect the emotional transfer. When The Reverend feels excited, Napoleon feels excited, and the two sometimes slip into these emotional feedback loops. As this friendship between The Reverend and Napoleon grows stronger, as the two start understanding each other more, the range at which The Reverend can feel Napoleon increases.
It’s not long before The Reverend can feel Napoleon wherever he goes within Limetown. He says that seeing Napoleon is akin to therapy; because animals feel so purely and “persuasively,” bringing his own baggage–including the death of his wife, the reason he was so eager to jump to a position in Limetown–stood no chance against Napoleon’s feelings. He says trying to feel his own trauma with Napoleon around was like “trying to stand up against the ocean.”
One day, though, there’s a leak. People with hazmat suits come into the pens and separate The Reverend and Napoleon for testing. Napoleon, being a pig, doesn’t understand what’s happening and assumes he’s going to be killed. The Reverend can feel this, and like Napoleon, he comes scared. So Napoleon becomes scared. So The Reverend becomes more scared. The two make a feedback loop of fear, and The Reverend gets so frenzied he finds himself woken up in a hospital, strapped down.
The Reverend says Napoleon was different from then on out, always being afraid. He says, “I couldn’t make it stop. We couldn’t make it stop.” He says, “Napoleon was broken. I was broken.” The Reverend is essentially carrying the weight of Napoleon’s PTSD and eternal fear that death is just around the corner, and The Reverend only knows one way to fix it. The Reverend goes to the pen with a sledgehammer, and Napoleon feels calm, accepting his fate. The Reverend–in tears as he’s explaining essentially his murder of his best friend to Lia–kills Napoleon in one hit. When Napoleon dies, The Reverend says he feels “serenity,” though he’s also stated that the silence of everything is the worst part.
A few minutes after Napoleon’s death, he hears Napoleon’s tone again, and he calls this his calling–though Lia writes it off as psychosomatic, to which The Reverend doesn’t disagree. Lia is confused as to why he would choose to ignore the scientific reason for the tone, and The Reverend states:
Because I’m already dead, and I’ve heard the punchline.
Because The Reverend “destroyed their property,” he is stripped of the implant, taken off the supplement, and given a simple, menial job at the movie theater. When Lia asks him what happened to the implant, he says that it worked, and it went onto further testing. Lia asks what happened after The Panic, but The Reverend says he’s afraid to talk about it, and she “isn’t there yet.” She tries to pressure him, but he stands up, holds her face in his hands, kisses her forehead, and holds her hand as he walks her back to her car. In her car, Lia sobs, but she doesn’t know why.
The Reverend dies a few days later, and Lia has no leads on the next survivor. She recaps the knowledge they have, saying that “the questions we once had are no longer the important ones.” She calls Terry Hilkins again, but their small talk is interrupted by a call from Lia’s mother. When Lia picks up, though, she hears The Manic Man, ominously saying her name. When she screams for her mother, her mother picks up, and says she found the phone off of the hook. Lia tells her mom to take her dad and leave immediately, to not tell Lia where they’re going. Her mother asks, “Is it happening?” and hangs up.
Key facts and characters
- The Reverend, Warren Chambers: The second survivor of Limetown. The Reverend was a large animal veterinarian who worked with pigs, trying to use the implant and the supplement to–successfully, eventually–read their emotions. He no longer has the implant, and survived The Panic out of, seemingly, ignorance. He dies a few days after his interview with Lia. The Reverend is played by Christopher Harrod.
- Napoleon: Named for the Animal Farm character, Napoleon was the first pig on whom the implant worked. The pig bonds with The Reverend, but after an event laves him constantly afraid, he calmly accepts his execution.
- The implant: The first part of being able to read others’ thoughts and feelings. The implant is a piece of biomedical engineering implanted directly in the subject’s brain. It synthesizes emotions into tones.
- The supplement: The medication used to regulate the implant. It helps take those tones and makes them understood as specific emotions by the subject.
- The tones: The data made readable by the brain. Emotions are heard in the subject’s brain as clear, single, synthesized notes.
How does it hold up?
“Episode 3: Napoleon” was the first time I felt like Limetown wasn’t just interesting and exciting, but also beautiful. That still remains true.
This episode is masterfully executed. The setup is intriguing, and the writing of The Reverend is beautiful. He’s flawed and complex, an escapist veterinarian from the country who loves literature turned preacher of death. His focus on death is anything but edgy or dark to be dark. It’s a way for those ailing, those who already know death in some way, to reconcile its terror with its certainty. The Reverend is deeply empathetic, and deeply . . . humanistic isn’t quite the word, given the pigs, but it doesn’t feel inaccurate, either.
His performance is one of the best of the season. He’s effortlessly charismatic, drawing the listener in with his easy, affable charm. He’s, as Lia says, warm, and as his story grows more heartbreaking, it’s easy to fall into his despair and remorse. Even after listening to the series at least five times over at this point, I still well up when The Reverend talks about how Napoleon knew he was coming to kill him.
The plot here is fascinating, exciting, and integral to the story as a whole. It starts giving some real information on what Limetown was about, and opens up the story to be truly science fiction. What makes Limetown one of the best pieces of audio fiction I’ve ever heard, though, is how it not only balances the plot with the character writing, but fundamentally weaves the two together. The survivors are Limetown, and Limetown is its survivors. The only possible way for the survivors to tell Lia about Limetown is to tell her their story.
This episode is nearly perfect, and any complaints of it are nitpicky. There’s a music cue at the end of one of The Reverend’s monologues that ends in an almost comical dramatic honk, but more frustrating is the beginning of one of my biggest pet peeves of Limetown: the emphasis on how pretty Lia is. This comes through the Manic Man’s narration, but is later parroted by a different character. This has always bothered me. Why does Lia need to be pretty? Why does it need to be commented on?
Regardless, yes, this episode still holds up beautifully. It’s still one of the most impressive pieces of audio I’ve ever heard.
Mapping out Limetown
- This is the second time a survivor offers Lia a drink, and Lia refuses. Winona offered her tea and now, with The Reverend, she’s been offered moonshine. Does Lia unknowingly have the implant? Are the survivors trying to secretly give her the supplement? Were the tears and feeling of calm once she left part of the emotional transfer?
- Winona, The Reverend, and–if we’re following my theory here–Lia all felt waves of calm. Is this some of that emotional transfer from TMTWATF?
- When The Reverend starts discussing Napoleon, some beautifully eerie music comes into the mix–in the form of a single, synthesized note.
- There’s several literary allusions in this episode, a trend that continues throughout Limetown. Here’s a breakdown:
- The Reverend references Moby Dick, then compares Napoleon’s feelings to the ocean.
- Napleon’s name is a reference to Animal Farm, in which Napoleon was actually allegorical to Joseph Stalin. Napoleon in the book has the opposite disposition of Napoleon in Limetown.
- When the leak happens, The Reverend is reading Mother Night, a Vonnegut novel about a Nazi propagandist. Limetown has another key Vonnegut reference later on as well.
- After killing Napoleon, The Reverend says, “I am become death,” a famous quote usually referencing Oppenheimer, who was referencing the Bhagavad-Vita. This quote can be taken one of two ways: either in its typical analysis, that the world has been irrevocably changed due to this person’s actions, or in its more traditional analysis, that time has always and will always exist as it does, and mankind has no ability to change that.
- How far entrenched is the Haddock family? We know Lia is at least in part motivated by the disappearance of her uncle, but her mother seems to be more informed than Lia expects.
- I’m still suspicious of the movie theater, even though there’s nothing suspicious about it.
- Going through these episodes is also illuminating in how much it must have inspired the future of audio fiction. This episode led me to wonder whether The Big Loop took its emotional interview-but-monologue structure from this show.
- The next recap will include the mini-episode “The 911 Call” along with “4: DDoS”