Dead End: Paranormal Park Season 2, the adaptation of Hamish Steele’s popular graphic novel DeadEndia, continues the insanity and lovability of Season 1, but its episodic nature falls a bit short. Overall, Season 2 lacks cohesion and strong pacing, although there are plenty of moments and episodes that I adored.
In fact, where Season 2 truly shines is in the small moments. Despite some struggles, it does push the main cast forward in new directions, teach them new lessons, and highlight their struggles both individually and as a group, in the process reminding us that Dead End: Paranormal Park‘s human (and demon) core is still very much alive and beating.
Surprisingly, though, it took me awhile to finish watching the entire thing. I don’t exactly know why this has been the trend with animated shows as of late – I had a similar experience watching Netflix’s Bee and Puppycat: Lazy in Space – but I keep having trouble getting into the story and force my way through episodes just to get to the good stuff at the end. While I understand why Dead End: Paranormal Park Season 2 went with a more episodic format, I’m saddened by how hard it now is to get emotionally involved in the story. Part of this is due to a lack of clear stakes and overall season goals – although the show did hint at them, albeit slightly, throughout the season.
Spoilers ahead for Dead End: Paranormal Park Season 2.
After defeating Temeluchus (Alex Brightman), the Dead End park gang find themselves adjusting to the new normal they’ve created as demon hunters. The first episode, “Take the Angels Bowling” introduces a new character for Season 2: Fingers the Angel (Jamie Demetriou), who is determined, almost suspiciously so, to teach Pugsley (Alex Brightman) magic. Meanwhile, Barney (Zach Barack) and Logs’ (Kenny Tran) relationship continues to evolve, though not as smoothly as they’d hoped; Norma (Kody Kavitha) and Badyah’s (Kathreen Khavari) relationship gets complicated; and Courtney (Emily Osment) continues her quest to find out where she came from. She gets pretty close at a demon party, but is left grappling with the annoyance of first Fingers and then Pugsley, who find her demon magic “cheap.”
One of my favorite moments of Dead End: Paranormal Park Season 2 was when Barney became a wrestler in “The Trials of Barney.” It was such a heartwarming and fun episode, one that opened Barney’s character up even further. Watching Barney delve deeper into his masculinity was incredibly exciting; seeing him realize his childhood dream and indulge in a gender-affirming activity, I was filled with joy.
Just as Barney begins evolving as a character, so does his relationship with Logs – and it’s paralleled beautifully with his relationship with his parents. In “Eat The Parents,” Barney’s desire to host his parents for a casual coffee so they can meet Logs (and the rest of the gang) is quickly complicated by Norma’s desire to host a dinner party, and then over-complicated by a magical book on “human etiquette” that proposes fun ice-breaker questions before bringing each guest’s answers to life.
As with most of Dead End: Paranormal Park‘s stories, the only way out is through. It is only by sharing our fears and reservations with each other that we can find relief: as Norma says, “You thought you could break us apart by exposing our feelings, but all you did was bring us closer together.” Communication is a motif throughout Dead End: Paranormal Park Season 2, one that neatly introduces conflict to the characters’ already-established relationships and pushes everyone toward growth.
In other plot news, Norma finally confesses that she likes Badyah! Unfortunately, Badyah doesn’t feel the same. Oh, the pain of not having your crush reciprocate your feelings. And it’s made all the more excruciating by the fact that Badyah is straight. (Cue lightning strike and shocked gasping!) Heartbreak is something the show explores at length through Norma’s eyes. It’s a painful journey, one that consumes Norma as much as her sexuality does and sends her spiraling into self-doubt. Before long, Norma’s broken confidence sends her all the way back to her mother, Swati (Natasha Chandel).
But Norma’s story in Dead End: Paranormal Park Season 2 isn’t just about heartbreak and finding a way to work through her emotions – it’s also about reconnecting with Swati and coming out to her. In the hilarious (and self-contained episode) “All Dolled Up,” we get a very revealing glimpse of Norma’s life and her relationship with her mother. It’s revealed that the relationship between the two has been buoyed by Swati’s overwhelming interest in Norma’s hyperfixations, the longest running being her obsession with Pauline Phoenix (Clinton Leupp, aka Miss Coco Peru). But after the events of Season 1, Norma returns home with a complete distaste for anything Pauline, in the process throwing out of balance the house’s entire carefully crafted rhythm. As a result, Swati no longer knows how to connect with her child, and Norma grows standoffish out of fear that she’ll have to come out to her mother and tarnish their relationship even further.
Eventually (and fast-tracked by an army of possessed Pauline dolls), Norma shows up for her mother and Logs, kicking ass and sacrificing herself for their safety. But what the mother-daughter duo learn is that the only way to find their groove and reconnect is to talk about how they’re feeling, listen to each other, and work together. Kind of like what Norma has to do if she wants to continue being friends with Badyah. It’s in “All Dolled Up” that Norma finally finds the courage to communicate: she comes out to her mother as bisexual. And it actually brings them closer together, because, just as with Barney and Logs, communication opens the door to intimacy for Norma and Swati and strengthens the bonds between them.
Dead End: Paranormal Park Season 2’s biggest story driver by far is Pugsley’s magic journey. After Temeluchus left his body last season, Pugsley finds himself trying really hard to get his powers back. When Fingers pops into their lives and promises he’ll teach Pugsley angel magic, it all seems too good to be true. But as Pugsley becomes more and more skilled over the course of the season, Barney is crushed by a chandelier and he dies. In a moment of desperation, Pugsley is forced to make a terrible bargain with Fingers. While the angel brings Barney back to life, Pugsley is taken up the elevator to the top floor: Heaven. Immediately after, Barney, Norma, and Courtney embark on a rescue mission, promptly getting themselves thrown in prison.
It’s at this point that we learn two very interesting truths. The first is that Pugsley is The Watcher, another all-powerful character tasked with keeping peace across the multiverse. And by “keeping peace” I mean “keeping demons at bay to stave off a war between the demon realm and Heaven.”
Loyalty to Barney has been Pugsley’s one rule throughout Dead End: Paranormal Park‘s entire run. He loves Barney so much that he’ll do anything to protect him. Which is why it comes as such a shock when The Watcher tries to destroy Barney and the gang. Through years of conditioning and solitude, Pugsley has been brainwashed into forgetting where he came from, who he used to be, and who he used to love. So, it’s up to Barney to remind him.
In a beautiful time travel sequence, Barney hops back in time to when he first met Pugsley as a puppy. His return to the start of their relationship that not only reminds Watcher Pugsley of where he got that awful premonition about his future, but also about what his connection to Barney was like. It triggers a physical response in him, one that makes him change sides and help Pugsley fight back against Fingers. But even that isn’t enough; and, like before, the only way out is through. In this case, though, it means sacrificing themselves for the lives of those they love. In the season’s most heartbreaking scene, Pugsley gives his life to foil Fingers’ mission and save the day – if Pugsley ceases to exist, so does The Watcher.
The second reveal after Barney, Norma, and Courtney’s ill-fated rescue mission? Courtney is an angel. I feel like such an idiot for not seeing this coming. When the angel character design was revealed earlier in Dead End: Paranormal Park Season 2, I started to connect some dots, but the show put a lot of effort into making Courtney and other fallen angels we meet look very different from their true forms. (Undoubtedly, the main reason for this was to throw us off.)
Maybe the second-most heartbreaking scene in Season 2 was watching Courtney realize that she’s an angel. It got even more soul-crushing when she was sentenced to a life of mindless work pruning the main timeline and only being given one sandwich every five-hundred years. Perfectionism is something that the angels shove down each other’s throats. If you’re even the tiniest bit cracked, you are no longer aesthetically useful outside of this prison of their own design. But, in true Courtney fashion, she rallies the fallen angels and they conceive a plot to get as many sandwiches as they want.
After looking for her family for so long, the truth is incredibly bittersweet for Courtney. She does find comfort in knowing just where she came from and then getting to choose which side she’s on. Even when there’s a “clear” distinction between good and evil, there’s ultimately no black-and-white way to look at people – a distinction that’s even truer for angels and demons.
Dead End: Paranormal Park Season 2 is still a beautifully constructed show, one that uses its unique perspective to tell strong moral stories through adventure- and emotion-packed episodes that strive to connect not only its characters, but its audience as well. The show is about love, family, and showing up for one another. It’s an intricate tale of morality and coming to terms with the fact that even “good” beings aren’t always “good,” just as “bad” beings aren’t all bad all the time. There’s no one way to look at the world and the people in it, and the stereotypes we believe about some people – particularly queer people – can be simply jaded and wrong.
I think the show has done a lot to break down barriers, make queer teens feel more comfortable in their own skin, and show them that they too can find love, find a place they belong, and most importantly, live lives that are extraordinary. I can’t wait for Dead End: Paranormal Park to come back, and I hope that Netflix allows Hamish Steele to continue telling this story for many more seasons to come.