Dr. Jonathan Spacer is the new forensic pathologist in Springfield, a town where deaths happen far too often. He quickly ramps up a high autopsy solve rate as he has one hidden talent. He can speak to dead people.
How I Died is a kind of Bones meets The Ghost Whisper supernatural audio drama. Created by Vince Dajani, who voices the lead Jon, its ghosts in the autopsy room premise you’d think might set you up for a spooky but cozy supernatural, and that’s not far off how it starts. With pitch-perfect pacing, however, it masterfully warms you up for the macabre coming down the pipe. Make no mistake, the heart of this show is picking up the grisly remains from nasty crime scenes. And be assured the sound design is up to the task.
How I Died combines a lot of genres, mystery, thriller, horror, and even a bit of sci-fi. There’s a procedural element too with its loose case-of-the-week framework that allows for a wonderful revolving door of vocal talent. Everything does connect to a larger mystery at play, and with an autopsy room as busy as his in a town with a history of deadly freak weather events, Jon becomes increasingly driven to find out what is wrong with Springfield.
Gallows humor, interwoven with melancholic scenes, is inherent to shows meditated upon death, and the cast here is more than up to the task of both sharp workplace banter, morbid quips, and crime scene dramatics. While the series initially welcomes you with the spooky but comfy vibes of your friendly-neighborhood ghost story, How I Died very steadily and skilfully ratchets up the tension and horror. It’s not a bait-and-switch though as the show takes narrative care with all trips to the autopsy room. Bottomline still, we are dissecting bodies here, tragic death after tragic death, and some cases tap into pretty nightmarish end-of-life scenarios. Pairing that with the ghost of the corpse who can tell you how they got there, adds an extra ghastly layer.
All characters are distinct and memorable, brought to life by some fantastic performances. Jon is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters, and How I Died is not afraid to stack his problems and adversaries up. It is rewarding to see his backbone forged like a sword in the fire in response. It is a necessity as his number one foil, as well as partner, is Sheriff Crowley.
A tough-talking officer of the law, played by Shaina Waring, Crowley has little patience for the new pathologist. I will confess her rude demeanor got under my skin but this is a compliment to the actor. Waring does a good job of making you feel as cornered as Jon. She delivers lines that feel like her boot is on your neck as well. Unapologetic ballbreakers are characters that can walk a fine line between being tough talkers and outright bullies. If Jon was not able to go toe-to-toe with her, she may have come across as just cruel. Because he can match her with steely resolve, it makes them equal pairings and provides cathartic dialogue scenes. Crowley does become more nuanced as the series progresses but the cracks in her armor are thin and unsentimental.
David Dixon as Curtis, Vyn Vox as Dr Kim, and Luis Bermudez as Mendez are all perfectly cast. The revolving door of the deceased-of-the-week brings in a tour de force of vocal talent. Quite a few episodes pack an emotional punch from dialogue alone. Jon, however, is the core of the show, and between recording his autopsies and talking to ghosts, we get to know him quite well. It also makes for a clever way to string together a diegetic narration. We come to understand him but as the pressure mounts the less predictable he becomes. Ultimately, his character arc is the one taking you for the biggest ride.
How I Died will fit the bill for fans of crime procedurals, mystery town serials, and supernatural shows. Produced by Audiohm Media, who are also responsible for The Patron Saint of Suicides, it is quickly establishing their brand as makers of well-produced character-rich grisly crime series. At three seasons, it has yet to exhaust its premise and has a way of constantly raising stakes and refreshing its format.