Rockfish Gap: Campgrounds and Conspiracy

Rockfish Gap follows reporter Jessica Mathews as she tries to uncover what happened to four missing students at Shenandoah National Park. As a limited series investigative audio drama, its brisk pacing covers a lot of ground in just 8 episodes. In a staggered fashion it also introduces a fairly full cast. Combining strange occurrences at a campground, suggestions of government conspiracy, matched with ghostly buildings, it does a lot with the fictional true crime format and found recording trope; however, it never feels confined by them. It is also one of the few audio dramas in recent years that includes mention of the pandemic. While it does not dwell on it, it is part of the story set-up.

Early on audio tapes come to surface from one of the missing teens, and Jessica interweaves them thought her own podcast. She also interviews numerous related characters to the disappeared. These combined add to the narrative dynamic and makes Rockfish Gap a more expansive story. It is Brian, a far more endearing Alex Jones-type with his own Freedom Radio show, who makes the biggest impression. He actually became a favourite character of mine. His dynamic with Jessica is the engine behind satisfying character growth for both of them within such a short series.

Its penultimate episode, The White House, is a standout of well-crafted sound design supporting a narrative climax. I will add little more so as not to spoil a thing. Just put the headphones on, close your eyes and surrender yourself to the journey. It does leave the falling action of episode 8 as a bit of a letdown in its speed to conclusion; however, they do wrap it all up in a clever split of action and exposition. Though Rockfish Gap could have benefitted from giving the story a bit more time to develop its later half, it is a satisfying enough end. Overall its pacing is good buoyed by the dynamic jumps between storylines. Ultimately, it is the friends we met along the way that is at the heart of its story.

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