There’s a lot to like in What Happened In Skinner. Production is quality. Acting is good. The mystery is compelling. The theme exploring generational wealth is creatively approached. I recommend it but I have a major caveat. Trying to fit this narrative into the faux true crime podcast genre really undermines what otherwise would be a very good audio drama. That I am supposed to believe that this sounds like an actual podcast in our world is stretched way too far: perfect audio surviving being submerged in water, invincible during natural catastrophe, and happening while our lead is sleeping or fighting. There are numerous recordings of extremely personal conversations happening between multiple characters. They’ve all agreed to wear lav mics they rarely shut off is an attempt to justify but doesn’t make it realistic or even slightly relatable.
Seemingly inspired by predecessors like The Black Tapes, it felt like the creators bravely committed to this framework ignoring the overwhelming limitations for their particular story. Like a book, it’s ok to have your lead recount their efforts or include multiple points of view without trying to pretend they are all contributing to an unedited magazine piece, even if the main protagonist is a journalist. The faux podcast angle always limits an audio drama and the gimmick is only temporarily clever.
Marlowe Verne, the lead, being an investigative podcaster could have been a driving aspect of the greater audio drama. We didn’t need to pretend the whole audio drama itself is contained within an instantly published true-crime podcast. It just led to constant cognitive dissonance every episode; however, to its credit I tuned in to every episode. The mystery, production and acting was good. I did want to know what happened next. The actors got me invested in their characters. I also wanted to find out if those characters learned from their missteps but not sure that happened.
The second star does get knocked off for character arcs that were undermined by an ending that didn’t take them too far from their beginnings. Despite some pretty dramatic events going down, did anyone really change? Having said all that, I would check out another audio drama from this crew or a season 2; however, I encourage creators to take the faux-true crime podcast shackles off the story. Another listener may be able to get past the unbelievable contortions taken to get it to fit into that framework. For me, it was too much of a block for me to truly enjoy it as much as I could have.