Are You Afraid of the Dark? S1E13 “The Tale of the Pinball Wizard”

My husband rarely sits down to watch my stuff for work with me, but he has been enjoying the odd episode of AYAOTD? This one, though, he did not hesitate to tell me how shit it was. And I have to agree with him.

“The Tale of the Pinball Wizard” is the very definition of silly.  Even as the episode opens with the Midnight Society, it’s clear that everyone left their acting chops at home for the week.

They all fight over a game that has been brought to the meeting. Kristen enlists a good eye roll to show she doesn’t approve. But thankfully Gary arrives to tell his story.

Unlike the handheld game that contains a handy reset button, the game in Gary’s tale does not. “The Tale of the Pinball Wizard” follows Ross. a fairly independent kid who spends much of his time alone. Ross is also an idiot.

He likes to spend his time stealing change to play the pinball machine in Olson’s repair shop in the mall. One day, Ross asks Olson if he can have a job at the shop since the boy who worked there before was fired. Olson seems plenty weary of Ross, and tells him no. But as he’s closing up the shop for his lunch, Ross pleads Olson to let him watch the shop while Olson goes to lunch.

Olson reluctantly agrees and tells Ross he can watch the shop only if he doesn’t touch anything – including the antique pinball machine in the shop’s backroom.

While tending the shop, a girl walks in asking Ross if her music box is fixed. Ross is immediately smitten with the girl, who introduces herself as Sophie. They eventually find the box, which is a throne, and realise it isn’t yet fixed. Sophie promises to go back to the shop when Olson is back.

Once he’s alone again, Ross immediately gets himself by playing the forbidden pinball machine. He notes that it’s a three-level game in which he needs to obtain a key, a crown and a thrown in order to crown the princess and win. But the boy is so into the game, that by the time he beats it he realises that there is now nighttime and the mall is seemingly close.

A payphone rings and Ross answers it, and suddenly it begins to rain quarters. The greedy boy hops into the mall’s fountain and beings to pocket the change when he notices a group of robotic men marching past. He notes that they seem to afraid of the rain.

Then from above, a girl yells for help. Ross notices that it’s Sophie, now donned in a princess dress from a cheap costume shop. Holding her back is the mall security guard, now dressed like a evil lord. Sophie manages to throw a key down to Ross, telling him to open the vaults with it.

Ross gets the key away from the robot men and realises that the “vaults” are the lockers. He opens several until he finds Sophie’s headband in one. As he grabs it, the escalator behind him lights up. He jumps on, and when he reaches the top, the headband has turned into a tiara.

Sophie yells for Ross (this happens a lot in this episode), and she runs away from him. He follows and runs into a witch, who blows some magic wind, causing him to slide back away from Sophie. The witch grabs the crown from Ross.

Next on Ross’ seemingly endless task list, Sophie tells him to find her music box. So Ross runs to Olson’s shop and looks for it, then finds Sophie tied up in the backroom (this bitch just appears everywhere). They find the throne, and then are attacked by an executioner with a mace.

As they leave the store, they see the witch about They finally find the music box and play the music, which causes the tiara to vanish from her hands. Sophie then tells Ross that they are in a game and that she needs to be crowned in order for Ross to win. But Soph is grabbed by the evil whatever again.

And god, it’s still not over.

Ross grabs the tiara and the throne and takes them both to the next level. When he places the throne on the ground, it grows to full size. When he sits down on the thrown, a man behind the chair begins to push him around… or, sorry, the throne “moves by itself”.

But Ross is pulled off the throne by the executioner and thrown into the elevator by the evil whatever and he returns to the first floor of the game. Somehow this doesn’t really matter, as he can just run up the escalators.

Ross spots the mace sitting by the bin, and realises he needs to use it to smash a glass display case containing a pair of squirt guns. He spots the evil lord/sheriff thing about to be crowned. Ross rushes to the platform, and begins to shoot at the characters with the water guns. He manages to get rid of all of them and crowns Sophie, winning the game.

Or so Ross thinks. After crowning Sophie, he finds himself at the beginning of the game again. When he looks up, he sees Olson’s face peering down at him, laughing. Olson tells Ross that the boy will be stuck in the game forever, forced to play it over and over again.

Then finally, it fucking ends.

Maybe I’m too much of a pinball “noob” but this story seems really detailed for a pinball machine. Wouldn’t a Dragon’s Lair-style arcade game make more sense? This was the 90’s, Canada. Stop pretending like you’re still 10 years behind the rest of us.

What a mess. This episode is silly, which is delightful, but it’s mostly just confusing and redundant. There’s too much running and yelling mayhem without the actual premise being set up properly. What’s Olson’s deal anyway? Is this man just an asshole? Does he like trapping little boys?

Gee. Way to ruin the season finale, Greg.

Anyway, that’s a wrap on season one! I’m rather looking forward to season 2. Hopefully there’s less of this around.

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