Synopsis: In the depths of Allan Holt’s high-containment facility, the truth finally bleeds out.
Review: This review contains spoilers. “A Rock and a Hard Place” by Mikki Kendall and L.L. McKinney is a slow burn, culminating in an action-packed climax.
Up until now, I’ve tried to write spoiler-free or spoiler light reviews. While I don’t intend to retype the episode word for word, we’ve reached the point in the story where I can no longer write a coherent response without describing some of what I’m responding to. With that in mind, please stop reading now, if you don’t want details.
Allan Holt is completely insane, of course. His destroy-the-world-to-save-it plan is slightly redeemed by the fact that Holt didn’t intend to survive himself. It’s also slightly redeemed by Kendall and McKinney’s presentation of Holt’s psychosis. I loved how the authors took full advantage of Serial Box’s format to break up the text. This made Holt’s villain monologue seem conversational and organic, as he intended, while also ratcheting up the tension.
I also loved that while Holt intended to die, he didn’t die as he’d intended, because Viscose was waiting in the wings. Structurally and thematically, he had to be. Viscose aptly aspires to be a Mad Max style post-apocalyptic warlord in his own kingdom, and he doesn’t care that he’s muddying the waters in Holt’s placid lake of Ozymandian clarity.
The action sequence all of this builds to is absolutely worth the wait. However, my favorite part isn’t The Black Widow fighting. It’s the fact that she sits on Holt, using him as a cushion, while she watches The Winter Soldier do his job. Her commentary on his fighting style is an absolute treat, functioning as a darkly comedic beat in an utterly bleak situation.
Just when I thought nothing could top the fight sequence, though, Kendall and McKinney spring the cliff-hanger, which I won’t spoil. It sets up the remaining two episodes perfectly.
Sarah Natochenny uses every weapon in her arsenal over the course of a 42-minute performance. I doubt that the final two chapters will allow her to rest on her laurels, though, given what she’s had to read up until this point.
I can’t decide if Holt’s plan is perfectly or badly timed. I guess it depends on listeners’ patience with bio-weapon storylines during a pandemic. Being a glass-half-full kind of gal, I find the surreal matter-of-factness in both Holt’s choices and in our heroes’ counter-responses comforting as we live through our much more chaotic reality.
You can purchase Black Widow: Bad Blood here.
- Audio Production10