Spoilers if you haven’t listened to The Long Night yet.
My favorite hairy hunk of testosterone with a bleeding heart is back in Wolverine: The Lost Trail. With action, suspense, and several intelligent, strong, and complicated female characters, the second season of the Wolverine podcast is compelling entertainment.
“The only reason anyone wants me around is to kill someone else.”
Logan in The Lost Trail
Wolverine: The Lost Trail picks up some time after The Long Night. There are allusions to events in Japan in between these two podcast adventures that involved Agent Pierce still after, and still not able to capture, Logan. She continues to hunt him for Weapon X in The Lost Trail, although she is hardly the only one after him this time.
The Lost Trail takes place in New Orleans, Logan’s previously referenced location while in Alaska, where he had lived with his then-girlfriend, Maureen. It was unclear why they were not together anymore in the previous podcast, although we know he felt guilty about it. The Lost Trail reveals much about their relationship throughout the episodes. He had left Maureen, a singer-songwriter, right before heading to Alaska, but obviously still cares for her. Logan is worried when she never returns his calls and assuming the worst, heads back to New Orleans to check on her or confirm his suspicions. What he finds it that Maureen disappeared, but left several clues in her apartment as to where she might have gone…or been taken.
In his investigation for his ex, Logan runs into a young teen named Marcus, similarly searching for his mother who also vanished around the same time as Maureen. The young man tells Logan that not just his mom, but their entire community of mutants and humans living peacefully hidden in the Bayou, is gone. He’s the only one that didn’t mysteriously disappear. Looking at Maureen’s clues, many more mutants have gone missing in the general area. He begs Logan to help him find his mom and Maureen together. When that doesn’t work he follows the loner around, making himself both a nuisance and help, until Logan agrees to take him along on his search (Outer gruff- inner softie.)
In The Lost Trail, Logan and Marcus meet, and fight, with many characters along the way to a mythical sounding place called Greenhaven. But is Greenhaven a paradise, a prison, or does it exist at all? “Whispers” is how they refer to the person who may be behind Greenhaven, and the description sounds familiar to Logan, but it is just one of the many holes in his memory. Logan’s memory gaps are a huge part of the plot here, with Marcus encouraging (and freaking out) Logan to remember everything about his past, in order to help them find their loved ones now. But the memories often bring up more questions than answers, and some would have been best left forgotten. The people from Logan’s past, both the ones he is looking for and the ones looking for him, hold the clues to his true history. But even when they tell him, who can really be trusted?
The storytelling by Ben Percy in The Lost Trail is vastly different than in The Long Night, which was a cleverly crafted crime mystery, with Logan as a peripheral character, using “real” audio like phone conversations, radio transmission, and surveillance-captured conversations. Agent Pierce was one of the protagonists then, as we saw the story unfold from her point of view, though Logan was the focus. The Lost Trail has Logan front and center, the heart and the movement of the tale. It is more like reading a comic, rather than an unveiling of facts. I enjoyed the first season, but this more straightforward approach works better if, like me, you want more Wolverine. The script can get a bit manly man-heavy at times:
MARCUS: Ah! You’ve got a knife sticking out of you!”
LOGAN: Where?…oh. (GRUNT)
MARCUS: We have to get you to the doctor!
LOGAN: Why do you think I had you order me two doubles? [of whiskey] You’re holding the only medicine I need. Hand it over.”
But that’s also the fun of the character. Richard Armitage has much more depth to work with in this script, ranging from his battle roar to intelligent passion in figuring out clues to growly pillow talk in memories with his ex. I originally was skeptical at how much Logan reveals his true feelings in The Lost Trail, especially in the later episodes, as I consider his character more action than talk. But then I remembered this is an audio podcast. We can’t see a sideways glance, or a troubled brow, or a sensual smirk. Ben Percy has to write that in, and Armitage does a fantastic job adding the nuance.
Of course, kudos to Brendan Baker and Chloe Prasinos, the directors of both seasons. When one actor does well, it’s the actor. When the whole cast does well, it’s the director. Agent Sally Pierce, who already had a complicated personality in Season One, gets more complicated here, even going rogue from Weapon X at one point due to her own sense of ethics. Christina Bennett Lind plays the AI with a soul convincingly. Considering how I felt about her at the end of Season One, it’s amazing how much I was rooting for her in Season Two.
Rodney Henry plays Marcus as sweet and earnest and so young. “I love my mama.” He is able to say with the conviction of both a little boy who needs his family and a man, who finally understands he needs his family. You can hear Logan’s tough-guy heart melt. Marcus and Logan have some very in-depth conversations that fans will eat up. Bill Irwin plays Wyngarde, aka Whispers, aka (shhhh…I won’t tell.) He’s convincingly creepy for the role as a power-hungry nutcase with high social intelligence:
“Chained or unchained, I don’t think you’re capable of happiness, Logan.”
While Wyngarde may be right, it’s this very trait that saves Wolverine from the clutches of the bad guy.
Bill Heck is Remy, aka Gambit, with an important side role in the plot and Logan’s life. Heck makes for a sexy and free-spirited Gambit. Logan’s impassioned speech to try and make Gambit remember their lives as X-Men was touching and heart-breaking because he was probably talking more to himself. There are plenty more characters that come in and out of The Lost Trail in memorable ways like Karna Eyestone, the psychic deep in the bayou. Or Terrance Clowe as Flamingeaux. Bonnie Roach, played by Blair Brown was probably one of my favorites. She was an over-the-top villain. I hope her scenes were as fun to record as they were to hear.
Rachel Holmes holds Logan’s heart as Maureen. I was wondering what kind of character they would cast as the woman who would make Logan put himself in obvious danger to save, one he tells right out how much he cares. At first, he only remembers her as his girl, one who would sing her songs to him alone in their apartment. One can imagine Wolverine curled at her feet like a little puppy as she strums her guitar. But as the season goes on we get to know her better in Logan’s slowly revealed memories, and Holmes plays Maureen as the intelligent and emotionally conflicted character Logan deserves. She has a dark past, but one without the same excuses as Logan has. Yet, she redeemed herself once. When we finally meet Maureen (and Wyngaurde) in person, it’s impossible to tell if she can be trusted. It’s one of the best parts of the story: where we are as confused and chained as Logan, unable to see what is real. How he figures out the truth is the next best part.
The Long Night was 36% female speaking characters. The Lost Trail improves that ratio to 14 out of 34 characters, or 41% female speakers. Logan in fiction is getting closer to living in a more realistic setting of equal gender. Let’s hope Marvel continues to close the gap. The diversity of voice actors (as seen on the website) is also higher than the last season.
Audio storytelling is intimate and often intense. The audio engineers are top-notch in these Wolverine podcasts, as I spoke about in The Long Night review. I HIGHLY recommend listening with earbuds or surround sound speakers because the audio is created to give a feeling of space. The footsteps and voices move across the “room.” I got nightmares a few times while listening over the course of the season, not because it was scary (it wasn’t) but because this type of media immerses the listener in a unique way. The scene where Logan is ripping into his own flesh to find the tracker is especially gruesome to imagine. (I really want to know what the sound effects person used for that!) Or when Logan says, “Come here” in a low, sexy growl directly into my left ear. (That affected my dreams in a different way…)
The music plays a different role in Season Two. Because we are in New Orleans, I was firmly hoping music would be front and center. For the beginning scenes, this is true. Every bar or joint Logan enters is brimming with the distinctive sounds of the birthplace of American music. It set the scene. We hear Maureen singing with her guitar a couple of times- with a lovely voice that doesn’t overpower the character while adding depth. Deru provides the soundtrack and theme music again that establishes the tone of the whole story: it reminded me of swarming bees or a trumpet fanfare from a melting nightmare.
There’s no word yet on Season Three, but the ending of The Lost Trail certainly leaves that door open. I’ll be looking (or listening) forward to it.
Wolverine: The Lost Trail is PG 13 for violence, creepiness, and intense themes. You can listen to it free on most podcast platforms.