Honey Queen

Nightmare Time Season 2, Episode 1
Starring: Lauren Lopez (Linda Monroe), Mariah Rose Faith (Zoe Chambers), Dylan Saunders (Gerald Monroe), Nick Lang (Professor Hidgens, Narrator), and Jon Matteson (Roman Murray)
With Music and Lyrics by: Jeff Blim
Written by: Nick Lang and Matt Lang
Directed by: Nick Lang

Honey Queen is the first episode of season two of Team Starkid’s web series, set in a tiny town called Hatchetfield, Nightmare Time. Unlike season one, this episode consists of one 90 minute story, rather than two 50 minute ones. Also unlike season one, this episode goes for more than being a simple zoom reading, featuring fancier editing, crazier music videos, and much less audio lag. But does the story hold up to its season one counterparts, and how does it advance the overarching narrative of Hatchetfield?

Like much of Nightmare Time, Honey Queen exists primarily to expand on characters previously established in the two full Hatchetfield musicals, The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals and Black Friday, and this time the two main characters are Linda Monroe, the main human antagonist in Black Friday, and Zoe Chambers, one of Emma’s barista coworkers from TGWDLM. The story of Honey Queen chronicles the two competing in Hatchetfield’s annual Honey Queen Pageant, as they attempt to sabotage one another in increasingly violent and extravagant ways.

Warning: Spoilers! I am incapable of talking about Hatchetfield without them!

What I enjoy most about this story is the creativity of the story, something consistent with my favorite episodes from season one. Watching the Lang Brothers slowly flesh out the world of Hatchetfield that they have created, building on pre-existing characters and ideas while introducing new ones, is incredibly satisfying. Linda was a fantastic villain in Black Friday, but this story allows us to see a bit more of the humanity behind her. We meet her father, who is an enormous piece of shit himself, and although Linda is still an undeniably terrible person, it helps us to understand why she is the way she is, by making extrapolations on what having Roman Murray as a father must have been like. We also get to meet characters previously only name-dropped, such as Linda’s husband, Gerald, as well as her four kids. Gerald is one of the most interesting characters in this episode, and while I think part of that is Dylan Saunders’ brilliant performance in that role, a lot of credit also has to go to the Langs for the way they wrote the character. While he is still very much in line with the way he was implied to be in Black Friday, he is also very different from the character I think most people assumed him to be from that show’s implications. Gerald has a real ruthless streak to him, and in his own way, he is every bit as terrible as Linda. It’s also really interesting to see the genuine care that they have for one another, even if it’s often expressed in a rather dysfunctional way.

Zoe, on the other hand, is essentially a blank slate who the Lang Brothers carefully built a character on top of. All we know about Zoe from The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals is that she is super into musical theater, has a great singing voice, and doesn’t much like Emma. In Honey Queen, we also learn that she’s fairly young, that her greatest aspiration is to escape from Hatchetfield and make a career out of singing on Broadway, and that she is every bit as ruthless as Linda and Gerald. She doesn’t have quite the experienced, subtle touch that they do, but her ruthlessness comes through in a far more overt fashion, creating a great foil for Linda.

The story in this episode is a real delight to witness unfold. To me, there is something inherently appealing in watching two characters who, despite being terrible, I cannot help but adore, battle it out in an increasingly ruthless game of sabotage, treachery, and kickass vocal performances. However, as is par for the course with any Starkid story, there is some comedy sprinkled throughout, the most overt of which comes from Nick Lang’s fantastic performance as Professor Hidgens. While he doesn’t exactly capture the magic energy that Robert Manion brought to the table in the role, he puts his own spin on things, bringing a version of the character to life that is equally entertaining to watch, albeit in a different way. Either way, it is nothing short of a delight to see Nick Lang in an acting role again, and he absolutely kills some of the lines he delivers. The ending of Honey Queen, however, is what really ties the story together. It is hard to tell a catfight story like this and come up with a narratively satisfying ending and honestly, when Linda was crowned Honey Queen near the end of the story after tricking Zoe into hanging herself, I was worried that the Lang Brothers had dropped the ball with the ending, but never have I been so wrong.

Not only does the ending of the episode resolve the issue with it being narratively unsatisfying, no matter who wins the ultimate fight, but it also does a beautiful job tying this story into the overall narrative of Hatchetfield. Meeting Nibbly was a wonderful surprise that I did not at all see coming (although it was well-foreshadowed several times throughout the episode), and I was a huge fan of both the way his appearance was designed, as well as the way he was described in the narration. In fact, more descriptive narration was an overall positive in this episode. The Langs are clearly becoming more used to writing stories in a non-theatrical setting, because a lot of their descriptions were honestly top notch.

Finally, it wouldn’t be a Nightmare Time episode without music, and Jeff Blim really outdid himself for this one. Along with the slightly altered version of the Nightmare Time Theme Song, this episode contains three new songs: Latte Hatte, Queen B, and The Nibbly Ditty. Latte Hatte is a grimy, bass-driven banger that features Mariah at her absolute best. It’s infectiously catchy, it’s got some great callbacks to TGWDLM, and it overall makes me want to blast it out of a car with the windows open, while singing along. Yeah, it’s that kind of show-tune. Queen B is a Lauren Lopez-led rap song, and it’s….honestly kind of fire? Lauren doesn’t have the best flow I’ve ever heard, but she’s certainly reasonably good, and the instrumental that Jeff put together gives the tune a bouncy, driving energy. The lyrics come together really well, and the effects layered on Lauren’s voice during the chorus sound wonderful. Not to mention, the fucking music video that goes with it. I did not know I needed what that offered until I saw it, but oh boy am I glad that Starkid gave us that. It’s a beautiful mess of color and energy that I will never stop loving. Finally, there’s The Nibbly Ditty. It’s a short tune that plays over the episode’s credits, sung by Curt Mega and James Tolbert, that essentially serves as the Nibbly equivalent to The Tickle-Me Wiggly Jingle. It’s a cute, coy song that has a bunch of meat-based wordplay, and a ridiculous music video in which Curt and James play two of Nibbly’s sniggles. It’s the least memorable tune in the episode, but that honestly makes sense. It’s not meant to blow your mind, it’s meant to be a whacky bit of fun to entertain you while the credits role. Overall, Honey Queen features the best music out of any Nightmare Time episode so far, by a fair margin.

In summary, I enjoyed the hell out of Honey Queen. It tells an entertaining story, expanding on characters that I love in the process. It has engaging action, fantastic performances from all involved, and is easily the most technically slick Nightmare Time episode yet. Not to mention the spectacular music. I’d recommend this episode of Nightmare Time both to longtime fans of the series, and to people who weren’t a big fan of the first season. This is an excellent entry point into the wonderful world of Nightmare Time, and I’d strongly encourage non-believers to give the series another shot with Honey Queen.

Written on 05/30/2022

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