Netflix Dead end: Paranormal Park is an animated adaptation by Hamish Steele DeadEndia graphic novel series, but the new show’s first season is also a shining example of the magic queer creators can create when given the resources and freedom to tell their own stories. Even though dead ends The tale of wayward teenagers finding themselves while being drawn into the paranormal events of a haunted theme park is clearly her own, its existence a testament to the impact other forward-thinking cartoons are having of late have had on modern animation.
Without shows like Steven universe, She-Re and the Princesses of Power, and The Owl HouseNetflix dead end probably wouldn’t exist or be nearly as capable of being the big-hearted, emotionally intelligent, all-ages romp that it is. The creative team behind it dead end knows this to be true, and they’re not afraid to show it in their work, which is just one of the reasons the series feels like it’s worth investing in.
Much like the graphic novels – which themselves were inspired by 2014’s Cartoon Hangovers dead end written by Steele – Netflix dead end tells the story of Barney (Zach Barack), a shy but kind teenager whose coming out as trans is part of what leads to him leaving his childhood home in search of a place where he can truly belong feels. Although Barney’s family loves him, with the changes in his life and his uncertainty about whether they can accept him for who he is, it feels easier for him to run away from his emotional demons than to confront them head-on, a trait that many have dead ends share main characters.
Anxious hypochondriac Norma (Kody Kavitha) knows that her family only wants the best for her and that she could bear to work on her interpersonal skills, but she has a hard time opening up to people outside when she finds opportunities to to talk about movie stars Pauline Phoenix (Coco Peru). Although Pauline is long dead dead end begins, her legacy lives on at a local theme park, and it’s a fateful job posting at the decidedly haunted attraction that brings Norma, Barney and his dog Pugsley (Alex Brightman) together for the first time, just as their lives take an otherworldly turn.
In the world of dead end, most dogs don’t talk, but after being possessed during Barney and Norma’s visit to the Phoenix Parks together, Pugsley is left with the ability to talk, and it only slightly troubles his human friends because it’s just one of the strange things going on there happen. Long before Pugsley speaks, he and the others learn firsthand how Phoenix Parks is plagued by demons like the Hellboy-esque Courtney (Emily Osment) and hordes of decaying mascots ripped straight from cheesy horror movies. After years of disturbing haunted scenes, few in town want anything to do with Phoenix Parks. But the presence of the supernatural is exactly what makes it a dream come true for Norma – a horror movie fan – and Barney – someone determined to live somewhere other than under his parents’ roof.
dead end introduces its players and sets out its premise within the first 15 minutes of its 30-minute premiere episode, and quickly settles into a rhythm that’s somewhere in between Disney’s gravity falls and Cartoon Networks Nursing home for imaginary friends. dead ends The opening scenes make it clear that the show needs to take its time as the season progresses, carefully unveiling new parts of a larger, at times David Lynchian, mystery surrounding Pauline’s death. But each of dead ends 10 Episodes also function as interconnected explorations of the feelings that all young people struggle with when they first venture out on their own.
Barney being trans is a big part of who he is and is Dead End: Paranormal Parks history, but the show’s queerness manifests itself in moments of celebration of queer pop culture rather than typical rehashes of traumatic queer narratives. When dead end doesn’t jokingly ape horror genre classics about the park, instead shedding light on a drag icon through characters like Pauline and hammering home the idea that love and community are things that people in their found families actually have to work to maintain.
It’s impossible to ignore the irony of Dead end: Paranormal Park to be a Netflix project or to arrive at a time when streamers decided to release stories with hateful messages about queer people – especially trans people. Just by existing in all their strangeness, dead end shows the good that comes from the countless people who are pushing for animation to become more expansive and inclusive of LGBTQ stories, and the people whose lived experiences inspire them.
It’s not that Dead end: Paranormal Park isn’t working hard to pull it all off, but by the finale of this first season, you get the sense that this isn’t even all the show could be. Dead end: Paranormal Park has more to offer if Netflix sees fit to renew it for another series of episodes, and while it’s very much in the network’s hands, the choice it should make is obvious.
dead end now streaming on Netflix.