Spoilers for the whole of season one of Echoes (In) Between.
Content warning: Discussion of the COVID-19 pandemic, discussion of societal trauma and collective childhood trauma (in reference to both a fictional event and the Covid pandemic.)
Echoes (In) Between is a science fiction podcast created by Jessica Berson and Bronson Metcalfe, who also play Gemma Avots and Thomas Fonte, the story’s protagonists. Echoes (In) Between launched in May 2022, and concluded its first 12-episode season in July.
Echoes (In) Between opens with the framing of a podcast-in-a-podcast. It’s “a podcast about exploring what echoes in between our memories of the past”, and Gemma and Thomas explain to the listeners why they decided to create a podcast about memory and how fallible it can be. This framing provides a simple but very effective way of introducing the two main characters of the story, their careers in journalism, and an important event from their time at college together. Even though they’re almost the same age – Gemma is a couple of years older – they’re both at very different points in life. The audience can understand their friendship and – at least, the public version of – their personalities very quickly, before the story delves into much deeper topics.
It’s in this first episode that we’re also introduced to a character who will become key to the evolution of the story – Dr. Adrian Thorne. Dr. Thorne is an authority on cognitive psychology, and a lecture of his that both Gemma and Thomas was the beginning of what prompted them to create their podcast. As we discover through a recording, Gemma goes through a memory recall session with Dr. Thorne, using a memory of her childhood, which she then discovers to be incorrect. These sessions are conducted using a method devised by Dr. Thorne, including a music track that he has created, and are similar to a kind of hypnosis. This session proves to be just the beginning of the audience’s understanding of what’s really going on in this fictional world.
The framing device changes in episode four, as the characters leave the studio, and we see glimpses of their home lives. This change is what allows the audience to begin to get the complete picture of the reality and society this story is set in. It turns out that a lot is left unsaid during Gemma and Thomas’ recordings, common knowledge which everyone in their world lives with, but which the audience begins to pick up on, before a full explanation in episode six.
It’s during a conversation in a coffee shop that the reality of the trauma that this society is living with comes to light. The fact that this shocking information comes out against the background of a casual, relaxed setting speaks volumes to how the world has dealt with a paranormal event, known as the Blackout. I won’t spoil too much about what happened on that day when both Gemma and Thomas were children, but the extent of what happened came as a total shock to me. It took me some time to sit with this information after listening to the episode to draw parallels with our world, and think about how this podcast was a product of the Covid-19 pandemic. This episode provides an exploration into collective societal trauma, much like we have experienced with the pandemic; and the way the Blackout Event is talked about and referenced, especially with such a casual conversation in a coffee shop, really reflects the effects of the expectations placed by governments and media in our world for people to ‘move on’ when the pandemic is not yet over. However, this episode is only the beginning of not only our understanding of what really happened during the Blackout Event – but also Gemma and Thomas’.
I nearly named this post ‘Echoes (In) Between and the not-quite-midlife crisis’. It’s very much simplifying Gemma’s experiences over the course of the first season, as both she and Thomas listen to more of the tracks that were created by Dr. Thorne, and have to deal with the consequences of listening to the final track in his sequence. These tracks were created with with one objective in mind, and it’s that objective we’re taken towards as the first season reaches its conclusion. What happens to Gemma as she listens to this final track resonated with me deeply, raising the question, what would’ve happened if my life had taken a different path? Gemma has fallen into the role of a carer for her father, sacrificing her hopes and dreams in the process. Thomas’ fate is much more clear-cut, but Gemma fights a battle between two versions of herself – and this leads to a huge cliffhanger at the end of the season.
Echoes (In) Between has constantly been on my mind since I listened to the season one finale, mostly for the depiction of the life choices that Gemma has made. There’s so much more to this story, but every so often I find myself thinking – what would an alternate version of me have done differently?