"A mysterious package arrives at the Meltsner home containing clues about Buck's checkered family past, while a hope chest at Jason's antique shop may be the target of an old nemesis." - AIO
It’s no secret that The Green Ring Conspiracy features characters and themes inspired by Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist. For instance, Buck Oliver shares many similarities, including his very name, with the novel’s titular character, while Mr. Skint bares resemblance to Mr. Fagin, the character who pulls Oliver Twist into a life of crime. Katrina’s interest in Buck’s well-being is not so dissimilar to actions taken by good-hearted characters such as Mr. Brownlow or Rose Maylie, who believe in rescuing Oliver Twist from a life of crime, and you might even say that Detective Polehaus’ attitude towards Buck echoes Mr. Grimwigs’, a character who continuously reminds others that Oliver Twist shouldn’t be trusted.
It is quite fitting, then, that the story of Buck Oliver and Mr. Skint might also conclude by drawing even more inspiration from the novel. Think about it. Both Buck Oliver and Oliver Twist ultimately discover that their mothers died tragically while they were young, both rely on objects/gifts to provide clues about their past (a locket in one, and a mirror/painting in the other), both are temporarily kidnapped from their domestic life in order to be lured into a life of crime, both stories feature brutish characters (Two-Bitts Luker and Muggs) who meet their “demise” in a police chase (one is arrested, the other dies), both Buck and Oliver end up witnessing their respective manipulators behind bars, both receive large inheritances, and both end up living happily ever after with their new “adoptive” families.
By bringing back Dickensian parallels, as well as other familiar elements from “The Green Conspiracy” -- including characters such as Jason, Monty, Penny, Detective Polehaus, Wally Haggler -- we are provided with a story that feels like a direct sequel to the 2011 album. We certainly do not get the feeling that 8 long years have passed. And allowing Paul McCusker to wrap up the storylines that he originally wrote helped the characters feel consistent, their decision-making feel logical, and provided the same tone and energy as the earlier album. Even the musical cues were similar. Yes, “The Long End” feels like a fitting -- and, for that matter, quite enjoyable -- conclusion to the events of “The Green Ring Conspiracy”.
However, because of how long it has been since Mr. Skint’s appearance, audience’s expectations might have been a little too high. Personally, I expected a story with a little more intensity and stakes. After all, Mr. Skint never seems to have the upper hand in “The Long End”. He spends most of the time futilely chasing the hope chest, and when he finally carries out his grand scheme -- to have Two-Bits distract the cops -- we find out, only a scene later, that Jason has figured out this plan, making the scene at the bank -- the episode’s “big twist” -- quite predictable. Other “plot holes” keep me from giving this episode a perfect score -- for instance, if the FBI knew Skint was in Odyssey, why didn’t someone just monitor Buck? Surely this would have been the easiest way for the FBI to catch Skint.
But those are my only complaints for an episode that certainly surprises on several other occasions. The scenes involving Two-Bitts’s wreaking havoc with a baseball bat were certainly exciting, and the reveal that Felicia was still alive, and that she had devised the whole plan in order to have Buck lead the police to Skint, was quite unexpected. I was also surprised - and relieved -- that the show chose a simple answer regarding the identity of Buck’s parents. I’ve noticed that audiences’ minds have been trained to hyperfocus on the identity of parents these days, to assume that they’re superbly important to every story. In “The Long End”, it is revealed that they were simply con-artists. Nothing more. And Buck Oliver doesn’t seem overly distraught by this fact. Mr. Skin says swiftly, “Your father was killed in a car accident. Then your Mother found out she had cancer. [...] It’s that simple.” Thankfully, it’s a mystery that didn’t end up being stretched out over too many albums.
What surprises me the most about “The Long End” is how little seems to change for Buck Oliver by the end of it. Honestly, I thought the show would have him locate his biological mother or father, or distant relative, to move in with. And I thought this discovery would eventually lead to Buck Oliver being written out of the show entirely. Given how the writers had Eugene search for his birth father for so long, just to have him disappear altogether, how could I not think that any change to Eugene’s life -- such as having a foster child -- would be a temporary one? But I applaud Adventures in Odyssey for fully embracing the changes that were introduced in “The Green Ring Conspiracy”.
Now that “The Green Ring Conspiracy” saga has officially concluded, the question is: what’s next? Upon closer look, “The Long End” does leave a few lingering story threads. At one point, it looked like Buck Oliver was going to communicate his true feelings to Jules. And I have a feeling that Detective Polehaus still needs to learn a lesson or two about trusting Buck Oliver. Whatever happens next, “The Long End” certainly reminds us that it’s an exciting time to be a fan of Adventures in Odyssey!
Writer: Paul McCusker
Director: Paul McCusker
Executive Producer: Dave Arnold
Music: John Campbell
Post Production: Christopher Diehl
Episode Reviewed: 01/22/18