Neil Runge | Staff Writer
It’s the Halloween season, so now is the perfect time for anything and everything spooky. With the release of the first two episodes of Limetown this past Wednesday, the tone for Halloween is definitely set. The feel of the show isn’t established in typical ways, with otherworldly creatures or a killer lurking in the shadows, but with a bone chilling mystery and a growing list of questions for the main character that feel like they’ll never be answered.
Released on Facebook Watch, Limetown is a thriller based on the podcast and book of the same name. The franchise was created by Zack Akers and Skip Bronkie. This tale follows the main character Lia Haddock, played by Jessica Biel. She uses her skills as a journalist and a radio host to dive deeper into the disappearance of the 386 residents of an experimental town called Limetown, including her uncle Emile; who’s brought to the screen by Stanley Tucci.
In only two episodes, Biel and Tucci have proved that they were made to play these characters. Biel perfectly translates the chilling determination that Annie Sage Whitehurst brings to the podcast. Tucci had to tackle adapting most of his acting from the book, and he does it beautifully. Emile doesn’t show up until late in the second season of the podcast, and in the book he serves mostly as a look into Lia’s past. He shows a soft side to Emile and as the season continues, it’ll be a treat to see how complex Emile becomes as more of the story surrounding him unfolds before Lia and the audience. They have both nailed the foundations of their character.
The music and sound design help pull the world of Lia Haddock from an audio-only format to the small screen. The podcast is known for its impeccable sound design. Each sound is perfectly chosen to emphasize a sense of dread or to draw the listener deeper into the fictional world, making everything feel more real. This attention to detail carried over to the screen. From the thumping of a fist on a door to the eerie echo of footsteps in an abandoned house, each sound is deliberate choice to intensify the frightening journey Lia has thrown herself into.
Limetown isn’t afraid to delve into the world of gore. Much like the book, the show doesn’t shy away from images of corpses and details of death. There are a few scenes featuring corpses and as Lia interviews the people she can find connected to Limetown, each blood-soaked second of an interviewee’s story is included.
Adapting the story from book and audio formats to a visual medium was a tall order that creators Akers and Bronkie filled. When the audio drama was made it was built with the fact that it was audio only in mind, every decision was made to make it sound more believable to listeners. The same can be said for the book, it was written specifically for the format. So, when the time came to adapt Limetown for streaming, the challenge was exactly how to make a timeline of the novel that handles everything before the podcast and the audio drama work together coherently.
What Akers and Bronkie decided to do was take the contents of each medium and rearrange them to construct a show that keeps people on the edge of their seat. It remains compelling, even if viewers have already read the novel and binge-listened to the entire audio drama. The decision to rearrange the pieces was the foundation for what makes this adaptation as amazing as it is. It set up plot points that grew to be confusing and at times disorienting in the podcast and book.
Emile’s past and his connection to his niece was a big part of the book to bring into the show. It explained Lia’s motivation to figure out the mystery of Limetown and its missing residents. He is the bridge between Lia and the other 385 residents that have vanished into thin air. When Lia seems to lose her way or becomes callous in her search for answers, it’s her memories of Emile that remind that keep her going. Emile is the answer to why Lia is doing anything.
The way the first two episodes of Limetown are written makes the timeline of events neater without taking away from the general spookiness of the whole show. The drama and tension build throughout the premiere. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out and if the creators will stick to using various elements of the source material in new ways.