Podcast / The Penumbra Podcast

Depending on who you ask, the Penumbra is either the grandest hotel this side of Nowhere or a twice-monthly podcast series. Each episode takes the form of a 30-50 minute radio play.

The Penumbra is all about stories you recognize told in ways you won’t expect. Your femme fatale might be an homme fatale; your swashbucklers might be specters. Your Detective might ‘manize as much as he womanizes, and your home might have just a little more heart than you're comfortable with. It’s never just a heist, a Western, an adventure. It’s the parts we think are still fresh about those genres — mixed in with a little bit of our secret sauce.

And what’s in that sauce, you ask? Well… see for yourself.

The Penumbra Podcast was started in 2016 by Sophie Kaner and Kevin Vibert. The music is by Ryan Vibert.

Tropes:

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    In General 
  • Audible Sharpness: There's a distinct schwish anytime a sword or knife is used.
  • Downer Ending: In the post-season-one Q&A, the creators talk about how their stories are either spooky or bummers. Or bummers and bigger bummers.
  • Eldritch Location: The Penumbra can apparently change its entire form as needed, switching from a hotel to a train in season 2.
  • Framing Device: Each story is first introduced by the Concierge, who leads the listener to a hotel room in The Penumbra while giving a brief summary of the upcoming story.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Justified given the medium, and done with varying degrees of subtlety depending on the character.
    Juno Steel 
  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: Nureyev and Brock Engstrom play a complicated card game known as Rangian Street Poker, with the answers they seek as the stakes.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Unsurprisingly, "Peter Nureyev and The Angel of Brahma" focuses on Peter Nureyev, mainly centered on his past. The bonus "Rita Minute" segments between proper episodes show what Rita gets up to in the office when Juno's not around.
  • Aerith and Bob: Sasha, Mick, Vicky and... Juno.
  • Afraid of Blood: Juno gets notably queasy around gore, though he can handle smaller amounts of blood just fine.
  • American Accents: Outside of Rita and Valles Vicky, who speak with exaggerated New York/Jersey accents, characters share the same American accent with individualized inflection patterns.
  • Artifact of Death: The Egg of Purus.
  • As You Know
  • Berserk Button: Juno does NOT want to talk about his brother.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: The Guardian Angel System on New Kinshasa is a fully automated punishment system that zaps criminals, dissenters, protesters, really anyone problematic on Brahma. It's less severe than other examples in that it's still possible to think freely and commit smaller crimes if you become skilled enough to not get caught.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: It is revealed in the end of season one that the ancient martians reproduced asexually and were telepathic, making them enough of a Hive Mind to commit what Juno speculates was mass suicide.
  • Book Ends: The season begins and ends with nearly exactly the same monologue from Juno.
  • Breather Episode: "Midnight Fox" takes a break from the overarching "martian artifacts" plot to deal with Vicky's psycho ex-girlfriend.
  • Broken Pedestal: In Juno and Mick's backstory. All the Old Town kids, Juno included, worshiped teenage Mick, until it turned out he'd fabricated all the wild adventures he regaled them with.
    • Peter Nureyev and his surrogate father/mentor, Mag. Nureyev is so distraught at learning Mag's lied that he kills him.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Rita, Juno's secretary, will ramble on about her stories and doodle during interviews with her boss's clients but at the end of the day she gets the job done better than anyone else on Mars.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": Rabbits are big enough to scour sewer tunnels and do odd jobs for money. Cats apparently have compound eyes as well.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: Juno's almost always got a joke or witty comeback, even during a fistfight.
    Juno: There's just one problem.
    Mook: Oh?
    Juno: It's like I just told you. I'm not a gentleman. *Stuns opponent*
    *beat*
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: Each episode's title starts with "Juno Steel and the...". Nureyev's episodes start with "Peter Nureyev and the...". Averted with the bonus mini-episodes.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: Nureyev has a smile like a fox with sharp teeth to boot. It's his regular smile even when he's not up to something.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Maia King, natch.
  • Crapsack World: Hyperion City on Mars is rife with corruption and organized crime. Other worlds, like Brahma, are possibly even worse places to live.
  • Combat Tentacles: Miasma in her true form.
  • Con Man: Nureyev's murky past lets him wear false identities like neckties. It isn't until he brings Juno (a man with a very traceable past) along that people realize something's wrong.
  • Continuity Reboot: Following the first season's conclusion, the "pilot" version of "Juno Steel and the Case of the Murderous Mask" was rewritten. Certain character traits and interactions were changed, as well as major plot elements, but it ended the same way.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Nearly everyone who's backstory is mentioned has some sort of baggage.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Juno certainly, but nearly every character has some level of snark to them.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Juno's go-to coping mechanism is hard drinking, but he's sober enough to avoid flat out alcoholism.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In the season one finale, it's subverted. Juno and Nureyev have survived, saved Mars, and confessed their feelings, but Juno still can't bring himself to leave Hyperion City and chase his own happiness with him.
  • The Eeyore: Juno Steel. Word of God says he's like this not because of a single incident, but because he was born a clinically depressive person. He has sincerely suicidal tendencies.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Bosco, a mobster mook, refuses to snap a cat's neck even on his boss's orders.
  • Everyone Is Bisexual: A good chunk of supporting characters are in same-sex relationships, many of whom are married. Juno himself is interested in both men and women. Word of God says gender and sexuality aren't really seen as important in Hyperion City.
  • Evil Matriarch: Juno's mother is hinted to be an alcoholic and definitely killed Juno's brother
  • Eye Scream: Juno loses an eye while trying to read Miasma's mind in a rather...dramatic fashion.
  • Exact Words: Mag believed that the New Kinshasa must fall.
  • Exploring the Evil Lair: Juno and Peter walk around Miasma's underground bunker to look for ways to disarm the Egg of Purus.
  • Femme Fatale: Gender-inverted for a rare homme fatale.
  • Film Noir on Mars
  • Floating Continent: New Kinshasa both literally and figuratively looms over Brahma (with a hint of Ominous Floating Castle for taste!)
  • Friend in the Black Market: Valles Vicky deals in untraceable stolen goods from the Outer Rim.
  • Funny Background Event: In the updated version of "Murderous Mask", Rex Glass runs tests on the Mask in question while Juno interrogates Cassandra Kanagawa. The tests produce sounds ranging from various digital beeps and rattling chains to drilling and jack-hammering.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: Cloned beef hash and sawdust-based coffee are common breakfast items apparently.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Juno, named for the Roman goddess of marriage and childbirth. As well as his alias in "The Train From Nowhere", Dahlia Rose.
  • Genius Ditz: Rita is exceptionally skilled in her secretarial duties (which includes hacking and information gathering), but she's easily distracted and misses the point sometimes.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Nureyev, to a tee.
  • Gentleman Thief: Nureyev, especially since he's a Lovable Rogue with concerns larger than his own success, like his boss being genocidal.
  • Go-Go Enslavement: Somewhat downplayed as Juno and Vicky are changed into tuxes, and their unease comes more from being changed while knocked out rather than what they're made to wear.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Juno's apparent modus operandi.
  • Great Offscreen War: In purest form. There was a war involving Mars at some point in the past—recently enough for Alessandra Strong to have fought in it. Only ever referred to as "the war."
  • Groin Attack: In the original version of "Murderous Mask," a triad manager-cum-Torture Technician is stabbing Juno in the thigh for information. Juno responds with snark, and the mook threatens a "less vital, but more painful" location, Agent Glass immediately screams for him to stop and relents some information.
  • Happily Married: Valles Vicky absolutely adores her wife and son, even if they're kept in the dark about her black-market business.
  • Hardboiled Detective: Juno is a deconstruction of this, with most of the standard character traits taken very seriously.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Juno is ready to pull one in the fight against Miasma, but he lives.
    • Ramses O'Flaherty tells Juno that he's not even heroic because he doesn't value his life to begin with.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Some notable lines include "putting the cart before the blaster" and "Silver laser" (as opposed to silver bullet).
  • Idiosyncrazy: The Proctor's gimmick is demented school or test-themed crimes.
  • If I Can't Have You...: Ingrid Lake plans to either win Vicky Back or else kill the two of them.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Juno has impeccable aim; several characters comment on how good he is, even in difficult situations. He loses his ability to aim after losing an eye in "Final Resting Place", which ruins his perception, but regains it in even greater measure in "Lesson Learned" when Ramses O'Flaherty pays for a new cybernetic eye.
  • Informed Attribute: Juno describes himself as a "collector of bad art, a decent cook, and a terrible gambler". To date, we haven't seen him partake in any of these activities.
  • I Shall Return: Nureyev promises Juno that he'll come back to rescue him from Miasma before it's too late.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: Miasma tortures Nureyev whenever Juno does anything she doesn't like.
  • Kiss of Distraction: Used twice in season one.
  • Knife Nut: While Juno is a crack shot, Nureyev is precise and deadly with a blade.
  • Last Name Basis: Juno only refers to his partner as Nureyev or less frequently as his full name. Peter himself has no such qualms about calling Juno by his given name.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Juno and Peter occasionally bicker while working together.
    Juno: There's nothing wrong with my car.
    Peter: The inspection sticker is three years out of date.
    Juno: I'm busy, alright?
    Peter: It's a death trap, Juno and you really ought to get a new one!
  • Living MacGuffin: Juno, to Miasma after swallowing the Saffron Pill.
  • Married to the Job: Ultimately, Juno dedicates himself to cleaning up Hyperion City and walks away from Peter Nureyev.
  • Martyr Without a Cause: Juno, as everyone around him acknowledges.
    • It's All My Fault: His cause. Considers most problems to be his personal responsibility, even when it really isn't.
  • Meaningful Name: A miasma is an unpleasant or oppressive atmosphere or vapor, which makes sense considering exactly what Miasma ends up being. known. This is also a Discussed Trope, as Rex discusses the meaning of both his and Juno's given names.
  • Men in Black: Dark Matters is a milder version of this.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Maia King slaps Juno for even asking if Pippa's a wife or girlfriend, stating that she would never allow Pippa to be "fast and loose". Never mind that Pippa is her pet cat, Maia will not tolerate such slander.
  • Never Bring a Gun to a Knife Fight: Nureyev is very adept at using knives even against Miasma in her final Martian form.
  • No Name Given: So far, Rita is the only central character whose last name isn't known.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Miasma wants to wipe all other life from Mars except herself.
  • One-Winged Angel: Miasma is revealed to be the last surviving Ancient Martian, and in the climax of "Final Resting Place," Juno and Nureyev must battle her in her true form.
  • Opposites Attract: Juno Steel and Peter Nureyev.
  • Pet the Dog: Juno flings himself into traffic to save a cat. Really.
  • Power of Trust: Trust, honesty, and boundaries define the sticky relationship between Juno and Nureyev.
  • Private Eye Monologue: Juno's narration is often this.
  • Properly Paranoid: Juno is very jumpy and suspicious, which is helpful when people regularly try to kill him.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Juno bleeds more and more as he uses his psychic powers, eventually turning into Tears of Blood.
  • Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Ingrid Lake starts at kidnapping and goes downhill from there.
  • Purple Prose: Agent Rex Glass' manner of speaking. He tones it down significantly after revealing himself as Peter Nureyev.
  • Ray Gun
  • Rage Against the Mentor: Young Peter is understandably pissed when he learns, in the span of a few minutes, that Mag lied to him about knowing his father, about where Peter was from, and about the plan to get rid of New Kinshasa's Guardian Angel System.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Ramses O'Flaherty, at least for now . . .
  • Recycled In Space: It's in many ways a classic film noir but ON MARS!
  • Refuge in Audacity: Nureyev's way of stealing from Blair Rockridge in "The Thief Among Us."
  • Sassy Secretary: Rita all the way.
  • Shoot the Dog: Juno can't get the kill switch for the bomb in the second cat's belly. He's forced to throw it out the window and let it explode to protect himself, Rita, and the client Maia King.
  • Shout-Out: Some of Cecil's torture devices are made out of adamantium.
  • Smells Sexy: Juno is enamored with the scent of Nureyev's cologne.
  • Stealth Pun: Why is murder like comedy? Timing.
  • Taking the Bullet: In both the original and updated version of "Murderous Mask," Juno takes a titanium-spiked fist in the arm to keep it from landing in Agent Glass' head.
  • ˇThree Amigos!: As children, Juno Steel, Sasha Wire, and Mick Mercury were close friends who got into a lot of trouble in Old Town. They grew far apart as they aged.
  • Time Skip: Six months have passed between seasons 1 and 2.
  • Telepathy: Came naturally to the ancient Martians. It can be transferred to humans (and Transhuman Aliens) with the help of ancient Martian medicine that causes painful growths in the eye's connective nerve.
  • Transhuman Aliens: Miasma was born human. She didn't die that way.
  • Trickster Twins: Cecil and Cassandra Kanagawa, though they act individually and don't talk to each other much.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: Nureyev's day in the limelight episode features a flashback to his teenage years. Peter grew up as an orphan on the streets of Brahma, a Crapsack World where the Guardian Angel System was always watching, with no memory other than his name. He was found and raised by Mag, who claimed to know Peter's father as a fellow freedom fighter. However, Mag was lying about having known Peter's father and the exact nature of their revolutionary mission.
  • Undercover as Lovers: Juno and Nureyev check into The Oasis as a married couple.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Miasma does not take well to her plans being foiled. She throws a tantrum.
  • Walking Spoiler: It's nearly impossible to talk about Agent Rex Glass without revealing he's really Peter Nureyev.
  • We Work Well Together: Juno and Nureyev, to Juno's chagrin.
  • Why Did It Have To Be Heights?: Juno is terrified of heights.
  • Withholding Their Name: Peter Nureyev keeps his birth name under guard. Only Juno is privy to it.
     Second Citadel 
  • 24-Hour Armor: Averted. Marc, Talfryn, and Caroline take their armor off when making camp in the forest.
  • Attack of the Town Festival: It's the Festival of the Three, the celebration of the creation of the Second Citadel, when Arum arrives and throws Damien's life into chaos.
  • Big Eater: Talfryn. Four sausages in one sitting.
  • Break Them by Talking: For a creature with little brains, the Janus Beast knows what gets under its victim's skins and will manipulate them with its incessant chatter.
  • Determinator: A requirement for being a knight.
  • Disabled Snarker: Marc.
  • Dream-Crushing Handicap: The other knights thought Marc's disability would be one of these. He intends to prove them wrong.
  • Dumb Muscle: Angelo has some Super Strength but not much between his ears.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Angelo and Damien are "best rivals" with a running tie for monster slaying.
  • Handicapped Badass: Marc's legs are paralyzed. Luckily for him, knights get to ride horses!
  • Handy Helper: Talfryn is this for his older brother Marc.
  • Ice Queen: Sir Caroline. She's kind of just like that.
  • In-Series Nickname: Arum calls Damien "Honeysuckle." Damien calls him "Friend-Lizard" in return.
  • Interspecies Romance: There's attraction developing between Damien and Arum. Time will tell if it becomes a Forbidden Romance.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: The protagonists.
  • Lady of War: Sir Caroline, the only female knight to date. An Iron Lady. Do not imply she's anything less than equal to her peers.
  • Large Ham: Sir Angelo. Bombastic and incredibly strong.
  • Lizard Folk: Lord Arum, a four-armed humanoid lizard monster with Purple Eyes. He's also a well-spoken architect.
  • Motor Mouth: Damien likes to tell the same stories again and again and "speak his heart." When anxious, it turns into babbling.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Angelo isn't malicious, but he has some issues with women being knights to work out.
  • Sibling Team: Marc and Talfryn.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Invoked/discussed when Angelo implies that Caroline's special talent is just that she's the only female knight.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Between Angelo and Caroline while investigating cave-related disappearances.
  • Voice of the Legion: The Janus Beast has two faces and two chattering voices to match.
  • Warrior Poet: Sir Damien is equally strong with his bow as he is with his words.
     Shaken 
  • It's All My Fault: Louise's husband has this reaction to her death.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's ambiguous whether Louise was so convinced she had her mother's illness that she gave herself the symptoms psychosomatically, or whether something else was at work.
  • Secretly Dying: What Louise is determined to do; unbeknownst to her she's not actually dying
     The Coyote of the Painted Plains 
     Home 
  • Adult Fear: Although the parents presumably never find out, a house attacking the children who live in it is several deep-seated fears rolled into one package.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Lily's antics get on Jake's nerves very quickly.
  • Big Brother Bully: Jake's a bit of a dick to Lily. Cranked Up to Eleven when he's possessed.
    • Big Brother Instinct: Comes in when he shakes the possession off and defends Lily against the house.
  • Cheerful Child: Lily.
  • Children Are Innocent: Lily, the daughter in the family. All she wants to do is have fun with her brother and stay in the only house she's ever known.
  • Demonic Possession: The house posses Jake at one point and forces him to wreck havoc on Lily.
  • Sapient House: It doesn't want the family to leave and snaps when Jake disrespects it one too many times.
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