"A friendly desert community where the Sun is hot, the Moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale."
— Pilot Introduction
Look to the sky...
Welcome to Night Vale is a Surreal Humor/HorrorPodcast/Radio Drama depicting life in the desert town of Night Vale, a fictional community where the paranormal not only exists, but is a fact of everyday life the citizens have to deal with in addition to the mundane details of living in a small, isolated town.Done in a community radio style, the show reports on the various stories around town and the community events happening that week. The host is Cecil, who coolly narrates in a dispassionate, NPR-style manner. The background music playing throughout the show is composed by Disparition, with the exception of the "Weather" section of the show, which features a different musical guest each episode.The show treads a fine line between hilarious absurdity and genuine creepiness. Within a flexible format, each broadcast features not only reports on the town, but also Cecil's personal thoughts and experiences. Night Vale is populated by Secret Police, mysterious hooded figures in the town dog park and just about every possible conspiracy theory come to life. But at the show's core is Night Vale's community, including Cecil's friends and loved ones: such as intern Dana, who enters the dog park and survives; Old Woman Josie, surrounded by Angels all named Erika; Megan, a schoolgirl whose entire body consists of an adult man's severed hand; and Carlos, Cecil's Love Interest and the town's new Science Hero. The story is very detailed and intricate, and small seeds planted throughout the episodes tend to unfold into important plot elements months or even years later.The show is produced by Commonplace Books and releases new episodes (roughly 20-30 minutes each) twice a month, on the 1st and the 15th. Several plot-heavy episodes are also available as specials on Bandcamp, for pay-what-you-can.A recap page can be found here.
Absurdly Powerful City Council: They've been in power since the mid-1800s, voting for them is mandatory in every election, and they command the Sheriff's Secret Police. People who defy them are regularly detained for "re-education," or are simply taken in the night, never to be seen again.
A Day in the Limelight: There have been a few episodes that focus on the lives of random town citizens, like "A Story About You", "A Story About Them" and "The September Monologues". They're usually marked by being several degrees weirder than the normal episode.
Adorable Abomination: Khoshekh the cat, which mysteriously appeared in the men's room of the community radio station, levitating in mid-air and permanently suspended at a fixed point. Initially seemed like an adorable side note, until we start to learn some things about Khoshekh. Like how being in his presence seems to make people into cat-lovers, to the point where it drove one woman to have her dog put down so she could adopt several cats. Or how it's impossible to take a picture of Khoshekh, and attempting to do so results in horrible death. Or how his "adorable meow" is a blood-curdling screech. He also gave birth to a litter of kittens despite being male. Those kittens, and, presumably, Khoshekh, have poisonous spine ridges, venomous fangs, and a "tendril hub."
Affably Evil: Lauren Mallard, the NVCR program director from StrexCorp. She seems to be a genuinely sweet, bubbly young woman, and Cecil describes her as "a delight" and "the kindest, most gentle manager we have ever had at this station" (although, to be fair, that's not saying much). But she takes a rather sinister interest in knowing the names of Cecil's loved ones, which he becomes wary of.
Faux Affably Evil: Quickly morphs into this when she's at the head of the hostile corporate take-over of Night Vale by StrexCorp. Arguably the case for Kevin as well.
In Episode 34, the Wallaby family manages to have the computer ban lifted at Night Vale Elementary for their daughter Megan (who is actually a severed adult male hand). The single computer that the school buys proceeds to take over the town before the hooded janitors pull the plug.
Possibly an Inversion, as the computer only wanted to help Megan and make everything better, and later dialogue compare unplugging to "murdering" it.
Averted with Fay, the "monotone female voice" on the Numbers station, who has apparently recently gained sentience and only wants to be free. She announces from her own radio station that she is going to try to escape and Cecil goes to help her, only to find that she has been reset, and has gone back to being just a computer program.
All Myths Are True: Though you should probably pretend that they aren't, just in case the sheriff's secret police suddenly decides that believing in them is a punishable offense.
The office occupied by Station Management is apparently too large to actually be contained by the building that houses Night Vale Community Radio.
In Episode 30, Intern Dana (or her double) states that "If you stand still, the dog park seems to take up a single city block", yet she was able to walk in a straight line for about two weeks inside.
Alleged Lookalikes: In the live episode "The Debate", it gets quite a laugh from the audience when the Faceless Old Woman remarks on the resemblance between Cecil and Kevin. Cecil Baldwin◊ and Kevin R. Free◊ certainly have similar hairstyles, but that's more or less where the resemblance ends.
Ambiguous Clone Ending: Cecil is never sure whether the Dana that survived the sandstorm is the original or the doppelgänger. As such, she is thereafter referred to as "Intern Dana (or her double)".
Ambiguously Human: When reporting his producer's death Cecil admits to not knowing whether or not Daniel identified as human.
A segment in a later episode lampoons the recent trend of metal detectors in schools:
"Night Vale High School is adding metal detectors, and parents and students alike are outraged. Several parents we talked to said that NVHS students have long been recipients of shadow government-issued Uzis and rifles, as well as tasers and armor-piercing munitions. The school board's decision to put up metal detectors, according to parents, impinges on the clandestine operation's rights, as a vast underground conspiracy of giant mega-corporations and corrupt world leaders, to bear arms, via teenage paramilitary proxies."
Ancient Astronauts: Erich von Däniken's theories about the intercession of benign extraterrestrials in mankind's development are accepted knowledge in Night Vale, whereas the concept of evolution and the notion that the pyramids and other ancient structures were built by mere humans are considered fringe beliefs.
Parodied on a segment called "Know Your Choppers" (see Black Helicopter below).
Cecil attempts to air a segment on clouds, only to encounter opposition from the Sheriff's Secret Police:
"Today I'd like to share some fascinating facts about clouds. Clouds are made up of [CENSORED]. Rain clouds are formed when [CENSORED] air. When the density of the humid air, AKA 'the cloud,' becomes [CENSORED] that's when it rains. Lightning is [CENSORED]. And it's important to [CENSORED] can kill you, or at least cause you a great deal of body-altering pain and regret."
Note: Someone who knows enough about actual meteorology can tell that this is actually, entirely, 100% scientifically correct. Like, real science. Not Night Vale "science" or whatever "science" Carlos practices that doesn't include botany.
Every episode, after some particularly weird story, the creepy music will suddenly cut out and Cecil, speaking matter-of-factly, will say "And now the weather", followed by a piece of music that changes each episode (in a kind of "musical guest" section).
Episode 13, appropriately titled "A Story About You" is told entirely in the Second-Person Narration, rather than the usual mix of third person narration via news delivery and Cecil's first person asides. Episode 45, "A Story About Them", is in the same style, and can be considered a sequel of sorts.
Episode 19B is set in Desert Bluffs and hosted by Kevin, Cecil's counterpart.
Episode 53 has no stories, just monologues from three very different people with no Weather or even a proverb! Cecil himself barely appears.
And That's Terrible: Cecil takes it upon himself to constantly remind listeners that the Apache Tracker, a white guy invoking a Magical Native American schtick, is racist, and a bad person. Until, that is, he dies to save Carlos from the city of tiny people living under Lane 5 of the Desert Flower bowling center...
Apathetic Citizens: Cecil calls the citizens of Night Vale out on this in Episode 46. After he tries to rally the town to help take down Strex but only Tamika and the kids following her actually fight, while those townspeople who even showed up just stood and watched as the children were defeated and captured.
Arc Words: The StrexCorp slogan has appeared twice in the show so far. The first time was in Desert Bluffs in Episode 19B, "The Sandstorm." The second time was in Episode 32, "The Yellow Helicopters," which signals the takeover of the radio station by StrexCorp. (See Path of Inspiration below.) Then Episode 33, "Cassette", repeats several previously-used phrases in a meaningful way:
"No [noun] is perfect. They become perfect when you learn to accept them for what they are."
The concepts of perfection and imperfection as a whole comes up a lot.
In fact, it's one of the main themes of the (not-quite-canon) episode "Condos".
"...a dark planet, lit by no sun."
"Past performance is not a predictor of future results."
"There's a blinking light up on the mountain."
"The unraveling of all things" has been brought up by The Faceless Old Woman, The Sheriff's Secret Police's Spokesbeing, and Dana.
Aroused by Their Voice: Cecil thinks Carlos's voice is like "caramel" and bemoans the fact that while he's at work, "it would be completely inappropriate for me to answer my phone regardless of how much I want to soak my ears in the oaky tones of our community’s most significant outsider." He also describes himself as having a "smooth, sonorous voice."
Cecil: The Sheriff's secret police are searching for a fugitive by the name of Hiram McDaniels. Mr. McDaniels is described as a five-headed dragon approximately 18 feet tall and weighing 3600 pounds. He is suspected of insurance fraud.
As of Episode 35, Tamika and the other Summer Reading Program survivor kids are forming an army to fight against StrexCorp.
Bait and Switch: The Sheriff's Secret Police are on the lookout for Hiram McDaniels, a five-headed, 18-foot tall, fire-breathing dragon with "mostly green" eyes. Why? He committed insurance fraud.
Bait-and-Switch Comment: "Friends, listeners, there's a real tarantula problem here in Night Vale! Many residents have called in to report illiteracy, unwanted pregnancy, and violent crime are on the rise in the tarantula communities."
Bad Boss: Cecil's sinister, otherworldly bosses in the radio station. They're possibly related to (or are) the mysterious hooded figures around town that no one can look at or acknowledge.
And as of Episode 32, he has an even badder boss: StrexCorp, who runs the entire city of Desert Bluffs.
Barrier Maiden: Old Woman Josie seems to be one, ominously commenting that if she falls, so does the town.
Beleaguered Bureaucrat: The given explanation for why Night Vale got $1 billion from FEMA for a massive earthquake that never happened. Apparently, the folks at FEMA just read their seismographs and assumed Night Vale had just had a massive earthquake based on their readings. Of course, Night Vale has non-existent earthquakes all the time, so no one is particularly bothered.
It actually comes at a helpful time, though, as Night Vale had just come under attack by wheat and wheat by-products.
Beneath the Earth: Apparently the local bowling alley contains the entrance to a vast underground empire.
"Speaking of the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex, its owner, Teddy Williams, reports that he has found the entrance to a vast underground city in the pin retrieval area of Lane 5. He said he has not yet ventured into it, merely peered down at its strange spires and broad avenues. He also reports voices of a distant crowd in the depths of that subterranean metropolis. Apparently, the entrance was discovered when a bowling bowl accidentally rolled into it, clattering down the city below, with sounds that echoed for miles across the impossibly huge cavern...so, you know, whatever population that city has, they know about us now, and we might be hearing from them soon."
It's actually a very tiny city about ten feet below the earth. Though they're not necessarily harmless.
Big Damn Kiss: After a lot of tension, Cecil and Carlos finally get one in "First Date". Although it's in private, and over very quickly.
Big "NO!": When the Whispering Forest appears in Night Vale, officials from the town's Parks Department react with a press release consisting of "the word 'no' on a single piece of paper, but with hundreds of Os and maybe two dozen Ns."
Bilingual Bonus: Cecil speaks a bit of Spanish in Episode 6. ("¡Muchas gracias, El Presidente! Mano dura, cabeza, y corazón," meaning, "Thanks, President! Firm hand, head, and heart.") There's a lot of Russian later on, when the Apache Tracker mysteriously becomes actually Native American and only capable of speaking in Russian, which Cecil often quotes verbatim.
Episode 46 has several crucial lines in Morse code.
Bittersweet Ending: Episode 49, "Old Oak Doors" - the citizens of Night Vale are free from StrexCorp and the Smiling God, and Intern Dana returns home and is elected mayor... but Carlos is still trapped in the other desert.
Bizarro Episode: "The September Monologues" which features monologues from the Faceless Old Woman, the owner of Dark Owl Records, previously thought to be deceased, and Steve Carlsberg. They all have monologues of their stasis and depression inside Night Vale, making for a very heartfelt and eerie episode. To top it all off, there is a layer of static on top of Cecil's narration, the weather begins but cuts off after some seconds when Steve mentions it, and the proverb is just static that grows louder and louder until the episode ends.
Black Helicopter: Regularly spotted over Night Vale, though they aren't all black.
"Let's talk about safety when taking your children out to play in the Scrublands and the Sand Wastes. You need to give them plenty of water, make sure there's a shade tree in the area, and keep an eye on the helicopter colors. Are the unmarked helicopters circling the area black? Probably World Government; not a good area for play that day. Are they blue? That's the Sheriff's Secret Police; they'll keep a good eye on your kids, and hardly ever take one. Are they painted with complex murals depicting birds of prey diving? No one know what those helicopters are, or what they want. Do not play in the area."
Episode 32 sees the arrival of swarms of yellow helicopters, from StrexCorp.
Which are then stolen by Tamika Flynn and her army of children in episode 46.
The Blank: There is a Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home. Despite having no face she can see and speak, and would like to know your wifi password.
She's also running for Mayor against Hiram McDaniels.
Blatant Lies: A lot of the press releases Cecil is given fall under this trope, without even a credible attempt at a cover-up...although you'd never know it from the tenor of Cecil's reaction. The most blatant lies of all, where it's clear even Cecil doesn't believe the words that are coming out of his mouth, are at the end of Episode 32, when it becomes obvious that a Strexcorp agent is telling him what to say.
Blunt Yes: "Alligators. Can they kill your children? Yes."
Body Horror: It's not unheard of for Night Vale residents to grow new eyes (at least one person has eight), or win "prizes" like surgically-applied, working gills.
The mayor is seen to be melting at one press conference, and is mentioned another time to have more than two arms.
One woman explodes into a fine white dust during a public poetry reading and then floats down and settles on the heads of the crowd. Cecil at least finds this beautiful and moving rather than repulsive.
At least two "Words from Our Sponsors!" instruct the listener in graphic detail how to 1.) skin yourself alive and 2.) remove, cook, and eat your own heart.
Once the broadcast announced to follow the news is the sound of someone chewing up glass shards.
The Whispering Forest lures hypnotized people into wanting to stay there and then slowly turns their bodies into a wood-like substance so they become part of the forest.
There is an outbreak of people's skin becoming covered with small spiralling horns.
A senior football player grows a second head and his mother has the first head removed because she likes the new head better.
A woman gives birth to a disembodied grown man's hand. The hand is alive and sentient and the loving parents decide that it's a daughter and name her Megan.
Bookends: The one-year anniversary episode, Episode 25, has a lot of Callbacks to the pilot. It mentions and incorporates many plotlines that were first introduced back then. It's most obvious in Cecil's opening lines for the episode.
Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Hiram McDaniels says in a campaign ad that he cares about small business owners, the future of our children, and the future of our small children business owners.
Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Common in lists, such as the council's statement that removing "the Shape in Grove Park that No-One Acknowledges or Speaks About" will free space for "a new swing set, picnic area, and bloodstone circle". News items often start out with a mundane situation that soon descends into sinister madness.
Breathless Non Sequitur: According to Episode 3, Cecil is battling Lyme disease, which he mentions offhand while simultaneously discussing a "creeping fear" which temporarily afflicted the entire town as well as his life-threatening contract negotiations.
Breather Episode: Episode 50, "Capital Campaign," which serves as a return to Night Vale-level normalcy following the drama of the StrexCorp story.
Brick Joke: The commercial airliner in the pilot episode may have returned to crash through the house of one of the Night Vale residents.
If the cassette tapes in Episode 33 are to be believed, he's also been aware of the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home since childhood. Assuming, of course, that he's not seeing something worse...
Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": In Night Vale, a cat is a small, deadly creature with tendrils, poisonous spine ridges, and venom sacs in their mouths. The last two develop when the cat reaches adulthood. However, like the cats we know, Night Vale cats use litter boxes, and they look feline enough that Cecil can identify cute cat videos on the internet.
Canon Discontinuity: "Condos", the episode performed live at the SF Booksmith is only ambiguously canon, as it features a Time Skip forward to a time when Carlos has been with Cecil long enough to suggest they move in together. (Cecil, of course, says yes.) Cranor and Fink have not ruled out incorporating this into the canon plotline eventually, but for now it's a miniature Alternate Universe.
As of "Numbers", with its mention that the condo rental office is still "bubbling black like a pot of boiling squid ink" in the abandoned gas station on Oxford Street, it would seem that "Condos" (the official release) is canon.
Cassandra Truth: After a long debate at the radio station as to whether or not mountains exist, one mountain-believer apparently had to resort to driving his opponents - including Cecil - out to see an actual mountain in order to show proof. Cecil, however, is still hesitant to believe that there is more than one mountain, believing that the one he saw may have been put there specifically to prove the existence of mountains. Given Night Vale, he could be right.
Even if the various citizens disagree, or outright menace each other, Night Vale is still a group of people committed to getting through their imperfect lives as best they can with their fellow citizens.
Cerebus Callback: An early episode has the throw-away line, "As my mother always told me, One day someone is going to kill you, Cecil. And it will involve a mirror." Objectively a disturbing statement, but (like most things on the show) funny because of the delivery. And then a few episodes later we get to hear recordings he apparently made when he was a teenager (but now has no memory of), and the tape seems to end with 15-year-old Cecil being killed by some supernatural entity that came out of his mirror. Present-day Cecil is understandably freaked out and destroys the tape.
Chekhov's Gun: Taking pictures of the stray cats. Established over a year before firing in episode 48.
City of Weirdos: Night Vale, naturally. And its neighboring burg Desert Bluffs.
Close-Knit Community: Judging from Cecil's depiction of the townsfolk assembling to celebrate their survival after "Street Cleaning Day."
Comically Missing the Point: A common theme of the show, since most people in Night Vale are so desensitized to the weird paranormal happenings of the town that they'll instead focus on details of the story so mundane as to be irrelevant.
"The 'Apache Tracker', and I remind you, that this is that white guy who wears the large and cartoonishly inaccurate Indian headdress...has announced that he has found some disturbing evidence concerning the recent incident at the Night Vale Post Office, which has been sealed by the City Council since the great screaming that was heard from it a few weeks ago. He said that using 'ancient Indian magics', he slipped through Council security into the Post Office and observed that all the letters and packages had been thrown about as in a whirlwind. That there was the heavy stench of scorched flesh. That the words written on the wall in blood read 'More come' and 'Soon'...can you believe this guy said he used 'Indian magics'? What an asshole."
Carlos leaves several messages for Cecil, clearly disturbed that none of the clocks in Night Vale are real and are instead filled with a mysterious grey substance, as well as by the mysterious appearance of the Man in the Tan Jacket at his house. He ends the last message with a request to meet up with Cecil to get some phone numbers. Cecil's response?
Cecil: Did you hear that, listeners? A date!
In Episode 4, "PTA Meeting," the council decides something needs doing with the lead-plated door they found in Radon Canyon. The door emits green light and hums, and is covered in bright emblems spelling "DANGER. PLUTONIUM. DO NOT OPEN DOOR. RISK OF DEATH."; the council motions that the door must go, because the signs are an eyesore and the plating could give somebody lead poisoning.
From Episode 19A, "The Sandstorm":
"Old Woman Josie has not called, but intern Dana said that Old Woman Josie updated her Facebook page with an Instagram of some runestones. Dana has been furiously translating these symbols, and her best guess is that they say ‘They come in twos. You come in twos. You and you. Kill your double.’ There’s also a link to this amazing cat that keeps jumping in and out of boxes and oh my god, that is the cutest thing I have ever seen. Dana, you have got to post that on my wall. Oh my God, he loves those boxes so much!"
In Episode 31, "A Blinking Light Up on the Mountain," Cecil starts out by reporting on the existence of the titular red light, returns to the topic to talk more about the mountain rising from the alluvial flood plain, brings it up again to describe the bone-strewn muddy plain being traversed by the masked army in greater detail, and finally notes that, oh yeah, Night Vale is being approached by a menacing masked army.
Conditioned to Accept Horror: Cecil doesn't see why everything should come to a halt for every unexplained phenomenon that kills people, and thinks it's the prerogative of government to read people's minds, control the weather, and cause pandemics. Also:
"I know for some of you young people, this lottery seems like a barbarous, outdated tradition, but, if not for a municipally planned citizen sacrifice each quarter, how else would we find satisfactory meats to feed those sad, scrawny animals?"
"If daily life in Night Vale were to be put on hold every single time the town experienced an inexplicable phenomenon that resulted in the death of at least one citizen, we'd never have time to get anything done."
Louie Blasco offered bluegrass lessons at $50 each. However, Louie's Music Shop burned down years ago and Louie skipped town with the insurance check shortly thereafter, so anyone interested was instructed to go sit in what remains of the shop and imagine he was teaching them.
Leanne Hart from the Night Vale Daily Journal is also suspect, as the distribution plant burned down in a suspicious accident, and she's prone to coming up with ideas like an "imagination edition" of the paper for $60/month, while possibly throwing herself lavish birthday parties.
John Peters - you know, the farmer - receives a grant for $500,000 for his failed peach orchard and crop of imaginary corn, so it's either this or Incompetence, Inc.
Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: It's openly acknowledged that there's a world government, that the government created AIDS, that it can read your mind, and so on.
In Episode 29, Cecil notes that the earthquake he experiences "doesn't feel like a normal government-created earthquake," which alarms him.
Conspiracy Theorist: Steve Carlsberg, who writes in to Cecil's show trying to expose various conspiracies. However, Cecil seems to treat the existence of almost any possible conspiracy as common knowledge and also a good thing, and scoffs at Steve for only just catching on and getting all upset about it.
Crazy-Prepared: When Night Vale is threatened by a plague of "wheat and wheat by-products", it turns out that the City Council already had a bunker built for that specific purpose. When asked why there was already such a bunker, the Council replied only, "Prophecy."
Also, Cecil seems to have earned a lot of merit badges from back when he was a Cub Scout. Among those mentioned are Subversive Radio Broadcasting and Siege Warfare.
Creator Cameo: Carlos's first audio appearance is voiced by series writer Jeffrey Cranor, in a series of voicemails during Episode 16.
Creepy Child: The City Council has apparently started passing press releases to Cecil in the form of dead-eyed, blond children with the messages tattooed on their inner lips (though the last one was faceless with messy brown hair.). Cecil's quite unsettled by them, and doesn't even know if they're sentient.
Cult: "The Friendly Desert Community" of Night Vale was founded by 18th century religious leaders, wearing "soft meat crowns".
Dada Ad: Whenever Cecil starts to say "And now a word from one of our sponsors...", expect this. Or Cecil simply making weird noises for several seconds.
Darkest Hour: Episode 47 in its entirety. Cecil is nowhere to be seen. Carlos is now trapped in the house that does not exist since his scientists have been arrested. Tamika has been captured. Lauren and Kevin have taken over the radio station and re-decorated it to make it "more like home." And to add insult to injury, the citizens of Night Vale have now been herded into an "eternal picnic" (or rather, internment camp) where they are to stay and work, and never leave. Night Vale has also become a part of the Greater Desert Bluffs Metropolitan Area.
In Episode 16, The Man in the Tan Jacket isn't evil, despite what he does to Carlos's memory.
In Episode 25, Carlos's speech in the Arby's parking lot demonstrates that he's accepted this trope applies to Night Vale.
In Episode 32, the angels try to conceal Josie in darkness so that Strex won't find her, and Intern Vithya disappears in a flash of black light, presumably a result of angelic intervention.
Overall, the entire city of Night Vale and their mysterious "Masters of Us All" have this as a recurring motif. The town is associated with night-time (duh), the Moon, the void, mysterious lights in the dark sky, hooded figures, hidden secrets, etc. This forms a nice juxtaposition with Desert Bluff's Light Is Not Good tendencies, below.
"The darkness of Night Vale is washing away. And what are we, Night Vale, without darkness? Without shadows? Without secrets?"
Deadpan Snarker: Cecil, with a heavy emphasis on the "deadpan". It's hard to say exactly when he's being sarcastic, but it's clear he does engage in snark.
Deconstruction : Night Vale itself receives a huge one in "The September Monologues" during Steve Carlsberg's part. It shows how the Cozy Catastrophe feel of the town comes from a majority of the townspeople being brainwashed with propaganda and how horrifying it is to be the Only Sane Man in that situation. Cecil receives a very jarring one as well. According to Steve Carlsberg's perspective, Cecil hates him because he doesn't want Steve to expose Janice to his subversive ideas.
Defiant Stone Throw: In Episode 36. As per the trope, it's done by a child. However, it's not so harmless: Tamika Flynn takes down one of Strex's helicopters.
Disproportionate Retribution: When he learns Carlos got a haircut, Cecil flies into a rage and gives out the name, address and description of the barber responsible so Carlos's perfect locks can be avenged. It eventuates that the barber was driven from the town into the desert, and now maintains a parody of his old life trimming the spines on cacti and gibbering to himself.
Disposable Intern: It's a Running Gag that the interns are sent out to investigate things that are unnatural even by Night Vale's standards and won't live past an episode. The only exceptions are Intern Dana (or her double) who spends her time reporting back from in Night Vale's worst Eldritch Abomination invested locations or flicking in and out of existence with no escape in sight until being elected mayor, Intern Maureen who spent a good deal of time blinking in and out of existence like Dana and main character Cecil himself when he was a teen. Who even then, was implied to have died and been brought back somehow. It's worth noting the official Welcome To Night Vale intern shirts are red.
Everything and everyone who comes from Strexcorp. Their cheery euphemisms, constant smiling, and generally overly-saccharine mannerisms make the terrible, bloody, awful things they do significantly more horrifying that the standard Night Vale weirdness.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: At the end of Carlos and Cecil's first date, Cecil talks about deciding who's going to submit the governmental end-of-date report in a way that sounds similar to deciding on "your place or mine", and then says something about going with Carlos to look at Carlos's scientific equipment...but he doesn't, Carlos kisses him goodnight and goes into his lab alone.
"Sometimes things seem so strange...and then you find that underneath it was something else altogether. Something pure and innocent." That's what Carlos eventually says about the bizarre things that occur in Night Vale, but it sounds like what someone might say when coming to terms with their first crush on someone of the same sex. This is definitely intentional, since Carlos says this at the end of One Year Later, right before he and Cecil become the Official Couple. We don't know whether or not Carlos knew he was gay or bisexual before One Year Later, but this line makes it sound like that might be the case.
Another interpretation of Carlos's lines, if you don't think he was concerned about Cecil's gender, is to take them as further proof that Cecil is not 100% human, and just hasn't thought to mention it because either he doesn't know, or it's completely normal in Night Vale (probably both). The only description of Cecil we have is that he looks like Kevin, and Kevin has gaping black holes where his eyes are. The only person who seems startled by this in the scene they are described is Cecil, and, for some very disturbing reasons, it's been years since Cecil has looked in a mirror. Carlos seems to be describing thinking both the town and also Cecil were a little terrifying, before getting to know them, and if Cecil had some sort of strange Night Vale-esque feature, like say glowing purple eyes or something, that might explain why Carlos was a little stand-offish at first.
Downer Ending: In Episode 42: "Numbers", Cecil is unable to free Fey, who turns out to be a computer program and remains trapped at WZZZ reciting random numbers in monotone against her will, possibly forever.
"Parade Day" features Tamika Flynn and her army attempting to rally Night Vale to join them in overthrowing Strexcorp, only to fail and be arrested. The episode ends with Cecil's barricaded-shut recording booth being infiltrated by Lauren and another Strexcorp employee (heavily implied to be Kevin, Cecil's Desert Bluffs counterpart), cutting off halfway through the sounds of a struggle.
Cecil's station management, who never leave their office until Cecil encourages the listeners to write in to support his continued employment (and possibly continued existence). He comes to regret this when they emerge.
The subway system, which appeared suddenly and mysteriously. This one is more ambiguous, since the Man in the Tan Jacket, who for all his weirdness appears to be a good guy, advocated for its reopening; perhaps it was supposed to do good things, but malfunctioned.
The Smiling God.
Eldritch Location: Night Vale itself, due to it playing host to various paranormal happenings, government conspiracies, and alien visitors.
And if Cecil's shocked description of what he saw is accurate, so is the viscera-covered Desert Bluffs.
The subway tunnels, its bizarre geometry leaving its commuters... changed. If they come out at all.
Election Day Episode: In the episode "Old Oak Doors", the B-Plot is the resolution of the ongoing mayoral election between the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home and Hiram McDaniels, who is literally a five headed dragon.
Any number of sinister and possibly fatal things that the City Council, the Sheriff's Secret Police and others with weight to throw around demand the people of Night Vale ignore and never discuss.
The mysterious hooded figures who gather in a number of places, especially the Dog Park. There's even a parade where the locals impersonate some of their favorites, including one who openly steal babies, and everyone stands by and lets him do it without knowing why.
The Shape in Grove Park that No-One Acknowledges or Speaks About, which makes it difficult to discuss why the Council is removing it, or even to discuss it at all.
Eskimos Aren't Real: The majority of the townsfolk, at the urging of the secret police, do not believe in mountains. (This is often mentioned in the same breath as the similar disbelief by fiat in angels, which if anything is even more absurd, since a given resident will far more often encounter angels than mountains.)
Even after seeing one mountain in the other world, Dana isn't convinced that other mountains exist since after all, a single mountain is no evidence for the existence of more.
Even Creepy has Standards: Cecil's horrified reaction to the blood-and-guts covered recording booth in Desert Bluffs really gives perspective to how horrible it must be, since he is used to regularly reporting on awful situations and gruesome deaths (including but not limited to: ritual sacrifice, vaporization, and being eaten by dinosaurs).
Everyone Is Armed: Even the elementary school students. Granted, this is necessary for survival in Night Vale.
Everyone Knows Morse: Subverted in episode 46. Cecil uses morse to call everyone in town to aid in Tamika Flynn's revolution, but no one helps. Of course, it could also just be a straight case of Apathetic Citizens...
Evil Inc.: Strexcorp Synernists Incorporated, which controls Desert Bluffs. They essentially act as the Mirror Universe version of the City Council. As of Episode 32, they've begun to take over Night Vale, starting with buying out the radio station.
Famed in Story: Played with as far as Carlos the scientist is concerned. Every time Cecil mentions him, he always describes Carlos as being magnificently handsome, talks about his perfect hair, and at one point tries to hold a ceremony naming him as Night Vale's most important citizen. Due to the paranormal nature of the show, it's not clear if this is some mysterious effect Carlos is having on everyone, if Cecil and the population of Night Vale just develop unnatural obsessions with random individuals, or if Carlos is just really that good looking. It's implied that the townsfolk are at least as enamored with Carlos' hair as Cecil, driving Barber Telly out of town for cutting it. Old Woman Josie has also described Carlos as "perfect", adding that he "smells like lavender chewing gum".
Fastball Special: Leann Hart does this with Sara Sultan, president of Night Vale Community College, to take out some Strex workers. It works because Sara is a smooth, fist-sized river rock.
Fauxlosophic Narration: A lot of the things Cecil says qualify by virtue of having nothing to do with the plot or anything else. However, they are sometimes interesting bits of philosophy.
First Kiss: Carlos kisses Cecil for the first time in Episode 27.
First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Cecil is usually a passive observer of events, sometimes to the point of being distressed by his own inability or failure to act.
In Episode 36, he outright tells people he can't give them all the answers - it's up to them to find out for themselves, and fight. He obviously supports the resistance against Strex but, by his own admission, his hands are tied by policy and Station Management a lot of the time.
In Episode 42, "Numbers", Cecil takes an active role in the plot.
In "Condos", he runs from his microphone to pull Carlos out of his black cube moments before they all descend into the earth, taking their occupants with them to never be seen again.
Flat Earth Atheist: Angels are not to be considered real due to local laws, which characters uphold even when holding a conversation with them.
"The City Council announces the opening of a new dog park at the corner of Earl and Sommerset, near the Ralph's. They would like to remind everyone that dogs are not allowed in the dog park. People are not allowed in the dog park. It is possible you will see hooded figures in the dog park. Do not approach them. Do not approach the dog park. The fence is electrified and highly dangerous. Try not to look at the dog park, and especially do not look for any period of time at the hooded figures. The dog park will not harm you."
A pterodactyl from a rift in spacetime enters the Dog Park at one point. We know this because it was found several feet from the entrance. Well, most of it. The organs were definitely there - you could count them with a glance!
Foreshadowing: In "Old Oak Doors", Steve points out that, technically, Carlos is not a native Night Vale inhabitant. This comes into play at the end when Carlos is unable to return to Night Vale since he's originally from out of town and doesn't belong there.
In A Story About Them, they drive by city hall... which is covered by a giant yellow tarp with an orange triangle. Strexcorp is already taking over Night Vale.
Genre-Busting: It's usually a happy show, but its plot is full of horror, romance, music, thrillers, philosophy, family stories, and just about every other genre you can think of. Think "The News from Lake Wobegon" meetsCreepypasta with a side dish of silly romantic sitcom, and you'll have a fair idea.
Genre Savvy: The citizens of Night Vale realize that the carnival coming to town is probably an Eldritch Abomination intending nothing but harm. They're hilariously wrong this time, but can you really blame them?
Geographic Flexibility: Night Vale has the usual small town features; a library, high school, elementary school and a handful of stores. But as the series progresses we learn it also has a stadium, a harbor and waterfront recreation area (despite being hundreds of miles from any body of water), community college, airport, and as of Episode 29, a subway system which mysteriously appeared one day and then was closed for construction indefinitely by the end of the episode.
Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: It is heavily implied that, after years of living under StrexCorp's control, the people of Desert Bluffs are no longer even capable of feeling (or at least expressing) anger, sadness or other negative emotions. And now that they've come to Night Vale, we can assume StrexCorp will do the same thing to its residents, as well.
Gibberish of Love: Cecil is embarrassed to have been afflicted with a mild form during one conversation he has with the ever-so-radiant Carlos. He becomes flustered and only manages to reply with an enthusiastic "Neat!" to Carlos' science-related call.
For the first 24 episodes, Carlos is constantly baffled and distressed by Night Vale, calling Cecil in terror about things that lifelong residents just shrug off and retreating behind his scientific instruments for comfort.
In Episode 25, he's able to accept that there's a miniature civilization underneath the bowling alley without too much trouble but he's still disturbed by Night Vale's militant response.
In Episode 31, Carlos forgoes thwarting the Monster of the Week to cook dinner for Cecil, then casually assures Cecil that the mountain with the blinking light, bone-strewn flood plain, and massive marching army are just a mirage caused by the angle of the Sun (at night?) and temperature and that he's seen it before.
In Episode 35, the city is seized by a mysterious lethargy, to the point that gravity itself stops working and the sun starts going out. What does Carlos do? Takes the day to get some chores done (the lack of gravity makes it easy to clean the gutters), as he feels quite energetic.
Good News, Bad News: In Episode 19A, Cecil reported that one of the Intern Danas has killed the other and he doesn't know which one is the original Dana. That, apparently, was the good news. The bad news? He has received an e-mail from Steve Carlsberg.
Have I Mentioned I am Gay?: Inverted with Cecil. His crush on Carlos and later, relationship reoccurs throughout the series, as well as mentions him being attracted to other men. Despite this, the g-word is never used to refer to Cecil (one could assume that in Night Vale it doesn't really matter)
Hero of Another Story: Many of the people Cecil reports on. Tamika Flynn, for example. Cecil is effectively our main character as well as the narrator, as the only person in every episode; but, being a radio reporter, he generally just reports on the events around Night Vale rather than getting involved in them, which are often implied to be grand in scale and not disclosed to us fully.
Heroic Bystander: The show plays with Cecil being one of these. He definitely has the desire to help out in certain situations, but, by definition as a radio reporter, he is always distant from the action. A couple of times his helplessness causes him legitimate distress, but his sense of duty to stay and report the news keeps him at the station. However, he does frequently send out station interns to investigate, some of whom have made it back alive.
He leaves the station while on-air during episode 42. He is the only one who goes to helpFay after she announces her intention to escape her station, but when he gets there she has already been rebooted and he can do nothing to help her. He also leaves the station during the special episode "Condos" to save Carlos from the condo.
Highly-Visible Ninja: The Sheriff's Secret Police make public statements and are well known to the general populace. It is notable that there has never been any mention of a standard police force for Night Vale; so if there actually is one, the standard Night Vale police are far more secretive than the Sheriff's Secret Police.
Cecil: We all chose to stand down, and hope change would be won for us, and not by us! By someone else, we believed. A hero, we believed. But belief is only step one. Action is step two. Fighting for what you believe is step two. Solidarity is step two. Unity is step two. We did not take step two today, Night Vale! And now there will be no step three! We have failed Tamika. But worse, we have failed ourselves.
Hope Spot: In episode 46, the rebellion was finally happening. But then no one else joined Tamika and her group of revolutionaries, so they were quickly captured and dealt with while the weather played.
Humanoid Abomination: The City Council, and the people wearing deer masks. The hooded figures in the dog park may or may not be this.
The Man in the Tan Jacket and the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home also qualify. The former inflicts amnesia on anyone who sees him, making them remember nothing about him except his attire and deerskin briefcase with flies in it, and the latter is an entity that somehow manages to live in everyone's house without being noticed, can only be seen through one's peripheral vision and lacks a face. They're both relatively friendly examples, although the Faceless Old Woman shows signs of being a bit of a trickster.
Old Woman Josie's Angels, who are described as ten-feet-tall, radiant and always smiling.
The Woman from Italy. All throughout her visit to Night Vale, Cecil keeps reporting on her but swears she's just another person. But all the while, he keeps randomly spewing nursery rhymes in a broken voice, talking about how her hands are storm clouds with lightning talons, how she skins her victims, and how she lurks at the end of dark hallways.
Koshekh also seems to display this, turning anyone who sees him into cat lovers and getting the radio station staff to care for him.
Hypocritical Heartwarming: Cecil's attitude towards Night Vale increasingly becomes this as the incursion from Strex Corp continues: "Parade Day" has him claim "Tamika led a great revolt to rid our town of a terrible evil, and restore the original less-terrible evil that preceded it", and "Old Oak Doors Part B" has him defend Kevin's dismissive attitude towards the town's strangeness with "This is our town! And it is terrible. But it is ours. And we…we are fighting for it!"
Hypocritical Humor: Complaints about the shadowy World Government are often tempered with glowing praise for the town's own Secret Police and totalitarian City Council.
Tropes I - P
Ice-Cream Koan: The proverbs at the end of each episode can come off like this.
I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Various locations around Night Vale have names like the Scrublands and the Sand Wastes. Then there's Radon Canyon ("The view is literally breath-taking!").
Ignorance Is Bliss: Various authority figures regularly ask citizens of Night Vale to forget things they might have seen or heard. Generally speaking, this is a good survival tactic, considering the sheer number of horrors they must confront daily.
"Ignorance may not actually be bliss, but it certainly is less work."
Implausible Deniability: The Night Vale Business Association declares that Harbor and Waterfront Recreation Area - which they built in a previous episode...in the desert, at great expense, and for no good reason - was simply a mass hallucination. Remembering it or finding it exactly where it was supposedly built simply means you are still hallucinating.
The mayor once held a press conference to deny the existence of the truck she was standing in front of. After the press conference she explained she was merely practicing her denial skills, and also that she did not have denial skills.
Immune to Bullets: Discussed in a parody of the NRA; see above under American Gun Politics. This is one of the times when Cecil slides towards the "snarky" end of Deadpan Snarker rather than the "deadpan" end, although Night Vale being Night Vale, at least one fanfic exists positing that the citizens of Night Vale are in fact immune to bullets.
Inherently Funny Word: Most of the words in the list issued for memorization by the secret police in Episode 16.
In a near-unanimous vote — the only dissenter being Carlos — City Council decides to remove the giant lead door on Radon Canyon (which, as the name would suggest, is filled with dangerous radioactive materials) because the bright red and yellow bio-hazard warnings painted on it are an eyesore and the door itself could cause lead poisoning.
For some reason the town has a pier and a drawbridge, despite being in the middle of the desert.
The transportation department makes the capricious decision to replace the typical white and yellow road lines with mosaic murals of a revolting South American proletariat and the steel highway dividers with butcher paper silhouettes of slaves committing self-mutilation.
The Intern: The radio station has several, generally Red Shirts, often only mentioned to say that they're missing, presumed dead. Dana (or her doppelgänger) is the only one who survives long enough to become a character in her own right.
The episode in which Cecil finds several old recordings he had made as a teenager reveals that Cecil himself began his career at the broadcasting center as an intern at age 15.
In the Hood: Night Vale's various sinister hooded figures. There are implied to be enough of them to have an annual parade.
Ultimately subverted, when its eventually revealed that Carlsberg is the neglectful step-father of Cecil's niece.
And the double subverted when it's revealed Steve actually loves his step-daughter a lot and really isn't that bad of a guy. Cecil's just a jerk to him because hrs worried that Steve's obsession with whistle blowing goes against the status quo and might get his sister and niece hurt
The nearby town of Desert Bluffs seems like Night Vale's Sitcom Arch-Nemesisuntil you realize that it actually IS as bad as Cecil makes it out to be.
Ladies and Germs: "Ladies and gentlemen and those of you not clearly falling into either category..."
La Résistance: Tamika Flynn is leading one against Strex Corp. As of Episode 36, Cecil is subtly encouraging the rest of Night Vale to fight against them as well.
Lampshade Hanging: The last act of "The Woman from Italy" opens when Cecil commenting that he usually comes back from The Weather with news of how some great catastrophe has been averted, but that in this case, it seems there's no hideous danger that needed to be corrected. Then again, it's more likely that Cecil was ignorant of the danger the whole time...
Law of Disproportionate Response: Despite Cecil being able to calmly report the psychological horrors and bloodbaths that occur in Night Vale on a regular basis, what finally causes him to break down into hysterics is Carlos's fairly tame "demise". Apparently an entire studio made of viscera or the sudden vaporization of one of his interns isn't as upsetting to Cecil as the "blood... so much blood" dripping from a single ordinary wound. Although this is possibly justified, considering his feelings toward Carlos.
Strexcorp — and, by extension, Desert Bluffs and their Smiling God — have this as a recurring motif, as they're regularly associated with all-consuming light, lighthouses, the sun, sunrise, morning, bright attitudes, and the like. It's juxtaposed with Night Vale's Dark Is Not Evil associations, above.
In Episode 45, "A Story About Them", Cecil takes a moment to describe something in the desert intern Dana has been traversing for a few months:
"Beyond her, no longer just on the horizon, much closer than that, is a light spreading across the desert. The light is alive, and malicious, and vast, and encroaching. It buzzes and shines and everything about it hurts those who are close to it, and destroys those who are within it. It spreads – not just in the desert I am talking about – it spreads in different forms, in deserts not unlike it. In deserts very similar to the one I am talking about now. Not always in the same form, not always as light at all, but with the same intent: to devour everything until there is nothing left. It is a smilinggod of terrible power and ceaseless appetite."
Like Is, Like, a Comma: Cecil, surprisingly, has a habit of talking like this when he goes off-topic. It gets even worse when he's talking about Carlos.
"Well, to the point: Carlos called, and I'm like, 'Hellooo?' Like I don't even have caller ID, and he's like, 'I need to talk to you. This is important.' And I'm like, 'Ummm, okaaay.'"
Lilliputians: The inhabitants of the city beneath the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex are tiny but fierce.
In Universe, Night Vale Community Radio holds a pledge drive in Episode 6.
Cecil: "Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of year again. Time for our annual pledge drive. Sorry to have to do this, but, you know, Night Vale has a lot of community-supported radio, and the thing about community-supported radio…it’s supported by listeners like you. As well as Guatemala and some teamsters, who are, sometimes, just too generous."
In Real Life, the podcast is supported mostly by merchandise sales and PayPal donations by listeners. Most episodes start with a message from Joseph Fink giving news about the show and offering special gifts to people who sign up for monthly donations.
Little Miss Badass: 12-year-old Tamika Flynn, who defeated the terrifying librarians and completed her advanced summer reading list. Awesome, considering what the librarians are.
As of Episode 36, "Missing," she is leading La Résistance against Strexcorp along with the other survivors of the summer reading program.
"The Boy Scouts of Night Vale have announced some slight changes to their hierarchy, which will now be the follow: Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Eagle Scout, Blood Pact Scout, Weird Scout, Dreadnought Scout, Dark Scout, Fear Scout, and finally, Eternal Scout."
"Dear listeners, here is a list of things: emotions you don't understand on viewing a sunset, lost pets found, lost pets unfound, a secret lost pet city on the Moon, trees that see, restaurants that hear, a void that thinks, a face half-seen just before falling asleep, trembling hands reaching for desperately needed items, sandwiches..."
"The Night Vale school district has announced some changes to the elementary school curriculum [...] in addition to the foreign language offerings of Spanish, French, and Modified Sumerian, schools will now be offering Double Spanish, Weird Spanish, Coptic Spanish, Russian, and Unmodified Sumerian."
Episode 6 features a horoscopes section where each of the zodiac signs are given increasingly odd/hilarious horoscopes. Among other things, Cecil warns Capricorns that "those were not contact lenses you put in this morning", announces that its Taurus's "annual crime day" where they're exempt from all laws, and simply curses Scorpios and their families and calls them "vile".
Lottery Of Doom: Mentioned in Episode 8. The winners are ritually sacrificed.
Love at First Sight: Exactly what happens in Episode 1 when Cecil meets Carlos and sees him smile for the first time.
"...Everything about him was perfect, and I fell in love instantly."
Love Is in the Air: It's obvious the effect that Carlos has on Cecil. However, considering the barber who cut Carlos' hair was seemingly driven to despair for defiling Carlos' beauty, it's entirely possible that Carlos has this effect on many of the town's residents. Old Woman Josie is mentioned also describing Carlos as perfect and noting that he smells like lavender chewing gum.
Baldwin, who records the podcasts just a few in advance, didn’t see the Cecil/Carlos chemistry straight away. He thought that "because of the weirdness of Night Vale," Carlos was just the perfect human being, like a "male model who threw on a pair of glasses and a lab coat." Of course everybody loved him. "But then when the relationship between the two characters started to develop, I was so happy and so pleased," he said. — From this article
Of course, it's also possible that Telly the Barber (who cut perfect Carlos' perfect hair) was driven mad because he was run out of town when Cecil publicly condemned him on the radio, and he was forced to live in the sand wastes. It's a bit unclear.
Lovecraft Lite: Night Vale is a strange and dangerous place, but a lot of the residents, including Cecil, stay quite chipper nonetheless.
Magical Native American: Invoked in-universe by the "Apache Tracker" guy, who claims to have supernatural tracking abilities but is clearly not an actual Native American and in fact comes off as racist in his stereotyped portrayal of Native Americans.
Meaningful Name: "Tamika" means "People" in Japanese. Tamika Flynn has thus far been the head of two resistance movements.
Megacorp: Strexcorp, which runs Desert Bluffs and later the Night Vale Community Radio station.
Memento MacGuffin: Cecil's watch, gifted to him by Carlos, marking their one-month anniversary in Episode 32, is the only true timepiece in Night Vale, as the rest of the clocks in town are full of grey goo. Presumably, Carlos brought it with him when he came to Night Vale. Because it keeps correct time, Cecil can tell that the darkness outside is not nightfall.
Metafictional Device: The Weather, well, if Steve's monologue is any indication. It's not something Cecil plays in in show when something over the budget happens, but something that just begins when someone, or at least Cecil and Steve, mention it.
The Men in Black: Agents of a "vague yet menacing" government agency are mentioned in almost every episode.
Multiple Head Case: Discussed by Cecil regarding Hiram McDaniels. Cecil considers the whole "multiple heads not getting along" thing to be inaccurate.
"Sure, critics will say, 'Oh, but Cecil! What if his five heads don't agree on something? What if one's like, 'Yeah, let's build this school!' But another's like, 'No more schools.' And the others are drunk or sleepy or something? How can we agree to elect five heads that can't agree with themselves?' To this, I say shame on you for your negative stereotypes of multi-headed beings."
Although, judging by Hiram's campaign message in Episode 32, the multiple heads do have very different, er, priorities.
Mundane Fantastic: One of the essential elements of the series. Most of Night Vale's citizens are so accustomed to the bizarre and inexplicable that their response to phenomena like the mind-controlling roadkill-raining Glow Cloud is "what size road kill and how strong an umbrella am I going to need?"
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The story of "The Shape In Grove Park" involves a mysterious black shape that no-one acknowledges or speaks about. When the shape turns molten red and speaks in countless voices, Cecil receives a missive from the City council instructing him to stop speaking about it.
Strexcorp's take-over of Night Vale's Girl Scouts, giving them a chance to track down Tamika Flynn and threaten his niece Janice, wouldn't have happened if Cecil hadn't mentioned them on air and goaded Strex into noticing them.
In "The Traveller", the eponymous traveller marries the town's third most beautiful woman.
Nobody Touches the Hair: Cecil feels this way about Carlos's lovely and perfect raven locks. Carlos, evidently, doesn't.
The Non Descript: The series makes good use of the visual ambiguity left by the podcast format. See the character sheet for more detail.
Non P.O.V. Protagonist: In a more standard narrative format, Carlos — the recent arrival and Only Sane Man who spends his time thwarting Monsters Of The Week — would be a straightforward protagonist and we'd stay close to his POV. With the news report format, Carlos' role as protagonist is almost completely eclipsed by Cecil's role as narrator and obscured because Cecil frequently goes off-topic when reporting on Carlos' doings. Dana was a Non P.O.V. Protagonist until she got the chance to narrate her own story in Episode 30.
Noodle Incident/Riddle for the Ages: How everyone was saved from the mind-controlling WALK signs in Episode 41. Due to Intern Dana accidentally hijacking the show while Cecil was being possessed (again) we will never know the answer.
Cecil: I'll be honest, Night Vale, that was the most worried I've been in some time. And how we were saved was so unlikely and miraculous that I feel that today will become one of the standard tales told every year on Frightening Day. Certainly, it is a story I will never forget.
The Nth Doctor: At the end of December, Carlos' voice-actor was changed to Dylan Marron so he could be played by an actual gay Latino actor. Apparently, in universe, scientists occasionally surgically change their vocal cords as a way of preventing throat spiders.
Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Carlos, described only as "a scientist", doesn't seem to concentrate on any particular branch of science.
He does give an interesting statement on the matter in Episode 38, though.
"Cecil, I’ll do my best to answer your questions, but do know that I don’t specialize in botany or dendrology. I am a scientist. I study science, not plants or nature."
One Steve Limit: Averted. All of the angels who stay with Old Woman Josie are named Erika. There is, for what it's worth, only one Steve. Although he seems to be literally so rare that he has no counterpart in mirror community Desert Bluffs.
There's also two Laurens: Lauren Mallard (Night Vale Radio Station manager and Strex Corp Shill) and Lauren James (Night Vale Weekly Gazette writer).
Only Sane Man: Carlos and his team of scientists, who constantly seem disturbed and amazed by their findings about the town.
Steve Carlsberg may count as well, as he is the only citizen of Night Vale who questions the building of a drawbridge in a desert town with no rivers, streams, or bays, or seems concerned with the fact that the City Council can create deadly natural disasters at will.
OOC Is Serious Business: Cecil is always pleasant and smooth in his delivery. When he's not? Something is very wrong, like his on-air breakdown when he thought Carlos had died, or the terror in his voice upon seeing the gorefest in Kevin's studio; or very serious, like the sheer venom with which he wished that Tamika would find Strex before they found her.
Origins Episode: Subverted for the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home, in the live episode "Condos." The Faceless Old Woman tells a story that begins, "Once upon a time there was a young woman who had a face, and did not live in secret." But the woman begins to doubt her life, and tries to live others' lives, and as a result becomes harder and harder to see, because there was less of her to see. Until she dies. The Faceless Old Woman then explains that that wasn't her, it was just someone she watched, although she can see why you might have been confused.
Our Angels Are Different: Actually, we're not sure how different they are, since no one is allowed to know about them or talk about them, and their existence is denied by the City Council. Yet, they manage to show up on multiple occasions, including at a City Council press conference that denied the existence of angels. According to Old Woman Josie, one of them is also black.
Our Wormholes Are Different: The Night Vale subway seems to operate as a combination Total Perspective Vortex and reverse wormhole — instead of transporting people across interstellar distances nigh instantaneously, a trip that occurs entirely within city limits and lasts just minutes from the perspective of observers is experienced by passengers as an aeons-long odyssey (see also Year Inside, Hour Outside). Furthermore, not everyone who goes into the subway comes back, and some of those who return seem faded or drained.
Overly Long Name: The Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex, which Cecil always says in full. Also, the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home.
Kevin: Look around you. Strex. Look inside you. Strex. Go to sleep. Strex.Believe in a smiling God. Strexcorp: It is... everything.
Phrase Catcher: John Peters (you know, the farmer?) is always referred to as "John Peters, you know, the farmer".
Platonic Cave: At one point, Cecil starts to wonder if his microphone is even connected to anything, or even if there is anything outside. Is there really a world out there or are his descriptions of it just his own delusions?
The town's continued project to build a drawbridge in Old Town Night Vale, despite there not being any rivers or bodies of water nearby, and no boats to even necessitate a drawbridge. The project keeps on failing due to the engineers insisting on using hilariously inappropriate materials, such as cardboard. And ceramic bowls. And non-dairy creamer.
There's also the Night Vale Harbor and Waterfront Recreation Area... in a city that's landlocked and in the middle of a desert.
"There is no water at the actual waterfront. And that is a definite drawback, I agree. For instance, the boardwalk is currently overlooking sagebrush and rocks. The Business Association did not provide specific remedies to this problem, but they assured me that the new harbor would be a big boost to Night Vale nonetheless. Maybe wait until the next flash-flood and head down there for the full waterfront experience."
Also, the Night Vale Stadium, which hosts the annual parade of the hooded figures on November 10th and then remains closed and useless for the other 364 days.
Pointy-Haired Boss: The City Council borders on this, as does the Mayor. For example, they continue to insist that angels don't exist, even if they're in the audience at the press conference; they have insisted on building a bridge in an area with no major bodies of water (see Pointless Civic Project above); and they nearly caused a panic by summoning the soul of Syd Barret for a Pink Floyd Laser Show in Radon Canyon.
Poltergeist: The Faceless Old Woman behaves somewhat like this, since she can't be seen and likes to cause mischief (such as rearranging bookshelves or flipping a dining room table and supergluing it to the floor) but has never physically harmed anyone, as far as we know.
"Secret police are now reporting that the offending beasts were not pteranodons after all, but pterodactyls. Also, pteranodons aren't even dinosaurs, as the station had previously stated— just winged reptiles that lived about 70 million years after pterodactyls."
Purple Prose: Cecil will occasionally, and without warning, launch into soliloquies or what sounds like poetry. Even in normal news stories, he'll go into very detailed literary and metaphysical descriptions.
Tropes R - Z
Random Teleportation: In the pilot episode, a commercial airliner that, while in-flight, is briefly teleported into the Night Vale Elementary school's gymnasium during a basketball game. It's only there for a split second, and before it can hit anything, it's teleported away again, only causing a rush of wind and a roar. Everyone blames it on some wacky hijinks by the rival school.
"No word yet on if, or how, this will affect the Night Vale Mountain Lions' game schedule, and also, if this could perhaps be the work of their bitter rivals, the Desert Bluffs Cacti. Desert Bluffs is always trying to show us up through fancier uniforms, better pre-game snacks, and possibly, by transporting a commercial jet into our gymnasium, delaying practice for several minutes, at least. For shame, Desert Bluffs. For shame."
Redemption Equals Death: The Apache Tracker. Nobody likes him, and Cecil frequent refers to him as a racist and a jerk but when he saves Carlos from the miniature people and is fatally wounded in the process, Cecil calls him a good man.
And then goes on to acknowledge in the next episode that while the Apache Tracker's heroic actions were worthy of the statue the City Council had built of him, said statue was then buried somewhere in the desert because he was still a racist jerk and nobody wanted Night Vale to be associated with him.
Red Shirt: The constant deaths of the community station's lowly interns/staffers. Cecil will mention their "sacrifice" to the station's cause, though by the time we get to Intern Jesús, he can't seem to be bothered any more. It's worth pointing out that Cecil himself was once an intern, making him either extraordinarily lucky, borderline indestructible, an Action Survivor, or something in between.
The Night Vale Community Radio intern shirts in the Night Vale online store are, appropriately enough, solid red.
Relationship Upgrade: Episode 25 marks the first moment Carlos is shown to reciprocate Cecil's long-standing crush. Two episodes later, they begin dating. The live episode "Condos" suggests that Carlos wants to move in with Cecil. Cecil refers to Carlos as "my boyfriend" for the first time in Episode 32.
Released to Elsewhere: It is not entirely specified what "re-education" consists of, but it is very possible it refers to this trope.
Remember the New Guy: Episode 44, "Cookies," focuses on Cecil's niece, Janice, a Girl Scout upon whom he dotes, to the point that he buys her entire stock of Girl Scout cookies, and spends the better part of his radio broadcast hawking them. What a loving, affectionate uncle! ... except that Janice had never been mentioned before. (Janice's presence, however, does resolve a Running Gag about why Cecil despises Steve Carlsberg so much — Steve is Janice's negligent and ne'er-do-well stepfather.)
Special Edition Opening Theme: In Episode 19B, the regular theme song is replaced by a pleasant guitar tune which is the theme song for the Desert Bluffs community radio channel. It returns in Episodes 47 and 48 when Strexcorp takes over Night Vale and assimilates it into the 'Greater Desert Bluffs Metropolitan Area'. All three shows are hosted by Kevin.
Spiders Are Scary: And it's statistically likely that there's one on you at all times. Also, that it's one of the really ugly ones.
Stealth Pun: In Episode 1, Carlos visits the studio with a Geiger Counter and promptly advises everyone to evacuate. Clearly the studio has high levels of "radio activity".
Stepford Smiler: How Kevin, Cecil's counterpart from Desert Bluffs, describes being happy.
"Step one: separate your lips. Step two: use facial muscles to pull back the corners of your mouth. Step three: widen your eyes. This is how to be happy."
He later clarifies that he doesn't feel much of anything at all.
Strawman News Media: A rare sympathetic example. Cecil seems to be generally biased in favor of Night Vale's totalitarian municipal government and uncritically relays a lot of obvious misinformation, but he also doesn't seem to know any better and is clearly well-meaning.
That being said, there are signs that Cecil might just be complying with the official story because he knows what might happen if he doesn't. After all, even his credulity/compliance is strained when the City Council explains that the feral dog pack seen around town was really just plastic bags. There's also a vaguely snarky tone to his references to the local police and government (once referred to "unsupervised, gun-toting thugs of a shadow government"). He seems to disapprove, but isn't in much of a position to directly say anything negative. Cecil seems to know enough not to trust Strexcorp when they arrive in Episode 32, and he pirates the station's signal to express his support of Tamika's rebellion in Episode 36. He also mentions in that pirate broadcast that he's frequently prevented from saying what he really thinks.
The end of Episode 48 implies that Night Vale (or at least Cecil) is fine being run by certain organizations, such as the city council and the vague yet menacing government agency (along with chemtrails, the Secret Order of Reptile Kings and mysterious lights that hover above us), but they will never be controlled by the Smiling God that is Strexcorp.
Supporting Protagonist: Although Cecil has his moments of action, it's really Carlos, Dana and Tamika who do the actual adventuring and heroics. Carlos seems to spend his days being a Science Hero, Dana is on an epic quest, and Tamika is the leader of a huge resistance moment against Strexcorp... and Cecil, in his booth, tries to support them the best he can. The times when he fails can make for heavy-hitting Wham Episode stories.
"The City Council would like to remind you about the Tiered Heavens, and the hierarchy of angels...the reminder is that you should not know anything about this. The structure of Heaven and the angelic organizational chart are privileged information, known only to the City Council members on a need-to-know basis. Please, do not speak to or acknowledge any angels that you may come across while shopping at the Ralph's, or at the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex. They only tell lies, and do not exist. Report all angel sightings to the City Council for treatment."
Taken to extreme heights by the city's mayor: "Notice: There is no digital, static hum coming from the dog park, Mayor Pamela Winchell announced today. The mayor stressed repeatedly, in her ninety-second impromptu press conference, that there is no unbearable, soul-tearing sound that rips at the sinews of your very being coming from the dog park. Mayor Winchell continued with a plea for all Night Vale residents to understand that there could not possibly be a deeply coded message emanating from a small fenced-in patch of municipal grass and dirt. Citizens are not even supposed to be consciously aware of the dog park, so they could not possibly be receiving a menacing and unearthly voice instructing listeners to bring precious metals and toddlers to the dog park. 'Dog park', she repeated, 'that could never, ever be real', the mayor shouted, pounding the podium with her bleeding fists. There were no follow-up questions."
"Pink Floyd isn't even a thing!"
Taken Up to Eleven in the Whole Foods ad from Episode 49A: "At Whole Foods, we don't have any rotting, decaying matter mixed into our products. There are no secret blood rooms in our stores. Where we keep the secret blood. None of the boxes of cereal contain spiders, and if they did, they would be very friendly, helpful spiders. Why, wouldn't you be lucky to find a spider like that in a box of Whole Foods cereal? Or not just one. Hundreds of them. But anyway, you won't. Whole Foods serves only the freshest food, and we certainly do not keep venomous snakes under the fruit in our produce section. Why would we? That would be dangerous and not good for business. No one has died of a snake bite at Whole Foods. No one you know. Whole Foods: why in the world would we poison our frozen dinners? We definitely do not do that."
Talking Is a Free Action: While Cecil always seems to have time to wax poetical in the midst of dangerous happenings, an especially notable example occurs when Lauren and Kevin find Cecil's hiding spot at the end of Episode 46. Cecil has a very long time to describe Kevin and express his feelings of horror and despair before the two interrupt him to seize his microphone (and Cecil himself).
Subverted and perhaps lampshaded in Episode 38 when Cecil ponders sending a long, passionate text to Carlos in the face of his impending death by John Peters (y'know, the impostor) and a reality-bending orange— but then realizes it would take too long and just whacks Fake!John upside the head with the phone.
Team Pet: Khoshekh, the cat floating 4 feet above the ground in the men's bathroom of the station.
That Makes Me Feel Angry: In "Old Oak Doors", Carlos, in the voice mail he leaves for Cecil, explains "some, but not all" of the emotions he had while figuring out how the doors work.
Theme Song: While the background music changes each episode, the opening and closing music is always "The Ballad of Fiedler and Mundt" by Disparition.
Theme Music Power-Up: "The Ballad of Fielder and Mundt" is heard in the middle of Episode 48 when Cecil takes back his show from Kevin and Lauren.
The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home can be helpful (putting clean sheets on your bed and downloading a faster browser for your computer), but she's just as likely to light your refrigerator on fire because it was upsetting her. Plus, you never see her, even when she's standing right beside you and touching your hand.
Then there are the several thousand highly trained spiders the agents of a vague, yet menacing, government agency released in your home. You may sometimes feel them brushing against your lips and cheeks.
Those Two Guys: The-Man-Who-Is-Not-Tall and The-Man-Who-Is-Not-Short are this in "A Story About Them". Though they may be skirting the line between this and Those Two Bad Guys considering they killed you.
Desert Bluffs has a more cheery exterior, but evidence suggests that the situation there is just as bad if not worse than the one in Night Vale.
The Transit Service That Wasn't There Yesterday: The plot of Episode 29A was the appearance of a citywide subway system, literally overnight. After one day of operation, service was suspended until further notice because of construction, but the deer-masked entities responsible promised would-be passengers that free shuttle buses would be provided when one least expects it, at moments of great despair and hopelessness.
The house that doesn't actually exist, despite everyone seeing it, and it being between two other, identical, actually-existing houses. But Carlos and his scientists are pretty sure that, after making many complex measurements and calculations, it doesn't exist. As Dana discovers, you can apparently get there from the dog park. And leaving through the front door leads to a reality where Night Vale does not exist. But apparently still has cell phone reception.
Later, Carlos reports that his seismographs are recording huge earthquakes happening all the time...that otherwise are not seen, felt, or detected by anyone else.
The sun randomly sets ten minutes later than it's supposed to one day, without reason. Carlos eventually discovers that it's not that the sun is wrong, it's just that none of the clocks in Night Vale are real.
At one point, Wednesday is cancelled due to a scheduling error.
Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: The main obstacle standing between Strexcorp and their complete domination of Night Vale is an army of well-read children highly trained in the deadly arts.
Unknown Rival: Cecil will express disgust with the rival town Desert Bluffs whenever they come up in his broadcast and will go on about how awful it is. When Night Vale comes up in Kevin's broadcast to Desert Bluffs, however, he makes no mention of any negative feelings between the towns and says that he bets Night Vale is wonderful and beautiful.
Unreliable Narrator: Cecil clearly sometimes lies and/or repeats lies he's been told. In "The Sandstorm", Cecil describes being attacked by his doppelgänger (i.e. Kevin) but choosing to have mercy on him. Kevin, whose word is equally suspect, says they hugged. Of the two of them, it's not clear who is actually more unreliable in this case.
Perhaps Kevin did attempt to hug Cecil in the vortex but Cecil took the action as an attack and reflexively fought him back. Cecil was rather shaken up by the whole affair and Kevin has shown himself to be unendingly, unnaturally cheerful. Or perhaps hugging is seen as an act of aggression in Night Vale. Or perhaps "hug" is Desert Bluffs' term for attempted strangulation.
Given the Desert Bluff intern/helper doppelgänger helping the original to "Put up shelving" ended up with a death, whereas the Night Vale one was just a pure attack, it seems like Desert Bluffs has a more happy outlook on violence.
Steve Carlsberg's monologue stated that he's the only person in town with clear knowledge of what's going on in Night Vale. How does he know? Glowing arrows in the sky.
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The "Glow Cloud" from Episode 2, a menacing glowing cloud of something that drifts over the town. It rains small dead animals, exhibits a low whistling noise at all times, and is later revealed to be sentient and can take over people's minds and control them. But...this being Night Vale, no one's overly concerned.
"One death has already been attributed to the Glow Cloud. But listen...it's probably nothing. If we had to shut down the town for every mysterious event that at least one death could be attributed to, we'd never have time to do anything, right? That's what the Sheriff's Secret Police are saying, and I agree, although I would not go so far as to endorse their suggestion to 'run directly at the cloud, shrieking and waving your arms just to see what it does.'"
The Glow Cloud later wins an election for president of the school board. Because why not.
Valentine's Day Episodes: No romance seems to be involved; apparently a normal Valentine's Day in Night Vale involves widespread property damage and terrible loss of human life. In the days following, the streets are cleared to allow emergency vehicles through to the affected areas, which are strewn with corpses, rubble, and chalky candy hearts.
Valley Girl: Cecil imitates the pretentious modern artists at the mall and hypothetical critics of Hiram McDaniels speaking this way. Cecil also tends to slip into a valley-girl-type speech pattern on occasion himself, most egregiously when describing a conversation he had with Carlos in Episode 16, but also just from time to time when speaking off the cuff.
"And then I was like, 'Right, right, right' and I felt dumb, because that's like, the first thing you learn in seventh-grade Transmigration Studies..."
Villains Out Shopping: For most of Episode 39, we are warned via a possessed Cecil of the horrible and terrifying Woman From Italy. Turns out she just wanted to do some window shopping and buy a Razor scooter, and left the town without major incident.
Walking Transplant: In Episode 40, an unnamed, one-handed man from Nulogorsk becomes a body donor for Megan Wallaby.
Weirdness Censor: Mostly averted, as the townspeople are perfectly aware of the various odd things that happen in Night Vale, they've just been desensitized to it. Or ordered not to notice it by the city council. Played straight in a few instances, such as the hooded figures around town that no one acknowledges (lest bad things happen to them), or the Shape in Grove Park that No One Acknowledges or Speaks About.
In Episode 32, Old Woman Josie's angel friends disappear, the Man in the Tan Jacket is given several possible names... and Strexcorp moves into Night Vale, buying the radio station.
In Episode 33, we discover that Cecil's memories are highly fallible and something terrible happened to him during his teenage years that sounds suspiciously like dying.
As of Episode 45, Old Woman Josie's house has been "silent and empty for months now." As we heard in 32: "if she falls, so does this town."
Episode 46 as well; Mayor Pamela Winchell acknowledges the existence of angels (and possibly mountains), mysterious doors open to show both members of the giant army wandering with Dana and possibly an angelic Old Woman Josie, and most importantly, Tamika Flynn and her child militia fight back against Strexcorp...and fail, leading to both them and Cecil being captured.
Lauren: Welcome to the Greater Desert Bluffs Metropolitan Area.
Said episode is entirely hosted by Lauren and Kevin, we hear nothing of Cecil's fate, and all of Night Vale, barring Carlos, is rounded into a work camp.
It boomerangs on Lauren and Kevin in Episode 48, "Renovations." A mysterious vortex appears in the Strex-controlled studio, and a figure steps out of it. Cue the cheers from the audience as Kevin intones, "He is holding... he is holding... a cat."
What Happened to the Mouse?: The "coffee date" planned in Episode 16 doesn't come up again, although it seems somewhat uncharacteristic of Cecil to not talk about it. Episode 27 implies Cecil may have realized Carlos didn't consider it to be a date.
Despite Khoshekh's prominent role in Episode 43, Khoshekh's kittens, who are also suspended at a fixed point in space, are not mentioned once in the episode. (They do however show up as a fired Chekhov's Gun in Episode 48, but not in relation to events of Episode 43.)
What the Hell, Hero?: Intern Maureen calls out Cecil on the high fatality rate of his internship program, probably the first one on the show to do so.
Followed shortly by an epic Completely Missing the Point moment, as Maureen rattles off a list of deceased interns and asks Cecil what they all have in common.
Cecil: They all had a commendable interest in community radio!
Played with in that, Cecil might have just been purposefully avoiding the question.
The local grocery store is a Ralphs, which would suggest south-eastern California (the only desert region where Ralphs operates).
The desert immediately surrounding Night Vale is flat enough that mountain sceptics had to be taken on a long field trip to see a real one. This narrows the list of possible locations as much of the northern Great Basin is quite rugged terrain.
Muddying the waters further, the local "numbers station" has the call sign WZZZ, which would indicate it is east of the Mississippi river (stations to the west have K call signs). It's possible this is an honest mistake, since the show is recorded in W-sign New York City. (There are a few real-life exceptions to this rule, too.)
Lampshaded in "Old Oak Doors Part B", with Carlos, explaining that he can't remember how he got to the town to begin with, asks "where ''is Night Vale, anyway?".
Worst News Judgement Ever: Cecil's Kent Brockman News is usually just professional enough to include what's most important but he really drops the ball when the blinking red light appears on top of the mountain. A few minutes later he realizes he should have first mentioned the new mountain, which had risen out of the mud plains. A few more minutes and he realizes that he also should have established the mud plains that have appeared beneath the invading masked army. It only takes him a moment or two to conclude that he should have led with the invading masked army in the first place.
X Meets Y: Carlos' side of things sounds like "Eureka meets The Twilight Zone": Normal guy finds himself in an unspeakably strange town, where all the citizens think he's the weird one for not knowing basic things. "One Year Later" sounds like he is basically doing an extreme version of Sheriff Carter's job.
Year Outside, Hour Inside: The entirety of Night Vale, compared to the rest of the world. For every 10,080 minutes (one week) that pass in Night Vale, 11,783 minutes pass for everyone else. Or, if you want the rough math, Night Vale is approximately 1 minute and 10 seconds behind the rest of the world.