Follow TV Tropes


Podcast / The Bright Sessions

Go To
Because atypical people have atypical problems.
"Therapy for the Strange and Unusual? It sounds, well, unusual."
Sam, Bright Sessions, "01 - Patient #12-D-10 (Sam)"

The Bright Sessions is a science fiction Radio Drama focusing on psychologist Dr. Joan Bright and her super powered patients.

It begins as simple recordings of Dr. Bright's sessions with her patients but gradually grows as events move beyond the four walls of her office. It neatly avoids most Hollywood Psychology, actively averting many Freud tropes in the first episode.

The Bright Sessions is written by Lauren Shippen and produced by Atypical Artists. It premiered in November 2015. On September 15, 2016, they had a crossover with ars PARADOXICA called The Intrusion. The podcast concluded its original run in June 2018.

A series of bonus episodes called The Bright Sides was released following the finale of the show proper, after a successful Patreon fundraiser. This was followed by a spin-off series, The AM Archives, premiered exclusively on Luminary for members with premium accounts on April 24, 2019. Included in The AM Archives was a mini-series titled Order & Chaos. This was followed by another spin-off, The College Tapes, which premiered on September 30, 2020 and was released in real-time.

The first novel in the universe, The Infinite Noise was released on September 24, 2019, and the second, A Neon Darkness, was released on September 29, 2020. A third novel is set to be released in 2021, though the title and exact release date are unknown.

Episode audio and transcripts can be found on the official website.

    open/close all folders 

     Tropes in The Bright Sessions 
  • Aborted Declaration of Love: Adam to Caleb when Caleb wants time alone after finding out Adam told his parents, who may or may not be evil scientists, about him.
  • All Therapists Are Muggles:
    • Averted. Dr. Bright, despite not having any powers of her own, she has worked with agencies dealing with super powered individuals in the past, and now specializes in therapy for individual with superpowers.
    • Averted with Caleb planning to use his ability to go into therapy or social work.
  • And I Must Scream: Mark while trapped in the past. His body remains comatose in the present. He can't interact with anyone or anything, and has been stuck like that for years.
  • And the Adventure Continues: In the finale, almost said verbatim by Dr. Bright to Sam when they agree to join the A.M., now under Agent Green's direction
    Dr. Bright: Despite that, do you think you’re ready? For another new adventure?
    Sam: Yeah, I think I am. You?
    Dr. Bright: Yes. I’m ready.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Caleb to Adam
    Caleb: It's just you. I like... you.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: When we first meet Chloe, she firmly believes the voices she hears are angels, and is pretty unconvinced by the idea that she may be telepathic. Even though she knows her mother is telekinetic.
  • Badass Normal: Dr. Bright. She deals with a variety of powerful patients, defies a hugely powerful secret agency, and deals with a bored mind manipulator stalking her.
  • Bad Powers, Bad People: It's hard to think of a way that having Mind Control as an ability wouldn't be corrupting to an extent. It's no surprise that Damien has ended up the way he has.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: When Damien was 13, he got into a fight with his parents and told them he wanted to be left alone. They drove away and never came back.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: The AM likes to keep tabs on atypicals.
  • Black Site: The A.M.'s Headquarters, of the "Secret Prison" variety, hidden behind a mundane exterior.
  • Blessed with Suck: Damien's ability. Whenever he wants anything from someone, they immediately do it, which makes it very hard for him to have genuine relationships with people.
  • Broken Pedestal: Wadsworth to Dr Bright.
  • Brought Down to Normal: After his head injury, Damien loses his mind control ability. However, because Chloe still can't read his mind, it could just be dormant.
  • Buffy Speak: Caleb is particularly prone to this.
  • Call-Back: Dr. Bright's patient notes list a low-level shapeshifter, an episode or two later, Caleb and Adam notice someone coming out of her office with a radically different hairstyle than when they entered.
    • Word of God says they are a trans person hoping to use their ability to make their body match how they feel on the inside, but the character has yet to be formally introduced since that subplot would distract from the main story.
      • Character has been introduced as Niko, in the season 5 episode with the same name.
  • Camera Fiend: Mark was an aspiring photographer before the A.M. kidnapped him.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Mark is bisexual, Adam is gay, Caleb is not straight, Chloe is panromantic asexual, Damien is not straight, Rose is a lesbian. Agent Green is the only character in the main cast confirmed to be straight, all other characters are of ambiguous sexuality.
    • As of The AM Archives, we know that Sam is bisexual.
  • Charm Person: Damien's powers resemble this, though he has to actually want somebody to do the thing he wills them to do. Considering what he uses them for...
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Sam's hacking skills.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Chloe comes off as one in her first episode, until she starts making very, very accurate observations.
  • Code Name: "Dr. Bright."
    • Also Agent Green and Director Wadsworth. Seems to be standard practice in the A.M.
  • Conspicuous Trenchcoat: Damien wears one in Stakeout #2 while stalking Dr. Bright.
    Caleb: God, could he look more fucking conspicuous?
    Adam: Seriously. He's really gunning for the role of Shady Park Guy #5.
  • Crossover: 'The Intrusion' with ars PARADOXICA
  • Differently Powered Individual: They're called "atypicals."
  • Dream-Crushing Handicap: Frank is a very talented and creative artist, but his hands constantly shake from PTSD. Chloe teams up with him to paint the pictures he dreams up in his mind.
  • Dream Walker: In episode 30, Agent Green meets a young woman named Rose who can do this. She later takes up sessions with Dr. Bright, becoming a member of the main cast.
  • Emo Teen: Adam appears to be one at first.
  • The Empath: Caleb, with the understanding and social grace of a high school boy.
  • Escaped from the Lab: Thanks to Dr. Bright's efforts, Mark.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Wadsworth may kidnap, gaslight, and manipulate on a regular basis but she always makes time to brunch with her sister's family and spend time with her nephew Adam.
  • Gaslighting: Damien tries to convince Mark that his sister Dr. Bright didn't want to see him or care that he escaped the AM.
  • Genre Savvy: Damien realising that there's a tracking device in the getaway van.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The Atypical Monitors.
  • Great Escape: The plan to break Mark out of the AM.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: Caleb considers himself one when dealing with his confusing feelings.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: Both Dr Bright and the A.M. help those struggling to control their powers. However, the A.M. may take a special interest in more unusual powers...
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Definitely an underlying theme behind all of Dr. Bright's patients. Chloe appeared to be the exception at first, but the season three finale reveals she struggles as well.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Dr Bright keeps a bottle of scotch in her office that she bought after her second session with Damien.
  • "Inescapable" Prison Easily Escaped: Breaking Mark out of the AM would have gone off without a hitch if it weren't for Damien
  • Intangible Time Travel: How all time travel seems to work so far. For some they physically go to the past, and for others it's entirely mental, but in both cases, they might as well be ghosts to the people of the past.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Adam is accepted into Yale.
  • Karmic Twist Ending: Wadsworth creates an immunity serum and shows it off to Damien, who ends up wanting it so Mark won’t be able to overpower him anymore. Damien tries to kidnap Adam in order to get leverage over Wadsworth so she’ll give him the immunity serum. Caleb beats Damien up, which gives Damien a brain injury that heals over his ability and prevents him from using it, so Mark can’t overpower him because there’s no ability to overpower. Damien got what he wanted and what he deserved at the same time.
  • Lie Detector: Once Chloe gets ahold of her powers, no half-truth is safe.
  • Logical Weakness: Caleb experiences the feelings of others. Damien makes other people want what he wants. It's understandable that Caleb would be especially vulnerable to Damien.
  • Love Triangle: One arguably develops between Sam, Mark and Damien, with Mark as the hypotenuse.
  • Ludicrous Precision: The A.M. can say with authority that Mark can copy another atypical's powers if he is closer than 31.2ft note .
  • Meaningless Meaningful Words:
    Dr. Bright: That’s what Wadsworth would always say: “what’s impossible today is yesterday’s news tomorrow”.
    Sam: What?
    Dr. Bright: Exactly.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Both Wadsworth and Damien are good examples.
  • Mind over Matter: Chloe's mother is telekinetic.
  • Mind Reading: Chloe, though she originally thinks angels are speaking to her.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Although Agent Green certainly has an issue with the way Wadsworth treats AM patients, the dismissive and manipulative way she treats him is most likely a cause of his eventual betrayal in season 4.
  • Musical Episode: Episode 50 features Rose witnessing characters bursting into song inside their dreams.
  • Mutant Draft Board: The A.M. and their "charitable works."
  • Name McAdjective: Adam calls Caleb "Drunky McGee" at one point. With Caleb's Buffy Speak, they're pretty much made for each other.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: When Damien tries to kidnap Adam, his taunting and the combined anger of everybody overwhelms Caleb completely. He snaps, screaming and punching Damien so hard he nearly kills him and breaks his own finger in the process.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: How Dr. Bright sees Agent Green, certainly.
  • Odd Friendship: Chloe, an art student, and Frank, a homeless former marine.
    • Mark and Charlie, a patrol guard at the AM.
  • One Person, One Power: Seems to be the rule so far, regarding powers.
  • Pet's Homage Name: Sam's cat is called Darwin, she got him after a "trip" to the Galapagos where she saw the real deal.
  • Playing with Syringes: The A.M. has done this at times.
  • Power Levels: Subverted. Early descriptions refer to Sam and Caleb as having level 10 and level 7 abilities, respectively, but in episode 8 Dr Bright notes that with his improvements to control, she might soon be able to rate him a level 6, and it's clarified in later episodes that the ranking is actually about how much their power interferes with their lives.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Being empathic makes sexual contact... intense.
    • Characters consider the possibility of Damien overriding someone's consent to force himself on them (especially when he kidnapped Mark), though there's no indication that he ever has.
  • Prom Is for Straight Kids: Thoroughly averted with Caleb and Adam going to theirs in 2018. They express no trepidation because they're a same-sex couple; their only worry is how they are going to do the promposal.
    • But played straight note  with Mark describing attending his in 2008 with his male friend as "a bit of a scandal".
  • Properly Paranoid: Dr. Bright. She's seen what the A.M. do, after all.
  • Psychic Link: The intended result of the A.M. and the military experimenting on Frank and his unit. It worked brilliantly... But then they started to be able to feel the feelings of others - specifically the people they had to kill.
  • Red String of Fate: A downplayed example, but Rose mentions that her mother (who is clairvoyant) is a lot more invested in her current girlfriend than all her previous ones.
    Rose: I finally asked her about it the other day and all she said was, “Emily is important”.
  • The Shrink: Dr. Bright. Has shades of Harmful and Helpful at first. But it turns out her Harmful actions such as manipulating Sam into having a panic attack was just motivated out of her desire to help save Mark.
  • Sibling Rivalry: According to Frank, there is one between Wadsworth and her sister Dr. Hayes.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Dr. Bright and Mark. He's warm and she's stoic, he's easygoing and she's an overachiever... And of course he is an atypical and she is not.
  • The Stoic: Dr. Bright's voice is nearly always cool and calm and Chloe even describes her thoughts as "cold."
  • Shipper on Deck: Chloe appears to be this Caleb and Adam, Sam and Mark, and Dr. Bright and Agent Green.
  • Shout-Out: Several
    • Sam mentions listening to Alice Isn't Dead in the mini episodes between Season 2 and Season 3
    • Caleb talks about playing Muggle Quidditch with his sister Alice in Season 4
  • Superpowerful Genetics: Being atypical seems to run in families, for example Chloe's mother is telekinetic. Rose's father is also telekinetic, her brother is a telepath, and her mother can see the future. Caleb's sister is developing super strength.
  • Super-Strength: In episode 56, Caleb tells Dr. Bright that he's certain his little sister Alice is developing this after she knocked him flying while playing Quidditch. Bear in mind that she is fourteen and he is a football player.
  • Super-Soldier: Frank and his unit.
  • Supreme Chef: Rose is in culinary school and has this reputation.
  • Talking to Themself: Dr. Bright, but justified as they're her audio notes and the medium. It spreads to other characters.
  • Team Mom: Dr. Bright.
  • Terms of Endangerment: Wadsworth is shown to always call people by their legal first names as a way of discomforting them. For example, Sam is Samantha, Damien is Robert, and Mark is Byron.
  • There Are No Therapists: Thoroughly averted.
  • They Would Cut You Up: The fate of some of the atypicals in A.M. custody. Since the A.M. doesn't take in the patients under Dr. Bright's observation, she justifies her own unethical behavior (everything from "violating doctor-patient confidentiality" to "deliberately goading a patient into a panic attack in order to observe her reaction") by arguing that she's protecting them from worse.
  • Thought-Aversion Failure: By the time of Chloe's sixth session, she's gotten so good at reading thoughts that Dr. Bright has difficulty concealing her own thoughts. She even points out the hypothetical example of trying not to think about pink elephants, which prompts both her and Chloe to think about pink elephants. This results in Chloe learning some things about Dr. Bright's other patients, but she and Chloe have a standing agreement that anything Chloe learns during their sessions won't leave the office.
  • Time Travel: Sam can travel back in time, physically disappearing, but she cannot be seen or touch anything.
  • Trapped in the Past: Mark, though he cannot touch or interact with anything.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: In episode 53, Sam's panic attack induces a joint time-travel trip with her and Mark. When time travelling, he presents abilities that she hadn't yet discovered.
  • Turncoat: Agent Green.
  • Villainous Crush: Damien seems to have one on Dr. Bright and Chloe. But then again, that could just be his voice, or deep drive to find someone, anyone, to actually be a friend.
    • Agent Green clearly has a crush on Dr. Bright. It is not reciprocated.
    • Wadsworth's feelings for Dr. Bright can also be interpreted as romantic in nature.
    • Several of the characters speculate that Damien has feelings for Mark. This was confirmed in episode 53.
  • War Is Hell: Sam is a little traumatized by being trapped for a month in the trenches of World War I when she was a teenager.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Frank's motivation for joining the marines was to please his dad. His motivation for volunteering for military experiments was his grandmother's belief that science can make the world a better place.
  • Wham Line: The Given Name Reveal for Wadsworth.
    • Adam: Hey Annabelle
      Wadsworth: Hey Adam, how are you?
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Sam's time travel trips can last weeks or months to her, but only a few minutes will have passed when she reappears.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Both mental and physical time travellers can't change anything, only observe.

     Tropes specific to The Bright Sides 
  • Astral Projection: In the first bonus episode, "Patient #10-E-2", Dr. Bright meets Myra, who is capable of this. Unfortunately, she struggles to recall her projections after they happen.
  • Hide Your Lesbians: Melanie struggles with this in the Middle Eastern country where she's living as it is illegal. After being out and proud most of her life, she finds this tough.
  • Power of the Storm: In Patient #3-C-2, this is Melanie's ability. She does not have a handle on it.
  • Properly Paranoid: Melanie thinks she's going crazy when she notices black vans. Dr. Bright not only assures her she's not, but tells her to get the hell out of the country.
  • Shout-Out: Myra was a big fan of Matilda growing up - she tells Dr. Bright it was her favorite book.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Dr. Bright's theory of why Myra cannot remember her projections that occur as an adult - Myra is only projecting when something triggers her fight-or-flight reflex, and because the projections happen due to trauma she dissociates and blacks out.
    • When Dr. Bright guides her through a projection in a calm environment, Myra is able to remember bits and pieces, lending credence to this theory.
  • Van in Black: Melanie starts to notice black SUV's following her after she causes freak weather in the Middle Eastern country where she's living.