Source: Episode 10, Dead End: Paranormal Park
By: Beata Garrett | @clearsummers
I didn’t know Dead End: Paranormal Park existed until a few days ago, but it has perfectly filled the “spooky summer” urge that I’ve had this entire month. Produced by Netflix and based on a series of graphic novels by Hamish Steele, this animated show is almost surprising in just how good it is. It has casual and new representation I haven’t seen in kids’ animated shows before, a stellar cast of supporting characters, and fun animation.
Dead End: Paranormal Park has a simple set up: two teenagers, Norma and Barney, are competing for a position at a theme park based on Pauline Phoenix, an iconic actress and singer reminiscent of Dolly Parton. After a wild day of being used to summon and bind a demon, which ultimately ends up going into Barney’s dog, Pugsley, the two end up as security guards for the park. The first five episodes function as standalones in which the two solve a mystery or problem in each one, with a few threads connecting to the main mystery of Pauline impersonators who have gone missing for years within the amusement park.
The show has a lot of heart in its jokes, worldbuilding, and characters. Most notable for me were Barney, Norma, and Courtney. I loved them and their interactions with one another were so fun and wholesome.
I dive into more spoilers below so I recommend watching the show before coming back to read the rest of this.
Source: Episode 4, Dead End: Paranormal Park
It was great to see a Jewish, transgender boy represented on screen and to have him visibly attracted to another boy and go on a date with him by the end of the season. It’s done with a light hand and while Barney’s core reason for staying at the park is to get away from his parents, who “accept” but don’t defend him in front of his grandmother, it’s not done in an overly simplistic way. He deals with these feelings throughout almost every episode and it’s not immediately resolved by the end. Episode 7 is tied with Episode 9 for my favorite episode because of the way it depicted Barney’s relationship with his family and explored his feelings in more detail.
Barney is almost always accompanied by Pugsley, his faithful dog friend, and it’s sweet to see how much the two love one another. The demon inside Pugsley is voiced by Alex Brightman, who’s Beetlejuice in the musical Beetlejuice, which was great casting.
Source: Episode 3, Dead End: Paranormal Park
Similarly, Norma is a South Asian girl whom many viewers have coded as autistic. In Episode 3, “The Beach,” it’s shown that she doesn’t like touching people and is sensitive to sounds and perceptions that others have about her. She may have an anxiety disorder too or both, but she’s definitely not neurotypical. Her intelligence and love for everything Pauline Phoenix shines in the series.
Source: Episode 9, Dead End: Paranormal Park
Courtney is the demon that tries sacrificing the two at the beginning, but she comes around and finds herself more attached to these humans that she wants to be. She’s voiced by Emily Osment, whose line delivery made me laugh many times, and she’s a great chaotic factor in the mix. Her homesickness and desire to go back to the demon plane made her sympathetic and her returning to help in the finale was the perfect end to her development this season.
Dead End: Paranormal Park is a fun show with a lot going for it, especially in terms of its cast and the tone of its setting. It’s a perfect show to watch this summer and every episode made me laugh. Overall, I highly recommend this show!