Maybe it’s just the podcasts I listen to, but I’ve noticed that there tends to be a pretty dramatic shift between the first and second seasons.
Purely speculation here, but I imagine it’s one part that the hiatus between seasons is a good turning point, and a good time for creators to ponder what works and what doesn’t, and to try something different. For creative teams who are relatively new to podcasting, I imagine that by the end of the first season their skills are refined to the point that they’re more willing to push the limits of what they can do. Also the nature of the first season finale seems to often require that at least some of the premise is abandoned, because the story seems to have moved on from there.
Personally, this pleases me– there’s something really nice about creators having the freedom to adapt the story as they go without the threat of executives breathing down their necks to keep rehashing the same thing over and over again.
WTNV had probably a more subtle shift, going from seemingly unconnected daily life in the first season to the very clearly connected Strexcorp plot in the second. Notably with that one, though, the later seasons seemed to go back to more of a middle ground between the two.
The season one finale of Wolf 359 cemented a fairly huge tonal shift in the series, but that was furthered by the format of mission logs and all that jazz being formally abandoned early into season two.
I saw similar in the format and plot of both Tanis and Ars Paradoxica, though I’ll leave the specifics on that one to people who have dedicated more thought and energy to those than I have.
Archive 81 kind of takes the cake for it, to the point where it inspired this post. Listening to the first episode of the second season, I was very much “well… that is not the direction I foresaw this show going.”
All that in mind, the Concierge episode of The Penumbra Podcast seems to be an in-universe segue for the same kind of shift in format and tone. Especially considering how the series was originally intended to be a Twilight Zone-esque anthology show and eventually turned into the Adventures of Juno Steel Plus A Few Side Stories.
the world as we know it has ended and mother nature starts taking back what’s hers. there are no zombies or cannibals or murderous bandits. the most valued members of the community are those who know how to garden and farm, sew and weave, treat wounds, work wood or build with bricks, cook from scratch.
people bond together to begin rebuilding instead of killing each other. everyone teaches each other whatever they do know and works together to figure out the stuff none of them know. books become incredibly valued resources because they’re often the only way to learn critical information. if someone is elderly, disabled, or otherwise unable to work at the same level as most of the community, they’re taken care of by the others, not told any sort of “survival of the fittest” bs.
as the generations ware on, communities begin expanding into small cities. some of the settlements even find ways to repurpose solar or wind power on a small scale and have electricity in some of their buildings. storytellers wander the countryside telling tales of the old world in return for some hot stew or a place to rest for the night, and the mythos of the new world start to incorporate elements of the past. the only thing that remains constant is that humans survive, and they do it by working together.