Jun 16, 2022

"Dead End: Paranormal Park": LGBT and Neurodivergent Teens Fight Demons

Netflix has a good track record of including gay/lesbian characters in its animated series, so when Dead End: Paranormal Park popped into my recommendations, I reviewed the first episode.

Prologue: A woman in a red dress and high-heeled shoes runs toward an old mansion, chased by an invisible presence.  She runs inside, up some stairs, and into a hall of mirrors.  Where she is attacked by a zombie version of herself!

Scene 1: A pastel-colored suburban street.  A boy with a tuft of purple hair and a bulbous red nose (Zach Barack) gets dressed and looks at an flier: "Humans wanted for job at Dead End in Phoenix Park."

Meanwhile, three houses down, a girl is preening in front of a mirror in a room cluttered with pictures of the red-dress woman.  On tv, people are discussing how photographs capture your soul.

Scene 2: Mom tells the boy that his job interview --- "at sundown" -- conflicts with Grandma coming  to dinner tonight.  "Did you tell her Barney would be there?" he asks.  "She wouldn't understand," Mom counters. Is Barney, like, a boyfriend? And out into the pastel world, accompanied by a chubby dog named Pugsley.

Meanwhile, three doors down, the girl fights off her mom's excessive hugging and kissing and goes out into the pastel world herself.  She has a copy of the job flier.

Scene 3: 
They get on the bus together.  They're the same age and live close by, but she doesn't know him.  She gets all "stranger danger" frightened, and when he calls her by her name -- Norma -- she attacks.  "Wait -- we know each other.  We go to school together.  We're lab partners."  Turns out that Norma is neurodiverse, so when she sees someone she knows in an unusual environment, she doesn't recognize him.  

The boy's name turns out to be Barney. Maybe he's transgender, and Grandma insists on calling him by his deadname?   

The red-dress woman appears on tv: famous actress Pauline Phoenix, explaining that she built a theme park with five zones based upon her movies and tv shows.   "And if you see anything suspicious, keep it to yourself."  Gulp.

Scene 4: At Phoenix Park -- you enter through the mouth of a giant Pauline Phoenix head.  Gulp.  A parody of Disneyland, except instead of Cinderella's Castle, it's dominated by the Dead End, the haunted house that Pauline was attacked in earlier.  It's been closed, Norma tells us, since one of the park's Pauline impersonators vanished a year ago.  So the woman in the Prologue must have been a Pauline impersonator.

When they enter Dead End, a small orange demon with a tubular head appears: "Welcome, mortals.  You two must be the offerings.  I didn't realize that there'd be choices."  Wait -- aren't you the one who sent the fake fliers? Why did you send two, if you didn't expect two victims?

Various scary beings appear, I am particularly freaked out by a human figure with a sheet wrapped around its head and a pice of paper pinned to its face.  Barney catches on that this is not an ordinary job interview, but Norma, still oblivious, asks "Does this job come with benefits?"  "Blood made of fire," the orange demon tells her.  "Immortality."

Temeluchus the Demon King ascends from the underworld in an elevator.  Orange Demon tells him that she brought two humans.  "They'd both make excellent new bodies for you.  Which do you prefer?"  

The Demon King chooses Barney, but just as the green protusion streteches across to him, the dog Pugsley intervenes.  Now he is trapped in the dog's body!  Orange Demon argues that she provided bodies -- it's not her fault that Demon King chose the wrong one -- so can she be released from the curse and go home?  "No." Demon King/Pugsley flies off to find a throne, so he can rule this world.

Scene 5: Barney follows to save his dog.  Norma stays behind to interrogate the Orange Demon (named Courtney): the only way to get Temeluchus out of the dog is to trap him in a new vessel.  Fortunately, Norma remembers from earlier today that photographs capture your soul.

Barney and Norma find the Demon King/Pugsley sitting on a throne in the Medieval section of the park, Camelot Court.   They try to take photographs, but he crushes their cell phones. But Medieval section's log ride takes your picture automatically.  They just need to lure him onto the ride, and stay alive long enough....

Scene 6: The plan worked -- Demon King is trapped in a photograph.  They return to the Dead End house and give it to Orange Demon.  A lot of demons are going to be upset over the loss of their king, and come after her for revenge.  Would they like real jobs at the park, as demon busters?  Of course -- otherwise be lousy story.

Norma goes home. Barney stays behind; he wants to stay overnight in the Dead End house.  To avoid his transphobic  Grandma?  The dog Pugsley has been changed by his encounter with Demon King -- he's sentient!  He can talk!  The end.

LGBT Characters:
If I hadn't done any research, I would not have caught the hint that Barney is transgender.  Maybe they are more overt in future episodes.

The series is based upon the Deadendia graphic novels by Hamish Steele, which also feature a trans boy protagonist and a neurodiverse sidekick (and bulbous noses and tufts of blue hair).  Several voice artists are LGBT, including Zack Barack (Barney) and Miss Coco Peru (Pauline Phoenix). 

Heterosexism:  Norma seems attracted to Barney.  She invites him to dinner with a red-faced embarrasment.  But apparently Barney gets a boyfriend later on.

Runanway: I don't understand why Barney doesn't want to go home.  Grandma may be transphobic, but Mom seems fine.  I didn't notice any hints of abuse.

Neurodivergent:  That should actually be explained. Otherwise it makes no sense for Norma to fail to recognize someone who she sees all the time.

The Hall of Mirrors: The opening, with Pauline or one of her impersonators being attacked in a hall of mirrors, seems unconnected to the plot about the Demon King.  Barney walks through the same hall with no mishaps, not even a scare.

My Grade: B+.


  1. its so sad seeing how barney never gets the courage to tell logs how he feels

    1. He asks him out on a date in Episode #8. I haven't finished the series yet, so I don't know if they actually go on it, but at least they established a romantic connection.


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