The Bright Sessions is a science fiction podcast that follows a group of therapy patients. But these are not your typical patients – each has a unique supernatural ability. The show documents their struggles and discoveries as well as the motivations of their mysterious therapist, Dr. Bright.
It’s taken me a while to write this review because The Bright Sessions is one of those stories where it feels like no words I can say about it will do it justice. It’s powerful, deeply thematic, and touches on the core of what it means to be human. Lauren Shippen puts the human in superhuman with a standout audio drama that sets the gold standard for the industry.
So, what’s it about?
It would be more than a little misleading to say this is a show about superheroes. Yes, the story centers around young adults and their remarkable powers. Chloe is an artist who can read minds, Caleb is a high school football player struggling with his abilities as an empath, and Sam’s ability to time travel would be far more useful if she could control it. The focus of The Bright Sessions is on the daily lives of these people and their personal struggles, which often go beyond their abilities.
Given that the audio drama gets its name from Dr. Bright, the therapist helping these atypical individuals come to terms with their powers, that introspective focus is hardly surprising. The story is first and foremost character-driven, with a an overarching plot that only takes shape over the course of many episodes.
Found families, mental health, and personal relationships all play a key role in The Bright Sessions. Though if I were to pick one theme that defines the story, it’s control. Most characters merely want to control their abilities to the point that they can function normally, others have sinister or misguided ideas about control.
The story starts a little slowly. I was hooked after the first few episodes, but the plot comes into its own with the introduction of Damien in episode ten. He’s one of the primary antagonists for the story, and I absolutely love how his relationship to other characters is handled. Don’t expect any clear lines between good and evil. Instead, expect every character to have a nuanced relationship with nearly every other character.
Whether you’re an experienced audio drama listener wondering if you should start this series or someone entirely new to the medium, now is the perfect time to jump into The Bright Sessions. As of June 2018, its main arc is complete at just under 25 hours of total listening time. Two spinoff audio dramas are in the works, along with a TV show and three-book deal with Tor Teen.
The story is beautifully human and the characters will stay with you long after you finish listening. If you’ve already listened to this, you know what I mean. And if you haven’t yet, a remarkable journey awaits.