DISCLAIMER: The following contains spoilers galore for the NOS4A2 episode “The Gas Mask Man.” You’ve been warned. Proceed with caution. 

Welcome back, horror fanatics! NOS4A2 picked up speed with its third installment, “The Gas Mask Man.” Vic and Manx are now closer to each other than ever. Maggie learned that Manx was in Haverhill and hellbent on eradicating Vic. Well, more like eradicating all Creatives who interfere with his objective. Bing started his first shift as Manx’s lackey, donning the gas mask and taking out innocent parents so the latter can kidnap their children. Vic finally found a reason to join the fight when Haley was taken by Manx. This series is a slow burn, but it would appear the overabundance of exposition and dragging dialogue are finally paying off. 

Alright, ready to delve into “The Gas Mask Man?” Let’s get to it, then. 

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We open with the Essex County Psych Ward, wherein an elderly woman named Jolene (Judith Roberts) resides. Manx (Zachary Quinto) arrives on the scene looking worse for the wear. He procures a pair of ice skates for Jolene. The pair are connected – Jolene herself is a Creative like Vic, and Manx sought to tear her down. He had Jolene committed to the aforementioned psych ward. He puts the skates on Jolene and the duo begin to dance. Suddenly, Manx shoves the frail woman to the ground. In short – don’t accept gifts from a vampire. 

Zachary Quinto as Charlie Manx, Judith Roberts as Jolene July – NOS4A2  Season 1, Episode 3 – Photo Credit: Dana Starbard/AMC

Later, we see Vic (Ashleigh Cummings) embarking on her college financial journey. She’s filling out the FAFSA but is incessantly running into speed bumps. She tags down Chris (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) for aid. Vic asks him for his tax returns as proof that she requires financial assistance. However, Chris reveals that he’s never given a cent to the IRS. In fact, every job he’s ever had paid him “under the table.” So, this is incredibly unhelpful. And illegal. 

Next, Vic seeks out her mother Linda (Virginia Kull) for help. Linda also reveals that she’s never paid her taxes. Essentially, Vic is up s**t’s creek without a paddle. Linda attempts to dissuade her daughter from attending college, reminding her that “McQueens never go to college.” Now, remind me, what year is this? 

Meanwhile, Maggie (Jahkara Smith) is hard at work at the library. She receives a call from her sheriff friend, who reveals that he hasn’t made progress in Danny’s case. He also bestows her with an intervention talk of sorts, as he apparently thinks of her as a daughter. He urges her to put her tiles away – give up the medium life. All that voodoo mumbo jumbo. Suddenly, a beautiful woman waltzes into the library in search of a book of romantic poetry. This gives me hope for the literary world. Seldom do you meet a person who’s actively seeking out poetry. Immediately after their initial interaction we see said woman going down on Maggie while the latter recites poetry. Hey, get it when you can, girl. 

Now, we see the lights flicker inside the library, which gives Maggie pause. She shoos the woman away without even fulfilling the latter’s request. Bad librarian! Maggie reaches into her velvet bag of tiles and procures an assortment of letters spelling out “The Wraith Hunts Brat.” That’s not ominous or anything. Time to call on Vic!

Later, Manx pulls up in his car to confer with Bing (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson). He’s ready for Bing to contribute to the cause. Manx inquires of The Shorter Way, and whether Bing can piece together this puzzle. Where is The Shorter Way? Bing reveals that, in Haverhill, it’s a now demolished bridge. He leads Manx to its former location, where no trace of its existence lingers save a few pieces of debris. Manx takes Bing to school, teaching the janitor/mechanic his first lesson: not everything is so literal. Perhaps The Shorter Way isn’t so much tangible as it is figurative.

Suddenly, they run into Vic’s young friend Haley Smith (Darby Camp), who is in search of her missing cat. Manx attempts to work his magic on the child, but Haley isn’t having it. She knows better than to talk to strangers. Bing attempts to grab her arm but Manx reprimands him. After Haley flees the scene, Manx teaches Bing his second lesson: never mishandle children. “The fires of hell aren’t hot enough for those who do,” he utters. Well, that’s one thing on which we can all agree. 

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Next, Vic arrives at her friend Willa’s (Paulina Singer) home in search of the latter’s mother. However, where there’s a Willa, there’s a way (the character’s words, not mine). Willa urges Vic to forge her parents’ tax returns. Not sure if they realize that forgery of government documents also breaks the law, as does tax evasion. Regardless, Willa vows to help her friend. She mentions an upcoming trip to various college campuses and invites Vic to tag along. 

Ashleigh Cummings as Vic McQueen – NOS4A2  Season 1, Episode 3 – Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC

Later, Vic is en route to Chris’ new home when she runs into Maggie. Maggie reveals that her tiles spelled danger for Vic. Manx is in Haverhill is pursuit of Vic. However, Vic is still unconvinced that this fight is hers, citing that she longs to live a life of normalcy. Maggie reminds Vic that they’re Creatives, which obviously means that normalcy is not in the tiles (see what I did there?). Vic brushes Maggie’s pleas aside, urging the medium to head on home. 

Then, we see Chris fixing up Vic’s friend Craig’s (Dalton Harrod) bike. Vic emerges from the house, ready and raring for her impending college trip. Craig clearly carries a torch for Vic. He attempts to convince Vic to stay in Haverhill, which is incredibly selfish of him. If you love someone, you have to let them go. I’m not a fan of everyone dissuading Vic from pursuing a higher education. Willa shows up with Drew (Rarmian Newton), the cute boy that also loves art. Once the group arrives in Rhode Island, Drew and Vic head off to explore the campus of RISD. 

Meanwhile, Maggie makes a pit stop at the Essex County Psych Ward under the guise of supplying its residents with library books. She encounters a now bedridden Jolene, and something seems strangely familiar about the elderly woman. Creatives can sense other Creatives, I suppose. 

Next, we see Vic and Drew bonding over their love of RISD, exploring the various art exhibitions and taking in the sights. Everyone loves an artsy boy. Vic meets with a counselor with her portfolio in tow. However, the woman asserts that she’s merely present to help Vic assimilate into RISD life.

Ashleigh Cummings as Vic McQueen – NOS4A2  Season 1, Episode 3 – Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC

Suddenly, Vic is inundated with macabre images of Manx, Bing and Daniel. There’s lots of blood, gnashing teeth and various sharp instruments. Like different scenes from a horror film spliced together. Her left eye proceeds to bleed as per usual, reddening with the outpouring of blood. She quickly flees the scene and runs out of campus, almost colliding with an oncoming vehicle. However, Drew manages to save her just in time. Vic exclaims that her mother is right – McQueens don’t go to college. Drew attempts to persuade Vic to break the cycle, be the first of her family to pursue a higher education. Do what she loves. Sound advice. 

Meanwhile, Maggie interacts with Jolene, learning that the old woman is a Creative herself. She also discovers that Jolene was forcefully committed to the psych ward via Manx. Maggie puts two and two together – Manx is clearly targeting any and all Creatives. Prior to her departure, Maggie finds a broken candy cane sitting atop Jolene’s comforter. Manx’s signature parting gift. 

Later, we see Bing don a gas mask and get all gussied up for a kidnapping. He barges into Haley’s home and gases her mother unconscious. Then, he scoops up the sleeping Haley for Manx. Outside the house, Manx is waiting with his Rolls Royce Wraith. He hobbles with a cane now, looking like he’s on Death’s door. When Haley stirs he promptly knocks her unconscious again with his strange vampire powers. Then, he stumbles upon Haley’s missing cat, which he also promptly slaughters by snapping the poor creature’s neck. Monster!

BTS, Olafur Darri Olafsson as Bing Partridge, Darby Camp as Haley Smith – NOS4A2  Season 1, Episode 3 – Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC

Next, Vic and her friends are en route to the car to make the trek back to Massachusetts. Vic receives a call from Maggie, and the latter recounts her meeting with Jolene. She also divulges the newest message conveyed via her tiles. “Wraith Hunts Smitten.” Maggie asks Vic if this message means anything. Vic denies having a connection to said message. 

Later, we see Vic sitting on her father’s mistress’s porch steps. She’s holding a manila envelope containing her parent’s forged tax returns. Bad Vic! That’s when she receives a phone call about Haley. She hurriedly arrives at her young friend’s home. Vic learns that Haley is missing a la Daniel. She finds an animal tag bearing the name “Mittens,” which is the name of Haley’s cat. So, Maggie almost had it right. Then, Vic uncovers the dead corpse of Mittens in the brush nearby. Uh oh. This reeks of foul play. 

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Thankfully, NOS4A2 seems to be hitting its stride. Slowly, but surely. I typically give a new series four episodes to keep me invested, so we’re close to breaching that threshold. Quinto is always a standout and Manx is a villain who possesses a moral code – an interesting juxtaposition. I too think that those who mishandle children deserve a fate worse than eternal hellfire. Cummings also shines with an understated performance – remember, less is more as far as on-camera acting is concerned. We’re starting to see more horror elements interwoven into the story, and I hope the show only amps up the horror from here. Only if it doesn’t sacrifice the overarching narrative, of course. 

When do you think our two leads will finally meet? Could Manx potentially pursue Maggie since she’s also a Creative? How will Vic utilize The Shorter Way to track down Haley? Join me next week as I continue to recap NOS4A2, here on Geek Girl Authority. 

NOS4A2 airs Sundays at 10pm on your AMC affiliate. 

 

 

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