DISCLAIMER: The following recaps for NOS4A2 episodes “Sleigh House” and “Gunbarrel” are rife with spoilers. You’ve been warned. Proceed with caution.
Welcome back, horror fanatics! NOS4A2 aired back-to-back episodes this week, delivering a tasty morsel of a season finale. If you love Christmas while simultaneously digging horror, “Sleigh House” and “Gunbarrel” will hit your sweet spot. While it took NOS4A2 some time to find its footing, I believe our little horror-show-that-could has finally discovered its niche. These episodes were jam-packed with action, suspense, a smattering of the macabre and the perfect amount of emotional angst. Not to mention, we were left with potential Season 2 threads to mull over until next year.
Alright, ready to delve into the two-hour season finale? Let’s get to it.
Sleigh House (S01E09)
We open with Craig (Dalton Harrod) snagging his trusty bat prior to leaving his home. He’s on a mission: make Bing (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) pay for what he did to Vic. Craig hops on his bike and speeds into Bing’s front yard. He barges in to find Charlie Manx’s lackey baking Christmas cookies. Suddenly, the two engage in a bloody bout of fisticuffs as cheerful holiday music serves as the soundtrack. We see the pair take their fight off screen, and someone picks up Craig’s bat to lay the final blow. Blood splatters the flour-caked floor. Hey, fellas, that’s not how you bake cookies!
Meanwhile, Vic (Ashleigh Cummings) is sitting in her room while Maggie (Jahkara Smith) recovers from her near-death scare. Vic is sending countless messages to Craig’s phone inquiring of the latter’s whereabouts. She undergoes an intense vision involving Charlie Manx’s daughter Millie (Mattea Conforti). Millie spews thinly veiled threats at Vic. Thankfully, the vision flees as quickly as it arrived. However, Vic’s visions are becoming more frequent and visceral. The curtain between reality and fantasy is wearing thin.
Later, Vic and Maggie have lunch. Vic offers Maggie her support, reminding the latter that she has a friend who loves her dearly. Maggie assures Vic that she’s fine now. The two discuss the next step in their quest – finding Manx and saving Craig from inevitable torture. Next, they wind up arriving at Bing’s home via Vic’s bike.
Then, we catch Bing meeting Manx (Zachary Quinto) in a secluded location in the woods. Bing reveals an unconscious Craig in the boot of his car. They move him to the Wraith’s antiquated trunk. Craig wakes up in a groggy haze and Manx commences to interrogate him. During this line of questioning Manx discovers that Vic isn’t as pure as he was led to believe. Yes, his future wife/mother of his vampire children has been deflowered, by Craig the stoner. Manx compliments Bing on a job well done, swiftly removing his sole henchman from the Naughty list. Thank the holiday gods! Manx, with Craig in tow, speeds home.
Meanwhile, Vic and Maggie begin rummaging through Bing’s belongings for a sign. Vic feels immense remorse for showing Craig her bridge, for revealing her Strong creative self to him. After stumbling upon Bing’s disheveled kitchen post-fight, Vic comes to the conclusion that she must access the Shorter Way to find her beau. She urges Maggie to stay behind and phone the police, especially since Maggie is still recovering from her overdose. Maggie acquiesces, albeit reluctantly.
Next, after Vic flees the scene, Maggie calls the police to report Craig and Vic’s kidnapping. Detective Hutter (Ashley Romans) arrives on the scene with her squad. Maggie reveals that Bing kidnapped Craig and Vic. Naturally, Maggie omits certain details about the whole thing, especially regarding the existence of Charlie Manx. Once again, Hutter is suspicious. However, she continues her search of Bing’s house. She discovers the power drill used to slaughter Sharon Smith. Hutter puts out a message to everyone in her squad to track down Bing, Craig and Vic at all costs. We see Bing speed past his home after he spots the police cars cluttering his front yard.
Later, we see Vic utilize her inscape to hunt down Manx. We see the words “Sleigh House” scrawled in neon green ink on the side of the Shorter Way bridge. Vic arrives at Manx’s abode, the same place where Jolene did significant damage to the Wraith. Vic wanders into his garage and finds a young boy named Bradley (Pierson Salvador) sitting in the backseat of the Wraith. His mouth is lined with dagger-like teeth, and his overall appearance is reminiscent of the other children in Christmasland. Creepy, monstrous and yet still cute. He urges Vic to play with him. However, Vic is preoccupied with tracking down Craig. She hears him inside the trunk of the Wraith, but is unable to open said trunk without the car keys. Vic heads inside Manx’s house proper to find them.
However, Vic’s search comes up empty. We see the Man of the Hour outside his house. He finds Vic’s bike and shoves it into her Shorter Way bridge, thereby destroying her inscape and bike in one fell swoop. Vic’s eye bleeds more than usual, and she falls over in agony. Manx makes his way into his house and Vic narrowly escapes encountering him. She stumbles into his laundry room and sequesters herself within.
Next, Manx attempts to coerce Vic outside the laundry room to face him. He’s disappointed in Vic for sullying herself, for not being the pure, virginal character he imagined her to be. She’s not fit to mother his children. Therefore, she must be destroyed. Vic vows to find Christmasland and burn it to the ground, but Manx has a preemptive strike up his sleeve – burn his own house to the ground with Vic inside. He douses the wooden floors with gasoline and lights a match.
Then, we see Vic coughing incessantly as the Sleigh House goes up in flames. She shoves towels underneath the door frame. Next, she stands atop a dryer and attempts to break through the small window leading outside. Nothing. The flames grow in size around her. Suddenly, she spots an air vent and attempts to climb up it. Her first attempt was unsuccessful. She falls and fractures her leg. However, our heroine musters up the strength to climb up the air vent to safety. As she clambers through a smaller vent leading into the house, we see the flames below her consuming the laundry room in fire and fury. Cummings is stunning in this scene, really showing us that stellar acting happens between the lines. She is adept at communicating a plethora of emotions without uttering a single word.
Now, Vic catches Manx speeding away in his Wraith, but unfortunately he’s too far out to follow. Drat! That ol’ bat got away.
Next, we forge ahead into “Gunbarrel,” the season finale. We see an injured Vic clamber through the window outside as Manx’s Sleigh House is engulfed in fire. Craig is attempting to free himself of his restraints inside Manx’s trunk. Thankfully, he starts to make headway. He punctures a hole in Manx’s gas tank, and we see Manx’s nose begin to bleed. He coughs as a result of the damage inflicted on the Wraith. Manx decides to make a detour on the way to Christmasland.
Meanwhile, Vic flags down a biker named Lou (Jonathan Langdon) who rushes her to an establishment with a working landline phone. Unfortunately, the surrounding area lacks proper reception, so Vic cannot call Maggie on her cell phone. We see the duo pull into a nearby gas station. Lou explains to the proprietor that Vic is badly injured and narrowly escaped a house on fire. Oh, and that her friend has been kidnapped. Said proprietor calls the authorities.
Next, we see Maggie camping out at the police station. She pulls Hutter aside and reveals the ace up her sleeve – her velvet bag of tiles. Maggie also reveals that there are unseen supernatural forces at play. Maggie utilizes her Strong Creative talents by asking the bag when Vic will call her. The tiles spell out “soon” and, sure enough, Vic calls Maggie from the gas station. Hutter is flabbergasted by this display, but she’s now a firm believer. Vic informs Maggie that she’s fine, but Manx took off with Craig in his trunk. She also reveals that she’s in Gunbarrel, Colorado. The plus side of having a bridge inscape is free travel, am I right?
Suddenly, Manx pulls up in his Wraith. Uh oh. Lou brandishes a gun and attempts to distract Manx while Vic sneaks over to the trunk to free Craig. Vic still can’t open the trunk and doesn’t find keys in the ignition. It’s a magic car, remember? Thankfully, Craig uses a crowbar to break free through the backseat. However, Bradley is waiting for him with baited breath and an empty tummy. He bites Craig in the arm, and the two viciously duke it out. Vic tries to intervene, but Bradley also bites her arm. She attempts to pull Craig through to the front seat. Unfortunately, there’s a pesky force field separating the back and front seats. Ergo, Craig is stuck. He confesses his love for her, and urges Vic to do the right thing. Kill Manx, regardless of the personal cost to himself. Those damn onion ninjas are at it again!
Next, Vic clambers outside the vehicle, douses it with gas and holds her lighter aloft. Manx’s eyes light up in fear, just as the Wraith also lights up in flames. We see Charlie Manx shrivel up like a prune, with curled claws and a contorted body. He looks like death. Suddenly, the Wraith explodes in a fiery blaze, and Vic falls to her knees in pain. She sobs over the loss of Craig.
Later, Vic wakes up in the hospital. She learns that Manx is still alive, albeit he’s hanging by a thread. He’s in a coma and hooked up to life support. Lou is released from the hospital, but before he departs he gives Vic his phone number. You know, in case she needs a sidekick for her superhero adventures. I like Lou. I hope he sticks around for next season. Oh, and Vic learns that she’s pregnant…with Craig’s child. She’s merely a few weeks along, too.
Then, Vic coerces the marshal standing guard in front of Manx’s room to let her inside. She wants to stare that villainous shell of the man in the face one last time. After the marshal reluctantly allows her through, Vic lays on the thinly-veiled threats, reminding him that she holds all the cards now. She still plans on destroying Christmasland and freeing the children locked within.
Meanwhile, Hutter visits Maggie in the latter’s hotel room. She informs our favorite medium that Vic is safe and sound. Oh, and Manx is under custody. The only remaining loose thread is that of Bing Partridge. Speaking of which…
We see Bing on the run. He makes a pit stop at his old job and swipes some dangerous chemicals and gas. His boss catches Bing in the act and attempts to call the police. Maggie consults her tiles and informs Hutter of Bing’s location. Later, Hutter and her squad arrive on the scene right after Bing flees. They find Bing’s boss tied up in his car with male genitalia crudely drawn on his forehead. I see Bing is also an artist!
Now, back at Maggie’s hotel room, our medium consults her tiles once more. They spell out “House of Sleep Two,” which confounds both Maggie and Hutter. However, we see Bing has set up shop in a new, undisclosed location. He shaves his beard and changes his license plate. Bing now is the lovechild of Vincent D’Onofrio and Dominic Burgess. Change my mind.
Later, we see Vic and Linda (Virginia Kull) heading out for Craig’s funeral services. While at Craig’s wake, Vic is comforted by all the humorous stories she overhears regarding her dearly departed beau. Her mother is just glad that Vic made it out alive. Vic wanders over to where Chris (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) is standing. She confesses her pregnancy, and her father takes it all in stride. He vows to help Vic figure everything out. Good father is a good father. Before leaving the wake, Vic runs in to Craig’s mother, who urges her to leave Haverhill for good and go to art school.
Next, Vic swipes her father’s bike and helmet and makes her way to where she typically conjures her bridge. Unfortunately, it’s no longer there. Maggie finds her friend sitting in solitude, staring out at the water before her. She informs Vic that she’s not returning to Iowa. Instead, she’s going to reside in Haverhill and aid Detective Hutter in the search for Bing. However, Vic reveals that she can’t stay. She needs to get out of town, and fast. But to art school? Vic laughs off the idea of a normal life. The two forlornly part ways and wish each other well.
Then, we undergo a time jump. Six months pass, and we see Bing has a new job as a janitor for a dentistry. He’s giving off major Jeffry Dahmer vibes with the shaved face and glasses. Bing is coercing a little girl with a candy cane, which is not something you give out at a dentistry. So, Bing is continuing to do Manx’s work, solidifying the latter’s legacy in time.
Meanwhile, Vic and Lou are standing outside the decimated Sleigh House. Vic is staring at the multiple Christmas ornaments adorning the pine trees in front of her. Her stomach is considerably bigger – well, she is six months pregnant after all. Lou is by her side. So, we know Vic is back in Colorado. She’s also working at Lou’s startup repair shop. Oh, and she’s still on the hunt for Christmasland. However, without her bike/inscape, this is proving to be difficult.
Later, we see the Wraith sitting in a shop. Prior to throwing it in a scrap heap, a mechanic attempts to turn on said Wraith and is successful. Meanwhile, a nurse is attending to Manx. We see Manx’s eyes fly open when the car is started. He threatens the nurse, and she drops the bag of blood she was preparing to administer to him. Manx reveals that he’s seen the nurse’s son trapped in the Graveyard of What Might Be, and that she should be a better mother to him. The nurse escapes his grasp and runs to get police assistance. We see Manx smile, every bit as villainous as a decrepit man as he would be at full power.
What a finale! I’m intrigued to see where Season 2 takes us. NOS4A2 has hit its stride, and I hope we continue to ride this wave for the remainder of its shelf life. The performances get an A+ from me, especially Cummings and Quinto. Quinto is convincing as a formidable foe, and Cummings has a bright future ahead of her. Now, I also really dug the constant parallels drawn between Vic and Manx. For example, if one was injured via their broken bridge, so was the other. There are several figurative and literal parallels between the pair sprinkled throughout the season, and it’s one of my favorite aspects of the series.
Do you think Manx will find his Wraith before he withers away? Will Vic successfully burn down Christmasland as promised? Can Maggie find Bing before he wrecks more havoc? We’ll have to wait until next year to find out!
NOS4A2 will return for Season 2 in 2020 on your AMC affiliate.
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