DISCLAIMER: The following contains spoilers galore for NOS4A2. Proceed with caution.
Welcome, horror fans! NOS4A2 took a bite out of Sunday night with its series premiere episode. Zachary Quinto terrifies as the immortal Charlie Manx. We didn’t learn too much about him save his fixation on draining children of their life forces. In “The Shorter Way,” Manx kidnapped young Daniel, feigning to be some iteration of Old Saint Nick. Because nothing screams horror like Christmas! Meanwhile, our protagonist Vic McQueen discovered her peculiar talents in finding things. Her modus operandi was an old bridge that acted as a portal of sorts. However, said bridge was apparently demolished years ago. Hmm. Methinks something strange is afoot.
Alright, ready to delve into “The Shorter Way?” Let’s get to it, then.
We open with Daniel (Asher Miles Fallica) lying in bed wide awake in Here, Iowa. He wanders over to his mother’s room. Daniel walks in on his mother horizontally tangoing with a mystery man. He forlornly asks if he can sleep with her for the remainder of the night. However, mom is getting her freak on. She urges him to go back to his room. He meanders into the living room, feeling a mysterious pull toward the front door. Daniel finds a candy cane sitting on the stoop. He spots a 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith parked before him with a backseat full of Christmas presents. Shiny! Naturally, being a child, he makes a break for the car. Suddenly, the door shuts and locks behind him. Daniel is trapped within.
Next, we see a mysterious interloper swiftly murder Daniel’s mother’s boy toy. Daniel’s mother is frantically searching for him, and she finds him locked inside the Rolls Royce. The mysterious interloper returns, this time slaughtering Daniel’s mother right in front of him. The driver of said car is Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto) and he speeds away with Daniel, under the guise of taking the boy to Christmasland. My bet is Manx plans on eating Daniel for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Vampires gotta eat, too.
Later, we arrive in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings) is cleaning houses with her mother Linda (Virginia Kull) and her father Lightening McQueen. Okay, that last bit was a joke. Sorry folks, it had to be done. Anyway, Linda discusses her daughter’s future with Vic, hoping that the latter will continue cleaning houses. College is for rich kids. However, 18 year-old Vic really wants to attend university, despite the steep monetary requirements.
Then, the pair arrives at their own home, where Vic’s father Chris (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) is repairing a motorcycle. Vic’s father is more supportive of his daughter’s future goals. She’s an avid artist and hopes to make a career out of it. We see tensions rise between Chris and Linda, and it’s apparent that the two aren’t getting along. Vic escapes the house amid one of her parent’s volatile arguments. She hops on her own motorbike and makes a break for the the woods to clear her head. Suddenly, Vic stumbles upon an antiquated bridge, looking worse for the wear. She proceeds to enter it until something catches her eye. “Willa’s” is scrawled in neon green paint on the right side of said bridge. Willa is the name of Vic’s best mate. Vic’s eye is overcome with an immense stabbing pain, so she hastily turns back.
Meanwhile, Manx is speeding along the forest with Daniel sleeping in the backseat. Daniel appears to be malnourished, with dark circles under his eyes. Manx looks like Dracula prior to feeding time – incredibly ancient and tearing at the seams. Hats off to the makeup department for making the usually handsome Quinto look mighty scary.
Next, Vic returns home and confides her dreams to her father. Chris voices his support and encourages Vic to see the world. A+ parenting, dad. He drops her off at school for her art classes in style – on a swanky motorcycle. Vic drops off a comic book to the school janitor Bing (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), and the two bond over all things geeky. We notice that Vic isn’t popular with the majority of the student body. She’s an outsider from the wrong side of the tracks. However, she excels in her art class. Her teacher urges her to apply for financial aid to assist in funding her college education. Get ready for some student loan debt, Vic!
Now, we return back to Here, Iowa. The local authorities are looking into the break-in at Daniel’s house, having discovered that his mother was murdered. Said authorities are also on the lookout for Daniel, who has been declared missing. Maggie (Jahkara Smith), a young girl who works at the police station, thinks that something else is afoot. She reaches into a purple velvet bag containing letter tiles. Maggie pulls a Mary Poppins, and we see her arm disappear into the small bag. She procures a number of tiles that spell out “The Wraith.” This must be in reference to Manx’s car.
Meanwhile, Manx is driving along with his partner now in the vehicle. However, he disposes of said partner by ejecting him from the car. Daniel is taken aback to witness the act. Manx insists that his former-now-dearly-departed henchman would not have fared well in Christmasland. Daniel falls into another deep sleep.
Later, Vic is with her parents at a diner. Chris and Linda are looking over Vic’s portfolio when they discover a sketch of the Shorter Way bridge, the one Vic stumbled upon earlier. Both of her parents take a collective walk down memory lane, as memories associated with the bridge resurface. However, Chris reveals that he was on the demolition team when the Shorter Way bridge was decimated. Which begs the question – how did Vic see a bridge that was no longer there? She decides to temporarily part ways with her parents in favor of spending time with Willa.
Now, she arrives at the home of Willa (Paulina Singer). Willa moved away a while ago, and now Vic has the opportunity to meet some of the former’s new friends. Vic runs into Willa’s mother, who hands over Linda’s credit card. Earlier on in the episode, Vic’s parents were arguing over this exact card. So, the bridge was revealing the location of Linda’s credit card. Vic is bewildered, but she soldiers on. After Willa makes the necessary introductions, Vic starts to bond with Drew (Rarmian Newton). It’s very reminiscent of Pretty in Pink: rich guy fancies a girl from the other side of the tracks. However, Willa’s friends are putting too much emphasis on Vic’s family straddling the poverty line, so she heads back to her parents. Kids can be cruel sometimes.
Meanwhile, Chris whips out an acoustic guitar for a singalong round the campfire. The trio belts out “Here Comes the Sun.” Vic notices a nasty bruise on the side of her mother’s cheek. It would appear her parent’s frequent altercations are now getting physical. Later, back at home, Vic overhears her parents vehemently arguing over Chris losing his watch. Vic storms out of the house and hops on her bike. She returns to the mysterious bridge. This time, she plans on crossing it. She spies another name scrawled in green paint – “Aunt Callie’s.” Vic speeds through the bridge and lands right in front of Aunt Callie’s diner. She wanders inside and inquires after her father’s watch. After a server returns it to her, she forges ahead back home.
However, her eye is increasingly bloodshot, with a purplish ring spreading around it. Vic hears an incessant ringing in her ears. She passes out. Next, Vic wakes up in her own bed with Chris looming before her. She has a fever. Apparently, traveling through the bridge is quite taxing on the body. But we’ve witness two instances where Vic utilized her newfound abilities to find lost items. She has visions of Charlie Manx, of his mangled face and otherworldly appearance. She sees the tiles spelling “The Wraith,” the very ones that Maggie withdrew from her bag. It’s all connected, folks!
Now, Vic brings up her mother’s bruised cheek. Chris admits to hitting her and passionately vows to never do so again. Vic forces her father to make a promise to never drink vodka again. He recites said promise, but alcohol is a fiendish demon. Chris professes his paternal love for Vic and continues to inspire her to live life to the fullest. Then, Vic falls fast asleep.
Next, Vic wakes up, and her mother informs her that Chris left. Vic refuses to believe this, and insists that she’ll join him. However, Linda sternly reminds her daughter that he left them both. Linda assumes he’s with a woman much younger than him. Vic pulls a Nancy Drew and utilizes her new gift to find Chris. We see her parked outside Chris’ paramour’s home. She’s very young, indeed. The two are dancing, and Chris looks immensely happy. Vic is heartbroken by the display. Meanwhile, Maggie searches her tiles again, digging for a way to find Daniel. She spells out “The Brat,” which is what Chris playfully calls Vic. It would appear our teenage outcast is now tasked with quite the destiny.
Later, Manx is driving through snow. He looks even younger than before. Daniel, however, is looking more and more emaciated. He flashes a grin armed with dagger-like teeth. Daniel appears to be more of a monster than Manx – the actual monster. Manx reveals that he’s going to deposit Daniel with the other children in Christmasland. They must be awfully close, given the inclement weather. Manx also reveals that he has another destination to reach – Haverhill, Massachusetts. The location inexplicably appears on his road map, which means it must be another prime feeding ground. That, or he senses Vic’s exuding energy. My money is on the latter.
Now, NOS4A2 is right up my alley. I’m a lover of all things horror, supernatural and spooky. The concept is fascinating, and Vic’s powers are a rarity in horror TV. I loved how the series established our heroine’s familial life and her character traits. Not to mention, the bridge acting as a portal was a nice touch. Quinto is terrific, and I already know he’ll make a formidable villain in the upcoming episodes. My only complaint: the show formula is a bit contrived. We’ve seen the outcast girl with burgeoning supernatural abilities before. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one of the few series to turn that trope on its head. However, I have faith that NOS4A2 will surprise me. I’m interested enough in the series’ mythological components to forge full-steam ahead.
Do you think Vic and Manx will meet in the next episode? Just what exactly is Christmasland? Can Daniel be saved before it’s too late? Join me next week as I recap NOS4A2, here on Geek Girl Authority.
NOS4A2 airs Sundays at 10pm on your AMC affiliate.
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