Here we go, Episode 2 of NOS4A2 on AMC. Last week, we met the main players, but are we any further along finding out about Christmasland, Charlie Manx, or the extent of Vic’s abilities? Let’s find out!
Again, since the editing of these episodes is so ham-hamhanded, I’ve divided up the recap into the main characters and their settings.
Haverhill, MA – Bing:
Bing Partridge (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), the custodian at Vic’s high school is typing out a letter of inquiry responding to an ad in the back of one of the comics she loaned him. It’s for Christmasland (Do you believe), and Bing absolutely believed. His accomplishments highlighted, such as his long-term employment and shipping dangerous gases all over the world, he hears noises from upstairs. He finds his parents slow-dancing in front of a decorated Christmas tree complete with presents, and as far as we know, it’s still July. It’s s sweet scene, except his mother’s feet don’t touch the ground and it’s July. Then his mother falls to the ground and the man is in a full gas mask and advancing on Bing. Bing runs downstairs and encounters a transformed Danny Moore (he disappeared last episode), all teeth and sunken eyes. He bears an invitation to Christmas land just for Bing. Bing assures Danny he’s definitely on the nice list but Danny isn’t so sure, and when Bing wakes up nearly screaming in pain, he sees the Man in the Moon, wink at him, and the Man has Charlie Manx’s face.
M-O-O-N, that spells wtf
At work, Bing is scrubbing penis graffiti (male galliformes – ho-ho-ho) off the walls of his opklace of work and a very young Manx introduces himself as Charles T Manx, “CEO of Christmasland Enterprises, Director of Christmasland Entertainment, President of Fun.” He says he needs a Chief of Security of Christmasland to protect the children of the world. On an aimless drive, Manx wants to know what kind of “dangerous gases” Bing can get his hands on. It’s mostly breathable stuff, but the one that piques Manx’s interest is the sevoflurane (C4H3F7O) or Gingerbread Smoke. It’s gas dentists use and it smells like gingerbreads? Just a little and people are open to suggestion. Too much and it knocks them out. Bing falls asleep after sipping on a drugged soda and when he wakes up, they’re driving through snow and pines. Bing waves at snowmen with sharp charcoal teeth who wave back. Manx tells Bing that children are always welcome in Christmasland, but adults can only go once a year and only once they’ve proven themselves worthy. Bing’s mission, if he chooses to accept it, is to save ten children from monsters, like their parents. Bing balks about kidnapping children, but Manx assures them that it’s a rescue. At a snow-covered cemetery, Bing sees a child at the foot of a snow-covered tombstone floating under half an inch of ice. Manx tells him it’s the Graveyard of what Might Be. They’re the suspended bodies of the abused children he wanted to “save.” There is one Lily Carter from Portland, ME, 2001- ? Her epitaph reads:
Turned to a life of sin by her father
Her childhood ended before it began
If only there had been another
To take her off to Christmasland
That’s dark, Manx.
Beneath the ice, Lily floats and blinks and Bing is bothered, like really bothered. Manz says he wishes he could put a bullet in the heads of these abusive parents. Or, he offers knowingly, a nail (THIS IS FORESHADOWING PLEASE PAY ATTENTION). Manx also wishes he could have saved Bing him from his own abusive childhood. Bing agrees to help Manx save all of the children. Manx warns Bing about someone who could potentially be a roadblock and casually asks him about the Shorter Way.
Haverhill, MA – Vic:
On the other side of the Shorter Way Bridge, Vic (Ashleigh Cummings) has found her father, Chris (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) in the arms of Tiffany (Jamie Neumann), his new squeeze. Betrayed by her father’s abandonment, Vic returns home and tells her mother, Linda (Virginia Kull) who Chris is shacking up with. The question her parents want to know is how Vic found out. At the empty hole where the Shorter Way Bridge used to sit, Vic meets up with friend and one-way- crush Craig (Dalton Harrod). She asks him about a toy rabbit of his she lost when they were small. One he has the name firmly in her mind she set off for the drop-off, but the bridge suddenly appears and she takes it, to Craig’s astonishment. He tried to follow but the bridge won’t let him cross, must less ride on it. It solves the question no one had – cam other people use ic’s bridge? When he comes to, she’s returned, all woozy bleedy eye with his toy rabbit, Leonard, fresh from a landfill. He’s terrified for her because she looks like hell, very greenish and leaking blood from her left eye.
While Vic is scrubbing toilets with her mother, Mrs. Brewster spills the beans about Vic applying to the expensive art school, the Rhode Island School of Design. It’s a tense subject since Linda knows college costs money she doesn’t have. LInda doesn’t come right out and belittle Vic’s talent and ability, she skates right up to the line and pees on it. Vic decides to live with her father whom she believes is more supportive of her career choices. Vic swings by little Haley’s (Darby Camp) place which seems to be one of those spots that you always drive by no matter where you’re going in town. Vic gives Haley a case full of colored pencils but sees a candy cane in her hand, triggering a sharp ringing in her ears before the candy cane becomes a piece of chalk. It’s probably just the brain tumor and Vic dismisses it.
At the Other Woman’s place, Tiffany is cornered into offering Vic her craft room to crash. Chris doesn’t really see any way he can reunite with his wife to make Vic happy with both parents. Over dinner, Tiffany discovers Vic’s stay might be a lot longer than initially led to believe since she hasn’t graduated high school yet, like a whole year but looks like she really wants to play the cool Dad’s Girlfriend. Linda arrives take Vic home and gets into it with Tiffany. In her own trashy way, Tiffany is defending Vic because she wants to go to college. Linda counters that the closest Vic will get to college is tending bar with a baby bump next to the valedictorian of Margaritaville (which is hilarious!).
Tiffany: What’s wrong with tending bar, you clean houses.”
Linda: “Yeah but I don’t wreck them.”
I do love a good trashy smackdown,
They almost come to blows but Vic leaves on her bike headed for the Shorter Way, which she crosses with only her parents arguing in her head and ends up in front of the Library in Here, IA at the feet of Maggie Leigh, who’s been expecting her. We’ll get back to this visit in the next section
Back in Haverhill, she meets Haley on the other side of the Bridge. This kid keeps showing up inorganic and forced ways so she must be important to the story. Haley is looking for Mittens, her cat, which explains her wandering the woods in the dark, I guess.
Vic returns to Tiffany’s house to find her mother has left and there’s a bottle of vodka in the freezer. She tries to fall asleep to Tiffany and Chris’ enthusiastic lovemaking with an ice pack over her busted eye.
Maggie (Jahkara Smith) is still trying to convince Sheriff Bly ( Chris McKinney) to find the Wraith via the spare parts needed to keep it running. They track down Mrs. Myers (Brenda Wehle) the woman running Miller’s New and Vintage Auto Parts who distinctly remembers working on a ’38 Wraith “32 years ago come October.” It needed the left front fender and brake drums replaced after allegedly spinning out on some black ice. She’s positive about the time frame because it’s when her oldest son and grandson disappeared with the man and never came home. While in the care of Miller’s Service, the Wraith allegedly started on its own and at some point pinned her son Robbie to the wall before abducting him and her grandson.
That evening, Maggie greets Vic “the Brat” at the foot of the Shorter Way Bridge which has appeared in downtown Here, IA, and takes her in into the library to clean the scrap on her knee. There’s some information (info-dump) about Creatives who can use their tools (knives) to bend time and space (Inscapes). Charlie Manx’s knife is the ’38 Wraith which he uses to abduct kids. Maggie’s knife is her bag of Scrabble tiles which she uses like a really vague Magic 8 Ball. Vic’s tools are her bike to travel along her Inscape, The Shorter Way Bridge. Maggie’s price for using her Scrabble tiles to find vague answers is a brand new stutter (???). Vic’s price for finding lost things is her potential brain hemorrhage. She learns that the Wraith is Manx’s knife, but what his price is no one knows. Maggie is convinced Vic is there to help her find Danny, but Vic wants no part of being a search part for much more than lost stuffed rabbits and watches and heads back across the Bridge.
So to answer my initial questions, no, we have no idea.
AGAIN — what is up with the editing? This could be such a compelling story if we weren’t jumping whole locations every few minutes. We need to get to know people before we meet other people, and we’re not given that opportunity. We’re two episodes in and it’s still a puzzle without a clear picture on the box. Bing the janitor is sort of coming together, and most of the episode did focus on him in short clumps. but for such an eloquent letter written at the beginning, he’s very simple and accepting to what Manx has in store for him. Maggie tags along on missing/murder investigations (because WHY NOT), but she’s still a quirky enigma in a town that seems to have a very nice library and downtown for not a lot of people to appreciate all of that quirkiness Vic has a family life she’s clearly trapped in because no one seems terribly interested in seeing her succeed. Whether it’s dad’s aloofness or mom’s inferiority complex, everyone seems pretty miserable doing just enough to go nowhere. Sad, but is it compelling? (no)
Maggie’s non-existent stutter is a new problem since this is the is first we’re hearing (ho-ho-ho) of it, despite the previous use of her tiles. If this is a directorial choice, it’s a poor once, since Maggie was nearly incomprehensible in the book after using her tiles. Yes I know I said I wouldn’t compare the book to the movie because adaptation, but this sticks out like a sore thumb. At least Vic’s eye looks bad for us to notice, but the stutter? Not buying it.
We are literally sleepwalking through these episodes and don’t get me wrong, Vic’s jaunts through the Shorter Way bridge are exciting but ultimately empty. She’s found a watch, her father, and a stuffed rabbit. She has an opportunity to really test her limits to find Daniel, but she turns it down. We don’t know nearly about her to understand why since they aren’t spending more than 2-3 minutes at a stretch but it’s so badly broken up, it’s hard to keep everything straight – and I’m saying this as someone who’s watched these first six episodes more than once.
So – where do we go? There’s a lot to cover over the next 8 episodes and I’m not confident it can be wrapped up his season.
I’m going to continue to review and recap NOS4A2 through episode 6. Maybe you’ll stick around with me, but I would totally understand if you bailed.