An emotional NOS4A2 Season 2 Episode 1 brought a new beginning with old problems when it asks what makes a good parent?
When last we saw Vic, Maggie, and Charlie, they were all licking their wounds. Charlie, having been defeated by Vic, was healing in the prison hospital. Maggie was doing her level best to be supportive of her friend after Craig’s fiery death, and Vic found out she was pregnant with Craig’s child. Thankfully Lou Carmody had just stepped in the picture and is another gargantuan set of shoulders to lean on. A quick six month time jump shows Lou and Vic together and still in Colorado, and she hasn’t given up on destroying Manx and Christmasland. NOS4A2 Season 2 Episode 1 begins eight years later with a lot of bad news.
NOS4A2 got a lot of grief last season for starting slow. Fans of the novel by Joe Hill knew there was a ton of ground to cover, and hurrying over the set-up would rob the viewer of the emotional journey the characters go on. Without that context, their tragedies and successes mean nothing. The two-part finale of Season 1 brought a needed dose of urgency while delivering in a new chapter in Vic and Manx’s story for Season 2 to build on.
The episode opens with another thrilling look at Christmasland. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and Charlie Manx’s daughter Millie is as big a monster as her Dad if in a pint-sized body. When a bunch of curious kids stumbles on the portal between Sleigh House and Christmasland, she learns that the wall to the other world isn’t as strong as she thought. Unfortunately, she soon will realize that their existence relies on Manx and the Wraith. If the old man and his car die, so does Christmasland.
Minnie wants Manx back and blames Vic. Minnie borrows directly from her Dad’s playbook and begins torturing Vic with Christmas music and staticky phone calls. It doesn’t take much for Vic’s frail mind to succumb to the pressure. Vic’s bike and her bridge are back and they take her to the morgue to Manx. She found him under a sheet all torn apart from an autopsy. she stabbed him with a scalpel and drive back home to find her home burning down.
NOS4A2 Season 2 Episode 1 titled Bad Mother explores the idea that Vic was a bad mother in Manx’s eyes for his vampire kids and an actual bad mother to Wayne. That through-line in the novel is an important one. Vic suffered life-altering trauma, and anyone would struggle to be a mother under those circumstances. She isn’t perfect. She’s occasionally less than the ideal mother for Wayne, who we get to see eight years after the tragedy of Season 1, but she would die to protect him. Sometimes Wayne needs protection from her, though, and therein lies the rub.
She wants to be a good parent, but her past and Manx keep getting in the way. Instead, she swings wildly between being an overly indulgent mom who lets her kid skip school and eat ice cream for breakfast and a barely functional alcoholic who behaves erratically out of devastating fear. Ashley Cummings captures both extremes with ease. She plays so well off Zachary Quinto’s impish Charlie Manx. Vic is vulnerable yet so strong and she is the ideal underdog.
Vic wears her new tattoos like hard-fought scars from battle. They are equal parts reminders of where she has come from and promises on where she’s going. They are her armor and her rebellion; an ever-present middle finger raised defiantly at Charlie Manx. Some of that strength is owed to Lou Carmody, the giant of a man with more patience and love than any man should have. Jonathon Langdon is the perfect Lou. He has a massive, imposing size, but his inherent gentle spirit and all-consuming love for Vic and Wayne are evident from the opening moments of NOS4A2 Season 2 Episode 1.
Langdon is a welcome addition to the cast. As prickly as Vic can be, Lou matches it with kindness. Lou accepts her without question. When she almost kills Wayne in a house fire, though, he has to find a way to help her. Vic can’t risk Manx hurting anyone else though and strikes out on her own leaving Wayne and Lou hurt and lonely.
Early in NOS4A2 Season 2 Episode 1 we learn Manx has died. That is true, Manx is dead, however, he doesn’t stay that way. An artist found the Wraith and restored the exterior to use as an art piece. With the heart of the car removed Manx can not live. Once Bing tracks down the car and puts the engine back the vampire’s heart begins to beat again.
Very little of Maggie is seen this week, but she appears to be cautiously happy with FBI Agent Hutter. When Vic calls begging her to check her tiles, she reluctantly agrees. The tiles never lie; they don’t tell the whole truth either, though. It’s a smart touch to make Maggie’s purple highlights match her tile bag. She may want to forget her gift and all the trouble it brings, but she can’t ignore it completely. The tiles find a way of making their voice heard. Maggie can keep her hand out of the bag, but she can’t keep the tiles out of her head.
The ensemble cast of Cummings, Langdon, and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson(Bing) is impressive. They are multifaceted characters with deep wellsprings of emotional and moral baggage. Cummings is such fragile strength you half expect her to snap her own bones; she is wound so tight. Langdon is the person we wish we could all be. His Lou is selfless and pure, while Ólafsson’s Bing is a fascinating evil henchman. He is not mentally deficient but not intelligent, either. It is a confusing confluence of what an evil sidekick should look like and what he is. Most of the time, his bumbling pays off despite his lack of brainpower. It makes Bing all the more terrifying.
In the closing moments, Bing resurrects the Wraith and Manx simultaneously when he puts the engine back into place. Vic is on the run, having almost burned her house down with Wayne inside, but she has her beloved bike and her bridge again. Charlie Manx might be on the mend, but Hell’s coming to him on the back of a restored Triumph. Vic is beaten and broken but not defeated, and she has Lou’s leather jacket for protection. Love always defeats evil or so the romantic in me thinks, plus I read the book so, yeh, you’re going down Manx. Just because I know what’s going to happen doesn’t mean I know how and I can’t wait to see. It’s going to be one triumphant(pun intended) ride.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.