Finally, Charles Manx got a much-needed origin story. The epic novel by Joe Hill doesn’t explain how or why Manx came to be a vampire. Deliberately vague, Hill wanted to create something vampiric without being a traditional vampire. More psychic energy than blood, Manx feeds on fear and the loss of innocence. In AMC NOS4A2 Season 2 Episode 2, a whole lot of backstory filled in the details of Manx’ mundane early life. As stereotypical as they come, Manx was just an ordinary man with a crushing amount of basicness.
Monsters are made not born. Charlie Manx is no different. No bite or scratch turned him into a monster. No sad death that caused him to implode under the weight of his grief, and no super genius who put him back together. He was just a sad man with more dreams than sense and not nearly enough introspection. His mother didn’t nurture him, his father-in-law belittled him, and his own dreams betrayed him. Manx’s origin is just pathetic, not sad, and the ordinariness of his life makes him even more horrifying.
He grew up poor. His mother never thought he would amount to much. Manx began as a driver for a wealthy family and fell in love with their daughter. Her father didn’t exactly approve of the relationship but didn’t force them to break up either. He was a hard man who wasn’t kind to Manx. Charles Manx had big ideas that weren’t particularly sound business practices, and Manx’s father-in-law knew it. Rather than learn from this, Manx chose to forge ahead instead and damn near bankrupt his family after his father-in-law’s death. Manx is an arrogant man who believes his aspirations make him the hero instead of the villain in this story. It is that blinding belief that guides him to “save” all the children from parents like his wife and mother who hurt children.
Anger and guilt turned him into the beast he became. He sincerely thinks he is doing right. Zachary Quinto(Charles Manx) carried the entire episode in much the same way Ashleigh Cummings(Vic McQueen) carried last week. These two people are locked in a cosmic battle. The fight between good and evil, even when both are shades rather than absolutes. As such, the season with just two episodes so far feels very balanced. Obviously, that is due to the symmetrical juxtaposition of Vic’s episode versus Manx, but still, this distinct balance highlights the two characters’ and actors’ talents.
Quinto allows Manx to develop into the kid corrupter he becomes. Rather than race through to the conclusion, Quinto breathes initial kindness and hope into the doomed character. Knowing how Manx turns out that is difficult to do considering all he has done and has yet to do. Nonetheless, Quinto, along with great writing by Jami O’Brien, let Manx resonate with the audience. He becomes a killer, but simple disappointment made him one, and that is even scarier.
Human monsters are the worst. Poor Bing has done everything he was ever asked to do. Bing who is rapidly growing into the scariest monster on the show and that’s saying something about a show with an actual vampire, is a weirdly sympathetic character in NOS4A2 Season 2 Episode 2. Ólafur Darri Ólafsson(Bing) who you last saw in Netflix’s breakout comedy Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga, has been a standout in a series with big characters, tremendous performances, and even bigger expectations. In Season 1, Bing was scary. In Season 2, he is downright terrifying because he has an all too human heart.
Early in the episode, Manx escapes the morgue and calls Bing to help. He needs the Wraith to be operational again with a child riding inside to fuel his healing. Bing immediately goes to do his bidding and saves/kidnaps a young boy who is being tortured by his brother. He is angry with the brother for tormenting his brother. He is sweet even to the child, all while kidnapping him and knowingly turning him into a vampire for Manx. It’s a weird push and pull that works for this hulking man who has been exploited by Manx.
Manx sacrificed his family for his hopes, and Millie paid the price for her love. Rather than have her taken from him, he uses his rage to turn her into his first victim. In that form, she can live with him forever in Christmasland. Parents have a duty to our kids to keep them safe and help them grow up into successful, happy people. Manx only wanted to keep his doting child compliant and worshipping. He is everything he says he is protecting kids from. Now that Millie has finally realized what her father is, I wonder how she will begin to act out. More importantly, could she be a key to helping Vic? Would she be willing to turn against her dad?
As the credits roll, we are left with a maniacal father turned monster, a sad and remorseful daughter just beginning to learn her Dad isn’t the magical creature she thought he was and a whopping dose of dread. Wayne is in danger. He is next on Manx’s list to save, and Vic is at the top of the Naughty List. As bad a mother as Vic was last week, and she wasn’t good, Manx is worse. Vic at least does everything she does out of trauma and an altruistic need to save Wayne. Manx is selfish. He says it best himself when he tells Bing doubt is a disease. It turned him into a supernatural murderer. Let’s hope when the time comes, Vic finds the strength to believe in herself. Catch up on all our NOS4A2 coverage here while we wait for the showdown we know is coming.
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.