Season 1, Episode 3: “When Christmas Was Christmas”
Directed & Written
by Brian Taylor
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “What Smiles Are For” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Year of the Horse” – click here
Little Happy (Patton Oswalt) is driving Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni) nuts with his “zany
, aw shucks
, vaudeville routine
.” They’re definitely an unlikely pair – former hero cop turned hitman and tiny flying blue unicorn.
We also get a glimpse of earlier Christmas memories, when Nick was a cop. He and Detective Meredith McCarth (Lili Mirojnick) are out knocking on an apartment door, looking to talk with a guy who’s connected, Erik Patterson (Lucas Van Engen). The dude threatens Sax, so the cop tells him, in no uncertain terms, he isn’t a guy to fuck with, ever. Later on, at work, the two detectives have sex secretly while Nick keeps his wedding ring in his pocket. Sleazy stuff.
But right now, Nick needs Happy to remember where Hailey Hansen (Bryce Lorenzo) was taken by the Very Bad Santa (Joseph D. Reitman). The little unicorn only remembers so much. He does remember what the creepy Santa looks like, so the hitman’s got an old pal who can draw a good sketch, a dude named Emil (Don Stephenson).
Well, Amanda Hansen (Medina Senghore) is in cuffs for throwing a punch at Dt. McCarthy, and now we fully now why. It’s not long until the detective removes them, and they briefly discuss the woman’s missing girl. She just wants somebody to help her instead of dragging their feet. Together, Amanda and Dt. McCarthy go talk to the parents of another missing girl. The family is devastated, blaming themselves.
Instead of being able to focus on their quest, Nick and Happy are being chased by the cops. They end up getting into an impressive car wreck, from which the hitman gets up and walks away with his imaginary buddy, full of ideas. When they get to their destination, he finds his sex worker friend (Hannah Hodson), engaging in a bit of fellatio a-la-Kubrick’s Shining
. Hilarious. Either way, the man gets some information.
This leads him to a strip club called The North Pole, looking for Santas. And Happy advises his new pal that the guy who kidnapped Hailey had a strange smell like “plastic burning but sweet
” – Nick knows that’s the meth stench. Before they can do any more work the guy needs a few drinks. All the while the poor little girl has to sit around with Santa, tied, or kept in a box, and he wants her to eat his food. He says he’s excited to see her dad. She’s not taking any of his shit, though. This is one tough little girl. Because meth head Santa is fucking horrifying.
More of the past. Amanda finds out she’s pregnant. She wants to talk with Nick, he’s busy at work. Before she leaves she sees him hold out an apple after taking a bite, letting Meredith take one after him. And this is all she really needed to see to actually know.
At the house of the grieving parents, Amanda hears noises when she’s in the child’s room coming from the attic. She discovers a staircase in the closet. Up there, the little girl’s been chained. She isn’t missing, she’s forcibly imprisoned in her own home. Christ almighty.
Flashback. In that same apartment again, Sax finds Erik with blood all over him, bloody fingerprints all over the place. The worst is the microwave, full of blood, and the baby’s nowhere to be found. That’s when the detective snaps, he takes the guy outside beating him viciously on the steps.
“I mean obviously I get it
‘s not like I
‘m a communist for Christ
‘m just saying at the end of the day it
… a thing you poop through
, nothing more
, nothing less
Sax gets talking with Mrs. Claws (Alison Fraser), she’s been around for years. She takes a look at the picture he has, then remembers a guy she once knew. He was quite the Santa Claus, as well as a “monster
.” Hanged himself. But, he had a boy who wound up institutionalised. Oh, that’s most definitely the creepy meth head for whom Mr. Sax is searching. Poor Hailey has to eat some “magic
” fruitcake. Makes her see things, as Santa holds a snow globe up to her, hoping she’ll see his visions. Then he wants her to take him to her dad.
Flashback. Nick watches a bag of popcorn in the microwave, likely unable to scrub the hideous image he saw in that apartment from his brain. He’s drinking hard. He and Amanda sit together near the tree. He doesn’t want to talk, she’s got baby on the brain. When she casually asks him about having a child, he goes on a rant about the sick world they live in.
Back to present day, things are getting troublesome. Santa’s found Nick, and they go toe-to-toe after the hitman is blindsided. Meth strength has the dirty Claus at an advantage, he nearly kills Sax with his bare hands. Poor Happy’s not thrilled to see the guy, either. Particularly seeing as how the dirty meth head can see him. Oh, lord. What the fuck is gonna happen NOW?
Love this series. Can’t wait to watch more of it play out, now that we’re seeing further into the characters of Nick and Amanda. So exciting to watch them develop in front of our eyes. “Year of the Horse” is next.