Episode 3: “The Gas Mask Man”
Directed by John Shiban
Written by Marcus Gardley
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Graveyard of What Might Be” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The House of Sleep” – click here
At the Essex County Psych Ward in Haverhill, an old woman called Jolene hears her radio turn to static. Security cameras go blank and the power goes out across the building. Someone’s come to the ward for a visit. He’s brought presents with him.
Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto) brought winter with him, too.
He’s there to see Jolene. He asks if she’s building her “inscape” and if she’s found a “Shorter Way.” Manx confirms the old lady’s been a burden to him, similar to how he’s beginning to see Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings) with her strong creative powers. He doesn’t believe her when she suggests she hasn’t. He’ll have to suss things out a different way. In the box he brought is a pair of roller skates. He picks Jolene up for a dance with them on. Isn’t this familiar? Didn’t we see a scene like this last episode in Bing Partridge’s (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) nightmare about his parents? Eerie.
Vic’s keeping up the dream of going to college, looking into what it’ll require to apply for financial aid. Her computer screen goes funny suddenly. She sees an image, like she’s seen before: a man in a gas mask. Again, like an image we also saw in Bing’s nightmare.
Meanwhile, Vic has to get tax returns from Chris (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) to apply for loans. Dad’s been dodging the tax man for over a decade. He can’t put himself “on paper” for fear of the IRS. He suggests asking Linda (Virginia Kull). Mom works under the table, too. “We‘re not the kinda people who go to college,” she tells her daughter.
In Iowa, Maggie Leigh (Jahkara Smith) keeps herself busy by hooking up with a cute girl at the library. She doesn’t get to finish because the lights flicker. She rushes the girl off, then reaches into the Scrabble bag.
The letters spell WRAITH HUNTS BRAT.
Manx stops to pick up Bing, who’s found out the Shorter Way is a “demolished bridge from a bygone time.” Bing’s surprised to see his ageing state for the first time. The old man’s getting a sense of Vic. He knows she cares for “broken things” and that she wants to escape her life. They run into little Haley, asking about the bridge, and Manx knows she isn’t telling him the truth. What’s creepiest? He’s adamant about not hurting children. Bing tries to grab Haley before she runs and Charlie’s very angry with him. There’s something highly unnerving about it.
Vic’s continuing to have Christmas-related visions, seeing a bloody wreath hanging on the door of the Brewster house. She’s looking for Angela (Karen Pittman), hoping to get help applying for financial aid, but the mom isn’t home. She and Willa (Paulina Singer) smoke pot and hang. Maybe the Brewsters can be of use in their bourgeois existence.
A bit later Vic shows up at the school, needing to get into the Art Room. She finds Bing about to leave. He lets her inside. They talk about his “new job” and how he’s worried about screwing up earlier. The girl gives advice, using the comic character Dr. Incubus as inspiration. She gets what she needs and goes. Hopefully the big guy doesn’t figure out she’s who Manx is seeking. Yet.
Later, Vic finds Maggie in Haverhill trying to warn her the Wraith is coming. She doesn’t believe it. She’s decided not to use the bridge again, for any reason. She wants to “be normal.” Maggie tells her it isn’t that easy. Vic’s too focused on getting out of that town and out of her current life to worry about anything else.
Who can blame her? She doesn’t know there’s a terrifying vampire out looking for her.
Right now, Vic and Willa are headed for Providence— H.P. Lovecraft territory— to look into the college stuff, along with the “tea and crumpets” crew, Drew (Rarmian Newton) and that other dickhead. The road’s not a good place to be when Manx is out there driving. Vic and Drew take a look at some art when they get to the school. He’s interested in art, too. And in the school. Or maybe it’s more her.
Eventually Vic gets talking to someone about student aid. She has few options. If she was an orphan it’d be fine— hopefully Manx doesn’t find out, or he’ll make sure she gets in REAL quick! There’s proof of abuse in the home, which would give special exception. Vic starts having visions, seeing Manx, seeing Danny, a bloody set of garden shears. She ends up in the street, nearly getting run down before Drew pulls her onto the sidewalk.
“For the Feel” by Bleached plays on the Providence trip
While Maggie’s at the hospital reading books to the elderly, she sees the light flicker around a particular door— Jolene’s room. The young woman finds a candy cane on the bed. She asks about the Wraith, declaring herself “a medium” and trying to get info out of the old woman. She manages to figure out enough to know Manx is going to do something horrible to Vic, despite Vic not wanting to believe it. The young artist’s focused on college, so much so she’s decided to forge papers in her father’s name.
What’s Bing planning?
He’s got the gas mask on. He’s taped over the identifying marks on his work coveralls. Not a good sign. He creeps into a house using gas. A woman in the shower gets out, greeted by a hose pumping the stuff into her bathroom. This is Haley’s house. She’s taken by Bing, out to the Rolls-Royce where Manx awaits.
Vic gets a call from Haley’s father, alerting her the girl’s gone. Maybe this will convince her finally. She goes over to the house. She hears a police car radio playing Christmas songs. She finds the dead cat— WRAITH HUNTS SMITTEN, from Maggie’s Scrabble bag, becomes WRAITH HUNTS MITTENS. It’s all falling in place for Vic.
Another great episode! God. Father Gore is totally enamoured with the cast, as well as the visual style and the creepy atmosphere and everything else. Really strong stuff. There’ll be plenty more disturbing weirdness.
“The House of Sleep” is next.