2×01: “Bad Mother”
Directed by John Shiban
Written by Jami O’Brien
* For a recap & review of the Season 1 finale, “Gunbarrel,” click here.
* For a recap & review of 2×02, “Good Father,” click here.
Things are quiet in Christmasland, apart from Millie Manx (Mattea Conforti) and other demon children running around in the dark, looking to feed on blood whenever possible. Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto) remains in a coma, yet still dangerous, supposedly. The kids at Christmasland see flickers of electricity come alive, leading them into the trees where they find a wall of static. At the same time, a group of young people are heading down the road to Christmasland to satiate their curiosity about the Manx urban legends. The wall of static separates the children and the young people. Millie tries pushing a sword through it to the other side. She then decides they’ll “play a new game,” shoving one of the demonic kids across, too. The young people run away in fright, but when the little vamp tries to get back he disappears in a blip of static. The kids rush back towards Christmasland as the lights flicker, and Millie feels her father, somewhere out there.
Season 2’s music is already amazing with “Can I Go On” by Sleater-Kinney post-opening credits. In Gunbarrel, Colorado, we catch up with the one and only Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings), who’s busy air brushing custom pieces. She’s a mom, raising her boy Wayne (Jason David) alongside Lou Carmody (Jonathan Langdon). Now they hear the sudden news of Manx’s death. It sets Vic off on a path of horrible visions from her memories, though Lou attempts to keep things positive, focusing on trying to let the past go. Not so easy for poor Vic.
She rushes to call Maggie Leigh (Jahkara J. Smith), asking to consult the tiles. Maggie doesn’t “do that anymore,” living a refreshing new life with FBI Agent Tabitha Hutter (Ashley Romans). The witchy woman wants to leave all their shared horrors in the rear view. But Vic’s certain that someone— or, should I say something— like Charlie Manx doesn’t just die that easily.
In the midst of Vic’s worries she gets a call about a bike. Funny enough, it’s just like one Steve McQueen used to own— Vic and Steve, albeit quite different people, are both bad ass. She thinks it’s her key to reopening the “Shorter Way,” her inscape. This doesn’t fully sit well with Lou, worried for his partner’s mental well-being, and for what her obsession with Manx might mean for their little family. While Vic is off dealing with things in her own way the car used by Manx has been converted into a decorative piece with flowers sprouting from the engine block. The artist is listening to Alt-J’s “Breezeblocks” when Bing Partridge (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) turns up, calling himself Ethan Anderson, a self-professed “Rolls Royce enthusiast.” You can see where this is going. The artist has no time for questions, ironically more concerned with “capitalism‘s false murderous idols” and the price of his art. Doesn’t help that the artist has family drama going on that piques Bing’s interest, only making the situation feel all the more tense. What a creep.
Maggie can no longer stay away from the tiles. She needs to know: “Is the Wraith dead?” The tiles tell her YES. Then, she falls to the floor in a seizure. At the same time, Vic starts to hear Christmas music briefly before the phone starts ringing. She sees the phone freeze over with ice, then Lou interrupts her— she forgot to pick up their kid from school. Now her returning obsession’s impeding upon the family, and everyone can notice, even Wayne. All the same, she survived a murderous, demonic vampire and Bing, the incestuous serial killer. It’s quite a few years on, but does someone ever truly shake that off? Especially considering all the supernatural aspects most people will never understand.
I guess I relate Vic more than any other character in the series. She’s a survivor of trauma, and that survival’s a lifelong battle. And, c’mon! Vic is a cool mom. It’ll be interesting to see how her motherhood fits in with the twisted patriarchal ideology of a guy like Bing, whose whole perverted, misogynistic existence is predicated upon his feelings towards mothers. Not only that, what the hell’s Bing up to with the Rolls?
Poor Vic keeps hearing a ringing phone nobody else seems to hear.
Even her smartphone rings, only for her to see a static screen. The same happens with Wayne’s phone. She decides to turn on the oven and toss them inside, sending her confused son running upset to his room. This prompts more of her addictive behaviour as she chugs down a couple miniature bottles of liquor to dull the edges. Except it only makes her more unstable, to the point she all but beats down Wayne’s door to get inside. She finds a toy phone and picks it up, hearing Millie on the other line. Charlie’s daughter thinks Vic is destroying Christmasland, threatening her. So Vic threatens back and then tosses the toy phone in the oven, too. Safe to say, Ms. McQueen’s unravelling a little. Nevertheless, she’s not crazy. All she can think to do is get on her bike and go for a ride.
“I just had to see it for myself”
When Vic gets to the bridge, she sees MORGUE on the wall.
She speeds through the Shorter Way, sliding right into the hallway of a hospital morgue. Nobody’s around, thankfully. She heads into the dark to look for Manx’s corpse. What does she discover? Ole Charlie’s body is there, all right. Lifeless and dissected. Vic leans in to make sure there’s no breath. After that, she sinks a blade into the heart, just to be sure. She flies back through the Shorter Way, headed for home. She’s now convinced Manx is genuinely dead. When she gets back home she finds a fire blazing. Lou and Wayne are sitting outside, safe. But Lou’s pissed, and rightfully so. Vic tries apologising, though she sees herself as a lost cause, whereas Lou won’t allow her to give up on herself no matter how resolved she is to do just that.
In spite of all the family stuff, Vic rushes off again across her bridge where she sees THE LAKE written on the wall. Simultaneously, Bing’s trying to put the Rolls Royce back together again with the artist— side note: Bing is pulling up his pants and I can’t even imagine what horrific things he’s been up to in that garage with the artist— coinciding with Christmasland’s lights being restored, and the pumping of blood through the black heart of Charlie Manx.
Of course the vampire isn’t actually dead yet. How do you kill what’s already un-dead?
Although some seem to think there’s nothing new going on here, Season 2 of NOS4A2 is just beginning. I personally look forward to more of Vic as a struggling mother and Bing as a misogynistic mother-hater colliding— we can already see it in the title of this episode, “Good Mother,” and the title of the next, “Good Father.” Something I do love about the story and its plot(s) is how Bing, though he’s Manx’s helper, becomes a full-fledged villain in his own right. He’s not merely Manx’s Renfield, he’s a whole evil entity unto himself. Bring on more.