TV Recap: NOS4A2 (Episode 4) – He Is Good … And He’s Not

NOS4A2
“The House of Sleep” (Episode 104)
June 23, 2019

Last week on NOS4A2, Vic tried to live the “normal” life, and even went on a school visit trip to RISD to prove how normal she could be. Maggie flew into town to try and convince Vic that the Wraith is hunting her but Vic didn’t want to listen (See above: her commitment to the normal life). On the evil side of things, Charlie Manx made his way into Haverhill and visited an old flame. He also put Bing to work on his first of 10 kidnappings … Vic’s little bestie, Haley. Oh, No, Haley! And, Charlie Manx killed Mittens the Cat. Monster! Catch up on all of last week’s action with our deep dive recap and review here!

All caught up? Great! Now, on to tonight’s (terrifying) brand new episode of NOS4A2, “The House of Sleep” … BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!!

Zachary Quinto as Charlie Manx – NOS4A2 _ Season 1, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC

Sugarcreek, Pennsylvania (Christmas, 1978). It’s Christmas morning and a Young Bing Partridge (Matthew Evegan) opens a big box as Mama P (Miriam Silverman) and Papa P (Larry Mitchell) look on.  What’s in the box, Bing? The now all-to-familiar Gas Mask of Death, of course. What ever kids wants for Christmas!

Papa P bristles at the lack of enthusiasm that Bing has for the gift (gah, imagine that he doesn’t even want to try on this terrifying family heirloom) and makes it known that being a pussy will not be tolerated.  Bing puts on the mask and begins an overly aggressive game of cops and robbers with his dad. Over aggressive on his dad’s part – he literally pushes Bing to the ground. It’s only when Bing gets with the program and begins to “shoot” his mother does Papa P look like he’s enjoying himself. Mama P is cool with it though.

“I love you more than anything, Bing Partridge.”

What is it with this show and weird, shitty parents, amiright?!?

Fast Forward about 10 years and a now late teens, early 20’s Bing (Ivan Hoey Jr.) is up on a ladder, using an electric hammer drill to string Christmas lights outside the Partridge house. Old Papa P is very helpful with criticisms of Bing’s speed and progress. Something inside Bing snaps.  He turns on the ladder and, without hesitation, fires a nail bolt right into his father’s Goddamn forehead. It’s horrific and yet strangely, satisfying!

RIP Papa P, you were a massive asshole!

Bing kicks his father a couple of times, telling him to get up – the same way Papa P would chastise him (unacceptable terms omitted).  It takes a minute before it seems to dawn on Teenage Bing that his father is very, very dead. He drags his body into the garage.

Some time later, Mama P comes outside to bring her boys some freshly baked Christmas cookies. They look yummy! As she enters the garage, she sees Bing, hovering over his dead dad, crying.

“Oh, Bing, Oh, my sweet boy, what have you done.”

All in all, this is a very consolable reaction to finding your son having just killed your husband … with a fucking hammer drill. She hugs Bing and rubs his back as he continues to sob.

Cue the Opening Credits.

Haverhill, Massachusetts. We come back from the credits at the crime scene that is Haley Smith’s house. This picks up RIGHT where last week ended, Vic having just found Mittens’ body.  She presents Steve (Owen Burke) with Mittens and Steve complains to her that the cops think Sharon took Haley and skedaddled, no foul play suspected. Steve isn’t buying it.

“Who would do something like this?”

Vic seems to have trouble breathing, I think she might have a vague idea of who would do something like this. Steve walks back to the house as Maggie arrives on the scene. For the benefit of a confused Maggie, Vic explains the Mittens/Haley connection to Vic — Haley knew about the Shorter Way and how Vic used it.

When Vic gets on her bike to go find them, Maggie offers to come along. Vic explains that its a 1 person trip over the Bridge and says no one else can or will find them …

Ashleigh Cummings as Vic McQueen – Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC

Vic tears her way to the Bridge, focusing on the previous conversation with Haley, after she saw Vic coming out of the Bridge. The Shorter Way is already open and waiting for Vic as she comes around the final turn. She pauses at the entrance to check out the neon green spray paint directional. It says, “House of Sleep.”

Sure, that’s helpful Bridge. *eye roll*

Committed, Vic throttles the bike through the Shorter Way and comes out into a wooded area not unlike where she left. A short ride later, she pulls up to a large house with pinwheels littering the yard.

Ashleigh Cummings as Vic McQueen- Photo Credit: Dana Starbard/AMC

There’s a big car parked outside. It looks familiar. Vic approaches with caution, stopping to check out the comic books sitting on the car’s dash … Doctor Incubus?!? That’s also familiar.

“Vic? … Hey what are you doing here?”

Our Heroine turns around and finds Bing Fucking Partridge standing on the porch.

Olafur Darri Olafsson as Bing Partridge – Photo Credit: Dana Starbard/AMC

AWKWARD!

Vic, super confused, confirms that this is Bing’s house and if anyone else lives there? Nopers, just Bing.  He lifts a heavy looking garbage bag as he starts walking towards her, asking how college is? Bing is handling this much better than Vic.

Bing asks if Vic is lost? She recovers herself a bit and says she was looking for Craig’s house. He lives up the way, Bing tells her, helpfully. Vic wants to get the fuck out of there as fast as possible. Jumps on her bike and goes. Bing offers a hearty, “Bye” as she goes.  He gives a shifty side eye to her retreating form.

Inside, Bing hums some Christmas carols and pours himself some milk. He’s got Christmas cookies waiting for him, just like his mom made.  But, alas, this yummy snack isn’t for him. He walks the cookies and milk down into his basement where we see he’s got Sharon bound and gagged. When he removes the tape over her mouth, Sharon demands to know where Haley is and tosses in a “bastard.” This … was the wrong thing to say as it turns out.

“Stick and stone. Pins and tacks. Only good mommies get tasty snacks.”

Bing puts down the tray of cookies and puts on his gas mask. He grabs a canister of his gingerbread-flavored sevoflurane gas and doses Mrs. Smith. Not enough to knock her out again, you see, just enough to make her highly suggestive to saying pre-determined phrases.

“I love you more than anything, Bing Partridge.”

Commercials.

St. Nick Parkway. We come back from break and very old Charlie Manx is driving Haley to Christmasland. The adorable moppet wakes in the backseat.  She’s all piss and vinegar and demands to be let out. Haley even reaches forward as to grab Charlie but her hands disappears across the divide of the front and back seats. Haley switches gears to fear and wants her mom. Charlie is all, pssh, “your mama never had your best interest at heart.” Charlie assures Haley that, with him, she’ll never feel unwanted again.

Haley asks where they are and where they’re going. The constant snowfall, Pine trees and animated Christmas decorations have clued her in that they’re not in Haverhill still.  Charlie explains that they’re on the St. Nick Parkway, his own private road to Christmasland.

“Sounds stupid.”

I love Haley so much. If I ever have a daughter, I hope she’s exactly like Haley Smith. Charlie dismisses her and says Christmasland is the bomb diggity. And, they can go there as soon as Haley gives up the name of the boy who uses the Shorter Way. Haley makes a mistake and reveals that it’s a girl. But, she doesn’t give up a name. Yet.

Haverhill, Massachusetts. Vic emerges from the Shorter Way and is all pissed off that she didn’t recover Haley. This is to say nothing of the buzzing doing its normal pain dance in her eye.  She arrives back at Haley’s house where Maggie is still hanging out, looking through the dirt. Vic explains that the Bridge didn’t work – it took her to the house of Bing, the School Janitor. And there is no way he’s the Wraith, Vic explains to Maggie’s doubtful face. They trade comic books for God sakes!

“Okay, well then maybe he’s his henchmen?”

Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC

Vic, fighting the buzzing and pain, tries to explain that the Bridge made a mistake. Maggie stresses that inscapes Don’t.Make.Mistakes! 

“You need to trust your gift.”

Vic says she needs to lay down and takes off, leaving Maggie standing there, holding the naked Barbie she found in the dirt. “Call you.”

JJ Smith as Maggie Leigh, Ashleigh Cummings as Vic McQueen – Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC

Casa de McQueen. Vic arrives at Linda’s as mom is checking the mail. Linda isn’t so clueless as to realize her daughter looks like trash. Vic is also mumbling about the Smith girls. Linda helps her inside and puts her down for a nap. Linda tells Vic that Sharon and Haley are probably in Florida, and that they’re fine. Nope, Linda. Nope. Vic passes out fast and in her dreams, see flashes of the Wraith and a Ghoul version of Haley, pointy teeth and all.

St. Nick Parkway.  Speaking of, we come back to the Wraith and Haley, who is losing her first human tooth. Remember how Daniel developed dark circles around his eyes when he was in the Wraith? yeah, Haley is showing those same signs. She asks Charlie what he’s doing to her?!? In response, he teases a cute kitty cat ornament present. She giggles with enjoyment but recovers herself and throws shade at Charlie’s car tricks. He ups his child-inducement game and makes it snow inside the car. Haley really likes this one …

“It tastes like sugar.”

Charlie tells Haley that he can teach her all sorts of cool Christmas tricks … if she just gives him the name of the girl that uses the Bridge.

Haley loses another 3 teeth and says she’d very much like her mother.

Commercials.

Haverhill, Massachusetts. Maggie is in her element, using a computer at the Haverhill Library. She’s looking up the procedure for calling in an Amber Alert. She calls Sheriff Joe who is super glad to hear from her; she’s been missing for two days. Maggie explains that she’s in Haverhill, Massachusetts and she’s chasing the Wraith. She tells Joe that the Wraith has taken another kid and that she needs him to put out a national Amber Alert on the car. Joe is all, “nope nope nope.” But, of course, we know he’s going to agree in the end.

JJ Smith as Maggie Leigh – Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC

Casa de McQueen.  Craig comes by the house looking for Vic but finds Linda instead.  Based on Vic’s red eyes, she has deduced that they are smoking weed in the woods and, although she likes Craig, she can’t let Vic make the same sorts of choices that she made with Chris. Craig is all, “do you even know your daughter?!? She would never smoke weed, you crazy bitch” (this is a paraphrase of what Craig says and he is much more respectful; okay, this is what I would have said).

Sometimes later, Vic comes downstairs and overhears her mom talking to Chris about trying to get through to Vic, about the bike, and the weed, I suppose, and poor life choices. After Linda hangs up, Vic asks her mom when was the first time that Chris hit her?

Linda explains she can’t even remember, anymore. They were young and wild. And they would drink. And they would fight.

“And sometimes I’d wake up with a fat lip.”

Why’d you stay, Vic asks? Linda rattles off a list of reasons including that sometime she started the fight and other times, Chris promises to lay off the hard liquor, and then, enough time passed and Vic was born, and she couldn’t leave.  So, she stayed and kept hope that he’d change. Linda asks how long Vic has known and she responds that it’s not been that long.

But, in some ways, she thinks maybe she always knew. Vic says that she thinks maybe she tucked that truth away because she needed to believe her dad was good. Linda says that Chris is good … “and he’s not. People can be both. The trouble is, you only ever see the good.”

Linda leaves for work and tells Vic that she made her a bag of stuff she might want at Tiffany’s.  Inside, Vic finds a comic book, “Property of Bing Partridge.”  She stares for a second, she’s making a choice right here. Resigned, Vic grabs a folding knife from a drawer and heads out on her bike.

St. Nick Parkway. Charlie, looking much younger, tells Haley (who is looking worse) that he and Haley are alike. They both had mothers that made them play alone so they could “indulge in selfish pleasures.” As they lived at the back of a mortuary and Charlie is, well Charlie, none of the other kids wanted to be his friend. Charlie played by himself, all day long.

“It was lonely. You understand that, Haley, don’t you? Do have a dark hole at the center of your heart that only a friend can fill.”

Haley assures Mr. Kidnapper that she’s got friends, thank you very much. Charlie questions how good a friend the Bridge girl can be because, well, she never took Haley away on her Magic Bridge, away from her sad home life. Did she? But Charlie, ho ho, he is taking Haley to the most special of places where she’ll be loved every day and never be lonely. Haley is sold! She tells Charlie the girl’s name is Vic, Vic McQueen.

Charlie pops open the secret compartment of the Wraith and Haley gets her kitty cat ornament. She’s very pleased. Charlie tells her that they have a detour to make before Christmasland.

Commercials.

The House of Sleep.  Vic returns to Bing’s house on the ruse of returning the comic book we saw before. She barges her way in and this really flusters, Bing. He says he wasn’t expecting company but she’s all, it’s just me, duh. She asks about the new job he was nervous about and what he’s doing exactly for it? And who is his boss?

Not getting anything from Bing, Vic ramps up her questioning. She tells Bing there’s a rumor going around that he’s into some nasty stuff but she can help.  Bing replies that he’s a good person

*Eye Roll*

Bing, who is now very suspiciously blocking a door, tells Vic to leave. Sure, sure, she says, as soon as you give me back my comments. He leaves to grab them from the car and Vic makes a beeline for the suspicious door. Sadly, it’s just a bedroom and there is no Haley inside.

Bing is at the car, rushing to grab the comics.

Olafur Darri Olafsson as Bing Partridge -Photo Credit: Dana Starbard/AMC

Inside, Vic continues her search and makes her way to the basement. She calls out for Haley.

“Those who sneak. And those who spy. Get punished when they try to lie.”

Vic turns around and finds Bing sitting at the top of the stairs. Vic pulls out her knife and demands to know where Haley is. He screams at her to shut up. This changes the whole equation for Vic, who has never heard Bing yell before. Never heard him be anything other than sweet, simple Bing.

The phone rings.

Bing tells whomever that “she’s” right here and no, he didn’t touch her. He hands the phone to Vic, “he wants to talk to you.”

Charlie (looking even younger than before) is at a payphone, talking very calmly and sweetly to Vic. He mentions that she’s got an inscape called the Shorter Way. Vic counters that she knows who he is too, the Wraith who took Haley.

“The name, my dear, is Charlie Manx.”

Vic wants to know what he’s done with Haley and Charlie assures her that Haley is fine, on her way to somewhere wonderful and sleeping soundly. Charlie wants to talk about the Shorter Way. Vic horse trades that they can talk about her Bridge once she’s talks to Haley. Charlie proposes they meet in person and Vic is all, “good, great, grand.”

Charlie hangs up and Bing is annoyed at the situation, he wanted to talk to Mr. Manx.  He advances on Vic (who has her knife up and ready), explaining that Haley is better off with Mr. Manx and the mother? Well, she was “dirty.” But, Bing “made her clean.” Vic wants to know where Sharon is but Bing can’t tell her. Vic takes off, running out of the house.

“Bing, you thing, what have you done?”

Bing repeats this to himself as we fade back to the memory from earlier in the episode …

Sugarcreek, Pennsylvania (the mid-late 1980s). Mama P is hugging Teenage Bing close, rubbing his back and telling him everything is going to be alright. Bing is finally calming down and she pulls apart to look at his face. Teenage Bing stares at his mom like its the first time he’s really seeing her. He grabs the back of her head and pulls her in for a kiss. She struggles, saying “no,” so Bing, seemingly more turned on, pulls her even harder. We cut away from this nightmare memory as Bing is lowering Mama P down to the ground. Bing is about to rape his mom.

Haverhill, Massachusetts. Back in the present, Vic has used the Shorter Way to locate the shallow, yet freshly dug grave of Sharon Smith. On her hands and knees, Vic starts to dig in the dirt for Sharon.

Sugarcreek, Pennsylvania (the mid-late 1980s). Bing emerges from the garage and grabs the electric hammer drill. We can hear Mama P sobbing inside. He grabs the hammer drill and returns the garage, the door closing behind him.  Mama P’s sobbing gets louder and then, thump thump. Mama P is no longer crying.

Haverhill, Massachusetts.  Vic has uncovered most of Sharon’s face and cries.  Her cries turns to anger and wailing. We pull away in a spiral shot, floating up from the Earth as Vic is bent over the partially covered grave of Sharon Smith.

RIP Sharon Smith. You weren’t the best parent but you weren’t so bad either. You definitely didn’t deserve this.

Commercials.

Warren, Rhode Island. The Wraith is parked at a convenience store. A very young and handsome Charlie Manx is inside, trying to get some customer service. He’s got about 14 Pine Tree scented car fresheners. The clerk (Sean Rogers) gives Charlie a look like, “The Hell?”

“I like pine.”

Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC

Outside, a passerby gets an Amber Alert on her phone. The Alert identifies a 1938 Black Rolls Royce Wraith.  She approaches the car while Charlie is still inside and see Haley.  Trying to be a help, she reaches in the car and encourage Haley to escape. The passerby is repaid for her kindness by Haley yanking her through the car window and devouring the woman whole. Haley is full pointy teeth Ghoul Haley now.

FYI, THIS is why I am not nice to strangers.

Inside the store, Charlie’s bill comes to $44.32. Through the window, we see the passerby thrashing about in the backseat as she’s being eaten. Gross, but a very cool shot.   Charlie comes out and sees a bloody adult-sized hand print slap the window. Like the sex scene in Titanic but, not sexy and 100% more blood. Charlie smirks and shrugs. When he opens the door, we hear squishy noises of body devouring.  Blood continues to splat against the windows as Charlie drives away.

Zachary Quinto as Charlie Manx – Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC

Sharon Smith’s Final Resting Place. Night has fallen and Vic is covered in a blanket, sitting at the back of an ambulance. Linda is there and the whole field is a crime scene. Maggie arrives as Linda gets Vic in the car to go home. Everyone is sad.

The House of Sleep. Bing wakes up in his chair and sees the local news covering the discovery of Sharon Smith’s body. Oh, Mr. Manx is NOT going to be happy about this. Bing goes into freak out mode.

Haverhill, Massachusetts.  Linda and Vic drive home in silence. I only mention this because Linda is smoking in the car and I find that SUPER disgusting. Gross, Linda. Smoking is bad enough, smoking in the car is the worst!

Linda and Vic arrive at Tiffany’s house. Chris is waiting and gives her a hug.  Vic just stands there, no reciprocation. She heads inside. In Vic’s bedroom, Chris mentions his conversation with Linda about Vic, maybe, needing to see a doctor. Vic disagrees and says she’s fine. Chris changes the subject and proposes a weekend getaway. Vic is all, “Cool Cool Cool. Please leave me the fuck alone.” As Chris leaves, he tells his daughter that the police will find Haley and whoever killed Sharon.

“No they won’t. They can’t protect anyone.”

He promises Vic that she’s safe. *snort* Vic “yes’s” him to death. Please just go away. They exchange “I love you’s” and she locks her bedroom door after he leaves. Sitting on her bed, crying, Vic looks into the middle distance. She looks at Haley’s picture of Mittens. Vic understands that she is the only one that is going to be able to save Haley.  This whole episode has been building to this realization but here, in this moment, especially after talking about the cops with her dad, Vic understands her mission.

Christmasland. The Wraith pulls up to the front gate of Christmasland and Charlie and Ghoul Haley get out.  Charlie spreads his arms wide, basking in the snowfall of his perfect home. For her part Ghoul Haley has never seen so many lights. It’s true that the entrance to Christmasland has a lot of lights and decorations, but the front gates themselves are covered in a picture of what looks like a Tasmanian Devil with sharp pointy teeth.  The effect is such that it looks like you’d be driving into the animal’s mouth when you go through. It’s kind of horrifying.

Zachary Quinto as Charlie Manx – Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC

Charlie tells Ghoul Haley that it’s time to say goodbye for now, he has more errands to run. But, never fear, Ghoul Daniel Moore arrives to greet her and take her inside.  Ghoul Daniel even brings her a present of sharp, shiny scissors.

“They’re for ‘scissors for the drifter.’ It’s a really fun game.”

Ghoul Haley looks back to Charlie and he nods to her like, “See! Friends!” Ghoul Haley follows Ghoul Daniel inside.  The screen goes back as the gates clang close.

And scene.

Thoughts. 

Vic’s first outing into her Hero’s Journey is kind of a bust. Despite Maggie’s encouragement that Vic has a gift and is chosen, Vic isn’t ready to believe yet. She doesn’t have faith in herself or her powers. She returns from The House of Sleep the first time, empty handed. She could have saved Sharon’s life, maybe. Because she’s not ready to believe. It’s only later, after Maggie has told her that Inscapes are never wrong; after she talks to her mom about being abused and why she stayed; after she sees Bing’s comic book and knows the truth, no matter how unlikely or disturbing it may be … only THEN is Vic ready to trust. Trust Herself. Trust her powers.

The conversation with Charlie Manx and subsequent discovery of Sharon’s body cements Vic’s resolve. That final shot of her staring at the picture of Mittens, Vic KNOWS, on a basic level she knows that Maggie has been right all along. The girl who can find lost things, can find lost children. And, in fact, is the ONLY one that will be able to find Haley (and Daniel too).

Let’s talk about Bing for a second. The beauty of NOS4A2 is the complexity of the characters. The conversation that Linda has with Vic about Chris rings true for Bing too. He is good … and he’s not. Bing was not born a monster … probably. He’s the product of his childhood, of his life. A life of being abused and watching abuse. There’s a reason why we, the viewers, don’t feel terribly sad when Papa P gets the Nail in the head … he was a piece of shit and deserved to die. Of course, Bing gives himself over completely to the dark side, raping and killing his mother, getting on board with Charlie’s plan, killing raping and killing Sharon Smith. But, I think that we’re supposed to believe there is an undamaged part of him too. Somewhere, however small, however deeply buried. I think Bing is being set up to have a turnaround at some point. Why else play up his friendship with Vic prior to Charlie Manx coming along. By all accounts, it was nothing but an honest, platonic, normal friendship.

NOS4A2 continues to excel at psychological horror of the best kind. It’s not gory (well, the Ghoul Haley eating the passerby was a little much) but you’re uneasy and feel disturbed from the opening scenes every week. NOS4A2 is a mood. A dark, twisty mood. And, for my money, that’s the best kind of horror there is.

Thanks for reading and Live Tweeting with me. Join me next week for Episode 5 of NOS4A2, “The Wraith.”

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