Heading To Christmasland
Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, Nos4a2 is an interesting take on the vampire genre, one that gets off to an okay start with some slick camera work and nice visuals. Unfortunately the slow-paced storytelling and plenty of teen angst does hold this back from being a better pilot episode. Still, the ending certainly leaves the door wide open for future episodes but Nos4a2 just about ticks all the boxes with its debut episode.
We begin with a young boy named Danny asking to sleep with his Mum in the middle of the night. She tells him to go back to bed and continues making love. However, the boy is lured outside by a strange old man called Charlie Manx, with the promise of presents tucked away in the back of a car. After entering, the doors slam shut and speeds off, heading for Christmasland while another man enters the house and kills his mum.
After this dramatic opening, the episode slows in pace as we cut to Massachusetts where a girl called Vic returns home. We see her life and the town itself before riding her motorbike into an old tunnel. As her ears begin ringing, she decides to turn around only to learn later the bridge was burnt down years before.
Meanwhile, a strange girl called Maggie arrives on scene, armed with scrabble tiles that spell out ominous words or phrases. After catching wind that Danny has been kidnapped, she consults the tiles over who took him, spelling out the words “The Wraith”.
We then see more of Vic’s life, including her attitude toward boys and typical teenage angst. Pushing thoughts of her tumultuous family life to the back of her mind, she drives through the tunnel from earlier, learning that it will take her anywhere in the world where a lost thing is located. On the other side, she goes into a Diner and collects her Dad’s watch before driving back. As she reaches the other side, her eye bloodshot and twitching, the tunnel disappears and she blacks out just as she makes it back to her home.
When she wakes up, she finds her Father sitting over her. She tells him to stop drinking and he promises not to before leaving. Unfortunately he doesn’t just leave the room, he leaves the family. When Vic wakes up, she chases after him on her bike, back through the tunnel from earlier and sees him with another woman. A second family perhaps?
Interspersed around Vic’s familial drama, we see Danny being driven to Christmasland. While Danny’s health continues to deteriorate, the old man slowly becomes younger, clearly feeding off his soul, as they head for the fabled area.
The first episode of Nos4a2 gets off to a pretty good start but it’s really a show that could go either way going forward. There’s some slick camera work throughout the episode, with multiple interesting frames and the slowly unraveling story does do quite well to get you involved in the world. While Vic herself feels a little well-worn and cliched as the teenage protagonist, the ending to the episode does just enough to keep you invested going forward.
Having not read the book it’s difficult to garner how close to the source material this is. If you can go into this one with an open mind, there’s enough here to pique your interest but it’s certainly not a pilot episode that’ll blow you away. It’s a bit slow in places and the teen angst feels overdrawn and bogs down the middle portion of the episode. Still, it’s early days yet and Nos4a2 has just enough to make it worth sticking with for the coming weeks.