The Gas Mask Man
NOS4A2 returns for another deliciously dark slice of teen horror this week as Charlie Manx steps up his search for “The Brat”. While Vic grapples with the gravity of her prophetic messages and Maggie continues to try and persuade her to help with the tiles, Manx’s sinister plan takes a turn for the worst late on as Vic is forced into confronting her own fears, whether she wants to or not.
We begin in a psychiatric ward with a paralyzed old lady called Jolene whom Charlie Manx appears to know, older than before, with a present for her. Only, he realizes this woman isn’t the “strong creative” he’s after and promptly leaves in disgust.
Vic begins the episode by asking to see a copy of her Mum’s tax returns for school. Unfortunately, both her Mum and Dad have “under-the-counter” jobs and aren’t much help to her with the forms.
Meanwhile, Maggie continues to investigate but Joe warns her against becoming too attached to the scrabble bag. However, after a lustful encounter with a girl in the library, the lights flicker rapidly prompting her to consult the tiles. As she does, they spell out the words “Wraith hunts brat”. Maggie decides to head upstate to warn Vic about what she’s seen and the foretold wraith that’s chasing her. Vic refuses to help again, saying she has a ticket out of town in the form of college and leaves her to it.
As Manx grapples with returning to his older, menacing state, he and Bing continue to work rounding up the kids. As they discuss the tunnel and whose been using it, Hayley shows up while out searching for Mittens and comes face to face with Manx. He asks her about the tunnel and probes further, offering candy but she refuses and runs.
Back home, Vic prepares for a college visit and heads off to see if she can be a student. During the taster day, she begins experiencing visions of Manx and Danny, prompting her eye to become bloodshot again and her ears to ring. Stumbling out the school, she manages to catch her breath long enough to head off with some kids into town.
Back at the psychiatric ward, Maggie heads to the ward holding Jolene, the woman from the beginning of the episode, and finds a candy cane at the foot of her bed. By this point, Maggie realizes Jolene was a strong creative as well and Manx has paid her a visit. Unable to get any words out of her, Jolene’s panicked expression and pained look are enough to piece together what’s happened, leaving Maggie clutching her mouth in shock.
Armed with the chemicals he needs from school, Bing heads into Hayley’s house and drugs her mum. As he heads upstairs, gas mask tightly fitted to his face, he knocks out Hayley with enough gas to carry her outside and into Manx’s car. Just in time for Mittens to show up. Manx grabs the feline by the face and shakes it violently, tossing it aside in the bushes.
After forging her Dad’s tax return, Vic returns home and realizes Manx has killed Mittens. Piecing together Maggie’s earlier prediction about “Smitten”, she realizes the prophetic wraith message is true and her time of denial is over.
Once again NOS4A2 delivers an enjoyable episode, full of plot progression and interesting twists. Seeing Manx revert back to an old man certainly adds to the allure of the series but I’m still not 100% sold on Zachary Quinto as an old man. Still, Vic plays the archetypal strong female role pretty well although the teen angst does get in the way of the fantastical plot a little. Whether we’ll see Danny again remains to be seen (and again, I haven’t read the book so I genuinely don’t know) but the dynamic between Bing and Manx is just enough to keep you hanging on for more.
Hearing the Christmas music and random touches of Christmas thrown around the episode is a really nice touch, spinning the festive holiday into something sinister and unsettling. It’s something that Happy! did really well during its first season and it’s good to see Nos4a2 taking hints (intentional or not) from that show to deliver a continuously tense atmosphere whenever Charlie Manx is on screen.
With Hayley now kidnapped too I’d imagine this is just the kick Vic needs to get on board with the investigation and start using the tunnel for the greater good. Quite what Charlie Manx has planned with these kids remains to be seen but whatever it is, I don’t think Christmas Land is going to be the promised vision of beauty somehow.