Last week’s gut wrenching episode of NOS4A2 ended with Bing impaled, Millie questioning everything, and Wayne still trapped inside the Wraith as it departed for the final leg of its journey to Christmasland.
Tonight, Vic & Co. attempt to take the fight to Manx before he can get there.
Hard to Say Goodbye
The episode opens with a flashback to Chris McQueen giving an awkward and painful eulogy at his father’s funeral. While he uses the opportunity to air his grievances about the man, it also becomes clear that the emotional demons his dad faced were tragically passed down to him, as well.
We then jump forward to the present, where Vic is attempting to get the newly repaired Triumph started. After making some final adjustments, Lou and Chris look on with pride as Vic successfully revs up her knife.
Later, while loading up explosives, Vic thanks her father for all his help. She then goes to say goodbye to Lou, who’s passed out on the couch from doing a massive bike repair job immediately following major heart surgery. He wakes up and tries to join her, but she insists that he stay and rest–and that she loves him.
Still suffering from her spleen being ruptured, Vic gingerly hoists one of the bags onto her shoulder and heads outside, where Chris is waiting to ride on the back of the Triumph. Linda follows her out and expresses some very justified concerns about her only child taking “explosives over a magical bridge in the rain.” Vic reminds Linda that Wayne is her only child, too. She has to do this.
As Vic and Chris depart, Linda runs after them into the street. She’s stopped dead in her tracks when the Shorter Way bridge appears, watching in disbelief as her daughter and ex-husband disappear inside it.
Anger Leads to Hate
Vic and Chris arrive at the junkyard where Manx and the Wraith were. After finding Wayne’s phone, they hear a man groaning nearby and run over to him.
Vic sees that it’s Bing (impaled yet still alive) and immediately demands to know where her son is. Bing reveals that the Wraith just left while apologizing for his failure to save her son. Chris responds to this news by pistol whipping him and twisting the metal bar further into his gut.
Vic screams at her father to stop, reminding him that Bing won’t be able to help them if he’s dead. She pulls him off, but not before Chris is able to make the man pass out–and unable to give them any additional information about where Manx might be headed.
Realizing the mistake he’s made, Chris tearfully apologizes as Vic calls Hutter to say that they’ve finally caught Bing.
Hate Leads to Suffering
The next day, Vic arrives at the police station in Massachusetts where Bing is being held and asks Hutter for an update.
*Side note: I know the dude did a lot of his crime in that state, but it seems like a prisoner who required emergency surgery would be kept in Colorado where they caught him.*
Hutter reveals that he’s alive and recovered, but refusing to speak other than to ask about Vic. He’s also been transferred to a holding cell inside the station for questioning.
Bing gets processed and moved into an interrogation room, where Hutter takes the first crack at him. After establishing who she is and how rough prison will be for him, she reveals that her bosses are mad at her for a mistake she made. When Bing appears sympathetic to her plight, she goes in further, guessing (correctly) that Manx didn’t appreciate or care for him. Bing replies that he wish he’d never met Manx. If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t in the position he is now…and Vic would still be his friend.
Hutter parlays this revelation into some conspiratorial sympathy, explaining how she needs to get information on where Wayne is to get back in her boss’ good graces. If he helps her with that, then she’ll let him talk to Vic.
Back in the station waiting room, Vic is joined by her parents along with Maggie and Lou. As she paces and frets over every minute lost, Hutter comes in and reveals that Bing confessed to multiple crimes, including the kidnapping of her son. Unfortunately, he refuses to help them further unless Vic talks to him one-on-one.
Despite Hutter’s assurances that it will be safe, Chris and Linda push back hard against their daughter being in a room alone with a serial killer. Just as Vic is about to unload on both of them, Lou steps in and tells her that if she feels its the best thing they can do to get back Wayne, then it’s her choice if she wants to take the risk.
Vic walks into the interrogation room and asks where her son is. Instead of answering directly, Bing apologizes for bringing Manx back to life while insisting that he really did try to save Wayne.
When Vic repeats her request, Bing asks if she remembers when they were friends who traded comics together and if she ever misses how things were. Vic replies that she misses the person she thought he was. Bing replies by admitting that he’s scared of being alone and apologizes for everything he’s done. He also acknowledges that he knows Vic will never want to be his friend again, but hopes she can make a place in her heart to forgive him.
Vic cautiously reaches across the table, takes Bing’s hand, and asks him again how to find her son.
He finally reveals that before children are taken to Christmasland, they have to make one last stop where they hang an ornament in a tree. Vic immediately recognizes what that place is (the grounds of Sleigh House) and gets up to leave. When Bing asks if she’ll ever been willing to forgive him, the only response he gets is a piercing glare from his former friend before she exits the interrogation room.
Following Bing’s confession, Hutter is praised for her work and given her gun/badge back. When Daltry asks where she thinks Wayne his, Hutter lies and says that the boy is likely dead and buried in the junkyard. Daltry agrees and instructs her to fly to Colorado and help coordinate the search and recovery efforts. Hutter agrees to do so, but clearly has other plans on her mind.
Meanwhile, Vic asks Maggie to use her tiles to learn if Wayne has hung his ornament yet. They go out to Hutter’s car, where Maggie uses her gift while burning herself to keep from having a seizure. They’re relieved when the tiles reveal that Wayne hasn’t done any soul sucking holiday decorating yet.
Vic and Maggie’s elation is cut short when Hutter walks up to the car and sees what they’re doing. Vic attempts to explain/apologize, but Hutter cuts her off, promising to make sure that the FBI is too busy with a fake recovery effort to keep her from going after Manx.
After Vic leaves, Hutter gets in the car and tells Maggie that she loves her more than she’s ever loved anyone. Unfortunately, she wants to live in the real/normal world, which likely won’t be possible being involved in Maggie’s life. She also wants her to be happy, especially if that involves using her gifts.
Maggie is understandably crushed, but also understands. She attempts to say goodbye and exit the car, but Hutter insists on driving her to the airport so she can join Vic in Colorado.
Echoes of Empathy
Chris pleads with Vic to let him come to Colorado to help take down Manx, but she’s still all types of angry about the time he cost them by nearly killing Bing and refuses. After Chris points out that the bombs they made have timers he’s much more familiar with–and some convincing from Linda–Vic shoves an extra bike helmet into her dad’s chest and heads outside. Before he can follow her, Linda hugs her ex-husband asks him to make sure he brings their daughter and grandson home.
After arriving in Colorado, the pair starts digging holes in the road outside Sleigh House and planting bombs. Chris once again asks his daughter for forgiveness, both for his mistake with Bing and the many mistakes he made as her father. Vic responds that she wants to forgive him, especially since there’s no way her son could ever do the same for her if she can’t. She then declares that forgiving him would also let her dad off the hook for all the ways he failed her–something Vic doesn’t believe she deserves from her own family.
Following that bit of painfulness, Maggie and Lou arrive and go on a tour of the Sleigh House tree farm with Vic. She explains how Wayne will have to leave the Wraith to hang his ornament, providing them with their only chance to grab the boy while she and Chris take down Manx.
Vic hears something and goes to investigate, leaving Maggie and Lou alone together for the first time. Lou tells her how much he likes being a dad, prompting Maggie to assure him that they will succeed in rescuing Wayne. She then asks if he thinks it would be possible to rescue the other children whose ornaments have already been hung. She reaches into her bag and pulls out a frustratingly cryptic answer.
Meanwhile, Vic follows the sound she heard to the inscape soft spot we saw in the first episode of the season. Millie calls out to her from Christmasland, asking if she’s going to kill her father. When Vic refuses to answer her question directly, Millie begs for help, explaining that Manx’s death will also destroy her (and her chance to grow up), too. She then makes a snowball and rolls it out into the real world, revealing a potential doorway in and out of her father’s inscape.
Vic thanks Millie and returns to Maggie and Lou to get ready for Manx’s arrival.
That night while they’re waiting for the Wraith, Chris tells his daughter to forgive herself for her mistakes. If she doesn’t, she’ll never be able to move forward and begin to heal, both for her sake and the sake of those she loves.
Before Vic can respond, they hear the Wraith’s growling ostinato heading in their direction. They take cover just as the vehicle rolls to a stop and Manx gets out to stretch his legs. He then instructs a very vampirey looking Wayne to exit the vehicle and hang his ornament on one of the nearby trees.
As the boy merrily skips off into the woods, the Wraith begins blinking its lights and honking its horn. Manx hears the rumble of a motorcycle in the distance and instantly knows what his vehicle was trying to warn him about.
Vic McQueen is nearby.
Manx gets back into the Wraith and makes a U-turn to face his nemesis. After a brief standoff, he guns the car toward her, deftly swerving around each explosion Chris triggers along the way. Things get substantially worse when the Triumph dies and Manx avoids the final explosion, leaving Vic completely at his mercy.
Just as the Wraith is about to run her down, Chris climbs out of the ditch he was hiding in and shoves his daughter to the side. The act saves her life, but results in him being run over.
Meanwhile, Wayne walks around humming “Silent Night” for a bit before hanging his bat on a tree branch. Maggie sees him and calls out his name, causing Wayne to turn around and snarl at her with his razor sharp teeth. He then giggles and runs off, losing Maggie but finding Lou. After some initial hesitation, the boy recognizes his father and runs into his arms.
Unfortunately, their happy reunion is cut short when Wayne hears the nearby explosions, remembers that his soul belongs to Manx, and chomps down on Lou’s shoulder before running back toward the road. He returns to the Wraith and gets back in in while Manx gets out and walks toward Chris’ broken body.
Trapped beneath her bike and completely defenseless, Vic can only watch as Manx taunts her father before staring straight at her while he brutally snaps her father’s neck.
Even though the episode’s title and opening all but gave away Chris McQueen’s death, I don’t think any of us were prepared for how hard it would be to watch. He’d already been a much more likable/sympathetic character this season, but Ebon Moss-Bachrach really brought it home for this one. From the opening eulogy to his final talk with Vic, it was the best of many outstanding performances over the last two seasons.
I also love the way Linda and Chris still care for each other and their daughter despite being divorced. When it comes to people you’ve loved, life is messy and doesn’t always work in absolutes–especially when a child is involved. Moss-Bachrach and Virginia Kull do a terrific job portraying such a complicated-yet-beautiful dynamic between their characters.
And then you have that death scene…ugh. I know a lot of folks find Manx too damn charming to hate, but that’s going to be a much harder position to have after watching what he did to poor Chris.
For those wondering why Manx didn’t go straight to killing Vic, keep in mind that he wants to cause her as much pain as possible. Now that he has Wayne’s soul and a clear path to Christmasland (and doesn’t know about Millie’s inscape soft spot discovery), Vic is no longer an obstacle. He can take Wayne to Christmasland, raise the boy as his own, and have him call to torment Vic for as long as she lives
Speaking of Wayne, Jason David has done a fantastic job showing us his transformation. And for all of you giving Wayne crap last week about saving Charlie, I hope you’re happy now. The kid was clearly going through a major transformation that resulted in the complete destruction of his humanity/soul.
As great as this episode is, some of its very best moments take place in isolated settings between two characters.
Vic and Bing’s meeting in the interrogation room is a bizarre-yet-successful mixture of tension and heartbreak. You almost can’t help but feel bad for the guy despite how awful he is. At the same time, though, you’re right there with Vic, impatiently wanting him to shut up and tell her anything that can help with finding Wayne.
Then you have Vic and Chris’ talks about forgiveness. Between Ashleigh Cumming’s guilt fueled fire and Moss-Bachrach’s guilt-ridden stoicism, it was impossible to move your eyes off the screen when father and daughter finally brought their issues to the surface.
Hutter and Maggie’s breakup wasn’t nearly as consequential as those two moments, but it managed to be just as powerful. Despite her perpetually unshakable demeanor, you can see Hutter’s heart breaking while she explains why they can’t be together. I know I knocked Jahkara Smith and Ashley Romans chemistry earlier in the season, but this scene was a brilliant (and tragic) culmination of how much it’s grown over the last several episodes.
If there was one thing about this episode that bothered me, it was the time frame it attempts to take place in.
Getting all the characters in one place for large ensemble show with several moving plot lines is no easy feat. Much as we all hated the final season of Game of Thrones, one thing it rightfully got credit for was organically collecting the characters together for the climatic battles.
In this episode, however, Bing gets severely injured and is still moved (presumably by plane) to Massachusetts for questioning–all while the junkyard where he last saw Wayne (and where the FBI think’s Wayne’s body might be buried) is back out west. Maybe not as far as Cripple Creek or Gunbarrel, Colorado, but definitely a long way from the east coast where the Wraith started its journey.
Speaking of the Wraith, I get that it’s a magical car and all, but it’s still hard to believe the vehicle managed to avoid every single bomb Vic and Chris planted. To be fair, though, an argument can be made that the scene with the Wraith warning Charlie of Vic’s presence explains the car’s supernatural instincts.
What I can’t let go, however, is how the physical toll the Shorter Way takes on Vic has been all but waived away. NOS4A2 has done an excellent job exploring the price Maggie pays for using her gift and the brutal way she mitigates the cost. With Vic, however, it feels like we’re now giving her a free pass to teleport whenever she needs without any blinding headaches or bloody eyes.
All that being said, those are minor nitpicks in an otherwise exceptional episode. The death of Chris McQueen and the loss of Wayne’s soul served as stark reminders of how high the stakes are. Even when the story’s hero has magic powers and an unbreakable will, that’s still not always enough to protect the ones they love.
From the individual performances to the bookended farewells, “Chris McQueen” was a powerful hour of television that also serves as great set up for the craziness we have in store with our upcoming visit to Christmasland.
See you there.
Read our interview with ‘NOS4A2’ showrunner Jami O’Brien here.
Read our interview with ‘NOS4A2’ author Joe Hill here.
If one episode a week of ‘NOS4A2’ isn’t enough, then hop over to the NOS4A2 Fans Facebook group for in depth discussion among one of the best communities in the otherwise hellish landscape of social media fandom. Hopefully the show continues to be good so my reviews don’t make things awkward.