On last week’s penultimate episode of NOS4A2, Vic stormed the gates of Christmasland and finally managed to convince her soulless son to come home.
Tonight’s finale kicks off with her leading Wayne and Maggie back into the real world. Unfortunately, Manx has no intention of letting them leave his crumbling inscape without a fight.
The episode opens with Vic convincing Wayne to play a new game: Find the Triumph and get the hell out of Christmasland. She also notices that her son is still warm, indicating that perhaps his soul isn’t completely gone.
While searching for the bike, they run across Maggie, who is still looking for her tiles. Vic tries to convince her to leave, but she refuses to go anywhere until she’s found them. It also doesn’t help things when Wayne tries to bite her face off. Vic promises her friend that she’ll be back for her and continues her search for the Triumph.
Wayne eventually finds the bike, which his mother uses to bring him through the Shorter Way back to Sleigh House in Gunbarrel. The boy is fairly ambivalent about seeing Lou, but lunges repeatedly at Hutter, forcing her to handcuff him. Vic then promises Hutter she’ll return with Maggie before riding back through her inscape into Christmasland.
An aged and suffering Charlie Manx nurses the Wraith through the park gates. Just as he’s about to cross the threshold, he notices his radio starting to malfunction and realizes that Vic has returned.
Meanwhile, Maggie continues to stagger through Christmasland in a futile attempt to find her tiles. She eventually succumbs to her injuries and lays down on a large rock. Unfortunately, a group of nearby vampire children take this as the perfect opportunity to play a gruesome game of Gray’s Anatomy: Living Autopsy Edition. Before the children are able to start cutting, however, Vic rides in like a bat out of hell and scares them off.
Maggie continues to insist that she needs to stay and look for her tiles, but Vic isn’t having it. Instead, she loads her friend onto the back of the Triumph and takes off toward the Shorter Way…with the Wraith in pursuit.
Back in the real world, Wayne escapes from Lou’s grasp and runs from him and Hutter to his bat ornament, which is still hanging in a nearby tree. As they watch the boy stare at it (and hum “Silent Night”), Hutter mentions her grandfather’s belief that people’s souls can get trapped inside an object.
This sparks Lou’s memory of the answer Maggie’s tiles gave when they asked about how to rescue the children already in Christmasland: “When Souls Fall.” He then takes this a step further, realizing that the ornaments on the Sleigh House tree are like Voldemort’s horcruxes from Harry Potter.
*Side Note: I love Lou so much.*
Lou grabs his son and Hutter snatches the bat ornament. She throws it to the ground and smashes it with her foot, causing Wayne to groan in agony before puking what looks like three full bottles worth of Pepto Bismal. Hutter then begins tearing more ornaments off the tree and crushing them, as well.
Back in Christmasland, Manx tailgates the two women into the Shorter Way. Realizing that he’ll follow them right to Hutter and Lou, Vic stops and gets off her bike. He’s in her inscape now, which means she’s the one with the power advantage.
She begins her attack by sending a swarm of bats toward the approaching vehicle. If you’ve ever had one of these winged kamikaze artists slam into your windshield, then you know how scary/damaging it can be–and how much trouble Manx is in when a few hundred start throwing themselves against the Wraith. He still manages to continue forward, though, forcing Vic to take even more drastic measures.
With bats swarming all around and her left eye going blood red, she begins to destroy the Shorter Way with her mind. Boards break in front of the Wraith, causing it to stop and begin tipping down into a void of white static. The bats continue to swirl around the vehicle, pushing it down as Manx screams in terror before disappearing in the abyss.
Despite vanquishing her nemesis, Vic’s scorched inscape strategy has left her and Maggie precious little time to escape. She gets back on her bike pushes them through the Shorter Way just as it finishes collapsing.
After arriving in the real world, a much more human looking Wayne runs to greet Vic followed by Lou. She tells him that Manx is finally dead, causing them both to weep with relief. Meanwhile, Hutter calls emergency services and runs to check on Maggie, who is taken aback by all the smashed ornaments on the ground. Before Hutter can explain, they both look up to see all the former vampire children emerging from the woods. They also appear human and completely confused/scared. Hutter requests social services to assist with what is likely going to be the largest and strangest case they’ll ever see.
Millie hides in the woods and watches, her ornament and vampirism still intact–especially her teeth, which set in a rictus of anger at what’s just transpired.
*Side note: If you’re a fellow book reader like me, then you should definitely take note that we’ve reached the novel’s relative climax the episode is only 1/3 of the way over right now.*
Three months later: Vic, Lou, and Wayne are sitting sit around the table and enjoying dinner time as a family. Wayne giggles as his parents try to one up each other with terrible dad jokes.
Everything appears delightfully normal until Vic catches her son attempting to sneak tater tots into his sleeve instead of eating them. She grabs his arm and insists that he has to eat something. Wayne defiantly refuses and grabs a fork, preparing to retaliate. Thankfully, Lous is able to diffuse the situation before things can get stabby.
The boy goes to his room while Vic laments the fact that her son hasn’t eaten a normal meal in weeks. Lou reminds her that encountering Charlie Manx took a toll on all of them–and that their family is finally safe from him now. It’s a nice sentiment, but does little to assuage Vic’s fears about the permanent damage that might have happened during her son’s journey into Christmasland.
Over in Haverhill, Hutter visits Maggie at her library. She also brings back her tiles, which one of the former vampire kids had in their possession. She also reveals how things have been going for the children they rescued at Sleigh House. Some of them still had families to return to, but others have been a severe challenge to place in foster care. Much like Wayne, they continue to show evidence of being permanently altered due to their time with Manx.
After an extremely awkward silence, Maggie offers to use her gift if Hutter ever needs help with a case. It’s clear that the former lovers have a lot more that they’d like to say to each other, but she politely tells Maggie to take care of herself before departing the library and leaving her life for good.
Vic struggles to go to sleep without the assistance of alcohol. In it’s place, she takes up drawing again. On this night, it’s a robot guardian to protect Wayne and find him if he’s lost. Lou lovingly reminds her that she already succeeded in both of those departments before heading to bed.
Later, Vic hears something in the kitchen. She goes to investigate and finds Wayne standing on top of the counter and eating from a bag of sugar. He notices her watching him and continues to eat, explaining that “sugar for dinner is fun” with a wicked gleam in his eye. Vic orders him to stop, instantly melting her son’s demeanor and causing him to apologize profusely while falling into her arms.
Vic takes Wayne into the bathroom and brushes her teeth along with him, which makes it a lot less awkward/embarrassing when Lou asks why they’re both doing that in the middle of the night. The nice moment is dampened, however, when Wayne rinses and spits out a red glob of blood into the sink.
After Vic tucks her son into bed, he asks if he’s going to be okay–and if she ever fully recovered from her encounter with Manx. Vic reluctantly lies and tells him “yes” on both counts.
After Wayne goes to sleep, he has a nightmare featuring a mauled rabbit in the woods outside their home. The image is immediately followed by vision of Lou lying dead on the kitchen floor and Vic’s head hanging on a tree in Christmasland. After awakening with a start, he sneaks out of the house and rides his bike to the nearby ruins of Sleigh House.
Wayne eventually finds Millie Manx eating the rabbit from his vision. After realizing that she’s been living in the woods since Christmasland was destroyed, he admits to missing Christmasland and wishing they could go back.
The pair lay down next to each other and bond over their time in Manx’s inscape. Wayne, who barely got to stay, asks Millie what it was like to live there for so long. She replies that it was wonderful. In addition to being in charge of everyone, she had everything she ever wanted. Now she’s forced to sleep outside and hunt for food.
Also, her dad is dead thanks to Vic.
Wayne sincerely apologizes for his mom killing Manx. He then suggests that Millie break her ornament so she could turn into a (mostly) normal kid and maybe be adopted. Millie points out doing so would also make her weak and “ordinary” before asking Wayne if he wants to grow up and travel the world. He informs her that despite adults always talking about doing fun things, they just work all the time and pay bills. They pretend they’re happy, but they’re really just tired.
*Side note: Oof…thanks for devastating truth bomb, kid*
Realizing that she never should have left her father’s inscape, Millie pledges to keep her ornament and rebuild Christmasland, bringing every child back one by one if necessary. She asks Wayne if he’ll help her, but he’s saved from answering when the headlight’s of Lou and Vic’s truck appear.
Wayne assures his new friend that Vic won’t try to kill her, but she may try to smash her ornament. Millie decides not to take any chances, imploring him not to forget her before taking off into the woods.
After despondently watching her leave, Wayne calls out to his mom. She runs over to him, simultaneously relieved and enraged at her son. She also demands to know why he ran off to Sleigh House. Wayne admits that he isn’t sure, but is surprised that his mother knew to look for him there.
Crushing Course Correction
Over in Haverhill, a group of teens finds both Manx’s body and the Wraith floating in the Merrimack River.
Meanwhile, Vic helps her mother pack up Chris’ belongings. Linda admits that despite their turbulent relationship, she still misses her ex-husband. Vic responds by admitting that she now understands why her mother was so strict and protective when she was younger.
Linda confesses that she wishes they had openly discussed things as a family instead of trying to bury them. It might not have fixed things, but it could have made things much easier, especially as Vic became an adult. She then asks her daughter to stay in Haverhill for a while, reminding her that it can’t be easy living so close to where everything with Manx went down.
Later, Vic, Lou, Wayne and Linda are joined by Maggie and Hutter to watch the Wraith get crushed for good in a nearby junkyard. When Hutter expresses disbelief that Manx and his car showed up in Massachusetts instead of Colorado, Maggie explains that it’s because the final battle took place in Vic’s Massachusetts-based inscape.
Side Note: Maggie’s observation was also a brutally subtle dig at her ex. Just because Hutter wants to work in the “real world” doesn’t mean she can simply ignore the existence of inscapes (or the woman she loved).
As the car crusher starts up, Hutter also assures Vic that Manx’s body has been cremated. Meanwhile, Wayne softly cries out at the sight of his only way back into Christmasland being destroyed.
Following the Wraith’s destruction, Vic and Maggie go out for coffee. Vic reveals that she and Lou decided to stay in Haverhill, both for the proximity to family and the distance from Sleigh House. Maggie reminds her friend that just because Christmasland was bad doesn’t mean all inscapes are. There are countless worlds out there (like Jolene’s tunnels) for them to find.
Vic says she’s happy living a “normal” life, but Maggie doesn’t believe it. Instead, she encourages her to team up and explore places like the nearby Empty Forest or Crooked Alley. Vic holds firm, however, refusing to dive back into the world that caused so much pain and suffering–both for her and the people she loves the most.
*Side Note: The Empty Forest appears on the United Inscapes of America map Manx used last season (and pictured below). The Crooked Alley is an inscape ‘NOS4A2’ author Joe Hill plans to use for a future story featuring Maggie).*
Back at Linda’s house, Wayne is working on a creepy-as-hell drawing of him and Millie (and a Manx moon) in Christmasland when he’s interrupted by Vic and Lou coming to get him for dinner. He quickly hides the picture and and asks when they are going back to their home in Gunbarrel. When he says that he misses his friends, Vic counters with her suspicion that he actually misses Christmasland.
She also confesses to missing the thrill she got from chasing Charlie Manx. Some things that feel fun or good aren’t good for you. That’s why it’s important to talk about them instead of holding things in.
Vic then moves to take her son’s drawing out from under the pillow. Wayne initially blocks her from seeing it, but relents after his mother assures him it will be okay. As she stares at the picture, her son confesses that he thinks something is wrong with him “on the inside.” Vic admits that she often feels the same way about herself. This time, however, they aren’t going to bottle up their pain and try to deal with it on their own. Instead, they’re going to be open, honest, and talk about things as a family. No more running away (figuratively and literally) when things are hard to deal with.
She also tells her son that creating art like he did is a much healthier way to deal with the dark thoughts than holding them in. From now on, Team McCarmody faces their challenges in the real world together.
Later that night, Vic sits at the kitchen table and stares at her son’s drawing. She gets up, goes to the cupboard, and picks up a bottle of cooking wine…which she moves aside to get to her art supplies and begins work on a new drawing.
New Adventures and Adversaries
Back at the library, Maggie asks her tiles how to enter the closest inscape. They send her to the same hotel where she kicked the Hourglass Man’s ass. Instead of finding him in the downstairs bar this time, she’s lead by blinking lights to a supposedly out-of-service elevator. After a moment of hesitation, she gets in and smiles as it takes her up.
Over in Gunbarrel, a pair of horny teenagers (who have obviously never seen a horror movie before) park their truck on the grounds of Sleigh House. As they start to make out, they’re interrupted by something jumping onto the roof of the vehicle. After a few seconds, the hormone-crazed lovers are about to dismiss the noise when Millie leaps down onto the truck’s hood and punches through the windshield.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you do a series finale.
While I certainly hope NOS4A2 is renewed for a third season (especially after that final shot), “Bats” completely sticks the landing. If this is our last foray into a world of Manx-driven nightmares, then it’s as good a send off as we could ask for.
Let’s dive into the nuts and bolts of why this is one of my favorite finales of all time.
Concluding the main plot/story
You’d think this would be a given, but we all know plenty of shows that have failed in this department. NOS4A2, on the other hand, brings the conflict between Charlie Manx and Vic McQueen to a thrilling and definitive end. Manx is dead, Christmasland is destroyed, and Vic has her son back.
We might not understand everything about inscapes (nor do we need to), but we do know how this particular battle between strong creatives ended.
Satisfying character arcs that are allowed to be messy
Vic finally realizes that being a parent means taking on all challenges–including her own demons–instead of running away from them. That also means Wayne is going to hate her sometimes like she hated Linda, but parental love often requires work and sacrifice without anything in return. Wayne’s demons might be significantly more literal now, but she has to keep fighting so that he can, too.
She also learns that forgiving herself is not an act of weakness or indulgence. It’s actually one of the most difficult things imaginable–perhaps even more so than taking on Manx. But she’s finally ready to try.
Vic’s renewed focus isn’t just a declaration, though. Any addict or self-destructive person can tell you about the times they’ve relapsed or spiraled back to the bottom. In Vic’s case, she’s replacing her dependency on alcohol with her art, pouring her pain and darkness into a page instead of a glass.
Maggie completely eschews comfort and stability for the thrill of exploring the unknown. She could have been happy with Hutter, but never truly fulfilled. She needs adventure, especially now that the cost of using her gift can be (painfully) mitigated.
Most people would consider riding an out-of-service elevator in the hotel where a dude almost killed you to be unbelievably reckless. Maggie just gives a badass smirk and waits to see where it takes her.
Wayne’s transformation parallels the natural darkness that was already forming inside him before he set foot in the Wraith. Like I said before, his demons are now literal, but they exist within a boy who used to only sigh and look sad when his mother let him down.
Now both he and Vic have to be open with each other if they want any chance of surviving in this world. They’ll also need to to learn how to be honest, sometimes to a degree that will hurt. All that being said, Wayne’s heart is good enough that he still has a fighting chance at fully reclaiming his soul.
Millie reacts how most children do when they run away from home and desperately wants to go back. In this case, however, “home” was a magical land. Everything was provided for and she got to be in charge. Now it’s gone and her father is dead, leaving her to forage for food and live in a constant state of loneliness. She romanticized the “grown up world” as an era of of untold freedoms and adventure–like I’m sure most of us did when we were kids. Also like most of us, she quickly learned that being on your own is significantly more difficult than expected
It certainly doesn’t help that Millie is 100% her father’s daughter. Despite initially wanting to be human, she refuses to destroy her ornament because it would make her weak. Instead, she intends to rebel against her self-inflicted fortunes by creating a new Christmasland. She’ll rule it just like Manx did, taking back each child one by one whether they want to go or not.
On top of all that, Millie also refuses to take any responsibility for her father’s death (or his inscape’s destruction) despite playing a key role. Instead, she unleashes her angst on two random teenagers.
Speaking of narcissistic personality types, Charlie Manx is finally brought down from within by his own hubris. From his obsession with kidnapping Wayne to his refusal to listen to Millie, every part of Manx’s defeat could have been avoided if he simply took a step back and examined his motivations more closely.
Instead, he was fueled by them, believing that everything he did was righteous simply because he wanted it–right up to his attempt at crossing Vic’s Shorter Way. Turns out Cassie was spot on when she predicted that her husband’s ego would also be his downfall.
Embracing collateral damage
I love that instead of putting a nice bow on everything, “Bats” spends the bulk of its runtime exploring the long terms effects of Wayne’s time in the Wraith/Christmasland. There’s no way he and the other children should have been able to waltz out of the Sleigh House woods the way they entered.
In Wayne’s case, the kid is obviously in a much better place now, but he’s also got a long road to a full recovery that might not even be possible.
On a smaller scale, we have Linda grieving the loss of her ex-husband and Hutter/Maggie grieving their shattered relationship. It’s clear that both of them still truly care for each other, but there’s no way they can ever reclaim the joy and happiness the couple shared before Manx’s return.
Leave us wanting more
There’s a big difference between cutting the screen to black in the middle of dinner and planting seeds for the audience to ponder…and maybe grow into a third season.
In this case, the “true” last shot of NOS4A2 is Vic eschewing a drink for some late night drawing. We know how her final battle with Manx ended and we know the road ahead that she plans to take.
Maggie and Millie’s final scenes are all kinds of cool, but they don’t deprive us of any closure. It sure is fun to think about what might happen next, though.
*nudges AMC executives with a complete lack of subtly*
NOS4A2 (AMC)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. Thankfully, the show was amazing and things never got (too) awkward when I posted there.