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NOS4A2 - Season 1 Reaction & Season 2 Preview

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CAUTION: THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM NOS4A2's first season on AMC. Please don't read if you haven't watched it yet!

If you're reading this anticipating the new season of NOS4A2 on AMC and BBC America on June 21st, 2020, chances are you already have a working knowledge of the background of the Joe Hill novel, AMC series (which was also uploaded to and Hulu months after airing), and what exactly Christmasland is, so I will not waste precious time bringing you all up to speed. Seriously, how many horror series get the honor of being uploaded to multiple streaming sites simultaneously? Obviously, the overnight and DVR numbers were good enough to bring about season 2, so I already know there is a pretty sizable following out there that will hopefully descend upon the new season this summer so we can get a whole adaptation of the novel. As some of you already know, season one only covered about the first third of the 800 + page novel, so I would assume it will take at least three 10 episode seasons for us to see the whole story (I will not spoil anything major from the novel out of respect for those viewers who didn't bother to read it and wish to be surprised by anything the AMC series has in store). However, it seems that the producers have decided to already go off in a slightly different direction away from the novel. This was inevitable, sure, but still kind of a letdown for those of us who wanted the series to be ultra-faithful to the source material. I also get that AMC wants NOS4A2 to be the next Preacher-type adaptation series since the latter finished its run last year, but they have completely different tones from totally different voices. Comparing those two wouldn't prove much, even though AMC is clearly going for the same basic audience for each.

I will start off by saying that I am still a little disappointed that Jami O'Brien and her collaborators decided to go the typically YA route by re-casting Vic's character as a strong young woman from the get-go instead of keeping her a little girl in the beginning. I found it difficult to believe that TV Vic doesn't find out that she is a "strong creative" until she is graduating high school. Of course, it was also a good decision since Ashleigh Cummings (Hounds of Love, The Goldfinch) has been doing some seriously credible leading lady magic on the series. Still, she seems like a formidable opponent for Zachary Quinto's Charlie Manx right from the get go when we see her riding a motorcycle across the Shorter Way bridge. In the novel, she and Maggie were introduced ten years before the events with Vic as a teenager and I felt that worked better. So, the possibility for serious tension between them was immediately eliminated. Also, the explanation as to why Vic cannot get financial aid to go to art school seemed too convoluted to buy into. Also, having Craig go after Bing in the season finale didn't really work for me. However, the relationship between Vic and Maggie has been realized more successfully. Vic's evolution in the series also has been detailed pretty well so her heroism in the final episode actually worked. I am still shocked they did not kill Bing off, though I have liked Ólafur Darri Ólafsson's performance and I know he plays a bigger role in the novel. Still, it seemed like the producers could end his time on the series early and it wouldn't have mattered as much. To me, that would have felt more dramatic than seeing him survive and working at a dentist's office with access to the gas in the season finale.

 By the end of the first season, I had gotten tired of lack of adherence to the source material and was willing to accept the series on its own terms, but found the twist of Vic suddenly getting pregnant (and not by Lou and suddenly killing off the child's baby) while Charlie aging horribly and going into a coma to be supremely cliched, even by regular basic cable TV standards. There is no suspense that Charlie isn't going to get out of the coma. I was hoping that maybe Charlie would stay in the coma and torment Vic psychically similar to what they did in the TV adaption of Joe Hill's father, Stephen King's, Mr. Mercedes trilogy adaptation for the now-shuttered Audience channel.

 It was interesting to note that Charlie seems to have just as much of a connection with the Wraith as he does with Vic, so maybe season 2 will play off of that in a way that novel didn't. I also didn't care for how the producers decided that they would have Charlie steal Hailey, the girl that Vic had a close connection to, forcing her to fight Charlie and try to end Christmasland. Doing this made the idea of Charlie potentially kidnapping Wayne in season 2 into Christmasland seem not as dynamic as it did in the novel, so maybe the producers came up with something else for season 2, but I fail to see what could top Vic wanting to protect her child from Christmasland.

As the year has gone by since N0S4A2 left the air, I struggled to find many reasons to continue following the series in season 2. I guess I just want to see how the writers play the story out at this point. It is interesting to find an unconventional vampire story these days doesn't involve a human and villainous immortal vamp finding romance with each other. Let's hope this doesn't happen somehow between Vic and Charlie. Of course, that doesn't seem likely, but in the television world, we've all probably seen worse happen. The strong performances have helped keep my attention also. The concept is still wondrous. And I definitely want to see more of the so-far-underused Christmasland in the series, even though it was not portrayed as surrealistically melodic and colorfully dreadful as I pictured it from the novel. It still stirs the viewers' attention more than anything going on in the real world scenes, I feel. No more Christmasland would be certain cancellation for sure.

 So for those of you who just want a glimpse into season two, I can tell you that I was not given any upcoming episodes to view, so I will be discovering the new season with all of you. I can tell you that there will be a time jump that was was actually longer in the novel, so we will now be following Vic eight years after the events of season one. She is now a young mother of Wayne (short for Bruce Wayne), and is in an interracial relationship with Lou, who was introduced in season one, while working as an auto mechanic (and also not looking like she's aged beyond one year). Not sure sure if she will be a children's book author in the series yet, but time will tell. According to Cummings in an AMC-released featurette, "We spent a lot of time last season establishing the world and spending time with the characters, which I loved, this season is a bit more like, pedal to the medal; we go straight into the action." This seemed to be a criticism of season 1 that there was not enough action (I disagreed on that one since I was missing more of the childhood to young adult to adult character development from the novel, but I digress). Keeping this story in the same time period would've been a mistake, so I am glad they are trying to keep it semi-faithful to the novel in that regard, even if many other details have to be substituted in the process.

From what I've seen, Season 2 looks even grimier and faster-paced than season 1, and I mean that as a complement. I also am interested to see how the relationship between Mattea Conforti as, Charlie's daughter, Millie Manx, and Charlie goes. I enjoyed the descriptions of the vampire children from the novel, so I hope that translates well here. It looks like we will begetting more flashback episodes for Charlie to humanize him and give Mr. Quinto something to do other than look scary. As for Maggie's supposed drug overdose shown in the featurette, I hope it's done for more than just a cheap scare, only for the character to bounce back an episode later. Of course, readers of the novel already know what might happen, so I am hoping they take some more creative, but not as cliched, liberties with the story so it will not be predictable in any episode. I am also wondering if there will be more time jumps like there are in the novel? I suppose it wouldn't hurt too much, but one is more than enough for a TV audience to accept. More starts to feel like the writers are cheating, which I don't think they will be from here on out.

That sounds all well and good. But, will season 2 be scarier than season 1 (which seemed to gleefully sacrifice tension and actual scares for basic cable-level scenes of violence and action)? All I can say for sure is that Jami O'Brien wrote the season premiere, "Bad Mother." For now, that is good enough for me.


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