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NOS4A2 - Welcome to Christmasland - Review

17 Aug 2020

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No one said being a parent was easy, no matter what your age and circumstances happen to be. No matter how much you want to run away from your own issues, you can never really run away from your child, even if you actually run away. Sometimes children can fend for themselves and sometimes they need guidance. In the case of Wayne, his resentment of his mother, Vic, is justified, even though he was never put into actual danger until he decided to find a replacement.

The character development at the start of the season made sure we saw Vic not being the greatest mother. Of course, her own parents weren't exactly parents-of-the-year, but their influence doesn't excuse the fact that Vic did put her own issues before her son's well-being for a time. Now, we are starting to see results of this neglect. Wayne's grandfather has been murdered and he is now been made a vampire. Thankfully, confronting vampires isn't new for Vic, so vanquishing him is shown to be relatively easy for her. She's not perfect, but at least Vic knows how to make up for her short comings, as much as that certain vampire has been developed to represent her darker psyche.

 Yes, this season has gone to great lengths to show the ways Vic and Charlie are both alike and oh-so-different at once. It is Charlie's villainous selfishness that separates them. They both want Wayne for themselves, but for different reasons. Vic is doing it out of obligation and to save herself from her own demons. Charlie is doing it because he wants to add him to his collection to punish Vic for what she did to him before she gave birth to Wayne. Yes, this penultimate episode was personal for both sides involved. Charlie finally is confronted by the spirit of his wife in the house to which she is confined and his daughter, Millie, finally manages to see past Charlie's parlor tricks to get out of Christmasland without dissolving by grabbing her ornament in time.

Meanwhile, Vic is emboldened by the murder of Chris and calls in the cavalry in the form of Maggie to help place enough bombs in the (finally) correct places to she can rescue Wayne and take down the gloriously tacky Christmasland for good. Of course, no one said doing the right thing would be easy. Wayne is still under Charlie's trance. Charlie has even gifted him a cute astronaut's costume to complement his creepy new teeth and shimmering graying hair. How could Wayne possibly want to leave a land where it is Christmas every night and there's no sunlight? Well, he doesn't apparently. So, Vic pulls the "mother card" and basically orders him to leave with her....b/c she says so...THAT'S WHY! Seriously, though, Vic finally has the right idea in mind in this episode, but that's why she's a Strong Creative. She will always come to her extraordinary senses no matter how much emotional baggage she possesses.

But, can she get Wayne on her side? Well, like most children, it literally takes pulling the plug on the shiny object that is stealing all of their attention for it to finally happen, but that she does and the lights go out on Christmasland, yet again (seriously, how does the local electric company deal with this?). She has every right to be overly emotional since her father has just been murdered and she tells her amazing partner, Lou, to stay with him (the way he stays with her no matter how much crap he has to deal with) while she rescues her foregone son, but time is of the essence. There will be time for tears later once she actually saves Wayne from himself and Charlie's immortality BS.

Yes, the whole episode is basically one action scene after another, but the series has earned it after so much build-up this season (yes, the previous episodes had their own action scenes, but these felt more urgent). Despite all of the action and violence, it is still the emotion that drives the writing and character motivations here. I found it interesting how Vic decides to take a few moments to just stare at the vampire children trapped under a fallen tree (courtesy of Maggie), knowing they're going to get up and continue to chase her, as if she's making sure they're alright like a grieving mother would in a real situation like that. And, the producers even found a place for a Shining reference with the metaphorical ice maze that is controlled by Charlie's vengeful id (I would suggest Stephen King would be proud, but everyone knows he didn't come up with the hedge maze in the Stanley Kubrick version of The Shining).

I enjoyed watching Zachary Quinto portray Charlie's unraveling this time around. It is interesting how he wants to possess an ever-expanding family, yet he cannot control both his eternally damned wife, Cassie, and his own teenage daughter, who finally puts him in his place before she bails on his plastic-y, masturbatory fantasy. They see past his egotistical facade. Charlie only adopts these children to serve his own narcissistic needs, never actually saving any of them. He thinks he is stronger than a woman who already defeated him once, and is proven wrong once again as she takes away his youthful veneer once again, exposing the frail monster we already know he is. He has dug his own grave and maybe now he can finally see it. Seriously, maybe Charlie should retire after this newest humiliation.

However, we still have the season (and possibly series since viewership has plummeted so much) finale next week, so anything can happen. The potential of Christmastown has already been fulfilled. If you have read the Joe Hill novel, you still may not know what will happen next since the writers are definitely going in their own direction now.

Here, the acting from the whole ensemble continues to impress, as does the directing, never losing believably in the face of the rather contrived and even ludicrous nature of the story.

The set design was also impressive. I was worried the limited basic cable TV budget would hinder Christmasland's design, but that limited-ness ends up being one of the episode's saving graces. All of the buildings are meant to look charmingly old world, yet feel creepy to the core once you look inside those hollowed-out windows. It feels more like a mausoleum than a place children would actually like to spend eternity in, but that is probably the point. The ice maze had a creepy precision that made up for the fact that it looked completely theatrical and phony.

The explosions were also rendered well. We have seen a few already this season that contained extra CGI that didn't land. This time, each BOOM achieved an emotional effect. Not surprisingly, Christmasland has the same attachment to Charlie that the Wraith does. Like Charlie, it is fragile and needy. Its true, vibrant colors are only as real as the unreliable electricity that runs them. Once the juice is gone, the illusion is shattered.

In short, Charlie only knows how to get what he wants by offering people what they desire, but don't really need. He's all flash and no substance. His is a sad immortal existence. And, hopefully, one that will be snuffed out for good soon. Sadly, from the looks of Vic and Maggie's wounds, it looks like there could still be some more action in the old Christmasland, after all.