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Chucky - I Like to Be Hugged - Review

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The following review contains spoilers to Chucky´s I Like to Be Hugged episode, you have been warned. The third episode of Don Mancini’s Chucky series is a see-saw of violent highs and undercut lows. “I Like to be Hugged” finally unleashes Chucky (Brad Dourif) into his signature serial killer craze, but also raises concern over the usage of 1960s Hackensack flashbacks that mean to divulge Charles Lee Ray’s bloodlust origin. The narrative’s intention to parallel Chucky’s mentorship of Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur) with young Charles Lee Ray’s push towards a life of massacres is starting to show as a weakness — not much is added in the back and forth time leaps. This third episode stretches minimal arc development like silly putty until translucent and thin, suggesting that tighter focus on Jake’s modern-day training would be the more fulfilling decision. The main theme behind Chucky and Jake’s relationship seems to be how anyone can be made into a killer if they are pushed far enough. As far as Chucky’s concerned, Jake’s been pushed quite far by Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind) and it’s time for our teen lead to put a stop to her. Frankly, I would be okay with Lexy dying.

However, I have a feeling that the writers are trying to give her some kind of redemption arc. I’m not the biggest fan of redemption arcs because they are rarely done well. So, let’s see how the creative team handles Lexy as a young character with a lot of issues. ‘I Like to Be Hugged’ showed Jake attempt to kill Lexy by himself (twice), even though his plans didn’t work. In a sense, even if Jake wants Lexy dead, he doesn’t have it in him to plunge the knife himself. I mean, at least that’s some level of “good” for Jake to hold on to, right? He, did, however, put Lexy’s life in danger by letting Lexy’s younger sister Caroline take Chucky. Sigh! Dourif launches into monologues that parallel awkward first-time sexual experiences alongside slaying your first victim, which is a clever thematic gag considering how Jake is also becoming more flirtatiously bashful around a more interested Devon (Bjorgvin Arnarson). Chucky’s narration about how special a killer’s first time is and the intimacy of getting to know your target overlays Jake’s incompetence when stalking Lexy, as he plans to make her pay for her abhorrent Halloween costume prank from the previous episode. There’s nothing new introduced about Lexy’s cruelty — although Junior’s (Teo Briones) insistence that his girlfriend Lexy apologize to Jake is a surprise.
Elsewhere, supporting characters begin to sniff around Jake’s innocence. Detective Evans (Rachelle Casseus) — Devon’s mother — eavesdrops as Devon listens to a recorded conversation with Jake and fails to successfully interrogate Jake’s science teacher Miss Fairchild (Annie Briggs), who won’t engage. That’s because Miss Fairchild has her own designs of exposing Lexy’s tasteless torments to both Jake's and Lexy’s guardians, in hopes the mature adults can communicate with their feuding children. These are all just scattershot moments that only exist to promise more obstacles for Chucky’s later removal, since I’m sure Detective Evans will snoop around too close to the Wheeler estate and uncover Chucky’s guilt after it’s too late.

Jake’s an emotional mess and I’m here for it. He’s not your cookie-cutter protagonist. And I appreciate that. I think the creative team’s doing an enjoyable job of exploring the darkness inside of Jake and how he needs to figure out to keep said darkness at bay. I really liked the scene where he apologized for his actions in front of his mother’s grave. He’s still a kid, after all. There are people, like Devon and Jake’s science teacher Ms. Fairchild, who want to help him. But Jake needs to allow them in. Having said that, Jake letting people help him will most likely annoy Chucky and put them in harm’s way. Chucky wants Jake all for himself for some weird reason. I still don’t know what Chucky’s endgame is for Jake.

In a pivotal moment, Lexy approaches Jake with an apology that turns out to be a self-serving attempt to trade Jake her kind words for his Chucky doll that Caroline (Carina Battrick) desperately desires. There’s a glimmer of humanity in Lexy’s admission that she responds to embarrassment by hurting others, which quickly fades when Jake — still in the Wheelers’ garage testing out gardening tools as possible murder weapons — refuses to hand over Chucky. Not only that, but he experiences performance anxiety, as per Chucky’s definition, and cannot drive a steel blade through Lexy when he has her alone. No bother, Chucky takes the wheel and generously says he’ll fix Jake’s Lexy problem by hiding behind Caroline’s innocence.

Once “I Like to be Hugged” transitions into the Cross’ mansion where Lexy throws a silent rave as classmates wear noise-canceling headphones and they all dance to the same playlist, Chucky returns to slasher solidness. It’s the little jokes like Dourif’s dialogue as he mutters, “snug as a fuckin’ bug” after Chucky’s tucked in beside Caroline and has to slice his way out of the tightly pressed blankets. Then Chucky’s released to roam freely as puppeteers and actors stalk characters without anyone’s awareness while music blares, whether that’s a teenage boy who gets stabbed over and over or attempted strangulation on Lexy as Chucky’s booties kick like he’s swimming and Alyvia Alyn Lind has to pretend the Good Guy on her back is alive. These are the moments that shine as an enraged Chucky sees firetruck red and victims squeal in horror while Dourif’s cackle drowns out the screams of his iconic slasher’s helpless prey.
The realizations “I Like to be Hugged” aims to juxtapose are Jake’s inabilities that prove he’s no mutilator against Charles Lee Ray’s quickness to slaughter in cold blood. Jake is shown sadly sobbing over his mother and father’s grave when emergency vehicle sirens suggest Chucky has slain Lexy — baby-faced Charles Lee Ray is shown covered in gore before he should even be handling sharp objects. The problem is, there’s vastly more intrigue in Jake and Chucky’s relationship than Charles and the madman who stabbed the boy’s father to death. Charles Lee Ray has been a psychopath since Child's Play, and that’s all we’re being shown in backstory material as well. Maybe an entire episode dedicated to adolescent Charles Lee Ray could explore the New Jersey devil’s maturation into maliciousness. Still, it feels like a slight addition by showing viewers an origin that’s precisely as callous as we’d expect. As for Chucky being handed off to Caroline so he could get closer to Lexy, Chucky decided to murder her during a house party. The episode had a good number of scenes amping up the tension as Chucky closed in on Lexy only for him to hide or act like a non-possessed doll because someone else entered the room.

The death scene in episode 3 featured Chucky killing Oliver (Avery Esteves). Seeing Chucky attack a little teen boy hit differently compared to when he went after adults. No one was able to hear Oliver’s screams as Chucky continued stabbing him. It was a well-done scene in my opinion. Chucky went after Lexy again and ended up burning the house down. As of now, Devon’s mother seems to be the only one concerned about what’s happening in Hackensack. In her mind, the random deaths are somehow linked to Jake. She’s been worrying about a student getting killed and Oliver’s death will likely make her suspect Jake even more. Her being suspicious of Jake does put her at odds with Devon (who wants to prove that Jake wouldn’t hurt anyone). I think their disagreement will only intensify as the series progresses.
Some other thoughts and big questions:
There’s definitely something going on with Jake’s aunt. I’m not sure if she’s having an affair,which is the most predictable thing. But something isn’t right.

I liked seeing Junior standing up to Lexy and telling her to apologize to Jake. However, I still don’t know why Junior’s into her, when she´s obviously bad news.

With the episode not showing the aftermath of Lexy’s house burning down, I highly doubt Chucky was able to kill Lexy. As I have already mentioned, I think the writers are going to try and redeem her somehow.

I’m side-eyeing Ms. Fairchild a bit. I get she wants to help Jake deal with the bullying situation at school. But I’m unable to fully trust her for some reason.

What did you think of ‘I Like to Be Hugged’?

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