Sunday, June 2, 2019

REVIEW: 'NOS4A2' - Vic Discovers a Supernatural Ability that Connects Her to the Villainous Charlie Manx in 'The Shorter Way'

AMC's NOS4A2 - Episode 1.01 "The Shorter Way"

Vic McQueen, a young, blue-collar, New Englander discovers her supernatural abilities, as the immortal Charlie Manx uses his own to lure a child into his mysterious 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of AMC's NOS4A2.

"The Shorter Way" was written by Jami O'Brien and directed by Kari Skogland

This is an agonizingly slow episode of television. There is absolutely nothing wrong with slow storytelling. It just has to have purpose and meaning. Plus, it also has to match the tone and genre the show is going for. There is just so many conflicting agendas within this show. It wants to be an eerie supernatural thriller. And yet, it lacks any serious urgency. A child is abducted in the opening moments of the premiere. His mother is killed right in front of him. But the remainder of that story is spent on him immediately being enamored with the promise of a better world his captor is promising. The show is more intrigued with the notion that this elderly man, Charlie Manx, is siphoning off the youth from this child. That's the reason he kidnaps him with the promise of a better and happier world. The show never reaches that destination though. Instead, it just wants the cheap thrill of seeing what this transformation does to both characters in that Rolls Royce Wraith. But that mostly just amounts to a campy performance from Zachary Quinto in which he's putting on a broad old man persona in the hopes of being terrifying. Meanwhile, the kid is mostly just a prop to be dragged around instead of someone whose health and safety the audience should be concerned for. That is so troubling in so many ways. The show is only flirting with these supernatural tendencies as well. It takes the entire premiere to establish what Charlie Manx is doing. It's a slow reveal but not all that subtle in the least. It's casually introduced when the kid's friend at the library uses Scrabble tiles in order to spell out clues that could point her in the right direction. But it's hard to take any of that seriously. Plus, the show just spends a lot of time elsewhere in a world that aspires to be much more grounded in human stories even though it too is being teased with supernatural elements. Vic McQueen is a smart young girl in a dysfunctional home. She aspires to make it out of this town and never look back. She has the skills to make it into art school. She is well loved in this community. However, her parents are constantly bickering messes. That is so overwhelming to this entire story and the show really feels the need to hit the audience over the head with it. Of course, it seems non-committal as well when it pertains to the abuse that is actually going on in this household. This could be such a captivating story about how children from broken homes struggle to find their place in society - especially in a world where supernatural beings only add to their struggles, misery and misfortune. However, Vic discovering a bridge that can transport her to other places to retrieve missing items isn't even treated as a big deal. Instead, it's played as a serious risk to her health. It's not some dazzling achievement that drastically shakes up her life. This could be portrayed as her finding a way to literally escape the nightmare of her life. But the show is much more interested in spending time with her horrible family as they care about each other for some reason despite just how insane they are all acting all the time. There isn't the sense that any of this comes together in some way. It just seems very unlikely that the season will get to the point any time soon either. This is a story that needs a whole lot more dimension to it. Ashleigh Cummings is really the only actor giving a genuine and inspiring performance here. Of course, she can't overcome some dreadful writing. So instead, it's a premiere that fails to state exactly why the audience should tune in for more. That's the worst possible approach to storytelling in television. As such, this show will be so easy to write off as a massive failure that was misconceived on virtually every level from the start.