What is madness? Is it the person screaming at the pigeons in the park? Is it the cocaine-fueled notes from the studio insisting that Sonic the Hedgehog should have more human teeth? Is it the intrusive thoughts that creep into your mind telling you how cool it would be to drive your car off of that bridge? Madness takes many forms, and sneaks into our lives in different ways, but in the second episode of AMC’s NOS4A2, madness comes in the guise of slow wipers on the windshield of a Rolls Royce Wraith.
Charlie Manx unceremoniously disposed of his henchman in the first episode of the series, so he’s in the market for a replacement. Enter Bing Partridge (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), the lumbering janitor at Vic’s high school and part-time chemical disposal artist. Even though we met Bing in the premiere, this episode gives us a full-on glimpse at his need to be loved and desire to be important. After filling out an application to Christmasland, Bing sees visions of his parents, a fanged Danny and a winking moon. He’s drawn to the idea of a land where children can be happy, something that he has never been.
Not long after applying to his new position, Bing sees that he is being watched by a handsome devil in a Rolls Royce Wraith. After a near-miss, Manx pulls up to Bing and begins his job interview. You see, Manx is the savior of young children. He takes them to a land of ever-flowing joy and lets them be the happy souls they were always meant to be. After a soda-induced nap, Bing wakes up to a festive landscape filled with watching snowmen and a lonely graveyard in the snow. Manx tells him that he will be his right-hand man in the saving of these children. If he does this job ten times for Manx, Bing will be one of the few adults let into Christmasland. As this fable is being spun, we watch the glacial pace of the Wraith’s wipers tick back and forth. Like the arm of a metronome, the wipers sweep away the outside world. Bing is hypnotized by this mysterious man in the Wraith. He is mesmerized by the promise of what his life might become.
“Like the arm of a metronome, the wipers sweep away the outside world. Bing is hypnotized by this mysterious man in the Wraith. He is mesmerized by the promise of what his life might become.”
The wraith stops, and the two men exit into the cold embrace of a cemetery. This is The Graveyard of What Might Be, Manx tells Bing as they walk through the tombstones. Trapped beneath the ice are all the abused children that must be saved, or else they will become just another lost cause to this unforgiving world. Bing tearfully agrees to Manx’s demands, and his path is laid out before him like chapters in a novel.
Turned to a life of sin by her father
She never had a chance
Her childhood ended
Before it even began
If only there had been another
to take her off to Christmasland. –Lily Carter’s Tombstone
It’s in this arc where this episode of NOS4A2 truly shines. By exploring Bing’s initial reluctance and eventual devotion, we see how manipulative and terrifying Manx can be. He is exploiting another abused child, just like all of the “evil” parents he claims to hate. Bing might be a simple man, but the trauma of his past has created within him a true desire to keep it from happening to another innocent child. This is Manx at his most devious, his most sinister. He feeds these lies to Bing like spoonfuls of sweet medicine. It was exactly what he needed to hear, and it is exactly what will lead to the abduction and ruination of other small children.
The rest of the episode dragged along at a glacial pace. Vic moves in with her dad and his trashy girlfriend, she explores her newly found powers and she meets Maggie, the Scrabble-d young lady looking for Danny in Iowa. There’s more college talk, there are more toilets to clean, and there’s more family drama revolving around vodka and slutty bartenders. A concern of mine and other non-book readers is that the showrunners are taking their time with Vic’s hero journey. I mean, it’s definitely cool that Vic can find a watch and a philandering father, but how many angsty conversations are we going to have to sit through before the plot begins to advance? Here’s to hoping that the future holds a more advanced pace, or else the people not in love with the novel might lose interest.
What we need more of is Bing. Bing is the manifestation of past traumas bearing rotten fruit. He shuffles through freaky porno mags and abusive bosses at mindless jobs just to try to find a shred of the happiness that was ripped away from him as a child. This is something any viewer with depression can understand, and someone that we can both root for and fear. For, if we were in the front seat of the Wraith, watching the wipers tick back-and-forth, would we have the strength to choose a different path? Would we be able to say no to joy, after years of wading through the swamp encased in our own skulls? Or, like Bing, would we flock to any light that comes our way, no matter how dim?
NOS4A2 airs every Sunday night on AMC. Keep your eyes on Nightmare on Film Street as we continue to recap each episode and give you the latest and greatest horror news available on the web. While you’re at it, join our Facebook group, Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street and let us know what you think!