The series NOS4A2 (pronounced 'Nosferatu') is based on the novel by Joe Hill, a.k.a. Joe Hillstrom King, son of Steven King. Rather than ride the old man’s coat tails he took on the alias so as to make his own way in the literary world. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree though, with Hill specialising in horror fiction, much like his dear old dad.
This reviewer hasn’t read any of his stuff but first impressions of NOS482 before raised questions about this show being a Stephen King knock off.
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Who made it?
The TV series was overseen by executive producer Jamie O’Brien who led a team of writers and directors with resumes that include The X-Files, A Handmade’s Tale, Gotham, Lost in Space and more. It spans just six episodes, making it a tidy binge.
What’s this all about then?
The story is a tad difficult to get a foothold on in the early episodes which make it a little bit tedious, indeed it may take several attempts to get clear of the first episode. At its core are two characters. In the red corner we have Vic McQueen—a girl with this weird supernatural ability involving her riding a dirt bike really fast across a ghost bridge that transports her to places where she finds lost things. In the blue corner is Charlie Manx—a creepy old guy who drive a Rolls Royce Wraith that he lures kids into with the promise of taking them to Christmasland, where every day is Christmas, unhappiness is against the law and they’ll never feel neglected again.
Vic’s skill drives her mission to find Charlie, save the kids and put an end to Christmasland. She’s joined by a group of friends including a chick who can foretell the future by reaching into a bag of scrabble tiles and un-jumbling the words, some school friends and a couple of boys who want to get into her pants. Charlie has enlisted a couple of henchmen, the latest of which is Bing Partridge, the slow witted school janitor with an incredibly dark past.
Charlie, Vic and her mate with the scrabble bag are what is known in this particular universe as strong creatives, people who are able to bring the world from their imagination into reality, in Vic’s case, it’s the portal bridge, in Scrabble girls case its… scrabble. These are called inscapes (stay with me) apparently everyone has an inscape but only strong creatives can access them and pull them into the real world via a metaphorical knife that cuts the veil between the real world and the world of thought. Vic’s knife is her dirt bike and I’m not sure what the fuck is the deal with scrabble girl.
Charlie’s knife is his Roll’s Royce Wraith, and his inscape is Christmasland. Capiche?
Outside of all the supernatural stuff Vic is dealing with the collapse of her family because of her parents who are in a volatile and abusive relationship.
Who’s in it?
There are some really good performances from the cast. Zachary Quinto gets the opportunity to turn back to heel as Charlie Manx and he is almost unrecognisable in the early episodes. Olafur Darri Olaffsson, is equal parts creepy and tragic as Bing Partridge. Ashleigh Cummings is excellent as Vic McQueen. She is so good in fact that her acting chops often eclipse the quality of the story.
The premise is compelling enough but likely more suited to a book than a show. Early episodes create a sense of foreboding dread but it becomes a bit of a grind towards the middle and end. Indeed once the story decides to show its hand, which it does fairly early on, it all gets a little bit Scooby Doo. You can’t help think Charlie would have got away with it too if it weren’t for those meddling kids.
The whole concept of the ghost bridge becomes kind of chintzy once Vic crosses it for the fourth or fifth time, her parents are really annoying characters and most of her friends are really insignificant, with the exception of Scrabble girl. Her names Maggie, but I’m committed to stick with Scrabble girl now, I’ve come too far.
It’s not a complete loss. There are a couple of genuinely cool moments that won’t be spoiled by this review, but will leave audiences wishing there were more of.
The biggest head scratcher is in the show’s name. NOS4A2 is the vanity plate on Charlie’s car, and while there are vampiric undertones in the show and it might have something to do with the car, you really have no idea. This is better explained in the book, which is said to contain some dark humour but that really hasn’t translated to the show.
As frustrating as it is, there is something strangely compelling about NOS4A2 that is bolstered by Ashleigh Cumming’s excellent portrayal of her character. If you commit to finishing season one, you’ll likely want to see what happens in the next but the whole thing feels like Stephen King lite.