NOS4A2 Pilot Episode: A Creepy, Intriguing Start

Debuting June 2 on AMC, the NOS4A2 pilot episode featured elements of horror and mystery—and it has me really interested in seeing what happens next.

2019 has proved to be the year of the vampire on TV, apparently. In January, Fox aired The Passage, about a government-led experiment involving pack of super-virus infected vampires. FX just wrapped up the first season of the hilarious vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. And now we have AMC’s NOS4A2, which is based on the novel by Joe Hill.

The NOS4A2 pilot focused on three major storylines. The creepiest involves the monster Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto) kidnapping the young Daniel Moore in Iowa. Manx lures the boy away from his home with a candy cane and a car full of Christmas presents. With Daniel riding in the backseat of his 1930s-era Rolls-Royce Wraith, Manx promises a trip to a place called Christmasland, where every day is Christmas day and “unhappiness is against the law.”

When we first see Manx, he looks ancient—wrinkled, sparse straw-like hair, and borderline weak. He’s a vampire (and the source of the name of the show, with a play on the vampire Nosferatu’s name) who feeds on the souls of children. Throughout the NOS4A2 pilot, we see Manx becoming gradually younger while Daniel is looking sicker. And as the Wraith rolls through a forest toward Christmasland at the end of the episode, Daniel has likely fully turned, flashing his new crooked fangs with a chilling smile.

Daniel Moore flashes his new fangs sitting in the Wraith in the NOS4A2 pilot episode

I like what the show has done with Manx. He’s disturbing, powerful and crafty. The transformations of Quinto’s makeup will likely be a treat to watch each week.

The main focus of the NOS4A2 pilot is high school senior Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings), an artist with aspirations of going to Rhode Island School of Design. She lives with her blue-collar quarreling parents in Massachusetts and often finds herself escaping their bickering by riding her dirt bike. During one of her rides, Vic comes across a covered bridge—a bridge that her father tells her was demolished when she was a child—that transports her to locations that help her find missing items.

I am loving Ashleigh Cummings as Vic. She’s tough, she’s authentic, and she will prove to be a strong force to oppose Charlie Manx when the two inevitably face off. NOS4A2 got it right with this casting decision.

Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings) rides her bike to the Shorter Way Bridge in the NOS4A2 pilot

The third main, and probably weakest, storyline in the NOS4A2 pilot involves a librarian named Maggie (Jahkara Smith), who can get messages from a magic bag of Scrabble tiles. Maggie, who lives in the same town as Daniel Moore, is looking for answers regarding the boy’s disappearance. Her magic tiles give her a clue about Charlie Manx’s car and “the Brat,” which is a reference to Vic. So even though we haven’t seen the intersection of these three storylines yet, it is clear that Maggie will be the one to put the wheels in motion. We’ll see how involved Maggie will be in the battle against Manx. I have a feeling she will have more of a role than she did in the novel.

NOS4A2 Differences Between Show and Book

Speaking of Hill’s novel, even after the first episode, it is apparent there will be some big differences between show and book. The novel takes place over a long period of time. It begins with Vic as young child, who finds the magic bridge on her bicycle. It then skips ahead 10 years to a teenage Vic and then eventually to an adult version of Vic, who has a child of her own.

Apparently the AMC adaption of NOS4A2 will combine these three timelines into one. We’ll see how this pans out, but from what I’ve seen from Cummings’ work as Vic so far, I think it will work. But the show will clearly be off in its own territory probably as soon as this first season.

Other minor differences popping up in the pilot include the interactions with other kids Vic’s age and an introduction to Bing Partridge as the school janitor. I didn’t have any major issues with the changes to the book shown so far in the NOS4A2 pilot. All of the main elements of Vic’s life from the book are in place and ready to take off. I’m looking forward to seeing how everything comes together in the season’s next nine episode.

Final Thoughts

  • Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son, and NOS4A2 definitely has some King elements to it. It takes place in the Northeast United States (although not in Maine) and features a memorable and terrifying monster that will need to be defeated. I loved the scene in the Wraith when Charlie Manx opens his magic map to find a new location: the Shorter Way bridge. But also on the map? The Pennywise Circus, an awesome tip of the cap to the creepy clown monster in Stephen King’s It.
  • More of these crossovers appeared in the NOS4A2 novel, including a mention of Shawshank Prison and Mid-World (the world found in King’s Dark Tower series). King also included a mention of Charlie Manx in his novel Dr. Sleep. These references are so great, and I would love to see more throughout the first season of NOS4A2.
  • The scene with Vic and her family singing The Beatles tune “Here Comes the Sun” may have been a tad cheesy, but I did like that the show displays Vic’s family having some nice moments. It’s not all fighting, which helps make her family struggles more interesting.
  • I can’t wait to see what Christmasland looks like!

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