AMC's NOS4A2 flew under the radar for many viewers last summer, struggling to compete in a crowded seasonal market for film and television. That's too bad, because it's a great show. In my review last year, I called it a "haunting fable" that is "as much a depiction of the potentially destructive nature of artistic gifts as it is about the tragedy of dreams deferred—just all draped in supernatural trappings." The first trailer for S2 has dropped in the middle of a global pandemic, and with less competition, hopefully more people will discover this gem.
(Some spoilers for book and S1 below.)
The series is an adaptation of the 2013 award-winning horror novel of the same name by Joe Hill. It's about a woman named Vic McQueen with a gift for finding lost things. She's one of a rare group of people known as "strong creatives," capable of tearing through the fabric that separates the physical world from the world of thought and imagination (their personal "inscapes") with the help of a talisman-like object dubbed a "knife." For Vic, her knife is her motorcycle (a bicycle when she's younger); for a troubled young woman named Maggie, it's a bag of Scrabble tiles. And for psychic "vampire"/child abductor Charlie Manx, it's a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith.
But there's a cost to using their creative gifts: Maggie stutters, Vic's eye weeps blood, and Manx? Well, he wields his power at the cost of his soul. In order to maintain his youthful appearance, he must "feed" off the souls of the kidnapped children, transforming them into little monsters and trapping what's left of them in a dimension in his imagination called Christmasland. The novel moves back and forth between multiple time periods: Vic as a young girl in 1986, Vic as a rebellious teenager in 1996, and an older Vic with a son in 2008 and 2012. Naturally Manx eventually targets her son, and Vic must defeat him once and for all to save the boy—at great personal cost.
Showrunner Jami O'Brien's adaptation divides the timelines in Hill's sprawling novel so that the first season focused on Vic's (Ashleigh Cummings) teen years and her first showdown with Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto). He kept most of the key elements intact, adding in a few new characters, fleshing out backstories, and taking viewers into Manx's Christmasland inscape itself for a few key scenes. (In the book, we don't visit Christmasland until the climactic showdown between Vic and Manx.)