'NOS4A2' Season 1, Episode 1 "The Shorter Way": Ashleigh Cummings Owns It in Strong Series Start [SPOILER REVIEW]

Welcome to Bleeding Cool's weekly review of AMC's supernatural fantasy-horror adaptation NOS4A2, starring Ashleigh Cummings (Vic McQueen) and Zachary Quinto (Charlie Manx), with The Handmaid's Tale Kari Skogland directing the first two of the 10-episode series adaptation of author/executive producer Joe Hill's best-selling novel.

Did series premiere "The Shorter Way" meet its responsibilities as a "pilot/first episode"? Absolutely – by being the slow-burn build that allowed us to appreciate some quality performances across the board, though a little more Quinto would've been nice. That said? Cummings is an amazing presence on screen who carries this episode with the strength of an effective debut, proving her Vic McQueen is already a match for Manx – and they haven't even met… yet.

Here's a look at some highlights from the episode – major spoilers ahead!

NOS4A2 season 1, episode 1 "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.

● The way in which young Daniel comes into Manx's "care" was disturbingly portrayed on so many levels – and that speaks to one of the biggest positives from the episode. It had a look and vibe unlike anything else on AMC – but more than that? It has the feel of being a Stephen King story – but still completely Hill's (adapted by Jami O'Brien). The way in which Mr. Ives (Michael Maize) "handles" Daniel's family and how Manx deals with Mr. Ives' constant screw-ups felt very brutal and "street level" with its horror – a perfect example of Hill taking a common scenario and twsiting it his own way to make it his own. Watching Daniel change as Manx grew younger – while uncomfortable to watch yet you couldn't turn away – was the best way to demonstrate that Manx is no low-level threat.

● Is it just me, or does a game called "Scissors for the Drifter" not bode well for at least one person playing it?

● Cummings is someone you want to watch and listen to the moment she graces our screen – her McQueen of few words, but when she does speak you hang on every one of them. Her Vic embraces who she is – even the not-so-pleasant stuff – but doesn't let it define her. Oh, the slings and arrows hurt her – as demonstrated in how she deals with her parents (Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Virginia Kull, as possibly the most brutally realistic married couples on television ). The scene where her newly-discovered powers cause Manx's car radio to go haywire was a strong way of showing Vic as someone who is coming into her own – and someone who will be noticed (as is Cummings).

● I've always been a big fan of the bridge/"The Shorter Way" representing Vic's ability to find whoever and whatever is lost – and in the series, it matches what I imagined it would look like. Kudos to the effects crew for making something so fantastical seem very gritty and "real world."

JJ Smith as Maggie Leigh – NOS4A2 _ Season 1, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Dana Starbard/AMC

● Local clairvoyant Maggie (Jahkara Smith) is already holding a special place in our hearts, using her powers and her TARDIS-like bag of Scrabble tiles to get to the bottom of Daniel's disappearance. The moments when "THE BRAT" (Vic's nickname from her father) and "THE WRAITH" tiles appear help add to the dire atmosphere – appreciated more by the fact that the show's dramatic "heavy lifting" should't just be left to Quinto and Cummings.

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Olafur Darri Olafsson as Bing Partridge – NOS4A2 _ Season 1, Episode 7 – Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC

● Check out some of those locations on Manx's Map of Inscapes? The Pennywise Circus? The Treehouse of the Mind? Lovecraft Keyhole? Some very nice touches there – as there was with some of the name choices: Mr. Ives is clearly a nod to the narrating voice of The Snowman stop-motion animated classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Burl Ives; while Bing Partridge (Olafur Darri Olafsson, definitely one to watch this season) – you know what? That's an easy one so we'll leave that to you.

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So we're renting an apartment in Christmasland for the season, AMC – just make sure to keep the creepy vibes flowin' when NOS4A2 returns next week with "The Graveyard of What Might Be":

NOS4A2 season 1, episode 2 "The Graveyard of What Might Be": Vic meets Maggie, a medium with more questions than answers; Manx visits Haverhill to seek The Shorter Way and finds Bing, who is eager to help.

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NOS4A2 introduces Vic McQueen (Cummings), a gifted young woman who discovers she has a supernatural ability to find lost things. This ability puts her on a collision course with the evil and immortal Charlie Manx (Quinto). Manx is a supernatural villain who feeds off the souls of children then deposits what remains of them into Christmasland – a twisted place of Manx's imagination where every day is Christmas Day and unhappiness is against the law. Vic strives to defeat Manx and rescue his victims – without losing her mind or falling victim to him herself.

The supernatural horror series NOS4A2, based on Hill's bestselling novel of the same name, tells the story of Charlie Manx, a seductive immortal who feeds off the souls of children then deposits what remains of them into "Christmasland" – an icy, twisted Christmas village of Manx's imagination where every day is Christmas Day and unhappiness is against the law. Manx finds his whole world threatened when a young woman in New England discovers she has a dangerous gift.

 

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AMC

Cummings' Vic McQueen is a young, working-class artist whose creativity awakens a supernatural ability to track Manx. What Vic lacks in social confidence, she makes up for in courage, humor, and tough-as-nails grit. She strives to defeat Manx and rescue his victims without losing her mind or falling victim to him herself.

Quinto's Charlie Manx is a seductive immortal who feeds off the souls of children, then deposits what remains of them into Christmasland – an icy, twisted Christmas village of Manx's imagination where every day is Christmas Day and unhappiness is against the law. Manx finds his whole world threatened when a young woman in New England discovers she has a dangerous gift.

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JJ Smith as Maggie Leigh – NOS4A2 _ Season 1, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Dana Starbard/AMC

Along with Quinto and Cummings, NOS4A2 also stars Olafur Darri Olafsson (Lady Dynamite) as Bing Partridge, Virginia Kull (The Looming Tower) as Linda McQueen, Ebon Moss-Bachrach (The Punisher) as Chris McQueen, Jahkara Smith (aka Sailor J) as Maggie Leigh, and Ashley Romans (Shameless) as Det. Tabitha Hutter. Produced by AMC Studios in association with Tornante Television, NOS4A2 is executive produced by Hill, Tornante Television's Lauren Corrao, and series creator/showrunner Jami O'Brien (Fear The Walking Dead, Hell On Wheels). Emmy nominee Kari Skogland (The Handmaid's Tale) directs the first two episodes of the 10-episode series.

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AMC's NOS4A2 airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT – following the fifth season of Fear the Walking Dead.

About Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought on board as staff in 2017.

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