After killing Peter Ives (Michael Maize) during the series premiere, in the following episode, Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto) found himself a new assistant in the portly shape of the William White High School janitor Bing Partridge (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson).
While The Shorter Way has proven most helpful in allowing Victoria ‘Vic’ McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings) finding the most mundane of objects, a watch and a stuffed toy rabbit, the would-be RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) student has yet to realise the full potential of her powers.
The third episode is the series, the John Shiban directed “The Gas Mask Man” picks up Jami O’Brien’s narrative where “The Graveyard of What Might Be” leaves off. Even though what Joe Hill wrote is arguably one of the most sinister books ever published, the narrative O’Brien brought to our television screens is every bit as horrifying.
SPOILER ALERT: If you have yet to see the third episode of NOS4A2, you might want to reconsider reading past this point of this article. There are SPOILERS AHEAD! Return to reading this article after you have seen “The Gas Mask Man.”
In the opening scene for “The Gas Mask Man,” Manx can be seen delivering a gift to an old lady in a hospital of some description. This is Jolene July (Judith Roberts). Jolene is a patent in the Essex County Psych Ward. Like Manx, Jolene is a powerful strong creative. The strong creative Manx has been sensing is not Jolene. Vic is the creative Manx seeks.
Filling Out Her FAFSA Application
College, in these United States, is not cheap. Each year, the expense of attending an American college seems to increase significantly. Many high school graduates, if they have any hope of seeing the inside of a college classroom from a student’s perspective, must apply for financial aid. It’s the reality we live in. It’s also the reality Vic must contend with if she has any hope of realising her RISD dreams. Vic is attempting to fill in a FASFA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) online for RISD. Before closing the laptop, static and a string of disturbing images appear on the screen.
The government does not make it easy for people like Vic to qualify for financial aid. Both of Vic’s parents, Chris McQueen (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and Linda McQueen (Virginia Kull), essentially work for themselves. Chris and Linda work in construction and housecleaning, respectively. They have no tax returns because they work ‘under the table.’
The phrase ‘under the table’ means in secret. Because both Chris and Linda are paid ‘under the table,’ they avoid paying taxes on the money they earn. Consequently, neither Chris nor Linda have been filing tax returns with the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). As a result, because neither of Vic’s parents can provide her with their tax returns, applying for financial aid is problematic.
The Closest Thing to a Daughter
Maggie Leigh (Jahkara Smith) is the closest thing Sheriff Bly (Chris McKinney) has to a daughter. This one time, the sheriff found Maggie almost frozen to death on a park bench. He never wants to be in that position again.
Bly does not want Maggie chasing after what he thinks of as fairy-tales. The old woman at the junkyard, Mrs Myers (Brenda Wehle), has a story Bly doesn’t believe. As far as he’s concerned, it’s craziness to believe in such things. She’s just some lonely old lady. Bly does not want to see Maggie getting herself into something which might see her placed in a psychiatric unit.
Maggie likes the Ladies
Static sounds emanating from the library lights interrupts an intimate moment between Maggie and her brunette (Kayla Harrity). Consequently, the brunette is forced to take a rain check.
Maggie delves into her scrabble bag to retrieve whatever message the tiles have for her. The message reads: WRAITH HUNTS THE BRAT. Maggie met The Brat in “The Graveyard of What Might Be.” The Brat, as established in the previous episode, is Vic.
Later in the episode, Vic is surprised to find that Maggie is in her state. Maggie flew to Maine to warn Vic about the Wraith. The Wraith is hunting The Brat.
Where is The Shorter Way?
When Manx arrives at the William White Memorial High School, Bing is surprised to see how deteriorated he has become since the first time they met. Note there is no child in the rear passenger seat of Manx’s Rolls-Royce Wraith. It is children’s souls that sustain Manx’s youthful appearance. Without a child’s soul to feed upon, Manx’s appearance quickly deteriorates.
Bing does not understand how an individual can use a bridge that was demolished long ago. Manx explains to the high school janitor “there are a great many things in this world that don’t require sight.” Some things require intuition. This is beyond Bing’s intellectual understanding.
Bing and Manx happen upon Haley Smith (Darby Camp) searching for her cat, Mittens. The cat is apparently missing. Manx asks Haley if she knows of The Shorter Way or anyone that might use the bridge.
Later in the episode, when Vic is in Providence, Maggie calls her to warn The Brat of the Wraith’s presence. Maggie received another message from the scrabble bag. The librarian asks if the word “smitten” means anything to Vic. While ‘smitten’ might be a reference to how Drew (Rarmian Newton) is feeling about Vic, it means nothing to the high school student.
A Mistaken Word
Take another look at the word ‘smitten.’ By merely placing the s at the end of the word rather than the beginning, it becomes the name of Haley’s cat, Mittens. The tile bag is warning of something horrid happening to Haley. If nothing is done, Haley will become the Wraith’s next victim. What can Vic do? She’s in Providence? By the time Vic realises the word is Mittens not smitten, it’s too late for Haley. She has been taken by Manx and his new accomplice.
Two Wrongs Don’t make a Right
Vic seeks Angela Brewster’s (Karen Pittman) assistance with her financial aid application. When Vic explains her situation to Willa Brewster (Paulina Singer), everything becomes clear. Willa suggests falsifying a tax return in Chris’ name. Willa has been signing her mother’s name on documents since the sixth grade. While it’s apparently not that complicated, this is not junior high or high school permission slips we are talking about. These are government documents. It looks like there is a trip to RISD is in Vic’s immediate future.
Retrieving Her Portfolio
Vic accidentally leaves her art portfolio at school. Because the school is closed, she requests Bing’s assistance to retrieve it. Vic wants to take the portfolio with her when she visits RISD.
Bing tells Vic of his new job but does not mention any specifics. Even though he feels he’s messed up, Manx has given him another opportunity to prove his worth. Vic convinces the high school janitor to just be himself. Vic asks Bing if he remembers what Doctor Incubus said to the Blue Herring. “If you don’t believe in your greatness, no one else will,” Bing replies.
Craig’s Green Monster is Showing
Craig’s (Dalton Harrod) interest in Vic extends far beyond friendship. Vic does not see it because she only sees him as a friend. The word ‘friend,’ when a man has relationship thoughts on his mind, is possibly the worst word a woman can use.
The prospect of Vic going off to college is not the only thing Craig is fearful of. He does not understand what Vic sees in either Willa or Drew. Both Willa and Simon (Misha Osherovich) are interested in attending Brown University while Vic and Drew are looking at the possibility of attending RISD. Both Brown and RISD are in Providence, RI.
During the visit, Vic experiences an emotional disturbance within her inscape which makes her walk out on an interview. The interview itself was the cause of the event. It is suggested Vic begin legal proceedings to become emancipated from her parents so that she can apply for financial aid without having to use financial records from either Chris or Linda. This was troubling for Vic.
New England Reads
Maggie, as a librarian, volunteers with New England Reads. New England Reads is one of those organisations that give people, typically in hospital, access to books while they are recovering. As Maggie walks around the hospital unit, she sees a light fitting flickering in an unusual manner. It indicates the Wraith is either close by or has already been there.
There is a Christmas candy stick on Jolene’s bed. It’s the same kind of candy stick Manx has been offering to children during the past few episodes. Maggie wants to know why the Wraith would visit this patient. Is she a strong creative? Are the roller skates the Young Jolene (Morgan Lindholm) the instrument she uses to cut through reality? Does Jolene know of Vic? Did she tell the Wraith where he can find her? Questions such as these immediately cross Maggie’s mind.
The Gas Mask Man
Who is the title character for this episode and what is his connection with Manx? While it might be understandable to think this is a new character, that is not the case. It’s Bing. Bing is The Gas Mask Man.
Wearing the gas mask and duck-tape over the embroidery on his work attire, Bing enters a house in the dead of night. It’s the Smith residence. Sharon Smith (Elizabeth Stanley) is taking a shower when Bing enters the house. We see this scene through Bing’s eyes and consequently the gas mask.
When Bing examines the content of the kitchen trashcan, not concealed is a used condom. Bing picks it up but immediately returns it to the trashcan.
On further investigation, Bing arrives at the restroom. Bing uses a gaseous substance to knock Sharon out. He places a tube under the down and allows the room to fill with gas. It’s probably the same gas dentists and surgeons use to put patients to sleep.
Bing gases Haley and carries her body to Manx’s car. The high school janitor gently places Haley in the rear passenger seat of the car. While Bing goes back to the house, Manx is seen snapping Mittens’ neck.