NOS4A2: S01.E1. “The Shorter Way”

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Screen Capture: Zachary Quinto as Charlie Manx in the AMC horror series NOS4A2
Screen Capture: Zachary Quinto as Charlie Manx in the AMC horror series NOS4A2



NOS4A2, based on the Joe Hill written NOS4A2: A Novel, is brought horrifyingly to life for the AMC television series. While the premiere episode does not open in the exact same way was the book, the created series Jami O’Brien is just as terrifyingly horrific as Hill’s original narrative.

NOS4A2 promotional poster. Image Credit: IMDb.com
NOS4A2 promotional poster. Image Credit: IMDb.com

SPOILER ALERT: If you have yet to see the NOS4A2 series premiere, 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 Shorter Way.”

Even though the beginning of the Kari Skogland directed ‘The Shorter Way’ differs from the opening of the source material, the tangible realism of taking the mundane and making it sinisterly harrowing remains.

A New Beginning

Screen Capture: Asher Miles Fallica as Daniel Moore in the AMC horror series NOS4A2
Screen Capture: Asher Miles Fallica as Daniel Moore in the AMC horror series NOS4A2

In the opening scene, we find a child sleeping in his bed. Daniel Moore (Asher Miles Fallica) is awoken by unfamiliar sounds. Daniel must be sheltered by his mother because children typically know what these sounds indicate. Karen Moore (Megan McQuillan) is entertaining a man in her bed.

Distressed, possibly by nightmares of things that might be, Daniel ventures to the doorway of his mother’s bedroom. Karen believes her son is too old to be sleeping in her bed. Consequently, she tells Daniel to go back to bed. Instead of returning to bed, the child gets himself a bowl of cereal and sits in front of the television.

Screen Capture: Asher Miles Fallica as Daniel Moore in the AMC horror series NOS4A2
Screen Capture: Asher Miles Fallica as Daniel Moore in the AMC horror series NOS4A2

The static on the television is reminiscent of the 1982 horror classic Poltergeist. Was this comparison intended? If it were, it certainly heightened viewer expectations of something horrifying occurring during the opening sequence of the episode.

Daniel hears Christmas music playing. He, as children his age often do, goes to investigate where the music is coming from. He finds a Christmas candy stick is on the front porch to the house. On further investigation, the boy sees a strange looking car parked immediately in front of the Moore residence. It’s a classic 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith. Not that we know it at this point in the narrative, the car is the perfect vehicle for its owner.

Screen Capture: Asher Miles Fallica as Daniel Moore in the AMC horror series NOS4A2
Screen Capture: Asher Miles Fallica as Daniel Moore in the AMC horror series NOS4A2

The car interior is filled not quite to the brim with gifts ready for Christmas Day. This is an inviting prospect for almost any child that believes himself lonely and unwanted.

Charlie Manx has his Quarry

The car is far too inviting for Daniel to resist. Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto) has his quarry where he wants him. Almost as soon as Daniel climbs into the back of the car, he finds himself trapped. He wants his mother. When Karen realises Daniel is not in his bed, it’s too late. Daniel is already in the back of the car. This is the first time we get to meet Manx.

Screen Capture: Megan McQuillan and Michael Maize as Karen Moore and Ives, respectively, in the AMC horror series NOS4A2
Screen Capture: Megan McQuillan and Michael Maize as Karen Moore and Ives, respectively, in the AMC horror series NOS4A2

Meanwhile, the man Daniel’s mother was with is attacked by Peter Ives (Michael Maize) and injected with some substance. Karen is also attacked but manages to make it outside before Ives snaps her neck. As Manx drives away, Daniel can be seen peering out of the back window of the car.

By the time the opening titles begin, horror fans will probably be hooked. We will want to continue watching. This is the only way we will know which direction O’Brien has taken Hill’s narrative.

Meet Victoria “Vic” McQueen

Screen Capture: Ashleigh Cummings as Vic McQueen in the AMC horror series NOS4A2
Screen Capture: Ashleigh Cummings as Vic McQueen in the AMC horror series NOS4A2

Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings) is a high school senior. She attends William White High Memorial School. Graduating from high school soon, Vic has college aspirations. Vic wants to major in art. Considering the level of work the high school senior is capable of, there is no doubt Vic is talented. Her mother, Linda McQueen (Virginia Kull), has other ideas for Vic’s future. Linda wants her daughter to clean houses.

Every time Vic tries to talk to her mother about what she wants to do with her life, Linda does not want to hear it. The financial burden of attending college in these United States grows significantly larger year by year. Higher education, at least for Americans, is a huge cash cow for financial establishments.

Screen Capture: Paulina Singer and Ashleigh Cummings as Willa Brewster and Vic McQueen, respectively, in the AMC horror series NOS4A2
Screen Capture: Paulina Singer and Ashleigh Cummings as Willa Brewster and Vic McQueen, respectively, in the AMC horror series NOS4A2

Willa Brewster (Karen Pittman) is able to go to college because her parents have money. Thousands of high school seniors face the same problems as Vic. Attending college by conventional means is out of their reach because the financial burden is too great. Teenagers face too many hurdles in pursuit of their dreams. Too frequently, these dreams are never realised.

Vic is a talented artist with a potentially bright future. The high school student is good because she practices a lot. According to Vic, she has no real friends. That’s why she is able to hone her talents.

Both of Vic’s parents work but neither of them files tax returns because they are paid under the table. While Linda cleans houses, Chris McQueen (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) works construction. Consequently, it is problematic for Vic to apply for financial aid.

Meet Maggie Leigh

Screen Capture: Jahkara Smith as Maggie Leigh in the AMC horror series NOS4A2
Screen Capture: Jahkara Smith as Maggie Leigh in the AMC horror series NOS4A2

Maggie Leigh (Jahkara Smith) is a librarian. She has an unusual gift. The librarian receives messages through scrabble tiles. Yes, I know, it sounds odd but it’s no stranger than Tarot reading cards or tea leaves. If her earrings are anything to go by, Maggie has little time for authority figures. She would rather tell them to do what these earrings are suggestive of than pander to them.

On her way to pick up Daniel for literacy at the library, Maggie finds sheriff cars parked outside the Moore residence. A yellow sheet is covering a body. Unknown to Maggie, this is Karen. This is where Ives snapped Karen’s neck.

Screen Capture: Chris McKinney and Jahkara Smith as Sheriff Bly and Maggie Leigh, respectively, in the AMC horror series NOS4A2
Screen Capture: Chris McKinney and Jahkara Smith as Sheriff Bly and Maggie Leigh, respectively, in the AMC horror series NOS4A2

Sheriff Bly (Chris McKinney) does not want Maggie involved with the investigation. He has serious concerns about the librarian’s well-being. She’s like a daughter to him. Bly does not want Maggie involved in anything dangerous.

The Bridge to Everything Once Lost

Vic takes off on her bike because she cannot bear to hear her parents arguing about everything under the sun. When Vic steps onto the covered bridge for the first time, there is static heard on Manx’s car radio. It’s almost as if there is a disturbance within the force. Manx knows there is an unusual presence travelling the inscape, but he does not know the identity.

Screen Capture: Ashleigh Cummings as Vic McQueen in the AMC horror series NOS4A2
Screen Capture: Ashleigh Cummings as Vic McQueen in the AMC horror series NOS4A2

Later in the episode, the art teacher Mary Simonson (Sonnie Brown) talks about the covered bridge as if it were demolished years ago. She apparently had her first kiss there. Vic is surprised the art teacher speaks of the bridge as if it is not still standing when she saw it as large as life. Because people thought of the bridge as a public hazard, it was apparently demolished. That was approximately 15 years ago.

Cleaning Houses is not All Vic can do

Vic does not want to clean houses with her mother after she graduates from high school. She correctly points out to her father there is nothing wrong with cleaning houses, it is just not what she wants to do with her life.

Screen Capture: Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Ashleigh Cummings as Chris McQueen and Vic McQueen, respectively, in the AMC horror series NOS4A2
Screen Capture: Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Ashleigh Cummings as Chris McQueen and Vic McQueen, respectively, in the AMC horror series NOS4A2

Vic’s father talks about wanting to become a composer when he was her age. Talents such as that Vic possesses frequently die because of financial constraints.

Going to Art Class

Vic loans her comics to the school janitor. Even though Bing Partridge (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) has his issues, he seems like a nice person. When he says that he has not yet returned Doctor Boomerang, the high school janitor does not get Vic’s reference to the comic becoming Doctor Stick. It’s an off-hand remark which goes over Bing’s head. He probably would not get the joke, “What do you call a boomerang that does not come back? A stick,” either but that is who Bing is.

Screen Capture: Ashleigh Cummings and Sonnie Brown as Vic McQueen and Mary Simonson, respectively, in the AMC horror series NOS4A2
Screen Capture: Ashleigh Cummings and Sonnie Brown as Vic McQueen and Mary Simonson, respectively, in the AMC horror series NOS4A2

Simonson finds the model provided for the lesson does not inspire Vic but what the student has produced is good quality. Naturally, because Vic aspires to attend art school, she asks Simonson about the possibility of attending such an educational establishment. The art teacher suggests that Vic work up a portfolio and apply to RISD. RISD is the Rhode Island School of Design. Apply for financial aid, the teacher tells Vic. A lot of people do it.

While Vic is conversing with the teacher about art school, it is noticeable Craig (Dalton Harrod) is listening. Unlike Vic, Craig does not see college in his immediate future. Art school would take Vic away from the town and this is not something wants to see happen. It’s clear from the way Craig looks at Vic, his interest extends beyond that of friendship. He wants more but it’s clear Vic does not see Craig as being anything other than a friend.

Meanwhile, at the Library…

Maggie is trying to locate Daniel. She extracts scrabble tiles from her tile bag in the hopes of finding the young boy. When Maggie arranges the tiles, the meaning is clear: The Wraith. The tiles are pointing the librarian towards Manx’s car.

Screen Capture: A scene in the AMC horror series NOS4A2
Screen Capture: A scene in the AMC horror series NOS4A2

The 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith is a classic vehicle. The value of these cars is astronomical. Very few Rolls-Royce Wraith are fully functional in these United States because it’s difficult to acquire parts to maintain them. Consequently, only the very wealthy and apparently supernatural entities such as Manx can afford to own such a vehicle.

Goodbye, Mr Ives…

Because of his incompetence, Ives does not get to go to Christmasland. immediately after the passenger door opens, Ives finds himself flying throw the air. Ives is tossed from the car and subsequently does not survive the landing. Manx is right that Ives was a very bad man but Manx himself is far worse. Nothing Ives could have done, inclusive of snapping a woman’s neck, comes anywhere close to what Manx does with children’s souls.

At the Beach House…

Intelligence is not a matter of money. If it were, a certain unnameable person currently visiting the British Isles would not have to hide his GPA and he’s apparently a billionaire.

The lack of money is clearly a touchy subject for Vic. It is not her fault her parents are not wealthy. Angela Brewster (Karen Pittman) means well. She just wants the best for Vic but they live in two different worlds. The world Vic lives in does not afford her the same opportunities Willa has access to. The truth is frequently harsh.

Finding Chris’ Watch

Screen Capture: Ashleigh Cummings as Vic McQueen in the AMC horror series NOS4A2
Screen Capture: Ashleigh Cummings as Vic McQueen in the AMC horror series NOS4A2

Vic has a suspicion she will find her father’s watch if she travels The Shorter Way. Consequently, by returning to where the family ate lunch, Vic locates Chris’ watch. What is it with Vic and the bridge? Why is it she can see it? Why does travelling the shorter way have such a dramatic impact on Vic’s health? Vic passes out. Her eyes are bloodshot.

How Old is Manx?

According to Man, he is as old as his nose and a little bit younger than his teeth. As Daniel’s determination continues, Manx looks ever younger. The child abductor references the Rolls-Royce Wraith as being a very special car. Is it the car that channels a child’s soul into Manx’s body? The longer a child is in the vehicle, the younger Manx grows. Without there being a child present for Manx to feed upon, Manx deteriorates. Manx’s body cannot maintain a youthful appearance without constant nourishment.