Blu-ray Review: NOS4A2 - Season Two

If you're already a fan, this release is a no-brainer. Includes a fun "virtual" Comic-Con panel.

By , Contributor
Ah, the sorrow of a show cancelled before its time... Such it is with novelist Joe Hill's NOS4A2, as its second and final season arrives on Blu-ray (and DVD) October 20. Though admittedly not as strong as the series' maiden season, the further exploits of uber-villain Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto) are a freaky delight. And thankfully, the second season wraps up reasonably well. Instead of leaving viewers hanging on too many unresolved cliffhangers, it seems that AMC was conscientious about delivering a complete story in the event that the show did not continue. 

(Full disclosure: I haven't read Hill's original novel or any of the related graphic novels. First exposure to NOS4A2 was the first season, more than enough to get hooked!)  

Quinto's incisive performance as the Christmas-obsessed psycho Manx remains the best selling point for the series. Those who lapped up his every demented line reading in the first season will be equally satisfied here. The makeup that allows Manx to age based on how many children's souls he has fed off of is always convincing. But Quinto's ability to play various ages, from his own to that of a decrepit senior, is truly startling. He nails, in particular, the leathery rasp of an elderly man.

A few first-season story threads are dropped for unexplained reasons, namely heroine Vic McQueen's (Ashleigh Cummings) attempts to locate the whereabouts of her young friend Haley (she's apparently not even in Christmasland). But Cummings gets a welcome chance to expand Vic's personality. She's now living in an still-uneasy state of general happiness with hubby (and fellow pop-culture nerd) Lou (Johnathan Langdon). Their son, Bruce Wayne (yeah, pop-culture nerds indeed), becomes the focal point of Charlie Manx's interests this time around. Probably not the fault of young actor Jason David, the writing doesn't really ring true when it comes to Wayne (Bruce's preferred name).

Much of the plot feels like a long tease to the reveal of Manx's fabled (and disturbing) Christmasland, where he takes those children whose souls keep him young. And honestly, the reality of Christmasland as portrayed here betrays the limits of AMC's budget for NOS4A2. It's kind of underwhelming once we finally see where all these kids live. Bing Partridge (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), Manx's dutiful but dim right-hand man/lackey, wants so badly to reside in Christmasland but one can't quite help but feel he'd be disappointed in the narrow scope of its thematic design.

But all carping about sets and visual effects aside, NOS4A2 remains an acting showcase. Ólafsson continues to steal just about every scene he appears in as the increasingly devious yes-man Bing. His transformation from total dullard wannabe-bad-dude in season one to a still-not-too-bright, but creepily manipulative, henchman is truly award-worthy. And YouTube-star-turned-legit-actress Jahkara J. Smith continues to hold her own as medium Maggie.

While Virginia Kull has less to do this season as Vic's mom Linda, Ebon Moss-Bachrach steps up to meet increased prominence as Vic's dad Chris. Moss-Bachrach (TV veteran; Desi in Girls) is right on the money as a broken man regaining a deeply-driven sense of purpose. Chris' story arc helps deepen NOS4A2, adding a truly worthwhile amount of heart to an already sincere story.

But as the all-mighty ratings have brought Joe Hill's creation to a premature end, we now have both seasons on home video. NOS4A2 is a scary, inventive, and ultimately highly rewatchable experience. Oh, and how'd we get this far without mentioning the car? Manx's Rolls Royce Wraith is even more of its own character in the second season than it was in the first. There was a lot of potential for this show to go even further, but let's be glad there are two full seasons to enjoy.

The Blu-ray contains a modest selection of special features on the third disc. There are a few short and very clip-heavy promotional featurettes, but the substantial piece is the 36-minute Comic-Con panel featuring Quinto, Hill, and Jami O'Brien (the series' creator/adaptor). This was taped with a moderator via Zoom over the summer and its a fun and informative look at the show.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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