June 3, 2019

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “NOS4A2”


NOS4A2:  Sunday 10PM on AMC

It wouldn’t matter so much that the scares per hour rate of AMC’s new horror series NOS4A2 is so low, if the material in its place were more compelling.  The series is AMC’s latest attempt to find something compatible with its Walking Dead franchise, and it has promising auspices, based as it is by a novel by Joe Hill, son of Stephen King (an easter egg in the pilot features “Pennywise Circus” on a map), and its monster is played by Zachary Quinto, who’s been a part of the American Horror Story repertory company.

The opening hour, though, written by series creator Jami O’Brien (an AMC vet, with stints on Fear the Walking Dead and Hell On Wheels), and directed by Kari Skogland, delivers little in the way of thrills.  Our fiend, named Charlie Manx, is sort of the non-comedy version of the energy vampire on What We Do In The Shadows, draining children of their life force in order to keep himself youthful.  He’s an extremely gimmicky killer, who drives a vintage Rolls Royce Wraith, and lures children into its gift-loaded backseat by telling them he’s going to take them to Christmastown.  His calling cards are peppermint candy canes.  Charlie doesn’t exert himself much, aside from the interior decoration and sticking to the speed limit:  the kids just fall asleep, and he absorbs their life.  (In a wittier chiller, this would be a satire of our worst long family drives.)

Most of the pilot’s time is spent with Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings), who ticks off most of the boxes for a YA heroine.  She’s the sensitive teen daughter of a terrible marriage between Chris (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and Linda (Virginia Kull), a bright townie who isn’t taken seriously by the rich kids whose houses Linda cleans.  Vic is also a gifted artist who gets no encouragement for her dreams of going to college.  And, of course, she has NOS4A2‘s version of the shining, which so far manifests itself as the ability to drive through a covered bridge that doesn’t exist, and at the other end recover things or people who are lost.  She also has a psychic bond with Charlie Manx, who will be heading across the country to confront and/or drain her.  It all gives Vic a splitting headache, and it doesn’t do much for us, either.

Skogland tries to keep things ominous, and the actors are dutifully fine, but there’s very little about NOS4A2 that feels original, certainly not enough to make a 10-hour season an attractive prospect.  O’Brien throws down the exposition with little style, and the show is fairly humorless.  Despite a jumbo-sized first episode, none of the supporting characters have enough weight to support the narrative either.  Perhaps NOS4A2 has some tricks up its sleeve, but so far it feels like a tedious ride.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."