The following includes potential spoilers for It Chapter Two and definite ones from Stephen King’s It novel.
Even before you stepped foot into a movie house to watch 2017’s It, you likely knew the fate of poor Georgie Denbrough. It was in all the trailers, all the TV spots, and scarred in all the minds of every millennial child who viewed the 1990s It miniseries at an impressionable age. Just innocent smiles and yellow rain slickers, Georgie goes outside to watch his paper sailboat float. And he winds watching it and many other things float, including himself, forever and ever.
However, the beginning of It Chapter Two might be a bit more of an ominous surprise for those who never read Stephen King’s sprawling magnum opus. And for those who have, the new It Chapter Two trailer gives us a pretty good confirmation of what that is—something potentially darker than the fate of wee Georgie.
Still reading? Good. The second half of the trailer is a kaleidoscope of out-of-context snapshots from the movie, yet one that distinctly stood out involved the unnerving image of Pennywise the DANCING Clown unleashing a small army of balloons beneath a bridge in Derry, Maine. That this was accompanied with other fleeting shots of a carnival suggests a scene so wicked that even the 1990s It miniseries wouldn’t touch it. In the novel It, the events of the past and present happen interchangeably throughout the narrative, as opposed to chronologically like the two modern movies. For 100 pages you might be spending time with children in an endless summer of love and terror during 1958, and in the next you’re studying their grim near-middle ages in 1985 (the year the book was published). While the first prologue of It is almost identical to the 2017 movie’s opening—Georgie running out into the rain never to return—the second sequence, set in 1984, chronicles the return of Pennywise in a grotesque moment that hints to the town of Derry’s greater complicity.
On the last night of the Derry’s Canal Days Festival in July, Adrian Mellon is having a wonderful time. A proud gay man living his life in the public, Adrian didn’t grow up in Derry and wasn’t aware of the township’s secretive mean streak. Recently choosing to move to here, Adrian goes to the festival with his boyfriend while wearing an “I ♥ Derry” baseball cap, enraging the local monosyllabic incel community of white trash. After teasing several teenagers of such lifestyles that they too might be gay, Adrian and his boyfriend are stalked after the carnival to the Kissing Bridge above the Derry Canal, where the kids beat Adrian within an inch of his life and, “for laughs,” throw him off the bridge into the canal.
It also just so happens that on this day, at the height of summer, it’s been roughly 28 years since Pennywise was defeated by the Losers Club. Which means he’s due for a return. Hence the image in the trailer. Only Adrian and one passerby see a smiling clown with tufts of orange hair unleash a battalion of balloons. In the book, they’re every color of the rainbow and each say “I ♥ Derry” on them, but keeping them on-brand red in the movie maintains an even more sinister aesthetic. Pennywise then breaks the already badly beaten victim’s arm before literally starting to eat him alive, ripping out a huge chunk of his body beneath the armpit. It signals an even more sadistic (and angrier) It. Local authorities blame the dirtbags who committed the hate crime for Adrian’s murder, however they wind up getting away with their role in the death.
The sequence was especially heavy with social context in 1985 during the height of the AIDS crisis. With homophobia running rampant, King was touching on a real world insidiousness in American culture (the hateful spread of gay-bashing and anti-gay violence) with the complicity of Derry. This is not unlike the implication that Pennywise’s presence brings out the abusive sickness that’s already there in Bev’s father, or the racism that led to the mass murder of friends of Mike Hanlon’s father who were burned to death by local rednecks (which was strangely left out of the first film where it was whitewashed to being an “apartment fire” that took his parents). Presumably the undertones about homophobia in American life, and the country failing its gay community mirroring Derry victimizing of a young man, was too uncomfortable for network TV in the 1990s. But It Chapter Two is definitely going there with balloons underneath the Kissing Bridge confirmed, as well as with the previously announced casting of Xavier Dolan as Adrian Mellon. And why not? The same kind of hate from aggrieved straight white males suffering from “economic anxiety” is on the rise.
Given the first chapter featuring Georgie’s death opened It: Chapter One, it seems only appropriate that the second chapter chronicling Adrian’s horrific final moments will start off It Chapter Two. And if you look at the rest of the trailer, it seems carnival frivolities are playing a big role…