NOS4A2 Season 2 Episode 4 Review: The Lake House

Christmasland is the ultimate trap for children, and like any good trap, there needs to be a trail leading to it. NOS4A2 explores the particulars of the hunt in the underwhelming “The Lake House.”

NOS4A2 Season 2 Episode 4 The Lake House
Photo: AMC

This NOS4A2 review contains spoilers.

NOS4A2 Season 2 Episode 4

For as much skill as Bing Partridge (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) has with connecting to children, Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto) is no slouch in that department, either. He might not be able to talk to kids on their level as well as Bing, but there’s just something about Charlie, and the tantalizing lure of Christmasland, that speaks to children in a way that’s difficult to resist. Throughout “The Lake House,” Charlie is putting a full-court press on Wayne (Jason David) to get him to take a seat in the back of the Wraith, and thanks to the many difficulties Wayne has at home, Charlie’s rap is working on him.

Hence, Charlie’s targeting of children from broken or neglectful homes, and Charlie’s targeting of broken people to be his assistants. Both antagonists, Bing and Charlie, have a special sort of connection with the children they pursue based off of their background. Abused children know how to reach out to abused children, even if their methods are different from one another. Bing forges an emotional connection with his victim, and Charlie Manx simply overwhelms them with flash: the car, the music, the piles of shiny presents, and the promises whispered.

It’s not a surprise that Wayne is unsuccessful at fending off the advances of Charlie Manx, especially those in his dreams, because Vic (Ashleigh Cummings) seems to have made nothing but mistakes when dealing with him and his emotional needs, particularly as seen in the second season of NOS4A2. This laundry list of complaints is laid out by Lou (Jonathan Langdon), Chris (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), and even Wayne himself. Vic has to confront her own mistakes, and the demons of her own past with Chris, while still trying to keep her son and all of her friends and loved ones safe from a vampire car and its withered husk of an owner. 

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“The Lake House” stretches between the two opposite poles of Vic coming to terms with her life and Charlie working tirelessly to steal Wayne out from under her nose, or at least figure out where she’s hiding from him. Megan Mostyn-Brown’s script doubles down on the family drama, with most of it taking place around Vic and her slow efforts to recover from her drinking binge and restore her family. She has a few nice little scenes with Chris, and both Ashleigh Cummings and Ebon Moss-Bachrach do a solid job with those sequences. Similarly, Cummings and Jonathan Langdon have a solid chemistry with one another when Lou gives her the “shape up or ship out” speech, but at the same time, the speech feels a bit toothless. It comes across like Lou and Vic have had this conversation before, and that Lou won’t really leave, at least not until he’s gotten visitation with Wayne. Much like her mother years before, it seems that Lou is sticking around for the children as much as to keep Vic from going completely off the rails.

It mirrors what has already been seen in the first season, and some of what is seen in Charlie Manx’s flashback sequences from earlier in the season. For whatever reason, PTSD or selfishness or both, all of these characters seem to be trapped in loops, unable to break out from their lifestyles even when they know they should. For Chris, it took loss to get him sober. Vic was on the same path, and her loss of her home and the threatened loss of her boyfriend and son, seems to have shocked her into making a change in her life. The difficulty is keeping positive changes, particularly when faced with the growing threat of a revitalized Charlie Manx and the return of Bing Partridge. To save them, Vic seems willing to abandon them, which seems to be the wrong strategy. 

As seen near the end of the episode, and as seen previously, going off on a heroic solo mission is a bad idea, especially when the fight is uneven. That’s proven pretty effectively when Tabitha (Ashley Romans) decides to try to apprehend Bing Partridge by herself. That’s a bad idea, even when the fight is fair, but someone Bing’s size and someone Tabitha’s size? Even with the gun, it’s still not all that smart unless you’re willing to shoot first, and Tabitha is told under no circumstances to break protocol after some previous lapses in operational security. Her urgency to stop Bing is understandable—after all, he’s a wanted murderer and he’s been on the run for the better part of a decade—but her descent into his creepy lair is a highlight in the episode. 

Craig MacNeill pulls out all the Silence of the Lambs stops, with a Christmas twist. Bing’s Christmas altar, for lack of a better term, is unsettling due to the way the rest of the house has decayed, and Tabitha’s trip into the basement quickly devolves into a violent confrontation, with the drop gun coming into play as a brilliant, shocking flash in the darkness and the tumble of a brain-holed body. Shame it wasn’t The Wraith she shot, because then it might have been effective in stopping Charlie Manx. As it is, all it does is give Charlie and Bing a reason to act on the information Charlie is able to get out of Bats.

Hiding at the lake house isn’t hiding when you tell the bad guy the location of your secret lair to get back at your mom. For all the good parts of the episode, particularly the gut-punch ending and the basement brawl and crawl, the family stuff feels a little bit slow. Still, the tempo seems to be picking up, and the stakes have certainly risen enough that the mid-season lull that most shows have isn’t derailing the central plot.

Rating:

2 out of 5