“People can be both [good and bad]. Your trouble is you only ever see the good.”
As the mysterious Charlie Manx takes another child and searches for the one person that can upend his plans, Vic’s world continues to unravel as she learns of Haley’s abduction and discovers the truth about the duality of man. And Bing Partridge’s vile and horrific origin story reveals the monster hiding underneath the nice guy façade.
Now that Haley has been taken, Vic realizes she can no longer ignore her abilities or the looming threat of Charlie Manx. And if that wasn’t enough of a load for a teenager to handle, she has to digest the truth about her father when, after recovering from her first attempt to find Haley, Vic has a powerful heart-to-heart with her mother.
This conversation serves as the backbone of “The House of Sleep”. Linda’s explanation as to why she stayed with a man that abused her muddies the waters of what should be a clear-cut decision; it’s a situation all too many people find themselves in and can never break free.
For Vic, it’s a massive wake-up call, knocking her father from the pedestal she had placed him upon. But it goes beyond the harsh reminder that our parents are merely human beings and not infallible angels; it propels Vic to take another shot through the Bridge to Bing as, upon the initial trek that led her to his house, she dismissed it as a mistake. Knowing the truth of people, Vic unmasks Bing and he becomes another example of someone not being who she thought they were.
On the other end of the spectrum, Charlie Manx ushers Haley towards Christmasland, all the while trying to pry information from her on Vic. As they get closer to their destination, the worse of Haley gets—hair frayed and teeth falling out—while Manx is invigorated. It may be the physical hardships of her transformation or the promise of always feeling loved, but Haley eventually relents, giving Manx the details on Vic. With the information at hand, Manx ends up speaking to Vic (as she confronts Bing) and suggests that the pair meet. Though there are no definitive plans, now that the protagonist and antagonist know one another’s identity, the game is truly afoot.
Despite the promising tones of dread that have been present in the first three episodes, there has always been something holding NOS4A2 back from taking that next step. Whether it was the uneven writing, cheesy props, and Zachary Quinto’s at times curiously hammy acting is up for debate. And though “The House of Sleep” still has those very same props and Quinto still channels a bit of that over-the-top grandpa motif, this episode turns everything on its head. Not only do the opposing forces know who they are facing, Bing’s origin story offers up one of the most shocking and uncomfortable moments in a television show to date. Not only does he put a nail through the skull of his verbally abusive father, but he also takes it even further, violating his mother before murdering her as well. Though the truth of Manx’s effect on these children is still unknown, he’s yet to do anything so monstrous as Bing and “The House of Sleep” offers the stark reminder of those that “come to you is sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves”.
Take Me Home, Country Road
- As one rarely made uncomfortable by what happens in a movie to series, I can say with 100% certainty that “The House of Sleep” did that to a level no show in recent memory has been able to accomplish. Bing’s hideous actions as a teenager—actions that belie the gentle soul we’ve seen thus far—is such a powerful smack in the faith to the truth of humanity. Everyone has the capacity for good and evil, and though circumstances may nudge us one way or the other, it’s our choices—and our choices alone—that dictate who we end up becoming. Even throughout his discomfort at having Vic in his home, Bing maintains much of his gentle giant façade. It’s not until he finds her in the basement that the darker side surfaces…and God only knows what he would have done had Manx not chosen that moment to call. It begs the question, who’s more the monster; the one who embraces his nature or the one who hides it underneath an array of light?
- If Danny’s teeth (and various nightmare visions others have had) aren’t enough, Haley ripping apart the passerby who offered a helping hand after seeing the Amber Alert makes it a certainty that Manx is turning these children into his own little monsters. Though the how of it all has yet to be revealed, the proximity to Christmasland most certainly plays a factor. Will Vic be able to restore these children to their humanity or are their souls already stained by the darkness that Manx channels to fuel both his extended life and Christmasland?