“You’re Bridge brought you to me. So maybe people like us belong with each other.”
Opposite sides of the good and evil coin finally meet when Vic takes the chance to confront Manx face-to-face as the real world around her continues to crumble and she alone must deal with the slings and arrows of misfortune.
Every show has that moment where, around the season midpoint, protagonist and antagonist face off. “The Wraith” is that moment for Vic as she accepts Charlie Manx’s offer for a tête-à-tête. His goal is simple enough: probe for chinks in his adversary’s armor while also trying to flip her allegiance to him.
And just like Vader with Luke, Manx’s argument is smooth and impassioned. Not only does he offer Vic (and by proxy, the viewer) more information on her abilities and the horrible fate awaiting a Strong Creative, he magnanimously offers his knowledge on a possible solution. It’s a rational move in his mind; what better way to consolidate his power and secure his autonomy than to recruit the one person with the power to challenge him.
Vic answers like the reluctant hero she is; rejecting his offer and promising him a permanent and fiery death. Unfortunately, the tables are turned when Maggie is run down by the Wraith and Vic, after spouting out the truth to Detective Hutter (Ashley Romans, Shameless, I’m Dying Up Here), finds herself voluntarily committed and temporarily out of the picture.
There are no shocking developments in “The Wraith”. Vic’s setback after her first confrontation with the villain is the by-the-numbers approach taken by so many good vs evil tales in fiction. That first clash of wills (or fists) almost always finds the protagonist down, brought low by their hubris, underestimation of the enemy, or just not quite having what it takes to come out on top. Playing behind the 8-ball, so to speak, is what captivates us as we wonder ‘how will our hero defeat the bad guy?’.
But “The Wraith” isn’t just about Vic’s focus on Manx. Vic’s dysfunctional family life continues to hammer away at her already unsteady psyche. When she leaves her dad and Tiffany after the latter makes it clear she’s not at all thrilled with Vic staying there, Maggie becomes the only person that is 100% in Vic’s corner. Even Drew and Craig, who both like Vic and believe Vic about her abilities, are kept on the periphery. So when Maggie is taken out of the fight, Vic is well and truly alone. It’s this isolation that could spell doom for her but, if the completely fictitious Pamphlet to Being a Hero is followed, Vic will discover her true strength and, when she gets her second chance against Manx, will not miss.
With all the talk about outlines and traditional steps Vic is following on the hero’s journey, one could think that “The Wraith” is just another by-the-numbers episode. In a way it is but, at the same time, the focus on Vic’s struggle gives the episode its strength. Ashleigh Cummings has always been the brightest spot of NOS4A2 and “The Wraith” is a reminder of her captivating nature and, because of that, it is the strongest outing of the series to date and is a promising launch into the second half of the season.
Take Me Home, Country Road
- While it’s understandable to feel a bit of panic as a driverless, murderous car chases you through the parking lot, Maggie’s inability to use other cars as a barrier was maddening. She’s from the Rickon school of running straight ahead, giving the villain (or in this case, car) the chance to line up a perfect shot. Also, as Vic is committed for the whole ‘autonomous car hit my friend’, no one witnessed this, not even the one positively occupied car in the lot?
- Vic’s conversation with her father early in the episode was a good moment for his character. Opening up about the horrible scars his experiences in the Gulf War left him with, it gives depth to Chris McQueen that was lacking. It doesn’t absolve Chris of his abusive ways but does offer some context as to how he reached this point in his life.
- Halfway through the season and Willa, Vic’s supposed best friend, has been an afterthought in Vic’s life. She did help Vic with forging the documents for her financial aid, but other than that, she’s taken a backseat to both Craig and Drew. Granted, with 5 episodes remaining, this Willa’s importance could completely change but it may be a case that her and Vic’s relationship is nothing more than a reminder that reconnecting with the past can sometimes be a disappointing affair.