In this episode of Chucky, everyone’s favorite pint sized serial killer gets another chance to terrorize hospital patients as Jake (Zackary Arthur, Transparent) and the few who matter to him are all forced into the same sterile walls in the aftermath of Chucky’s (Brad Dourif, Halloween) fire fiasco.
As is the case with any fishbowl setting, tensions rise and things quickly start to get out of hand, though, surprisingly, it’s the middle schoolers who remain the most composed whereas the adults completely lose it, though their concerns are so poorly placed that it’s a wonder whether they’re doing their children any good by being there.
This episode seemed to make a specific point to emulate various visual styles and motifs in the horror genre, from the sharp diagonal angles, uncomfortable blue-green hospital lighting, and lead protagonists exploring a derelict building with flashlights, it was all very familiar, though definitely not boring; rather, these motifs only heightened the overall sense of dread and tension as it becomes more and more clear that the hospital has kept the characters trapped and vulnerable to a doll who, on paper, should not be as terrifying as he is; he can’t even jump that high.
While this obviously has many references and motifs steeped in horror history, a more modern reference to make would be It (2017), and not just because Teen Charles Lee Ray’s (Tyler Barish, Charlie’s Colorforms City) little sidekick, Eddie Caputo (Ivan DiCaro, Blues Clues & You), looks like Jeremy Ray Taylor, the actor for Ben Hanscom in the movie.
Rather, this has the same themes in that the murderous supernatural entity is a proxy to reveal the true horrors of normal human people, specifically adults and authority figures. While Chucky himself is still scary and definitely concerning—the brutality of the police officer’s murder was very disturbing—the real discomfort came from the scenes with the adults and flashbacks to Teen Charles Lee Ray when he was still human, because it grounds his otherwise supernatural crimes in reality, as it reminds the audience that he truly was a serial killer prior to being a doll; it would be like Ted Bundy possessing a doll and continuing his work which becomes decidedly less entertaining.
When it comes to the adults, while they’re not as horrible as some of the parents in It (2017) they are still shown to be less than stellar, which they themselves point out to each other yet refuse to acknowledge about themselves, in a hilarious scene where they all scream at each other, even roping in Detective Evans (Rachelle Casseus, Running with Violet) who was just trying to keep everyone calm.
While it was hilarious to see the various parents shove their shortcomings in each other’s faces, their hostility towards each other resulted in even more suffering for their children; it was bad enough that they all nearly died, now their parents were projecting their insecurity onto them to reassure themselves that they’re good parents.
The most indicative of this was, obviously, Logan (Devon Sawa, Somewhere Between) and Junior (Teo Briones, Ratched). It was set up from the start of the argument scene when the biggest reason he was upset wasn’t that his son could have serious lung damage from smoke inhalation and very well nearly died, but that he wasn’t going to be able to do track for less than a year.
The best aspect of this, however, was when he confronted Junior just before a tube is shoved down his throat and checked in to make sure that Junior knew that he only wanted him to do track if he really loved it. Rather than being a touching moment where Junior gets to have his Disney Channel Original Movie moment where he tells his father that track isn’t his dream, the atmosphere is so tense that it almost feels as though he’s being held at gunpoint to answer correctly. It was heartbreaking to watch as Logan forced Junior to say that he loves track, his reaction a complete antithesis to his son who, after his father vowed to do whatever it takes to get him back to running as soon as possible, seemed more inclined to head back into the burning house and take his chances there.
Even worse, as he’s mumbling “We Got the Beat” and fading in and out of consciousness, he has to see one of the Chucky’s racing down the hall. Chucky tried to use Junior’s suffering as an incentive for Jake, and of all the reasons it didn’t work, the main one is probably that Junior has looked miserable in every single scene he’s been in so there’s no reason to have to actively try to see a typical result.
As for Lexy’s (Alyvia Alyn Lind, The Young and the Restless) parents, it’s clear that her lack of empathy and bad attitude are hereditary. While it’s understandable that her parents would be upset with her for having a party and possibly even holding her somewhat responsible for the house accidentally catching on fire, but their belief that she purposefully set the house on fire was far beyond normal thought processes; it was as if they thought she burned the house down just to stick it to the historical landmark of Hackensack.
It’s also frustrating that her parents would try and assert that Lexy doesn’t care about Caroline (Carina Battrick, Impulse) when, after the one scene where she complained about having to take care of her during Halloween while her parents went out to a party, she has shown clear understanding and care for the girl, getting her Chucky from Jake and actually knowing how to communicate with her like a person.
Regardless, this episode made a point to establish Lexy as more of a protagonist than antagonist; she’d already been established as a bad person, but not evil enough to deserve to die, but this episode is edging her closer towards the “good guy” status that Chucky never tried to embody.
As Chucky himself said, there was a clear crossroads within the series and within Jake, as he has the titular option to “just let go,” though Chucky makes the worst case for his side in all of history which convinces Jake that he’s not so petty and self-absorbed as to believe Lexy deserves to die due to the reasons Chucky listed—Karen’s need to shut up, not die, Charles—nor is he just built in such a way that he could let go and not feel guilty.
It was interesting to watch his conversations with Lexy about his attempts on her life, as it really emphasized the two being foils of each other, as well as more insight to them as characters.
For one, Lexy’s reaction was far more subdued than expected. Of course, she did lash out and, at many points, was clearly fighting back tears as she confronted him, but she seemed numb enough not to be fully able to process the situation. This could easily and most likely be chalked up to the trauma of nearly dying, but it’s been implied that Lexy may actually also be suffering from depression, from her knowing exactly what Jake’s medication is for, to relating to Jake that she also doesn’t remember the last time she was really happy. It would explain why her perspective is skewed the way it is, as Jake’s own has been as well; they’re not bad people, they just don’t know how to deal with their emotions in a healthy way and, Lexy in particular, doesn’t comprehend the consequences of her actions or why they would be upsetting. They also wouldn’t be able to take a step back and look critically at their situation because they’re deep in it, and with Lexy’s parents not caring and Chucky urging Jake on, they definitely didn’t have anyone in their lives with enough power to get them to truly reflect.
Jake himself is forced to admit his own faulty reasoning when she confronts him as to why he didn’t speak up first before deciding on attempted murder. One of the most obvious answers would be Chucky’s influence, and it’s also understandable why he would think speaking out would only make things worse, as that tends to be the trends when it comes to bullying, but it’s clear Jake immediately recognizes just how many holes his reasoning had.
While the audience was still on Jake’s side when he wanted to kill Lexy because the rationalization was there at first, it’s still abundantly clear that everything about his mindset was flawed and heavily skewed and affected by a variety of uncontrollable factors: the chemicals in his brain, his social isolation, his orphan status, the killer doll whispering in his ear every night.
While he always remained sympathetic, the show manages to make it abundantly clear that Jake killing Lexy was in no way a good idea from any angle, but that his belief that it was his only option was genuine, but stemmed from a warped perspective.
The same goes for Lexy herself, because while it was shown in far more ways, her inability to understand why her rationale and actions were upsetting and flawed is the same as Jake’s when it came to killing her. He had told Chucky he wasn’t sure if he was a killer himself, but didn’t stop Chucky from doing the deed for him.
While Lexy didn’t understand, they both were able to point out the flaws in each other and, while getting defensive, they ultimately conceded that the other had a point, which was far more than the parents of this show could say.
As mentioned previously, it felt as though Jake and Lexy, being foils, could have gone on a Bonnie and Clyde killing spree where, instead of being in love, they hated each other, but this team up to take down a killer doll and potentially becoming friends and better people along the way works in similar ways, and actually gives more nuance to the characters, as Jake comes across as a little more bad than initially believed while the opposite goes for Lexy, yet they’re both still protagonists to root for in the end.
As for the rest of the episode, the thrills didn’t let up for a moment, and there seemed to be important information in every single frame.
While Chucky’s murder of the poster child of all police officers—doesn’t do anyone any good and has no right to the authority he has—was a very important and tense point, what with this being his second successful on-screen, get his hands dirty murder after Oliver (Avery Esteves, The Oak Room), as well as setting up yet another horrifying hospital setting, the most fun and exciting points, especially when it comes to the lore of the franchise, had to do with Devon (Bjorgvin Arnarson, The Seventh Day).
Of course, Jake and Devon’s budding relationship is as adorable as ever, and the way Devon seems to be unknowingly developing a crush on Jake is the only real thing that matters in this show; Chucky could murder the entire town, but if Devon and Jake hold hands it would all be worth it.
However, his investigation scenes were the most fascinating. Him finding an entire urban legend centered around Charles Lee Ray possessing a Good Guy Doll and murdering people raised a lot of open ended implications about the universe, as it seems that far more people are onto this than initially anticipated, and it would be great to see a graduate student researching this urban legend and running into Chucky as a future installment.
He also gives a nod to yet another longtime question that has plagued fans of the series: Why was Charles Lee Ray called “The Lakeshore Strangler” when he didn’t do much strangling? While Devon didn’t necessarily answer the question, he did pose it himself, which was very fun and a great way for Mancini to acknowledge the fans of the franchise and assure them that he definitely has his characters and story locked down.
Despite all of this, however, the most important scene of note for potential twists and scares in the rest of the season is less than a minute long.
It’s in no way confirmed, so this could very well be nothing, but when Devon and Lexy leave the hall to go talk in his room, Lexy pauses slightly when she sees a mother and her baby sitting in one of the chairs who watch the pair leave. The mother had been seen once before when the pink toy ball bumped into Jake’s shoe when he was searching the hospital for Chucky. What had initially seemed like a harmless false alarm could very well be a far more intricate plan.
In Cult of Chucky, the film ended with three entities being possessed by Chucky and his ex-girlfriend Tiffany; Chucky possessed Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif, The Blacklist) and Tiffany possessed both the original Tiffany doll and Jennifer Tilly (Family Guy), who had been doll-Tiffany’s voice actor but was then possessed by her.
Those are three murderous Chucky associates unaccounted for within this show. Another Chucky doll has been shown working in tandem with the main Chucky and though there are many potential souls inhabiting that doll, it could be that the Chucky within Nica Pierce split her soul to go help Chucky, while Tiffany possessed the mother and, potentially, her baby.
This could all be a crackpot theory that has no basis, but the scene lingered far too long on a random character who had more screen time in this episode than the other victims from the house fire did, which has to mean something. Even if she’s not Tiffany, she’s definitely not just a sweet mother with a newborn but something far more sinister; and with Chucky’s actions at the end of the episode, it won’t be long before she reveals herself and joins the fray.
While the narrative execution of the show is the main focus and is deserving of its praise, the show as an entity itself must also be acknowledged due to the attention to detail and how well-directed, performed, and visually executed the entire show is.
The opening title sequence changes every single episode with variations of the most striking motif of the episode being used to spell out the title Chucky; doll heads in the pilot, butcher knives and jack-o-lanters in episode two, the various gardening tool weapons Jake looked at for episode three, and red syringes for this episode. Not only is it visually striking, but this minor attention to detail really helps to sell this series as being more than just a cash grab but an authentic addition to the franchise with genuine thought and heart behind it.
In terms of performance, praise has to be given to the child actors in particular, as it’s always notable when young people act, but Zackary Arthur in particular shined in this episode when it came to Jake’s mannerisms, especially as he became more tense and upset, specifically during the interrogation scene with Detective Evans and Lexy’s confrontation in the house. The self-aimed frustration and distress was embodied and clearly communicated, to the point where his restless energy was palpable and truly made the various scenes all the more tense, so credit has to be given.
On a smaller note about Arthur’s performance as Jake as a whole, it’s interesting and commendable that, when he’s acting upset, he doesn’t care about making his face look, for lack of a better description, aesthetically appealing. He, nor the creators, try to make Jake’s breakdowns come across in a particularly glamorized or otherwise pleasing way, nor do they try and demonize or disproportionally depict them negatively either. Rather, his reactions feel genuine to his character as a middle school boy struggling and feeling as though he has no agency or power for himself. It feels truly authentic without any intention to make Jake come across as anything other than a struggling boy in a very stressful situation with no one of authority to turn to for help.
In all, this episode was yet another great installment to the season with some very interesting visuals, and with Jake stepping into his role of franchise installment protagonist and being actively against Chucky, things are definitely going to go off the rails; hopefully, in the best way possible.