NOS4A2: The House of Sleep   Books Included 
June 24, 2019 7:50 AM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Vic seeks the Wraith and learns she must trust her gift. A body surfaces in Haverhill.

I've flagged this one as "book included" as previous discussions have seemed to want to do some compare/contrast.
posted by jazon (11 comments total)
Comparing the book to the show (so far), do folks agree with Brian Tallerico on TV/AV club, that AMC’s adaptation of Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 is NTG00D?

For me, it's pretty grim, and not particularly enjoyable. I like many aspects of it, but the treatment of kids and the puritanical, misogynistic hatred towards "unclean" mothers sours all the other enjoyment for me. The book sounds like it's more surreal and interesting, but do others agree with that review and comparison?
posted by filthy light thief at 12:16 PM on June 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm seeing some complaints about the viciousness of Bing's backstory. That it was portrayed too harshly or that it comes out of nowhere for him. Maybe it's bringing the baggage of the books, but since I knew how disturbed he was meant to be, I wasn't overly shocked, even by the brutality depicted. I think it is new to this version that Bing knows Vic? They were not connected in the book, correct? He worked at the chemical factory and had access to the gingerbread gas, but he didn't also moonlight at the school, picking up comics from teenaged girls? Unless I'm misremembering that, I can understand this as a storytelling choice that also highlights how out of touch Vic is with what's going on, how she has to be dragged into it all kicking and screaming. Her reluctance to take real action has been her main characteristic until this episode. Maybe it's meant to highlight how much time she spends in her own world, or how little she pays attention to those around her, or just how trusting she is. And of course, it parallels nicely with how poorly she understood who her father is and how he was really treating her mother. I think, with all of that taken into consideration, it all works well together. Vic is learning that people aren't who they say they are. That some monsters look like people.

We're just about halfway through--does anyone know if this is a limited series or if they plan to come back for a second season? I can't seem to find the answer to that on Google. Perhaps it's because so many limited series have changed their mind and moved forward with subsequent stories, so they're leery of boxing themselves in.

I loved that the book showed us Vic at several stages of her life. A traumatized child. A struggling teen. An adult recovering from trauma. That characterization, more than the spooky psychic vampire thing, is what I found fascinating. I think Stephen King adaptations often struggle from this same issue: the plot points alone are rarely what sells these books. It's the characters. King's always been a master at that, and Hill inherited that talent. He writes full people in extraordinary circumstances, but I think if he dropped those people into a more ordinary novel, it'd still be compelling reading. When they try to adapt something like that to a new medium, it's easy to lose what makes the characters special.

And here--I don't know. I like Vic a lot. But I don't think we're going to get the arc that I loved in the book. I don't know if it's Quinto or the script, but I'm not as into Manx as I was in the book. He's fine, but not as menacing or whimsical. I talked a lot about Bing up there. He's what I pictured, more or less, and he's honestly the least interesting piece of the puzzle in the book, so I could take or leave that. But it's taken 40% of the narrative for them to show us how broken Bing really is; before that he's just kind of weird. The development that is left is rather paint-by-numbers. And I remember it being at least somewhat more compelling in the book.
posted by terilou at 12:41 PM on June 24, 2019

do folks agree with Brian Tallerico on TV/AV club, that AMC’s adaptation of Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 is NTG00D?

I really, really want to like it, and I like parts, and other parts are smoothed over for me by the book context that I bring to the table, I think. I do not think I would like it at all if I hadn't read the book.

Reading my comment above, I guess I'd say I do overall agree that it's missing the mark for me so far. Your article answered the question about the limited series thing--I'd guess this may not get a season 2, at this rate. Which is a shame, because I think it would get better?

puritanical, misogynistic hatred towards "unclean" mothers

If I can indulge in some MAJOR book spoilers that I don't know if they'll ever get around to for the show or not, but could explain the relevance of the mother-hating trope that you're picking up on:

[Click for spoiler]The theme of motherhood echoes because Vic feels essentially motherless, given her parents' relationship and vows to never have children, but she does have a child, and eventually Manx goes after that child through a whole weird set of circumstances many years later, and Vic battles her own personal demons about whether she wanted to be a mother at all and what her responsibilities are to her own son and the other children caught in Christmasland. It's a lot of mother stuff that Vic herself fulfills. If I remember right, even Maggie the Scrabble librarian is/was an orphan and that's another layer. So I think it's intentional and meant to pay off, but I don't know if it will or not.

posted by terilou at 12:58 PM on June 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

OK so I've not read the book but I'm glad this is books included because I was very curious about how this differed from the book.

So as a non-book viewer, I was not at all surprised by Bing killing his father, but raping and killing his mother did surprise me. I don't...understand where the rape came from, if that makes sense. The hostility towards the father was built into the previous scene, but his relationship to his mother seems healthy and appropriate. So the rape seemed to come out of nowhere. But also how then does he work at a school? That seems to be the kind of thing a school would screen for even in a janitor in a small town school.

One criticism I have is that I often forget the time period this is set in. It often feels like the 80s to me and then suddenly Maggie will have a laptop and I'll be like "Oh right."

In terms of parents, one of the things that really has rubbed me the wrong way about the show is Vic's relationship to her parents. That she chooses to live with her alcoholic abusive father and her mother is just fine with that after a preliminary argument. My father was an abusive alcoholic so yes this is a pretty personal issue to invoke. And often the show feels like it lets her father off the hook. Like yeah he lets her down with the FAFSA, but overall..she still seems to prefer her father. Like I can't imagine having a conversation with my mom about her abuse and then being like "Ok I'm going back to Dad's house now!" If she was in denial, ok. But to have that conversation and go back....just honestly made me REALLY not like her as a character.

I remain in the show for Sailor J.
posted by miss-lapin at 1:59 PM on June 24, 2019

I don't...understand where the rape came from, if that makes sense.

This is just me grasping at straws (that may not be there), but perhaps he's mixing up the meanings of "love," mistaking motherly love for romantic love? On reflection, it's a bit Oedipal, but without the "mistake" marrying his mother. Yeah, that part of this episode also was not something to encourage me to stick around with this show. I felt bad for Bing.

overall..she still seems to prefer her father.

Her mother, Linda, only sees a future where Vic is always by her side in the house cleaning business, stuck in this crappy (for Vic) town*. Her dad, Chris, says she can do anything, go to college, study art, get out of the town where her once good friend is now a stoner who her mom doesn't want hanging around with her.*

* On typing this out, maybe Linda wants more for her, but just a bit more than she herself has? I don't know. This show is muddled, but possibly on purpose. There's this exchange:
Linda: How long have you known?
Vic: Not that long. I guess, though, looking back, I always had a feeling. But I tucked it away like a secret because I needed to believe that Dad was good.
Linda: He is, honey. And he's not. People can be both. The trouble is, you only ever see the good.
Which also explains more of why Vic keeps going back to her dad.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:58 PM on June 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

For me, it's pretty grim, and not particularly enjoyable.

OT1H: Parts of it have SailorJ.
OTOH: They haven't let her screech like a pterodactyl yet.
OTGH: She's doing good! Yay!
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:41 PM on June 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh I get that Filthy Light Thief, but, much like the rape the set up doesn't really land with me. It seems arbitrary. I will give the show that vic is wrestling with the conflict between her dad saying chase your dreams but not actually being willing to DO anything to help. But it just doesn't feel like her faith in her father wasn't grounded in the show enough beforehand.

I think vic's mom is trying to protect her daughter from being disappointed and while it's not really in the script my read is that Linda's "pessimism" is because she knows her (now ex) husband promises a lot but doesn't deliver and wants to protect her daughter from that.
posted by miss-lapin at 10:35 PM on June 25, 2019

But also how then does he work at a school?

If he was actually charged with the crimes, it would have been as a minor and they’re possibly sealed or avoided the registry because he was a minor. But also, I think in the show, he works for a janitorial contractor—so he works for the company, not the school directly. Still shouldn’t be allowed, but makes more sense that a janitorial company would fuck that up than it does a school not pulling a criminal background check.

As far as I can remember, Bing did not know Vic or live in her town or anything like that in the book. He did respond to a Christmasland ad in a comic book, pretty much like in the show. He worked directly for the chemical company instead, not splitting his time between the two. He does have the history they describe. It’s less out of nowhere though, because he’s a creep from the get go, and never our hero’s friend who also has this creepy awful past. He’s just a creepy awful dude with a creepy awful past.

His parents were abusive. Vic’s parents are also. Manx is collecting children from abusive homes. So it goes.

I think Vic’s parents are equally awful to one another, but her mom is more openly hostile to Vic, while her dad tries to be nice to her, even though he’s not reliable or trustworthy and he’s basically a selfish prick. So he’s a loser and Vic sees that, and he’s a dick to her mom. But her mom abuses him right back, and is abusive to Vic as well. Also, I think this may be more clear in the book, but her dad got her the bike and helps her fix it up and supports her riding, and the bike is the key to her literal superpower right now, so she probably feels an affinity based on the bike alone.
posted by terilou at 9:19 PM on June 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yeah that makes a lot more sense in terms of Bing and Vic's dad. I wish they had shown her history with him and the bike. And my read on Bing until the last ep was that he was childlike and Manx was manipulation so the reveal that he was super creepifying BEFORE Manx showed up was a big adjustment.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:33 AM on June 27, 2019

I'm so glad there is a books included thread! I have Thoughts!

Book-Bing is really fucked up and terrifying from the beginning. I was surprised by how sympathetic show-Bing was initially (especially because I just finished watching Olafur Darri Olafsson in Trapped, in which he's a very sympathetic character), so I was kind of...not glad exactly, but relieved that they brought show-Bing more or less into line with book-Bing. Until I realized that it seemed like they weren't going to have a Lou at all, I was worried they were going to somehow combine Bing with Lou (Vic's baby daddy from the book) and that would have been....gross. It was interesting how differently I felt about Bing when he was presented sympathetically at the beginning, and we only learn about his darkness later.

Vic's dad is the "good guy" because he never really has to step up and be a real world dad. He gets to be the absent father (even before he leaves) who is all gumdrops and "yes", leaving Linda to be the "bad guy" real-world parent who has to say no. Which I expect is sadly often the case in families.

I'm still not sure how I feel about Vic being one age instead of growing up, and I feel like if the kidnapped little girl is supposed to take the place of Bruce Wayne Carmody (Vic's son in the book, who is the reason she goes to Christmasland), it may not have the emotional resonance the book has. The book seems to be a lot about mothers, good, bad, indifferent, troubled, sexualized, etc. and families and relationships. If Vic isn't a mother in the show and we don't have families as a real theme...doesn't that kind of negate one of the (if not THE) main themes of the book?
posted by biscotti at 9:18 AM on June 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think the show may be shifting the theme from motherhood to parenthood. Which I gotta say as woman makes me more comfortable.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:40 AM on July 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

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