The first season of chucky started plausibly autonomous. Although the classic concept and design of a killer doll voiced by Brad Dourif remains, the character is thrown into a new setting with a new cast. Jake (Zackary Arthur), a bullied gay college boy, is the one who finds the vintage doll at a garage sale, and chaos ensues. It feels like a soft reboot of sorts, carefully weaving characters and other plot points from the previous seven films around the edges of Jake’s story.
However, having laid the groundwork, the recently completed second season of the series takes a much more direct approach to the franchise’s own history, choosing to tackle three decades of continuity and contrasting tones head-on. And it blends into one of the most riveting TV shows of 2022 – a whirlwind horror meta-comedy that unpacks the franchise’s history while exploring our relationships with our parents with surprising maturity and nuance.
Still overseen by creator, writer, and sometimes director Don Mancini, the series has proven incredibly malleable, constantly evolving to meet new cultural moments as its birth in the 80s slasher boom gave way to something more self-aware and comedic. Its current form of television show is as iconic of the era as any of the films that preceded it, and the most shocking development of the second season is how Mancini and his collaborators tackle some of the most controversial episodes of franchise. It may not always work, but it’s never anything less than fascinating to watch.
In the aftermath of the first season, the series transplants its surviving teenage trio of Jake, Devon (Björgvin Arnarson), and Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind) to a Catholic boarding school. Under the eye of strict nuns and an important director, they find themselves locked in an unknown environment, much like in the years 1991. Child’s play 3. This movie leaps forward in time, recasting Andy Barclay, Chucky’s nemesis child, as a troubled teenager who’s gone from the care of his single mother to various foster families for, finally, the military academy. which serves as the main setting for the film.
child’s play 3 is a rather outdated film, most notable for how the gun violence of its pre-Columbine school plays out today. To move with the times, the 1998 sequel Bride of Chucky look towards self-awareness Scream and leans into comedy, giving Chucky a comedic foil in old flame Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly), who uses the book Voodoo for Dummies. Abandoning Andy Barclay’s persona and increasing the absurdity, the film ends with Tiffany abruptly giving birth to a doll, the result of a quick “voodoo” pregnancy that followed her and Chucky’s previous confirmation that they were both anatomically correct and, uh, functional.
The next film to follow this doll-child, Seed of Chucky, has long remained the franchise’s most controversial. Released in the early 2000s heyday of the paparazzi and South Park, the film marks Mancini’s directorial debut and is far more of a disgusting Hollywood meta-comedy than a conventional horror flick. Treated separately as a boy, Glen, by Chucky and as a girl, Glenda, by Tiffany, the child’s gender dysphoria manifests as separate personalities. Where Glen is shy and peaceful, Glenda embodies the cross-dressing murderer horror trope, albeit in a much more sympathetic light than other examples of the genre. The way the film resolves this plot point is convoluted, to say the least. In what is by far the most daring meta casting in the franchise, the character of Tiffany played by Jennifer Tilly possesses the body of an actress she idolizes: Jennifer Tilly. She then gives birth to red-haired twins, who separately house the Glen personality and the Glenda personality.
Until Chucky’s second season, the franchise’s reaction to the general rejection of Seed of Chucky was to leave it in the background. The direct-to-DVD sequels of 2013 and 2017 Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky are essentially soft reboots before the TV series’ own soft reboot, taking a back-to-basics approach that finds a Chucky doll menacing a new character, Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif), whom he ends up possessing. Tilly has a small role in this last film, always under the name of “Tiffany Valentine”. Nica notes that Tiffany bears a striking resemblance to Jennifer Tilly; it is at the same time a nod to Seed of Chucky fans and a largely alien and ignorable detail for those who haven’t seen the film or dislike its wide tonal departure. There’s not a word about Glen or Glenda until the first season of chuckywhen the killer doll tells Jake that he has a gender-fluid child, he accepts because he is “not a monster”.
In its desire to reconcile all aspects of the franchise, however, chucky no longer relegates Seed of Chucky to a fun background reference. A significant portion of the second season is devoted to explaining how Tiffany lived as long as Jennifer Tilly. Who manages their finances? Who answers his mail? Are the cops suspicious? Those questions (and more) no one was asking are belatedly and hilariously answered, culminating in an absolutely deranged fourth episode entirely dedicated to a murder mystery in Tilly’s mansion, where the people who knew Tilly before her possession stage a intervention. His sister, Meg Tilly, is there, as is his friend Sutton Stracke from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The same goes for beloved actors Joe Pantoliano and Gina Gershon, who co-starred with Jennifer Tilly in the masterful Wachowski premiere.Matrix detective thriller Leap.
The murder mystery episode feels almost separate from the rest of the series, with no cuts to the Catholic school plot that functions as the season’s main story. Chucky himself does not appear at all except in the jokey bookend segments as a host, and the episode visits fictional deaths on several non-fictional people, the likes of which have not been seen since Seed of Chucky cost the lives of Redman (who played himself) and Britney Spears (who didn’t). But most importantly, it reintroduces Glen and Glenda as non-binary adults, both played by Lachlan Watson. And in what speaks as much to Watson’s performance as it does to the show’s absurd ambitions, Glen and Glenda become pivotal characters for the rest of the show and its themes.
The increased visibility of queer narratives has been central to the evolution of the Child’s Play franchise. We see this metaphorically in the possession of Nica, which Chucky uses to resume his relationship with Tiffany. We also see it in the TV series’ very first episode, in artistic artist Jake’s rocky relationship with his father, a struggling mechanic (Devon Sawa, sporting a large goatee) unwilling to accept his son’s sexuality as something other than a phase. Glen and Glenda’s return is a natural fit, allowing Mancini to re-examine the end of Seed of Chucky.
In a 2019 essay for Little White Lies, Sam Bodrojan writes, “Mancini delivers the kind of touching summary that countless ostensibly serious genre films have failed to articulate. What vices and values we develop are distinct but must also be considered in the context of our parents; their relationship to our homosexuality may never fully match. Maybe it’s best seen through chuckyGlen and Glenda’s exploration, and their mother’s decision to keep them in the dark about their true origins. They have never met their father and are unaware that he is a killer doll. They don’t know that they themselves were once a single doll, and they have no idea that the woman who raised them is a separate person who possessed Jennifer Tilly’s body. To the world and to themselves, they are the Tilly twins. But the Tilly twins suffer from nightmares and an inevitable feeling that something is missing – the fallout of a parental decision that dovetails with larger adult failures throughout the series.
While Jake’s father seems nicer when sober, his intolerance escalates into verbal and physical abuse when drunk. In season two, Jake remarks that they might have gotten away with it one day, but the opportunity never comes: Chucky kills Jake’s father in the show’s first episode, hoping to goad Jake into murdering the children who ridicule him alone. For Vulture, observes Louis Peitzman, “The show is both literally and subtextually about coming out, with Jake working hard to suppress his inner urges. The series connects Jake exploring his sexual identity with Jake exploring his killer instincts, but in a 2021 twist, it portrays the two without any of the shame that traditionally colors metaphors like this.
While none of the other adults are as openly hostile as Jake’s father, they’re little better. Jake stays with his uncle (also played by goatless Devon Sawa), who relentlessly pressures his own son (Teo Briones) to go track and make it an Ivy League college. Jake’s friend Lexy is often at odds with her own mother (Barbara Alyn Woods), the town’s narcissistic ex-mayor. There are good parents, but they end up being sent alongside the bad ones, as part of Chucky’s ultimate goal of being the sole influential authority in the children’s lives. A positive adult figure needs to be given the opportunity to step in and take action, and although the children will encounter a few, people like Chucky or even the school principal (Devon Sawa for the third time, now in tall glasses) win by being much more assertive. in pursuit of their goals.
Even though the second season becomes crowded with all of its ideas, characters, and personalities, chucky is a show like no other. With incisive examinations of itself as a franchise and more incisive commentary on homosexuality in our modern age, it takes an incredibly cohesive look at how children are shaped by the adults they grow up with, while remaining an extremely amusing moment.
The first season of chucky is available to watch on Peacock. The second season is available for digital purchase or rental on Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.