Chucky Season 2 Review: The Series Makes Surprising Changes For A Fresh, Dangerous Season

As far as horror movie franchises go, the "Child's Play" film series has always been one of the most enjoyable. A franchise about a serial killer-possessed doll (thanks, voodoo!) is effectively bathing in camp from its very premise, and the films have gained a number of steadfast horror fans from their unique blend of humor and menace. When a TV series was initially announced (the first series in the franchise's history), creator Don Mancini promised that it would stay grounded in the series' roots while pivoting to include young teen protagonists. It was a surprising venture, but by and large, it worked really, really well.

The first season of "Chucky" saw everyone's favorite murderous soul-imbued Good Guy doll have larger plans than ever before. Chucky spends the season trying to corrupt the series' young protagonists into becoming murderers themselves, an act that would have given Chucky a major upgrade. The season ends on a larger note, with a whole truck full of murderously ensouled Good Guy dolls set to besiege hospitals all over the world. Andy commandeers the truck before the evil Tiffany doll gets the drop on him in turn, sending the Chucky truck off to an unknown fate. With its high-stakes ending, quirky adaptations to the series' mythos, and a high kill count, how do you follow it for Season 2?

The second season (of which we were provided the first two episodes) so far seems set to build on the first by once again resetting back to basics, exploring series nostalgia, and letting Chucky do what he does best ... be your most murderously scheming friend to the end in ever-inventive ways. While it does move too fast for its own good, it's a strong outing thus far with a fun new location and a "back to basics" approach that largely works.

Charles in charge: murder days, murder nights

The second season of "Chucky" begins by setting itself a bit of a challenge. We begin with Andy driving the truck full of murder toys and using a distraction to disrupt the Chucky army's nefarious plans. We then quickly pivot to our young protagonists from season 1. Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur) is moving away with his new foster family, much to the dismay of boyfriend Devon (Björgvin Arnarson). Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind) has to deal with a lot of trauma in her own (moody) way, and the teenage trio does what all smart teens in horror films do: they separate ... or at least that's the plan before they receive a surprising set of doll-based threats. The end of the first episode sees our plucky young protagonists reunited at Incarnate Lord (formerly the Burlington County Home for Wayward Boys), a locale from Charles Lee Ray's own past. 

Zackary Arthur grew well into the role of Jake throughout season 1, and here he begins the second season confidently. Right out of the gate it emphasizes his strong romantic connection with the ever-charismatic young performer Arnarson (whose Devon always seems natural on screen). Both performers excel in relation to each other, and the series is smart to reunite them quickly along with as Alyvia Lind's Lexy. While all three performers work well in their respective roles, their interactions (and collective antagonism to Chucky's shenanigans) are the heart of the series, and it's there that their performances land best. As always, Brad Dourif voices the treacherous doll with just as much joyous sociopathy as ever before. No matter how many Chucky dolls are present in one scene, Dourif brings them an admirable distinctness and sense of fun that enlivens the evil toy's machinations.

Season 2's performances here build to a strong position but aren't devoid of minor glitches while they get there. Part of the problem lies in the decision to separate the central trio as a plot device to reunite them at Incarnate Lord, certainly, but it gets the second season off to a mildly rocky start. The largest issue here is that the young but talented actors are at their most compelling together–they play off each other's performances well, and as such are more convincing together than apart. It's a shaky start that's soon corrected, but it certainly impacts the series' initial momentum at the start.

Chucky's your friend 'til you're dead

The pivot to Incarnate Lord is well played in the series. It promises a deeper connection to Charles Lee Ray, of course, which is something for franchise fans to look forward to. For its implications on the season alone, it provides a tight and unfamiliar space for the protagonists to navigate in a few senses. On the one hand, Chucky may or may not have a physical advantage that he didn't have in season 1 if this old school is internally similar to the one he knew. 

Meanwhile, Jake and Devon are undoubtedly going to have some difficulties being clandestine boyfriends under the Incarnate Lord's watchful roof. Moving the protagonists out of their homes and into uncomfortable territory is sure to up the stakes. While the shift to Incarnate Lord places clear challenges in the path of our favorite young LGBTQ couple, its effect on Lexy isn't as clear. Last season we met her first as Jake's bully, and later friend, while she had to contend with the highly personal impact of Chucky's plans on her boyfriend and family. This season she's met with problems of a much more personal nature, but it's a little hard to see where her character will go beyond being faced with continual Chucky harassment.

While ambiguously resolving season 1's Chucky plan so early is at face value a curious choice, it does focus the Chucky army (or at least some of them) back into the protagonist's lives and adds mystery to their next moves. These are certainly well used for tension even from the series' first episode. Simultaneously, between it and the second episode's pivot into new territory, the season's pacing is a little roughshod compared to Season 1's steady development. These changes work for the dramatic potential they build to, but the way they've been handled is more abrupt than they could have been. Why not let the fate of the truck of Chucky dolls remain a mystery, so we're as surprised as the protagonists are that malevolent Good Guys keep appearing? A few missed opportunities in the setup, somewhat counterbalanced by the considerable potential of what the new pivots open up.

"Chucky" is already off to the races in season 2, and while its path was sometimes ambiguous and rocky it appears to be building some strong series potential. Brad Dourif's loveable murder-scamp has as much menacing charm as ever, while a whole lot of mystery awaits our protagonists in a mysterious and possibly hostile new location. There is an untold number of Chucky dolls out there that are certain to cause a ruckus, and season 2 is already embracing what made the first so memorable. While a few important factors need a little time to land properly, so far it seems to have the right stuff to stick yet another TV landing.

"Chucky" season 2 premieres Wednesday, October 5th at 9pm, simultaneously on USA and Syfy.