The Thing That 'Cobra Kai' Has Done Better Than 'Chucky'
One Can Take Notes From The Other
The Chucky TV series has been a really good continuation from Don Mancini's seven films. While Chucky is still the same old Chucky, with all the evil and silliness that entails, the series has introduced viewers to a cast of teens and parents going through their own problems as they encounter the killer doll. It has been very compelling to see the drama play out. However, there is an aspect that I find the first season to be lacking in compared to another show that has taken a somewhat similar approach.
While it is not of the slasher genre, readers might be aware of Cobra Kai, given its popularity and positive reception. The Netflix series is set within the world of the Karate Kid film series that followed Daniel Larusso in the 1980s. Taking place around 35 years after the original trilogy, it brings back familiar characters like Daniel Larusso and his old rival Johnny Lawrence, providing an update on where they are now. While Daniel's life looks pretty good, what with a stable job as a car salesman, a peaceful marriage, and two nice kids, Johnny's life is...more complicated. He lives alone and has an estranged relationship with his own son. Feeling like a failure and seeing that another boy named Miguel needs help defending himself from bullies, he decides to start teaching karate, using Cobra Kai techniques that go against what the late Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel Larusso. Daniel ends up having to teach karate as well, leading to the sparking of rivalries between teens.
Without recapping any further, let's just say that Cobra Kai does a great job of showcasing the new generation of characters, as does Chucky. Both of these shows tell us who the younger characters are, what their struggles are, and how their parents are reacting to their struggles. But where Chucky season 1 has dropped the ball is in how it has dealt with the older familiar characters.
In Cobra Kai, familiar characters like Daniel Larusso, Johnny Lawrence, and a few others who pop up later on in the series get a great amount of screentime that feels well balanced with the screentime of the younger characters. It never really feels like one generation is overshadowing the other. Someone like Daniel could have very well just been in the role of a mentor with mere cameos here and there, but Cobra Kai has done such a great job keeping him and others active in the plot of the show without it feeling like the spotlight is being completely stolen.
Now, let's talk about Chucky. Of course, we have the familiar killer doll himself, as well as his partner Tiffany Valentine playing the role of accomplice. These two I have almost no problem with how they've been handled. What I do take issue with is how the familiar hero characters have been handled. Prior to the series, the later films saw the return of original protagonist Andy Barclay, and later his foster sister Kyle, trying to go up against Chucky at a time when he is now dealing with newer protagonist Nica Pearce. Cult of Chucky has such an intriguing setup for where these characters could go. But the result in the Chucky TV series feels lackluster and, frankly, out of place.
There are moments when Andy gets involved with the series of events affecting the teens in Hackensack where it feels like he's kind of just there. In the premiere, he inquires about Jake's Chucky doll over the phone, telling him to check the batteries. Something interrupts the phone call, and then Andy never calls back for whatever reason. (I wrote about the weirdness of this plot point here.) Andy does not appear again until the sixth episode, which shows him and Kyle killing a Chucky doll in South Carolina.
Weirdly, Andy and Kyle have not stopped in New Jersey on the way from Rhode Island in the weeks since the premiere and Cult of Chucky. And when they do talk to Jake and company over the phone, they neglect to mention the finer details of Chucky's accomplice Tiffany masquerading as Jennifer Tilly, and how Chucky has split his soul and possessed Nica Pierce. There are details that the teens are not told until the finale simply because them knowing everything would have prevented certain twists from being pulled off. In the finale, when it seems as if both Andy and Kyle may have been blown up, their possible deaths feel like an afterthought. At the end, after the climactic conflict at the theater, Andy just appears in a Deus ex Machina manner to hijack the truck of Chucky dolls and give the teens a thumbs up before driving away.
And of course, there is Nica. Possessed by Chucky, she has almost nothing to do. Whenever she regains control of her body, she is mainly just screaming and panicking. Believable reactions, sure, but the story does not give her much to do. In the finale, when Chucky asks Tiffany to kill her, Nica does not even try crawling away. During Tiffany's long speech to Chucky that culminates in her beheading the doll, it's like Nica is just lying still to watch. And of course, there's her fate at the very end, which is very disappointing after her role has been diminished. (More detailed here.)
Of course, Chucky is getting another season. It seems like Don Mancini has plans for Andy and Nica. (Possibly even Kyle if she survived?) I just hope that it feels more balanced. I don't want the familiar heroes to overshadow the new ones, but I also don't want them to feel like they are just there. I don't want them to only tell useful information when it's closer to the end of the conflict. I want them to have more active roles, just as the familiar characters in Cobra Kai have active roles without overshadowing the younger cast. Hopefully, all of this is just a season 1 problem for Chucky.