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After more than three decades of terrorizing the masses on the big screen, Chucky (aka notorious serial killer Charles Lee Ray) is now here to haunt your homes. The premiere of SYFY & USA Network's Chucky series, from Child's Play universe creator Don Mancini, unleashes the titular slasher upon an unsuspecting small town where, just one episode in, he's already having the time of his life.
**This recap contains spoilers for Chucky Season 1, Episode 1, "Death by Misadventure."**
"Death by Misadventure" opens by introducing us to a running theme throughout the series: Flashbacks to Charles Lee Ray's childhood, in which we'll learn more about his origin story than ever before. Are serial killers born or made? Up for debate for the time being.
What's not up to debate is just how dark things are for Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur), a teen who happens upon Chucky at a local yard sale the day before Halloween. The woman who sells him a "retro" (not "vintage") Good Guy doll for $10 isn't totally sure how the doll appeared amongst her things, but money is money, and now Jake has a doll and she's down a mysteriously disappearing butcher knife...
Jake heads home and, along the way, we hear the podcast he's listening to, a true-crime show called The Mystery Podcast by classmate Devon Evans (Bjorgvin Arnarson), who details their town's spiking murder rates. Additionally, it just so happens that this town, Hackensack, New Jersey, is the birthplace of none other than Charles Lee Ray.
Once home, we see what Jake had in mind for Chucky: His head is destined for a sculpture Jake is putting together made up entirely of severed doll parts. Jake's cat Binx already is picking up on Chucky's true nature. Chucky nearly gets his head ripped off in the name of art before he hits us with that iconic line: "Hi! I'm Chucky! Wanna play?"
This is, of course, when Jake's father, Luke (Devon Sawa), comes home and immediately begins berating his son for bringing home yet another doll. The tension is palpable — their relationship is fractured, and Luke is patently against his son becoming an artist like his deceased wife and Jake's mother was. Art doesn't pay the bills or put food on the table, he says before delivering the disappointing news that he won't be sending Jake to an art camp he wanted to attend over break. The blows continue with the news that family's coming over for dinner, and Jake thinks to down his medication, visibly upset over the prospect of spending a night with his cousin, aunt, and uncle.
It's made clear why soon enough. Luke's twin brother Logan (also Devon Sawa), sister-in-law Bree (Lexa Doig), and nephew Junior (Teo Briones) ooze perfect suburban family vibes with a side of judgment. As Luke downs whiskey like water and details his business struggles, Junior keeps dropping snide comments about Jake's sexuality, and when Logan and Bree jump in to (kind of) defend Jake, Luke snaps. He throws his glass to the floor and tells his family Jake couldn't possibly know he's gay at such a young age.
Looking to get away from the tension, Bree excuses herself to the bathroom but instead locks herself in Jake's room and makes a mysterious phone call… with a certain stab-happy doll observing from the closet. She leaves soon after with her family and just as Jake is calling out for a missing Binx, he finds his dad destroying his art by smashing it to bits with a baseball bat. When Jake begs him to stop, Luke shoves him into the wall and tells him "no more dolls."
Poor Jake is left crying, surrounded by the detritus of his work and nothing around but Chucky and a bloody chunk of Binx's fur on the floor.
The next morning after a little research, Jake learns a vintage (sorry, retro) Good Guy doll is worth up to $1,500. To stop his dad from destroying this doll, though, Jake makes the choice to bring him to school, which goes about as well as you can imagine. The kids on the bus mock him, and the only person with who Jake seems to have a connection — podcaster Devon — is besties with Junior.
Junior isn't the only bully in Jake's life, either. In fact, Junior's girlfriend Lexy Cross (Alyvia Alyn Lind) is worse. Upon learning Jake plans to sell Chucky, she faux-sympathetically offers him money, then goes as far as to set up a GoFundMe page on Jake and Chucky's behalf to help them "fight poverty." It's an advanced level of bullying on Lexy's part, and even after she's seen what Chucky can do with a scalpel and a living animal moments before, she refuses to drop the sickly sweet attitude, even when confronted by the teacher. It's not until Chucky steps in when the teacher goes to get the principal that Lexy gets a taste of her own medicine; Chucky stands menacingly in front of the door, and she's only spared by the teacher returning and locking Chucky up in the cabinet for safekeeping as Jake asked.
All the while, Jake finally gets a chance to speak with Devon, who's empathetic about how Lexy treats Jake despite not being able to see Junior's faults, too. He knows Jake listens to his podcast, and he wants Jake to guest star on an episode to talk about bullying, which Devon sees as yet another form of crime. Embarrassed, Jake says he doesn't want to be "the poster boy for losers," and leaves.
That night, while fielding offers for Chucky on eBay, a particularly interested party asks if they can call Jake to get more information. Upon Jake answering the phone, the man on the other line begins grilling him about the details: What condition is he in? Is he with you now? Is his name Chucky? He then warns Jake to be careful — there's something very wrong with the doll, and if Jake needs proof, he should check if Chucky has any batteries. This prompts Jake to look up Chucky online, and he stumbles upon theories about Charles Lee Ray and articles featuring a boy (Alex Vincent's Andy Barclay from the original film) who claimed the doll was responsible for murder.
Appropriately freaked out and even more so by Chucky's sudden, seemingly unexplainable appearance in his home the next morning, Jake checks on Chucky's batteries after another run-in with his dad and finds… no batteries. Done with this bullshit, Jake dumps Chucky in the trashcan outside.
At the school's talent show, things go from weird to straight-up freaky when Chucky yet again appears out of nowhere, this time sitting behind Jake in the auditorium. And for the first time in the series, we finally hear Brad Dourif's iconic Chucky voice. Chucky has Jake bring him to the stage and, in a faux ventriloquist act, Chucky lashes out at Lexy for continuing to bully Jake, and even drops a hint that he knows Bree is hiding something. Per usual, Chucky goes too far and eventually gets kicked offstage, but not before Lexy is thoroughly humiliated and the assembled crowd (including her parents) is laughing.
From straight-up freaky to "holy horror movie," upon Jake's return home, he finds his dad already drunk and ready to punish Jake for his talent show mishap. Things come to a head in their argument when Jake accuses his dad of not caring if people think Jake's weird, but if he's gay (or, rather, a slur for gay that delivers like a punch to the gut). Luke hits Jake in the face and slams him against the door, threatening to kill him if he ever uses that word again to describe himself.
With that, Chucky's had it. Jake's left sobbing and terrified in his room, and when Luke makes his way to the basement to fix the power after it goes out, he finds Chucky waiting for him. Spewing up the half-bottle of whiskey he's downed, Chucky uses the liquor as a conductor to fry Luke just as Jake walks down the stairs in time to see his dad lit up like the Fourth of July and dying right in front of him.
When the police arrive to collect Luke's body and question Jake as to what happened (Devon's mom, a detective, has a weird feeling about all this), Uncle Logan shows up to take Jake home with him. Jake will be staying with his aunt, uncle, and cousin until further notice.
And this is when we finally get the moment we've all been waiting for: Jake actually gets to speak with Chucky, who isn't afraid to get rough and rein Jake into feeling guilty for his abusive father's death (and admit that, yes, he did kill Binx). Pulling out the disappearing butcher knife, Chucky tells Jake they need to have a little chat about Lexy. Might she be next on Chucky's hitlist?
Watch new episodes of Chucky when they premiere on SYFY & USA Network on Fridays at 10/9c.