Up to this point in Chucky’s second season, there’s been a sizable feeling that the show has been boiling up to something that would no doubt be extraordinarily weird, but even I couldn’t have predicted the God-tier levels of meta insanity that Death On Denial bequeaths us and the key to it all is Jennifer Tilly.
Ever since Seed Of Chucky, Tilly’s role in the rapidly expanding Chucky-verse has been reduced to mere cameos in both Curse and Cult of Chucky and while she had something of a return to form in Season one, you could argue that her appearance was more for fan service than actually integrating her fully with the multiple story arcs that were jostling for space. However, with Chucky bookending the show in the form of a TV talk-show format (toldja it was meta), we get a superbly wacky episode that not only gives Tiffany the spotlight she so adores, but finally reintroduces Chucky’s twin seeds, Glen and Glenda back into the mix.
Sitting out the episode as more of a host, Chucky introduces us to an episode outside the oppressive walls of the School of the Incarnate Lord and instead focuses fully on the deranged lifestyle of Tiffany Valentine. For those unfamiliar with her fabulously complex back story; tough shit because it’s way too complicated to cover here – but we join her after being visited by her non-binary twins Glen and Glenda who have no idea of they’re batshit past or the fact that their int really Hollywood actress Jennifer Tilly. Relationships have been a little tense between Tiffany and her kids and matters are made all the more awkward when she finds out that they’ve decided to throw a surprise birthday bash for her and gave invited various Hollywood personalities to attend. In the group is Gina Gershon and Joe Pantentolio (her co-stars from the movie Bound), Desperate Housewives actress Sutton Stracke and Jennifer’s estraged sister, Meg Tilly and everyone is immediately offended by Jeeves, the boorish, makeshift butler Tiffany has hired for the evening to guard the limbless Nica who is still being held captive on the premises.
However, when Jeeves mercifully turns up murdered and Nica missing, Tiffany suddenly declares the whole evening a murder mystery game and uses it as a pretext to find out who is working against her, not ever having the slightest inkling that it’s her own spawn who are working against her since accidently discovering Nica and her Chucky alter ego during a previous visit. Determined to unravel their messy parentage and discover the reasons behind the murderous dreams they’ve both been having (latent memories of the events of Seed Of Chucky from the perspective of the Glen/Glenda puppet), they’ve formed some unlikely alliances in order to pull off an audacious rescue.
The fact that Death On Denial seems to be the sole episode directed by Chucky creator Don Mancini should have been a major hint that something incredibly off-beat (even for a show such as casually mental such as this) was imminent, but even I wasn’t prepared for this.
Essentially ditching everything occuring at the Catholic school with our main core of characters – no to mention two duelling Chuckys – the episode instead is a hilariously meta murder mystery episode that not only gives Jennifer Tilly plenty of space to go full Tiffany but also finally fills in the missing gaps from the previously unaddressed Seed Of Chucky. It’s an impressive juggling act that gives us something completely different (Chucky technically isn’t even part of the episode unless you count his fourth wall breaking chat show interludes) while still catering not only to the overall season arc, but to long-term continuity nuts too.
First up is the highly anticipated return of Glen and Glenda, the children of born of a the soul of Chucky and Tiffany’s gender confused progeny and Jennifer Tilly being impregnated by a turkey-baster full of Chucky’s fun goo. The twins are both played by gender fluid Sabrina: The Teenage Witch actress Lachlan Watson and gives both distinctly different personalities while infusing the two with a Wednesday Addams type of attitude and it takes the show even further into the realms of Queer Horror than ever before. However, thankfully the twins are much more than just simple fan service clad in fashions that makes Stephanie Hsu’s spectacular wardrobe in Everything Everywhere All At Once look almost drab and Mancini wastes no time embedding them directly into the main plot, having them interact with Fiona Dourif’s long suffering Nica Pierce (surely the actress must be sick of frilly pink dresses and ball gags by now) and actually cooking up a plot against their histrionic mother neatly keeps the complicated cast list moving in the same direction and the revelation that both Glen and Glenda have “never felt whole” hints at possibly more dramatic call backs to the notorious weird Seed. Plus, it’s really nice to see Nica finally escape captivity.
However, as gratifying as it is having Glen and Glenda return to this world of gender politics and killer dolls, the true star of the episode is undoubtedly Jennifer Tilly and the metric ton of in-jokes the episode gifts her with. Breathing out killer one liners like a fire breathing dragon with an impossibly pillowy cleavage, Tilly explains away Tiffany’s reclusive behavior as entering her Garbo era, laments losing an Oscar to “That bitch, Diane Wiest” and awkwardly reconnects with her Bound co-stars whom it turns out Tilly both had affairs with. It’s a performance that features a devastating lack of ego with Tilly eagerly willing to send herself up mercilessly, especially when locking passive aggressive horns with her estranged, actual sister Meg Tilly as the farcical plot whirls around them all like a breathe of fresh air. It’s tremendous fun and a nice change of pace from the usual cat and mouse stuff the show usually operates with.
Of course, those missing our crowd pleasing, titular doll are well served by his reality baiting, She-Hulk-style addressing of us, the audience. He’s done it before of course (the kill-count at the end of the first season), but it’s good, silly fun that riffs on TV conventions (Chucky’s only allowed 10 F-Bombs an episode apparently) and sweetly includes actual podcast footage of wrestler Liv Morgan enthusiastically expressing her desire to die in a Chucky movie before the dickish doll violently gives her her wish at the business end of a kitchen knife.
Stuffed with memorable lines (“I thought you were one of those methadone actors!”), suprises (Kyle’s alive!) and a plot that completely veers away from the main storyline while still moving the universe forward, Death On Denial may be the best episode Chucky has delivered. Period.