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'Chucky' 1.03 Review: I Like to be Hugged

We learn how Chucky became a killer, while Jake confronts Lexy after her cruel Halloween costume prank.

Chuck in 'Chucky.'
(Image: © SYFY)

Our Verdict

"I Like To Be Hugged" throws a wrench in pacing as the narrative tries to bounce between Charles Lee Ray's origin as a killer and Jake's current hesitations about becoming a murder.

For

  • 🔪 Chucky gets stabby
  • 🔪 Production design is slick
  • 🔪 The mentorship complicates

Against

  • 🔪 Flackbacks are flat
  • 🔪 Pacing slows down
  • 🔪 Feels drawn out

This post contains spoilers for Chucky. Check out our last review here. 

The third episode of Don Mancini’s Chucky series is a see-saw of violent highs and undercut lows. “I Like to be Hugged” finally unleashes Chucky (Brad Dourif) into his signature serial killer craze, but also raises concern over the usage of 1960s Hackensack flashbacks that mean to divulge Charles Lee Ray’s bloodlust origin. The narrative’s intention to parallel Chucky’s mentorship of Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur) with young Charles Lee Ray’s push towards a life of massacres is starting to show as a weakness — not much is added in the back and forth time leaps. This third episode stretches minimal arc development like silly putty until translucent and thin, suggesting that tighter focus on Jake’s modern-day training would be the more fulfilling decision.

“I Like to be Hugged” handles the inevitable boiling point between Jake and Perry Middle School’s bully extraordinaire Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind), which begins with Chucky’s lessons on making a murderer. Dourif launches into monologues that parallel awkward first-time sexual experiences alongside slaying your first victim, which is a clever thematic gag considering how Jake is also becoming more flirtatiously bashful around a more interested Devon (Bjorgvin Arnarson). Chucky’s narration about how special a killer’s first time is and the intimacy of getting to know your target overlays Jake’s incompetence when stalking Lexy, as he plans to make her pay for her abhorrent Halloween costume prank from the previous episode. There’s nothing new introduced about Lexy’s cruelty — although Junior’s (Teo Briones) insistence that his girlfriend Lexy apologize to Jake is a surprise.

Elsewhere, supporting characters begin to sniff around Jake’s innocence. Detective Evans (Rachelle Casseus) — Devon’s mother — eavesdrops as Devon listens to a recorded conversation with Jake and fails to successfully interrogate Jake’s science teacher Miss Fairchild (Annie Briggs), who won’t engage. That’s because Miss Fairchild has her own designs of exposing Lexy’s tasteless torments to both Jake's and Lexy’s guardians, in hopes the mature adults can communicate with their feuding children. These are all just scattershot moments that only exist to promise more obstacles for Chucky’s later removal, since I’m sure Detective Evans will snoop around too close to the Wheeler estate and uncover Chucky’s guilt after it’s too late.

In a pivotal moment, Lexy approaches Jake with an apology that turns out to be a self-serving attempt to trade Jake her kind words for his Chucky doll that Caroline (Carina Battrick) desperately desires. There’s a glimmer of humanity in Lexy’s admission that she responds to embarrassment by hurting others, which quickly fades when Jake — still in the Wheelers’ garage testing out gardening tools as possible murder weapons — refuses to hand over Chucky. Not only that, but he experiences performance anxiety, as per Chucky’s definition, and cannot drive a steel blade through Lexy when he has her alone. No bother, Chucky takes the wheel and generously says he’ll fix Jake’s Lexy problem by hiding behind Caroline’s innocence.

Once “I Like to be Hugged” transitions into the Cross’ mansion where Lexy throws a silent rave as classmates wear noise-canceling headphones and they all dance to the same playlist, Chucky returns to slasher solidness. It’s the little jokes like Dourif’s dialogue as he mutters, “snug as a fuckin’ bug” after Chucky’s tucked in beside Caroline and has to slice his way out of the tightly pressed blankets. Then Chucky’s released to roam freely as puppeteers and actors stalk characters without anyone’s awareness while music blares, whether that’s a teenage boy who gets stabbed over and over or attempted strangulation on Lexy as Chucky’s booties kick like he’s swimming and Alyvia Alyn Lind has to pretend the Good Guy on her back is alive. These are the moments that shine as an enraged Chucky sees firetruck red and victims squeal in horror while Dourif’s cackle drowns out the screams of his iconic slasher’s helpless prey.

The realizations “I Like to be Hugged” aims to juxtapose are Jake’s inabilities that prove he’s no mutilator against Charles Lee Ray’s quickness to slaughter in cold blood. Jake is shown sadly sobbing over his mother and father’s grave when emergency vehicle sirens suggest Chucky has slain Lexy — baby-faced Charles Lee Ray is shown covered in gore before he should even be handling sharp objects. The problem is, there’s vastly more intrigue in Jake and Chucky’s relationship than Charles and the madman who stabbed the boy’s father to death. Charles Lee Ray has been a psychopath since Child's Play, and that’s all we’re being shown in backstory material as well. Maybe an entire episode dedicated to adolescent Charles Lee Ray could explore the New Jersey devil’s maturation into maliciousness. Still, it feels like a slight addition by showing viewers an origin that’s precisely as callous as we’d expect.

In the end, “I Like to be Hugged” doesn’t even finish any deed as the episode leaves massive questions unanswered. That’s possibly painting my overall lackluster reaction. It’s a continuation that feels padded by flashbacks that are anything but groundbreaking, almost to the point where young Charles Lee Ray’s inclusion feels like a distraction. There have been some spectacular introductions into the Child’s Play universe thus far, from queer storytelling that confronts abuse to Chucky’s cheekiness as a role model, yet that’s all dampened by the returns to a simpler Hackensack where iconic killers were born. 

Jake will no doubt become Chucky’s adversary next week when his heart shows itself as pure, and that’s the powder keg I’m looking forward to — past the ho-hum nature of too many introductions to later chaos in last night’s expository dump.

Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for such outlets as What To Watch, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria, Shudder, Ebert Voices, and countless other publications. He is a member of the Hollywood Critics Association and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.