If you, like me, consumed “Stranger Things 2” in a breathless nine-hour binge and are still hungry for televised horror seeped in 1980s nostalgia, consider CBS’ new series “Young Sheldon.”
Given the nature of “The Big Bang Theory,” it makes sense that the network went with horror for its spinoff as well. The show’s unparalleled medley of misogynistic undertones, disproportionate amount of detestable characters and relentlessly unfunny humor hold strong in “Young Sheldon.”
The show follows an innocent Texan family being terrorized by their nine-year-old genius son, a horror trope arguably too heavily relied on in recent years (“Orphan,” “Insidious,” “Sinister,” etc.) But this show freshens it up, expanding the titular character’s reign of terror to their whole town and wasting no time scaring the shit out of you in its pilot.
Young Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage) is introduced via deeply unsettling narration about trains and physics, by his older self (Jim Parsons). Right away, it’s clear that he’s the villain and likely the problem child who will make life hell for his family later, because he’s an outsider and wears his shirt buttoned up all the way. It’s unclear whether he’s a demonic spirit himself or if he’ll be unleashing one on his household later on, but I’m confident the show will delve into that over the course of the first season.
Three minutes in, I had to pause the episode and return to the BuzzFeed article I’d been reading (“19 Fucked Up Murder Cases From Around the World That’ll Freak You Out”) to calm down. When I returned to “Young Sheldon,” I was horrified to realize that the dinner table scene wasn’t even over yet, and Sheldon was still unleashing a barrage of insults and general condescension on his well-meaning family members of average intellect.
Somehow there’s never a lull in the show’s increasingly distressing plot. We barely have time to recover from the dinner table scene when we’re slapped with an even more harrowing interaction between Sheldon and his mother, in church, when he inquires about his testicles dropping.
The show’s costume department also deserves praise for transforming Sheldon from an innocent gap-toothed kid into a raging sociopath. In the pilot’s pivotal scene (spoiler alert), the pint-sized terror not only takes a front-row seat in class but raises his hand immediately to express disgust for his classmates’ fashion choices and female professor’s alleged mustache. Given Sheldon’s own fashion choices — his shirt a garish yellow-and-blue plaid, his bowtie an unsightly maroon — this makes one fear for the psychological consequences his actions have wrought on everyone else in Medford, Texas.
There are numerous attempts launched at defeating young Sheldon, but all of them — from his twin sister’s snarky remarks to an administrative meeting at his school pondering his expulsion — are futile.
The only thing that comes close to vanquishing this indomitable evil is a child shoving his pet chicken in Sheldon’s general direction. It’s unclear why no one else takes note of this, as it seems like a fairly easy way to rid themselves of the massive cloud of unjustified superiority and condescension wreaking havoc on the Cooper family and the rest of their town. Perhaps Mrs. Cooper (Zoe Perry), who’s sympathetic toward her son despite the fact that his snide comments and bowtie obsession are tearing their family apart, is protecting him.
“Stranger Things 2” may seem more frightening, given that its adolescent cast has real monsters (and the U.S. government) to contend with, but there’s nothing scarier than a nine-year-old already displaying signs of raging misogyny and an untouchable superiority complex.
5/5 stars for overall spookiness, 1/5 for overall quality