SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers for “Dressed to Kill,” the Season 3 midseason finale for Syfy/USA Network’s “Chucky.”
For the first time in his 35-year history, Chucky is learning that even dolls have a shelf life.
In the Season 3, Part 1 finale of Syfy/USA Network’s “Chucky,” the legendary killer doll managed to evade capture yet again –– this time behind the guarded walls of the White House, and under the unwitting protection of the youngest son of the President of the United States (Devon Sawa). But Chucky’s biggest threat isn’t the trio of vengeful teens hot on his tiny heels, nor is it the sinister conspiracy already brewing in the First Residence.
As Chucky discovered earlier this season, the Damballa voodoo magic that allows him to transfer his soul between Good Guy doll bodies was infected by his brush with the Catholic Church and an exorcism in Season 2. As a result, he’s rapidly aging, and by episode’s end looks less like the eternal child of the franchise and more like the beginning of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” –– all wrinkles and gray hair.
Going into the second half of Season 3, which has not yet been filmed due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, franchise creator Don Mancini tells Variety that Chucky is in uncharted supernatural territory.
“There are four episodes to go,” he says. “Yes, Chucky has the upper hand now, but as you see from the very last scene and last shot of Episode 4, he is more vulnerable than he has ever been. Chucky is aging and dying. The stakes are completely different now.”
It’s not just the visible signs of aging that are plaguing the serial killer though. His teenage foes –– Jake (Zackary Arthur), Devon (Björgvin Arnarson) and Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind) –– have officially run out of parental figures for Chucky to kill after he suffocated their teacher with an American flag. Now older and more battle-hardened, they won’t be as easy to outmaneuver for the preoccupied Chucky.
“Their thirst for vengeance is starting to become an adult’s thirst for vengeance,” Mancini says. “As Chucky — horribly — says when he’s killing Miss Fairchild, ‘I couldn’t resist making those kids orphans one last time.’ That incentivizes them to up their games, which you’ll see as the season goes on.”
But Mancini is most interested in seeing Chucky face his mortality, which he sees staring back in the mirror. With the shock of his aging, Chucky will have to reckon with the fact that it isn’t 1988 anymore, when he was the new kid on the block with “Child’s Play.” His advanced decrepitude will be matched only by the looming threat of irrelevance in a desensitized world.
“He really has to contend with legitimate new contenders to the throne like M3GAN and Annabelle,” Mancini says. “He has to deal with that place for himself in the pop culture world and that’s how we really touch the ground with Chucky. We give this off-the-wall character a crisis that has the sting of real pain and real life. But it just makes him angrier and you know what happens when Chucky gets angry.”
Following her massive big-screen debut earlier this year, including an online war of words with Chucky, could the campy, sentient doll M3GAN potentially meet him on the home tuff of his TV series? After all, they are both properties owned by NBCUniversal.
“I would say, stay tuned,” Mancini says, sounding matter of fact.
Regardless of what lies ahead, Chucky the doll and the TV series have turned the big white house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue into one of their bloodiest stops ever. In just four episodes, not only did Chucky kill several White House staffers, but he also murdered two characters played by current “Saturday Night Live” cast members –– Kenan Thompson and Sarah Sherman.
The former is a vocal “Child’s Play” fan who threw the “Chucky” cast a Season 2 premiere party at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square and invited Mancini, a diehard “SNL” fan, to a taping of the sketch comedy series. During the show’s afterparty, Mancini met Sherman, who had played “Chucky” in an “SNL” sketch opposite Jake Gyllenhaal that went viral in 2022.
“I finally just asked them to come on the show and get killed by Chucky, and they both said, ‘Fuck yes!’” Mancini says.
Thompson has a cameo in Episode 3, playing a cab driver who is killed when Chucky shoves an umbrella down his throat. Sherman, meanwhile, plays a guest role as a nanny for the president’s son in the finale, whose face is sliced off when a chandelier gets dropped on her.
“For Sarah, her whole brand of comedy is this very unique body horror comedy,” Mancini says. “We wanted to tailor a character and death to her that did her full honor. Oddly enough, so many of the characters she plays on ‘SNL’ also involve damage to the face.”
But the most macabre celebrity death in the finale comes when Chucky’s spurned former lover Tiffany Valentine (still trapped in the body of Jennifer Tilly) gets sentenced to death row for her crimes and meets Evelyn Elliot, a fellow inmate and celebrity chef played by Oscar nominee Nia Vardalos. Desperate to shed her Jennifer Tilly suit and live as herself again, Tiffany indulges in her own Damballa magic to control the guards of the prison in order to aid in her release. But before she does, she pays back Vardalos’ character for turning on her by using a voodoo doll to torture her in the prison kitchen.
The wildly physical scene was inspired by Bruce Campbell’s performance in “Army of Darkness,” Mancini says. It asks Vardalos to throw herself around the kitchen, stabbing herself, putting her face on a grill and ultimately drowning herself into burning grease. And all that’s after a particularly gruesome bit with a potato peeler.
“She’s stabbing herself and yet the worst of it for me is when she takes the potato peelers and starts peeling the skin off her fingers,” he says. “It’s so horrifying, and yet her reactions to it are so hilarious. The way she plays that division between not being in control of her own body and just letting her body take the lead, I think it was a specific and unique challenge for an actor.”
Convincing the “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” writer and star to take the role wasn’t as hard as Mancini thought. After briefly meeting her at a dinner with “Chucky” actor Zackary Arthur and his family, it was series casting director Bonnie Zane who brought Mancini the idea.
“We pitched it to her, and she loved it,” he says. “She said that no one thinks of her for things like this, and she totally embraced it. She just did a fantastic job. It is one of my favorite things we have ever done, because it is such a weird brand of dark, physical comedy.”
More than three decades after launching Chucky, Mancini says having celebrity fans willing to come play in the bloody sandbox of the series is one of the perks that keeps away any franchise fatigue.
“That’s how we pay homage to people we love, by killing them in glorious and demented ways,” he says with a laugh.