[All images courtesy Alan Fraser/Syfy, including the featured image of dear, adorkable, departed JT]
Season One, Episode Two “Nice Neighborhood”
Written by Harley Peyton & Mallory Westfall
Directed by Steven Piet
“Nice Neighborhood” sees the quartet introduced last week – Margot, Jules, JT, and Seth – attempting to navigate the empty suburbia of No-End House’s Room Six. Some have brunch, some break into houses and one unlucky traveler comes to a unexpected end…
Jules (Aisha Dee) stares at the camera; she’s submerged in a bathtub, bubbles flowing back to her lips as indecipherable whispers fill the soundtrack. Suddenly Jules heaves to the surface. Her Room Five includes a giant glowing egg-orb along with the tub. Then she’s outside NEH with Margot (Amy Forsyth). If my eyes don’t deceive me, there are six gables on NEH from the front, and five when Margot and Jules are in the backyard.
In her version of the walk home, Jules lies about her experience, describing her Room Five as an empty dark void. No mention of how the giant orb, or how it lit up and made a sparking noise when Jules touched it.
Jules is woken up by her sister in time for an uncomfortable breakfast with said sister and their mother. Is she going to see Margot? Sure, right after a crying jag in her car!
Life With Not!Father
Jules displays the same shocked reaction as Margot to seeing Not!Father (John Carroll Lynch), who cheerfully invites her to share a delicious breakfast of omelets. Margot helped with breakfast, getting the eggs from the fridge. A new container is in the space she took the carton from before, but that’s the least surprising thing she’s experienced this morning.
Jules, being more genre savvy than her estranged best friend, declines the offer and silently tries to warn Margot against eating anything. Not!Father complains that the eggs “taste like nothing,” but good daughter Margot takes a bite and declares they taste fine. Pretending “this is fine” gets to be too much for Margot. She flees to her room. The room may appear normal, but the same pair of cyclists keeps passing by her window.
Not!Father takes the time for some psychological manipulation of Jules. His genial smile turns sinister. He knows he’s not supposed to be here, but he’s what Margot needs right now, while Jules is just a terrible person who couldn’t wait to abandon her “best friend” after her father died.
This sets up perfectly the argument Jules and Margot have avoided since the death of John Sleator. Jules gets Margot to acknowledge that some things about this place are not right. All the marigolds in her yard are now white orchids; whoever that man in the house is, he isn’t Margot’s dad. They are still in NEH, and need to find the exit door for Room Six.
Margot acknowledges this truth, but wants to stay and ask her father if (as she believes) he deliberately took an overdose of pills he knew would cause the fatal allergic reaction we heard about last episode
The sound of their argument drifts inside (including Jules’s priceless “friends don’t’ let stay with dead people”) as Not!Father takes action. He apparently breaks up the argument by loudly BLASTING “Remember (Walking In The Sand)” by The Shangri-Las.
Their differences unresolved, the friend separate. Jules to wander back to NEH, Margot to enjoy some quality time swimming with Not!Father.
Well, Margot goes swimming. Not!Father lurks around the pool. Except for the fact that below the surface the water is a non-chlorinated murky bottomless sinkhole, everything is fine. Oh, and Not!Father discovers he can psychically suction memories from Margo … but more about that later
The Three (Non) Amigos In Limbo-land
What happened to Handsome Moody Guy Seth (Jeff Ward), Dweeby Insecure Guy JT (Seamus Patterson), and Determined Backpack guy Dylan (Sebastian Pigott) during the Jules/Margot Friendship Isn’t Magic Drama?
Seth, being a (we think) standup (if moody looking) guy, sits on the front steps of NEH. JT stumbles his way from the back – and clearly cannot wait to get out there. Due to the little matter of HIS Room 5 featuring the Wooden Mask Man taking off said mask to reveal … an uncanny valley-esque mask of JT’s own face. JT leaves to find a cell signal and let Seth be the hero who waits for Jules and Margot.
Backpack Guy, aka Dylan (Sebastian Pigott), is on the move. He has no luck trying to hot-wire every parked car on the street. Why? As Dylan lifts the hood of a truck with VERY odd Minnesota plates, we see not only is there no engine block in the car, THIS IS NOT REAL written in scarred letters on Dylan’s arm a la Terrified Woman from last week.
But what does he see walking towards him but Terrified Woman herself (Jess Salgueiro)! After a touching remembrance of the night they met, Dylan sadly notes that the shirt she’s wearing is actually still in their closet at home, then shoots her point blank in the head.
Dylan’s pace quickens at the corner of Ash Avenue and Oakley Street. He races into a house, shouting “Lacey!” The woman he just killed appears at the top of the stairs, has no idea who he is, and warns that her husband will be home soon. “I am your husband.” he replies wistfully.
Seth joins in the “wander around” trend through the empty suburban streets. He also encounters some people. A beautiful, negligee clad woman waving from a living room window. Seth is apparently startled enough to back away only to have a hand clutch his shoulder. A man, woman, daughter and son stand caged within the grassy center of the cul-de-sac. We can’t see Seth’s expression, but he hurriedly walks away.
Finally back at the NEH (or where NEH was), Seth finds the house gone, but Jules is there. They both agree this is all impossible. Jules thinks the house wants them to stay. They do decide to stay the night in a For Sale House that’s very easy to break into. They agree to sleep in shifts even as Seth notes, “What do you dream about when you’re trapped in a dream?”
Jules can’t sleep (surprise!), again hears the indistinct whispers, and follows them to an upstairs room. She seems unsurprised to meet her old giant egg orb friend. The orb again glows she touches it, and this time we see something moving within it.
What about JT?
Poor, poor, JT.
His experience in Room 5 comes home to roost when he finally gets arrive “home.” His Room Five doppelganger has set up house with a beautiful, unspeaking woman who’s content to drape herself over JT2. Being a good host, JT2 welcomes JT in, offers him whiskey, and proceeds to rub JT’s face in not only the weirdness of the situation, but also brags that he is the “alpha” version of JT. The person JT wants to be but doesn’t dare. He has all of JT’s memories but not the “sense memory,” or equalia, attached to them. JT2 knows what Pistachio ice cream is, but not what it tastes like, just as Not!Father thought the omelet tasted like “nothing.”
After a pleasantly unsettling evening of watching his double make out with Silent Woman, JT2 decides he “really wants to know what ice cream tastes like.” And of course the best way to accomplish this goal? Bash JT’s brains in with the whiskey bottle under Silent Woman’s unblinking gaze.
Farewell, JT we hardly knew ye.
Not!Father decides to put his new skill as a psychic vampire to good use. Creepily creeping into Margot’s bedroom, Not!Father copies a Vulcan Mind Meld pose over his sleeping “daughter.”
Simultaneously , a large pool of blackish green viscous liquid forms on the basement/laundry room floor. A sleeping woman, naked and tucked in the fetal position, rises from it. Not!Father enters the basement.
Not!Father cautiously examines the woman, who (Surprise!) looks exactly like Margot’s mother. He carefully raises the woman’s right arm – and snaps it off. No blood, sinews, muscles inside, just a mass of pulpy red seeds (pomegranates?).
Not!Father greedily devours – whatever it is from the arm, then casts it aside.
He deliberately lifts the head, twists it off and continues to feed.
Fade to black
Notes from Nowheretown
*Jules warning Margot not to eat of the flavorless omelette has echoes in the story of the goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone from Greek mythology.
*The consequences of Persephone eating six pomegranate seeds while trapped in the underworld? Spending six month of the year there. She’s not the only one who paid a price for consuming food while in the Land of the Dead. The heroine of Guillermo Del Toro’s 2006 movie Pan’s Labyrinth was also warned not to eat anything when travelling to the lair of the eyeless man.
*Pomegranates. If I’m right about the Pod Not!Mother filling Not!Father is devouring at the episode’s end, that’s what I think the filling looked like. Besides Greek legend, the fruit has symbolism in the Hebrew and Christian faith traditions.
*Not!Father may be creepy, untrustworthy, and up to no good, but he does have good taste in music. He blasts The Shangri-La’s 1964 hit “Remember (Walking In The Sand),” written by George “Shadow” Morton.
*Since Jules makes a point of noting that the marigolds in Marogt’s yard have been replaced with “white orchids” – according to flowermeaning.com, “white orchids represent reverence and humility, innocence and purity, and elegance and beauty.”
*the Neil Gaiman 2009 adaptation of Coraline features the Other Mother and Father – those have positions reversed – the Father is powerless and the Mother is malevolent. This essay by Phillip Pullman review of the novel brings out the these themes succinctly.
*Confused by the art history/philosophy references tossed around by JT & JT2 while discussing pistachio ice cream? Here’s some information regarding “Sense Experience” and “Qualia.”
Channel Zero: No End House airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on Syfy.