[All images courtesy Alan Fraser/Syfy]
Season Two, Episode Five “The Damage”
Written by Harley Peyton & Lisa Long
Directed by Steven Piet
In “The Damage”, Channel Zero: No-End House moves back into the “real world,” straight into Jump Scare/Home Invasion Theater territory. This isn’t automatically a bad thing when it’s executed with this amount of care and craft.
Jules (Amy Forsyth) & Margot (Aisha Dee) continue their dreamlike drive through dark, suburban, and hopefully “real” streets. Jules giggles with nervous exhaustion. Will this poor young woman ever get a good night’s rest again? Margot seems puzzled by her laughter. Jules apologizes and asks “Did that just happen?” Margot looks in the rear view mirror. “It happened … past tense.”
Jules can’t face going home to a mother and sister whose faces she no longer remembers after “the House took them.” She sees pictures of her family on the wall of Margot’s bedroom but in her mind, they’re only cutouts filled with morphing blue energy. Jump Scare #1 – JT2 (Seamus Patterson) with Dylan’s hunting knife sticking out of his stomach doesn’t help Jules’ frame of mind at all.
Margot talks to her Mom. Not hearing any word from her daughter for three days prompts some truth telling from Corrine Sleator (Kim Huffman). Before his death, John Sleator’s (John Carroll Lynch) landscaping business was going under; John felt he was failing his family. Corrine can’t prove it, but strongly suspects her husband committed suicide for the insurance payout. “You knew?” Margot asks. Her mom replies, “I knew him.”
On his leisurely lurch through the neighborhood, Not!Father (NF) hides behind some backyard foliage, creepily watching two young girls playing. Fortunately their father sees NF and scoots them inside; NF continues his journey home.
Jump Scare #2 turns out to be a fake out. Margot goes to investigate noises outside (of course). She opens the backyard supply shed to reveal – nothing. We see what Margot does not; Not!Father slumped against the shed wall with red rimmed eyes and hands smeared with blood from digging his nails into the flesh of his palms.
Jules and Margot have a few quiet moments for their long delayed heart to heart reconciliation talk, a comforting bookend to their blowup inside No-End House (NEH). Instead of setting Margot free, facing the reality of her father’s passing has only added more weight to her shoulders; weight she doesn’t know if she can carry. Jules apologizes for not being the friend Margot needed; she promises to be there “to help you carry” whatever burdens her friend.
Jules wakes up from an all too brief nap and approaches the (mysteriously) open front door. At first the scene looks reassuringly normal. Compared to the weirdly repetitive activity in the NEH version, Margot’s actual neighborhood is a normal mix of normal noises before JUMP SCARE #3! Surprise Jules! It’s Seth (Jeff Ward), clamping a hand over her mouth while hissing/warning “He’s inside the house!” So THAT’s why the door was open!
In the meantime, NF steals another memory from Margot – an adorable newborn puppy. NF’s slurping pomegranate-like seeds from its teeny tiny skull as Jules and Seth knock him out with a set of hefty decorative candleholders.
NF returns to consciousness with his hands duct taped together. His cloying pleading routine towards Margo begins anew, from “I can’t help myself” from feeding off Margot to “I can control my hunger. You saw it.” NF won’t listen to his daughter – or stop begging – until Margot grabs a pair of scissors and slices two horizontal lines of blood across her forearm. This prompts a physical (or mental) reaction from NF. He agrees to go to the basement; if only to save his meal ticket from killing herself. But NF can’t control his wheedling and threatening. “You can’t keep me down here forever!”
Seth argues there’s only one “sure-fire” way to get NF back to NEH – with Margot. “You go with him, you lead him in.” Jules argues Margot isn’t going back in the house before asking her friend, “What do you want to do?” Margot slowly states the obvious. “We have to get rid of him.”
Seth asks if that means killing Not!Father. It does indeed. Margot digs out a pill bottle from her dresser drawer; her father’s fatal prescription. While she’s up in her room, Seth again tries to sell Jules on the NEH Timeshare Lifestyle. “There is a way to make a life there.” “A short, very absent-minded one.” retorts Jules. Seth made of life in NEH by caging the family the house created for him in the cul-de-sac cage. “I couldn’t kill them. So I locked them up to protect myself.”
Jules finks out on her “friends ‘til the end” pledge to Margot, courtesy of the panic attack inducing NEH viral video on her phone. She flees back to her own home, only to spy on her mother and sister from across the street. Margot is surprised/not surprised to see Jules has again flown the coop.
Just like Seth couldn’t kill his NEH family, Margot can’t bring herself to erase a copy of her father. Luckily for her, Seth is 100% on board with the Kill Fake Dad Plan. He’ll crush up the medicine for her and sprinkle it over Not!Father’s leftover pieces of dead puppy.
The lovebirds execute their plan. NF digs into the remaining puppy remains. After all, Seth notes, NF thinks more clearly after he’s eaten. Margot asks to hear the story of the memory NF is eating while she cradles the puppy’s head in her hands. She wants to know what her memories feel like.
As he eats with tape-free (although still bound) hands, NF relates the Story of the Puppy. Turns out little Moose was an abandoned newborn, found on a camping trip and later given away because Marot was allergic to dogs. Like Margot with Moose, NF’s eyes swell shut and he starts to choke. Margot learns the truth of how her father died – it was horrible, noisy and painful.
But like any good Home Invasion Thriller villain, NF is down but not out. As Margot and Seth set about dragging his body out the door, in comes Mom Sleator! She’s just in time for NF to lurch back to life behind Seth and Margot. Using his sense of smell, NF lurches around like a puffy faced Frankenstein, attacking his wife, knocking Seth across the room, and vomiting gouts of blood.
NF hears Margot attempting escape. He catches her and starts to feed on another memory. Bloody-nosed Seth knocks NF away from Margot, only to feel NF’s thumbs boring into his eyeballs. NF releases his grip only after Margot screams, “I’ll go back! I’ll go with you!”
The episode ends with Margot, NF and Seth slowly walking down the street. At the end of a cul-de-sac they stand in front of NEH.
Jules runs again, back to Margot’s house. The police are interviewing Corinne Sleator. Perhaps drawn by the same GPS that guided Seth, NF & Margot, Jules stands in the same spot they were earlier. Except now, in the pitch black night, she stands alone in front of an empty field.
Notes from Nowheretown
*I was wrong, wrong, so so wrong about Margot and Jules still being in NEH.
I still don’t trust a single dandelion growing in the middle of tidy back yard of No-End House.
*”The Damage” features the third home invasion so far in No-End House, though the first in the “real world,” & one played fairly closed to the Home Invasion template. Episode One of NEH, “This Is Not Real” featured a home invasion themed episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 Straw Dogs may be the most notorious example of the subgenre. An interesting double feature (if you dare) on the theme is Them (France, 2006) and its unofficial American remake The Strangers (2008).
*Seth is now a very interesting character, growing beyond his mysterious Bad Boy introduction. In the Bible, Seth is the third son of Adam and Eve (after Cain and Abel). More applicable to NEH is the role of Set (Seth) in Egyptian mythology. “Set was a friend of the dead, helping them to ascend to heaven on his ladder, and he protected the life giving oases of the desert …” (www.ancientegyptonline.com).
Could Seth play a role similar to Charon, ferrying Margot (Persephone) to and from the underworld (No-End House)? My guess that the food eaten by the pod people looks like pomegranate seeds seems on the mark. Because she’d eaten pomegranate seeds in the underworld after being kidnapped, Persephone had to spend six months of the year there before returning to Earth (the real world).
*If the name of episode co-writer Harley Peyton sounds familiar, you probably remember a little show from the 90’s called Twin Peaks.
*Both seasons of Channel Zero have been almost jump scare free to this point. Jump scares can be a very lazy was to amp up suspense in horror movies. To my mind, “The Damage” used just enough of the jump scare trope as the material warranted.
The final episode of Channel Zero: No-End House airs Wednesday October 25 at 8/9c on Syfy.