Recap: CHANNEL ZERO Delivers a Hook to the Head of a Finale

 

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Channel Zero
Season One, Episode Six “Welcome Home”
Written by Nick Antosca & Harley Peyton & Don Mancini
Directed by Craig William MacNeill

[Photos courtesy Alan Fraser/Syfy, Artwork courtesy Channel Zero Facebook page]

 

The two storylines in “Welcome Home” revolve around fathers rescuing endangered, lost children.  Gary Yolen (Shawn Benson) and Mike Painter (Paul Scheider) are both successful in their quests, albeit with radically different outcomes for themselves.

 

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Gary, Dane, and Katie Yolen

Former Sheriff Gary Yolen searches the woods with Sheriff Amy Welch (Luisa D’Olivera). Gary shoots down Amy’s trial balloon regarding his reinstatement as Sheriff. “I’m only one thing that matters now, and that’s a dad.” They see Alex Fry (Keenan Lehmann), one of Mrs. Booth’s Lost Children, through the trees. He’s  followed by Mrs. Booth (Marina Stephenson Kerr).

The teacher turns her back on Gary and Amy, ignoring Amy’s drawn gun and warning to stop. Amy pursues Mrs. Booth. Gary sees his children, Dane (Liam Marchant) and Katie (Katia Raquel Leon), approaching him through the forest.

They’re not alone.  The Lost Children of Iron Hill surround Gary. All of them (including his children) are armed with knives.

Ok, kids I've got some bad news ... and some more bad news.
Kids – I’ve got some bad news … and some more bad news.

Gary manages to focus on his children and maintain awareness of the other children. Speaking directly to them, Gary implores Dane and Katie to return to him. “I know someone’s telling you what to do, but right now, I need you to listen to me.” Their mother is “gone” and “whoever it is that’s telling you what to do, they hurt her.” We next see Gary leading Dane and Katie by the hand, away from the other children and (apparently) towards safety.

The Painter family – Mike, Erica, Lily and Marla

The struggle between grown-up Mike and Eddie (Luca Villacis) for Lily’s freedom begins in the netherworld of Mike’s dreams. Adult Mike, lying on the bed of his old room, listens to Eddie read from Treasure Island. Eddie finishes a description of Long John Silver, remarking, “I don’t think he’s wicked. I get why he does what he does.” Mike asks if that understanding includes the “why” of kidnapping a child.

This isn't the family reunion Mike was hoping for.
This isn’t the family reunion Mike was hoping for.

We see that the bed is outside, some distance from the Painter house. Mike faces Eddie. “You grabbed on to some kind of darkness inside you … Let Lily go.” Eddie shakes his head no. Mike asks Eddie what he wants; he sees Eddie’s right arm is now covered with teeth. Eddie shoves his arm down Mike’s throat.  He wakes (we think) to a darkened bedroom lit only by a static-filled TV screen and Lily (Abigail Pniowsky) crying “Daddy? Daddy?”

The scene cuts to Marla’s (Fiona Shaw) reaction to Mike’s story – “That’s insane.” Mike believes Eddie has Lily in “some kind of darkness that he made,” and Eddie will show his brother how to get there. Mike is determined to go; not even Erica Painter’s (Kristen Harris) frantic demand that Mike produce Lily RIGHT NOW slows him down.

Erica follows her estranged husband to the Crow’s Nest. Lily lies unconscious in the meadow.  Mike stops Erica from rushing to their daughter. The Tooth Child (Cassandra Consiglio) approaches from the trees. Mike asks Erica to stay with Lily until she wakes up, then approaches the Child. Mike kneels before the Child.  The camera focuses on Erica’s stunned amazement. Retching and gagging noises offscreen tell us Mike is (again) ingesting the Tooth Child.

Waiting for your family to emerge from coma/dream states is SO boring.
Waiting for your family to emerge from coma/dream states is SO boring.

Mike and Eddie contest for Lily’s freedom in a demented nightmare version of their childhood home. Mike walks from his old room to the hallway.  One unlocked door leads to Mrs. Booth’s classroom. Four bloody-faced children (two boys, two girls) sit at their desks, smiling at their visitor. Mike hurriedly exits to the hallway.

The next visitant – a decrepit, shroud covered Jawbone (Olivier de Sagazan). The pirate’s head shakes maniacally, throwing off his hat; the shroud slams his body against the walls, then hurls himself at Mike and disappears.

Mike lowers his arms. Another form with a head of burning branches stands before him. It looms into Mike’s face, sparking embers and burning twigs before it vanishes like spectral Jawbone.

Mike moves down the hall and finds another unlocked door. It opens into a space sectioned off with drapes of translucent orange something.  Eddie calls to his brother. “What is this?” Mike asks. Eddie replies, “It’s my home.” The Jawbone apparition wanders through the hanging folds. A television shows Mike and Lily’s unconscious bodies lying in the meadow. Eddie reveals that Jawbone’s actual name is the Skin Taker; they are surrounded by the flesh he’s taken.

Candle Cove Welcome (Home) Mats. When you don't want any visitors.
Candle Cove Welcome (Home) Mats. When you don’t want any visitors.

Introductions over, Eddie informs Mike that Jawbone/Skintaker isn’t really a friend. “He’s part of me. He’ll keep you company, too, when I go home.” Mike cuts the crap, demanding Eddie show him where Lily is. Jawbone obligingly reaches up and bloodily tears his own head apart as the Tooth Child howls.

Mike is back in the hallway. Lily cries for her father. Eddie looks on impassively as Mike comforts his child and begs Eddie “Let us go.” Eddie is fine with releasing Lily, but it’s Mike’s turn to live with the Skin Taker. “You killed me. You owe me.”

Mike whispers someting in Lily’s ear. Infuriated, Eddie whisks them back to the Skin Room, demanding Lily tell him what Mike said. Mike agrees to stay if Lily can go. Heartbroken, Mike silently cries while Lily goes through the television. He watches Erica take their daughter home.

Uh, Erica, NOW would be good time to skedaddle.
Uh, Erica, NOW would be good time to skedaddle.

Before Eddie can walk through the screen to occupy Mike’s sleeping form, Mike asks Eddie to finish their endless card game before leaving.

There’s no trick. Finish the game with your brother.” As the brothers play a final game of cards, Mike continually watches the television screen.  Eddie is too preoccupied with the new life awaiting him to notice this. “Without a real body, I have to hide like a monster. Out there, I’ll be you, the guy everyone trusts.”

At the Painter home, Marla hugs Lily tightly. The girl whispers in Marla’s ear. Whatever she says is enough to send Marla out the door before Erica can finish calling 911.

Only one thing blocks Marla’s journey to the Crow’s Nest – Mrs. Booth. Sharpened hay hook gleaming, Mrs. Booth can’t resist monologuing. She’s the one Eddie needed; she took care of the boy while Marla grieved. “I’m his mother now.” Rather sadly, Marla notes, “You gave your son away. You aren’t anyone’s mother.”

Mrs. Booth repeatedly and viciously stabs Marla with the hook. Before she can deliver the coup de grace, Sheriff Welch shoots Mrs. Booth in her throat. Marla grabs the hook and lodges in in Mrs. Booth’s head before continuing to Mike.

Hey Mrs. Booth - where you going with that hook in your hand?
Hey Mrs. Booth – where you going with that hook in your hand?

Mike has lost to Eddie; their card game has finally ended. Eddie bids farewell with a slight smirk. “Goodbye, Mike … I have someone to be.”

A “several moths later” coda brings everything up to date. All of the 1988 murders and the deaths of Jessica Yolen and Deputy Simon Grove are pinned on Mrs. Booth. Any rumors of children being involved are quashed. Gary Yolen takes Dane and Katie away to start a new life.

Erica and Lily have remained in Iron Hill helping Marla recuperate. Erica can’t convince Marla to come with them to New York State; she’s going to stay here, “near her boys.”  Marla mentions a blue bird that’s started coming around to the feeder and takes Erica out to see it.

Lily stays inside coloring. The television briefly blinks on to the static calliope music of Candle Cove‘s opening scene. Mike reaches down and turns off the television. Lily smiles at him, then goes out to join her mother and grandmother.

Marla gazes at her family and remembers.  Mrs. Booth’s attack couldn’t stop her from fulfilling the request Mike made through Lily’s whisper.

Marla kneels over Mike’s unconscious body. Crying, she covers his mouth and nose and suffocates her son. Inside the Skin Room, Eddie cannot pass through the television screen. He smashes it in frustration. Mike is a child now as well. “We’re supposed to be together. I’ll stay, but so will you.”

Marla sees the bluebird and smiles.

 

Episode Notes

~ A super shout-out to the sound design work in “Welcome Home.” The sounds of the story – from snapping branches when Gary pleads with his children to Mike’s unseen gagging and retching while ingesting the Tooth Child – helped Candle Cove do what the best horror manages; making the viewer imagine something far worse intheir minds than anything seen on the screen.

~ The hanging sheets of human skin in Eddie’s “home” were seen before. In Episode Two “I’ll Hold Your Hand,” we see a very similar curtain in the hospital as Mike walks down the hall of the children’s ward.

~ “Welcome Home” Co-writer (and series Supervising Producer) Don Mancini is best known as the creator of the (in)famous killer doll Chucky. Mancini also worked with Channel Zero creator Nick Antosca on the NBC series Hannibal.

~ Channel Zero is (with two months left in 2016) the best thing I’ve seen in the horror genre this year (along with The Witch). Both are atmospheric haunted tales that use sound, characters, story, and the scariness of what you don’t see to produce a reaction instead of cheap tricks and jump scares.

~ The second season of Channel Zero, based on the Brian Russell’s Creepypasta story No End House, returns to Syfy in 2017. Check out the teaser trailer here.

~I’d like to believe the bluebird Marla sees at the end of “Welcome Home” represents Mike, who presented the hospitalized brother-stabber Katie with a toy bluebird back in “I’ll Hold Your Hand.”

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