Season Two, Episode Six “The Hollow Girl”
Television Story by Angel Varak-Iglar
Teleplay by Nick Antosca and Angel Varak-Inglar
Directed by Steve Piet
[All images courtesy Alan Fraser/Syfy]
Channel Zero: No-End House comes to a close with “The Hollow Girl,” a beautiful, gripping, and ultimately life-affirming portrait of loss and love in an alternate reality.
“The Hollow Girl” opens “one year later” with eggshells. Lots and lots of eggshells, dropping methodically, in extreme close up. At the Sleator kitchen table Not!Father (NF) (John Carroll Lynch) stares morosely ahead while Margot (Amy Forsyth) deliberately mobs up the last bit of eggs with some toast.
Margot gently prompts NF. “You’re starving.” “I can wait another day.” Margot smiles, “It’s ok, I wrote it down.” We’re watching a routine Margot and NF have become very used to during the past year. Margot writes down another memory, NF takes only enough to keep the worst of the hunger at bay.
Today Margot gives NF a memory of a family afternoon and a perfect apple. An apple appears on the kitchen floor. Margot asks, “What’s that?” NF almost smiles. “A few afternoons.”
The house looks – bare. As if it’s being emptied of objects as Margot gives up memories to keep NF alive. A mournful version of Elliot Smith’s Between the Bars over a montage of NEH life for Margot, NF, and Seth (Jeff Ward). Margot writing memories in a notebook, going to bed with Seth, swimming under the watchful eye of NF. As the song fades into the present, Seth leaves Margot sleeping, walking through the night to stare (and be stared at) by Caged Mother.
Margot wonders where Seth is going on these increasingly frequent excursions. She suspects he’s going to the cul-de-sac cage; “I know they’re suffering. It’s not fair.” Seth has nothing left to feed them and doesn’t care about their feelings. He’s given his dream family everything he doesn’t want to remember.
Seth and Margot look up from their debate and notice their surroundings. The Quebec flags and French signage tell them NEH has landed in Canada.
Back in the real world, Jules (Jules9283) (Aisha Dee) learns the same from a very active NEH chat board (3,485,003 users), complete with polls (Where do you think NEH will show up this year? AUS CAN ESP USA) and discussion threads (“What would you do to get invited?” and “Beware the Cannibals”) Is Jules at home or her own place? We don’t find out. She’s this year’s Dylan – on a mission, complete with backpack. Jules may hope to slip in to NEH. Unluckily for her, Seth spots her in line.
We next see them walking through NEH streets. Seth tries to calm Jules down. She’d hoped her Egg/Orb might’ve starved to death, but according to Seth, “they don’t starve to death, not while their food source is still out there. They just get hungrier and hungrier.” If the orb catches up with her, “it’s going to take everything.”
He continues to expound on his love for the House as they reach his Caged Family. “The House is an organism; it has a will to survive. The more I understand it, the more I admire it.” Jules skeptically wonders if Seth is delivering a “sales pitch … I’m not buying whatever it is you’re selling.” Jules cuts Seth off and demands to see Margot. She’s getting her friend out of the house. Seth pretends to agree, then sucker-punches Jules and drags her into one of the houses surrounding the cage.
A groggy Jules wakes up in the unfinished basement of House Eight. But she’s not alone. Her egg/orb whispers “come closer … come here … touch me.” It sits among scattered sheets of paper, with a massive house drawn in charcoal on the basement walls. Jules wonders if the orb is a “psychic tumor.” A face (resembling Margot’s?) presses through the orb’s membrane. The vague whispers morph into Margot’s pleading phone message to Jules.
Jules walks to the basement door, but turns back on hearing Margot’s voice ask “Jules?” and the orb engulfs her.
Jules screams and struggles inside the egg; it glows, turns black. A knife (very much like Dylan’s), stabs through the orb’s skin. Jules slices her way out of the orb. It dies with great gobs of black blood as Jules screams.
Trailing bloody boot prints, Jules walks towards the front door and hears a question. “Is Seth coming back soon?” Surrounded by charcoal drawing, a young woman (possibly Robyn Delaney, credited as “Hollow Girl #1) sits on the living room floor. Bloody, determined, Jules heads for Margot’s No-End House. Jules seems to recognize what’s happened to this poor woman and what it means for Margot.
Back at Chez Sleator, NF sits on the couch, motionless – like a robot in power down mode. Margot, speaking in a hesitant childlike manner, tells Seth she thinks they should close the door to the house, or set it on fire before it traps more people inside. She even makes it to the front yard before Seth cajoles her back to watch some more hypnotic orchid videos on the big screen.
Winding up rope in the shed, NF agrees with his ersatz daughter that “keeping other people from getting trapped in here sound like a pretty good idea.” Throughout this episode, NF through his words and actions, clearly indicates he’s ready to end the charade that keeps him alive.
Margot has again slipped outside while Seth talks to NF in the backyard. Jules takes advantage of his absence. Even though Margot doesn’t remember anything “out there” even though she’s kept the memory of her best friend. And she trusts Jules enough to go with her.
Jules is able to get Margot to House Eight with Margot. The girl on the floor, still drawing and asking for Seth, is “another you,” another girl sacrified by Seth to feed NEH. Jules leaves Margot with the drawing Hollow Girl, saying, and “I know what I have to do.”
Seth approaches the cage as Margot leaves house Eight. Around the cul-de-sac, six young women leaves their houses in perfect union. Six hollow girls stand sentinel around the caged family and Margot gets finally gets the truth from Seth.
“I haven’t been totally honest.” (That’s putting it mildly). Seth’s loyalty is to the house. “This place place took me in and it saved me.” He grows exasperated at Margot’s inability to appreciate the House’s magnificence. He claims to still love her, but sadly she’s another failure, another person unable to buy in to the No-End House Dream. “I’m not a serial killer, just a serial monogamist.”
Margot’s been doing some thinking during Seth’s monologuing. She opens the (unlocked!) cage door. The dream family (Joel Waldie, Tracey Pniowsky, Cassie Lahtala, and Keenan Lehmann) make a beeline for their meal. Seth backs up, right into the knife Jules stabs into his gut and the grip of Not!Father forcing him to face the mother, father, and siblings. Dream mother gently shushes Seth as they place their hands on Seth’s head to feed.
NotFather, Margot, and Jules walk away and from a God’s Eye view shot we see an enormous lake of goo spreading around the cul-de-sac and the many, many pod people rising from it.
The final scene returns to Sleator’s backyard pool. NF sits poolside, his feet in the water. Margot sits beside him. In contrast to the sad, tortured, torn character we’ve seen throughout this episode, NF seems at peace. When Jules left Margot at the cul-de-sac, she confronted NF. He knows she wants to get Margot out of NEH, and getting NF out of the way would help that. Surprisingly, he agrees with her. “I know what I am. And I have to problem with not existing.” He loves Margot, the daughter whose memories created him, more than anything else in the world of NEH, more than his own existence.
Margot quietly says, “Thank You.” NF replies, “I wanted to protect you,” as Margot begins to quietly cry. NF stands. The rope he’d been winding earlier is now tied to his ankle and connected to a planter. Margot also stands, holding a kitchen knife. NF stands with his back to the pool, and Margot cannot do it. She can’t bring herself to kill him. Jules joins them, and adds her hands to Margot’s and they plunge the knife into NF’s stomach.
He falls into the murky underwater world. The heavy planter plunges into the water and drags him down. Inside the house the lights dim.
Later, Margot is ready to leave. Jules and Margot stand framed in the exit door of NEH. The door closes.
Notes from Nowheretown
*”Behind the Bars” (1997) by the singer-songwriter Elliott Smith (1969-2003) highlights the montage of Margot’s life in NEH. Sounds like the cover version by Agnes Obel.
*The flag of Quebec features the fleur-de-lys, a symbolic representation of a lily. Anyone caught parking in that alley gets their car towed at owner’s expense (Defense de stationer, Remorqueage a vos frais).
*Not only does Renfield wannabe Seth forget to put a lock on the cage holding his very hungry fake family away from him, he falls in to the trap of monologuing. Like many before him, Seth gets so caught up in his speechifying, he fails to notice Margot setting the cage family free.
*The family name of Sleator comes from the late Young Adult author William Sleator (1945-2011). As the New York Times obituary notes, “In confronting the grotesque, the menacing and the outright evil, Mr. Sleator’s protagonists simultaneously confront their own identities and their relationship to their families, especially to brothers and sisters.”
*In the finale of Channel Zero: Candle Cove, “Welcome Home,” presented Marla Painter (Fiona Shaw) suffocated her son Mike (Paul Schneider) to prevent her other son Eddie from entering the real world. In “The Hollow Girl,” Margot (with Jules assisting) stabs her ersatz father in the gut to allow her escape from NEH back to reality. In both cases, the murder was done at the request and with the consent of the victim.
*Here’s the teaser for Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block. Coming in 2018 & starring Rutger Hauer.