Syfy’s Channel Zero
Season 3, Episode 1: “Insidious Onset”
Directed by Arkasha Stevenson
Written by Nick Antosca
* For recaps & reviews of No-End House, click here.
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Father Time” – click here
Alice Woods (Olivia Luccardi) hears about the “urban legends” of her new city.
We hear of Peach’s Meats, an old packing plant owned by Joseph Peach (Rutger Hauer), as the main theme from Cannibal Holocaust by Riz Ortolani plays. Medallion Park stands in tatters amongst a forest near the rundown plant. Two young people walk together through the woods until they stumble onto a set of stairs leading up… to nowhere; a door in the middle of NOWHERE. They leave instead of sticking around to find out what the stairs lead to, why they appeared, any of that. As they go, they hear something nearby in the trees, though the guy wants to leave and takes off elsewhere. He comes upon a sort of overgrown playground, where a tiny man (Linden Porco) jumps up from the grass and starts chasing him with a mallet, beating him over the head with it. The girl hears this, running for her friend, only to find he’s gone.
In this new city Alice is trying to get her bearings. She and her sister Zoe (Holland Roden live together; sis is experiencing a “transitional phase,” but it’s more like a phase of battle addiction, more than likely. Their new neighbourhood, Butcher’s Block, is quite the place. Their landlady is a woman called Louise Lispector (Krisha Fairchild), she was once a reporter years ago whose brother disappeared.
“I‘ve found that when you set out to change the world, the world changes you instead.”
Later, Alice gets a call from her obviously estranged mother. Mom missed her birthday, thinking it’s today when it was last week. The family’s clearly had some sort of incident push them apart. Mom’s in a psychiatric hospital, wasting away, unsure of where her daughters are currently.
Louise is a taxidermist; a lady of all trades. She gets filled in on Zoe’s situation by sister Alice, that the other sister requires medication, so on. We see that the landlady doesn’t much care about their personal lives, so long as rent is paid. She chose not have children, and doesn’t want to have any surrogates, either.
Off the bat, Alice is out getting initiated into her job as a social worker, in conjunction with Child Protective Services, by her supervisor Nathan (Aaron Merke). He tells her more of Peach’s Meats, as well as the term “sacrifice zone” and how it describes the “environmentally used up area” of their city, all that it’s lacking in terms of socioeconomic factors (etc). They head to the first house where they’ve got to remove a child, Izzy. The mom’s obviously pissed, and Alice does her best to help with the situation. But there’s also a weird, creepy little man inside the wall, licking at the boards. Alice begins hearing noises, heading down the hall to the kid’s room. Izzy wears a red cloak, the name on the tag reads SMART MOUTH; she says she found it in the park and it looks awfully familiar to the one we saw the tiny man wearing. There’s also a hole in the wall, from which Alice hears more noise.
But all of a sudden Alice and Nathan are locked into the room, the kid is gone. They hear the mother screaming. Nathan manages to break the door open, but they find nobody in the house; Izzy and her mother have vanished. Somehow, police arrive at the door, as well.
Zoe snorts her medication, then heads out for a walk. She comes across Louise and they wind up smoking weed together. The older sister talks about her troubles, a “hibernating” mental illness that came out when she was in her mid-twenties. It’s what’s called an “insidious onset.”
Police talk with Alice and Nathan. Although nobody particularly believes what they have to say, especially seeing as how she’s new on the job. Not surprising when it comes to this neighbourhood. At home, Alice can’t stop thinking of Izzy and her mother. She wonders if the little girl hid away. If so, perhaps she’s still hiding. This takes the Woods sisters down to the rough area of the neighbourhood, where Alice was warned not to go. They run into crazy Diane and her scissors, nearly getting stabbed in the process.
So the sisters head into the house Alice left earlier. Once they’re inside, Zoe looks to be having an extreme, horrific reaction to something, whether it’s just her own mind or some kind of eerie force there. Either way, they don’t find anyone there. However, Zoe soon notices a tiny man across the street, he runs towards the house; she believes it’s the little girl, so she follows after her.
Meanwhile, Alice goes out into the park searching for Izzy. Out of the dark comes an old man – Mr. Joseph Peach. He goes on about “two worlds” – the decrepit one which exists and the old one he remembers. After a few moments he walks back into the darkness. Elsewhere, Zoe chases Smart Mouth. She comes to that set of stairs in the middle of a field, she sees strange visions. And when she approaches Smart Mouth, the tiny guy is feasting on an animal’s innards. The tiny man grabs his mallet. But the door opens, casting light down, and a hideous, fleshless being appears, too. Smart Mouth and the being walk up through the door, closing it behind them. They leave Zoe horrified in their wake. What has she witnessed?
When morning comes Zoe and Alice find each other back at the house, and the former’s not doing well. She’s packing her things, she wants to leave. Zoe believes there is something sinister surrounding them, but her sister won’t go back home. The older sister thinks that, eventually, the younger will experience the same mental breakdown she did, the same as their mother before her. Regardless, Zoe goes for now, and Alice remains to pay rent on her own.
Louise tells Alice about how “people go missing” around Butcher’s Block. This is also the moment when the young woman realises she talked to Joseph Peach in the park; supposedly the man was a recluse and a “fundamentalist religious nut.” As Zoe waits for a bus she also meets the undead, immortal, or who knows what-Joseph. Yikes.
For anyone interested, Season 3 is based on the creepypasta from the perspective of a search and rescue officer – it’s really good and spooky. So glad to see Nick Antosca and Co. have turned this into something special, already evident only one episode deep.
“Father Time” is next. Can’t wait to see more. Really dig how Channel Zero works its mystery into your bones gradually, the writing’s always spectacular.