When Hannibal mastermind Nick Antosca announced that the first phase of his ambitious Channel Zero project would be based on the popular Creepypasta Candle Cove, it seemed far-fetched. How could the few scant, ambiguous paragraphs of Kris Straub’s horror short story-gone-viral possibly be adapted into six hours of television. Now that the final two episodes have aired and played out the tragic, twisted saga of the Painter family it feels like six hours just wasn’t enough.
The fifth and six episodes managed to maintain the deliberate pacing and crawling unease of the first four, yet still seemed to hurdle by at breakneck speed. The last two hours of Channel Zero pit brother against brother and parent against child. We saw Eddie Painter (Luca Villacis) use his twisted powers to heal Mrs. Booth’s illness and make her his willing disciple. We saw the horrific murder of Jessica Yolen (Natalie Brown) and how Candle Cove orchestrated it all. We saw the disembodied Eddie attempt to resurrect himself, first through the body of his niece Lily (Abigail Pniowsky), and then through Lily’s father: his own adult brother, Mike (Paul Schneider). As the final episode, Welcome Home, began it seemed impossible that the show could tie all this up, let alone explain the true natures of the Tooth Child and the Skin Taker: the two horrific apparitions seemingly masterminding everything.
Welcome Home more than succeeds. Antosca has promised that the final episode would not explain everything neatly and still leave some mystery about what Candle Cove really was. Although we do get a definitive answer from the villain, there is definitely reason to think he might be lying or even not really understand the truth himself. But once Mike is forcefully brought into his fallen brother’s mental realm it is clear that whatever is happening, it’s winner take all. What unfolds is one of the most unusual and captivating climactic battles in the annals of horror television. Fates are decided over a few terse lines of dialogue and we are made to feel the anguish of a family that has battled against itself for decades rather than merely be told what it is. In the quiet chaos of the finale we see Mike vs. Eddie, Mrs. Booth (Marina Stephenson Kerr) vs. Marla Painter (Fiona Shaw), and Gary Yolan (Shaun Benson) vs. his own controlled children. Governing it all is the unnerving set piece of Eddie’s alternate nightmare reality and a harrowing performance by renowned performance artist Olivier de Sagazan as the true form of the Skin Taker.
The only thing predictable about the ending of the Candle Cove arc is that it is bittersweet. This season has given us no reason to think the last moments of the season would be sunshine and rainbows and they are not. They also hint at an uncertain future. Channel Zero may be moving on in 2017 with its next serial, No-End House, but Candle Cove is almost certainly still out there. And just like its fictional counterpart, Channel Zero: Candle Cove will most certainly be talked about by its viewers for years to come.