One of the most unnerving sequences in Channel Zero: No-End House’s first episode was a gallery full of white sculptures of the protagonist’s heads. The lights dimmed and returned almost instantly, revealing that these busts had disturbingly changed, now depicting the House’s visitors being ripped apart from within. Speaking in a phone interview with journalists recently, Channel Zero showrunner Nick Antosca explained that this first room was a “statement of intent” on the part of the House itself. In episode two, Nice Neighborhood, we the audience get to see exactly what that means.
SyFy’s supernatural drama opened its second season with four young folks in their late teens – led by the grief-stricken Margot (Amy Forsyth) and her estranged best friend Jules (Aisha Dee) – traversing the titular No-End House. This supposed traveling art installation proved to be much more than it seemed and Jules and Margot emerged shaken. But Margot quickly learned her ordeal was not over when she entered her home and was met by the sight of her father – a man who had died one year before.
Nice Neighborhood focuses primarily on the consequences of this meeting. It also shows us what became of JD and Seth who entered the House with the girls. More information is also revealed about Lacey, the woman seen running at the beginning of episode 1, and Dylan, the battle-ready stranger who joined the group as it entered the House who is apparently connected to Lacey.
Most of the weirdness and tension that is Channel Zero’s hallmark fell on the shoulders of Dylan and Lacey in this episode. While Jules and Margot debate over whether this seeming reunion with the dead can be right, it is Dylan who is used to show us that the universe it is happening in is fundamentally wrong. Through this grim wanderer’s eyes we encounter machines that don’t run or that have had their guts stripped out of them altogether, to say nothing of the inhuman “writing” on the license plates. Other characters’ scenes show us docile families locked in cages, and a pulsating sphere that seems to contain something worse inside its glowing depths. On any other show all of this would feel as disjointed and confusing as it sounds, but Channel Zero continue their trend of excellence by wrapping all of this into a fever dream of a narrative: something that has its own internal logic which we understand, even as we share the characters’ growing certainty that what we are experiencing with them cannot be trusted.
Nice Neighborhood ends with two different and disturbing acts of violence. One brings a minor character’s arc to an abrupt and unpleasant end. The other shows us that the House’s gifts are not what they seem and come at a terrible price. The prolonged special effects sequences that show us the true nature of the Father (John Carroll Lynch) are as unpleasant as any appearances by the Tooth Child – the unforgettable nemesis of season 1. The No-End House’s statement of intent turns out to be true: it’s here to rip its victims’ minds apart or bash in their heads altogether. But for all its evil, the No-End House remains true to its Halloween attraction theme and leaves both its guests and its viewers wanting more.