Channel Zero: The Dream Door
Episode Four, “Bizarre Love Triangle”
Teleplay by Mallory Westfall
Story by Mallory Westfall & Isabella Gutierrez
Directed by E.L. Katz
[All images courtesy Syfy]
For an in-depth recap of this and every episode of Channel Zero, I highly recommend a visit to Father Son Holy Gore. Check out his other great recaps, movie reviews, and in-depth essays on horror.
Now, let’s take a deep dive into the symbolism and references I noticed in “Bizarre Love Triangle“, the fourth episode of Channel Zero Season Four. My episode recaps and observations for Seasons One and Two are at SciFi4Me.com, and my observations for Season Three can be found here at Fang and Saucer.
Dream Police Observations
*Time to stock up on some Japanese footwear? Pretzel Jack’s tabi shoes are available online.
*CZ now has it’s own variation on The Blue Screen of Death – the Blue Glow of Creepiness. This week, it fills young Jillian’s (Mimi-Tsega Stafford) bedroom before the first appearance of Pretzel Jack (Troy James).
*Jillian’s dad is physically gone, but her mom (Miriam Smith) is emotionally distant. Her response to Jillian’s “I miss Dad“? A curt “Get into bed.”
*This episode begins with a discussion of killing Pretzel Jack, and ends with his explosive demise.
*In between running for their lives through a sub-basement filled with exercise equipment on one side, and fill dirt & gravel on the other, Sarah Winters (Diana Bentley) delivers an info dump to Tom (Brandon Scott). He’s not the father of her child, so he can stop stalking them now.
*Like a couple recent genre movies, CZ sets a climatic confrontation in a community/high school/YMCA swimming pool. Sometimes these scenes work (Let The Right One In), and sometime they really don’t (It Follows).
*Pretzel Jack’s apparent “death” via swimming pool isn’t the first in Channel Zero. Margot Sleator’s Not!Father (John Carroll Lynch) ended up submerged for eternity in a backyard pool at the end of No End House.
*After joining forces with Ian (Steven Robertson) to defeat Pretzel Jack, Jillian (Maria Sten) suffers the ear-bleed variation on the “Psychic Nosebleed“, common (at least in genre fiction) to anyone displaying psychic powers.
*Ian is again overtly courteous and informative. He informs Maria that using their ability “depletes you.” Yet despite her symptoms of vomiting and dizziness, Ian doesn’t bother getting her anything to eat besides tea.
*Ian’s magic herbal tea includes turmeric, cinnamon, lemon balm, red raspberry leaves & ginger. Ostensibly healthy, it sounded to me more like something from the kitchen of Mrs. Castavet (Ruth Gordon) in Rosemary’s Baby.
*Especially after we see how Ian replenishes himself at the anonymous fast food joint. Truly on of the revolting meals since the dinner scene since The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989), or Mr.Creosote enjoyed a wafer-thin mint in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983).
*Poor Tom – the only shirt the hospital can find for him features a puppy wearing a cone of shame.
*Girl talk between Sarah & Jillian servers as a turning point in Jillian. She’s listening, and being listened to, a woman displaying empathy for the underlying issue in Jillian’s life – trust. Sarah’s made a conscious choice to trust, Jillian not sure if she can.
*As much as I love seeing Diana Bentley back in the CZ universe, the whole Tom/Sara/baby subplot did not, for me, fit into the main storyline. It seemed to serve as “Tom’s Secret” more than as an integrated part of the story, at least to me.
*Ian borrows from the Obi-Wan Kenobi Crappy Mentor Playbook to draw Jillian in; helpfully guiding her through this new world, but omitting key facts that might send her away. Like Luke Skywalker, she commits to training without fulling knowing what’s involved.
*Bill Hope repeats his “I Have to Tell You Something SO Important It Can’t Be Said Over the Phone” routine, calling both Tom and Jillian. “I’d like to tell her in person.” Too bad Ian snooped around with Jillian’s phone and intercepted the call.
*I wish more characters in books, movies, and TV would read “The DON’T LIST” from Murder Ink: The Mystery Reader’s Companion. Rule 1 – “Don’t go for lonely cliff-side walks with those you’ve just disinherited.” Or leave phone messages for your disgruntled son to easily intercept.
*The Bill Hope’s ghost neighborhood development Willow Courts advertised houses starting at $899,000. “Welcome Home … Homes for Families … Opening late 2016”
*Ian arrives at Room 105 at the Mill Road Inn and delivers the Wham! Line of the delivers the Wham!Line of the series; “Not the kid you were expecting, Dad?”
*Bill dealt with his son’s behavior by protecting Ian from the consequences of his actions, and/or thinking up rational explanations “when the dog disappeared or that bully from school went missing.” Which sounds familiar to true crime fans reading about Jeffrey Dahmer, or anyone reading the 2003 novel We Need To Talk About Kevin (or watching the 2011 movie version starring Tilda Swinton).
*Bill seals his fate (at least as far as Ian’s concerned) with a dismissive “You always were a bad seed.” William March’s 1954 novel became a 1956 movie (Dir. Mervin LeRoy) starring Patty McCormack as the oh-so-determined (and oh-so-amoral) Rhoda Penmark. Less said abut the Rob Lowe 2018 remake the better.
*Bill advises Ian, “for once in your life, do what’s right.” Unfortunately for Bill, Ian decides that involves bringing his childhood friend Tall Boy (Stephen R. Hart) to life. Ian, through Tall Boy, pulls a variation on the Oedipus myth and Bill’s eyes are crushed into his skull.
*This season of Channel Zero does love its Eye Scream.
*Though we must commend (I guess) Ian’s thoroughness in Post-Patricide Crime Scene Cleanup. Better than Norman Bates!
*”Bizarre Love Triangle” includes an homage to another creepy-in-retrospect Incest Kiss.
“Every time I think of you
I feel shot right through with a bolt of blue
It’s no problem of mine
But it’s a problem I find
Living a life that I can’t leave behind.”
*Another great choice from the New Order back catalog? “Blue Monday” (featuring flipbooks in the video below!)
“How does it feel
To treat me like you do?
When you’ve laid your hands upon me
And told me who you are
I thought I was mistaken
I thought I heard your words
Tell me, how do I feel
Tell me now, how do I feel”
Next episode, Channel Zero promises “You Belong To Me”; who will belong to whom though, and what will be left of them?
Until next time, Dream a Little Dream of Stabby the Murder Clown …
The first three seasons of Channel Zero are currently on the Shudder streaming service. Channel Zero: The Dream Door is currently available on demand and will join them on Shudder in 2019.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uEBuqkkQRk