Channel Zero season 3, episode 3 recap: Monster hospital

CHANNEL ZERO: BUTCHER'S BLOCK -- "All You Ghost Mice" Episode 203 -- Pictured: Olivia Luccardi as Alice Woods -- (Photo by: Syfy, Acquired from NBCUniversial Media Village)
CHANNEL ZERO: BUTCHER'S BLOCK -- "All You Ghost Mice" Episode 203 -- Pictured: Olivia Luccardi as Alice Woods -- (Photo by: Syfy, Acquired from NBCUniversial Media Village) /

Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block shook things up in its third episode by offing a few supporting players and placing others in a whole new light.

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One of the things I most enjoy about Channel Zero is its unpredictability. Though every season of the show has dealt with themes of insanity, nostalgia, and perils of not confronting your problems, it actively resists falling into patterns. Central characters die unexpectedly, others make surprising choices and nothing is ever exactly what it seems. “All You Ghost Mice” continued the series’ tradition of confounding expectations by killing off to key supporting characters and heading surprising depth to others. Given that television is built on repetitions and familiarity, it’s thrilling to watch a show that is so disinterested in convention.

This week’s episode opened Alice (Olivia Luccardi) and Louise (Kirsha Fairchild) coming to grips with their dinner with the Peaches. Alice desperately wanted to leave town but Louise suggested they use Joseph’s (Rutger Hauer) interest in her to their advantage. On their way out of the park, the pair encountered Officer Luke (Brandon Scott), who now believed Alice’s story. Back at the house, Nathan (Aaron Merke) stopped by to check in on Alice but was largely ignored. Alice also found that Zoe (Holland Roden) had eaten a piece of her thigh to quiet her meat cravings.

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead

Every television season, a few series will produce a handful of moments that you know will stay with you for a long time. These are moments of horror, beauty, wonder, and grace that remind the viewer that the medium’s potential is truly boundless. Incredibly, “Ghost Mice” featured two of those scenes. The first of which was the sequence where Zoe cut off and ate part of her leg.

The fact that it featured a Hannibal level of explicitness was part of what made the scene stick out, but it was Holland Roden’s performance that made it indelible. In less than two minutes, she went through a cycle of anxiety, pain, repulsion and complete satisfaction that was dizzying in its conviction. I can’t think of another film or television series that’s captured the complexity of self-harm so accurately.

In addition to being a riveting piece of filmmaking, the scene also served an important narrative function. It showed us that in her own way, Zoe is desperately fighting against Joseph’s influence. In spite of her mental health issues and drug and alcohol problems, she’s still coherent enough to recognize what the Peaches are truly offering her. Yes, being part of their family may keep her illness at bay, but the price is cannibalism. And that at her core, she doesn’t really buy into the family’s apex predator gospel. Given her actions here, I’m a lot more interested to see how Zoe will resolve her dilemma.

Channel Zero, Syfy, Channel Zero Butcher's Block
CHANNEL ZERO: BUTCHER’S BLOCK — “All You Ghost Mice” Episode 203 — Pictured: Holland Roden as Zoe Woods — (Photo by: Syfy, Acquired from NBCUniversial Media Village) /

I lift my lids and all is born again

Chief Vancyk (Tyrone Benskin) warned Officer Luke to not investigate Robert (Andreas Apergis). Alice brought Zoe to the hospital for treatment. Officer Luke, Nathan, and Louise met and compared notes but were interrupted by Robert, who showed off his impressive tap dancing skills. Zoe told Alice that she cut herself shaving. Alice told Zoe that Joseph had awoken something in her mind. Right after making that admission, Alice experienced a vision of her mother stabbing herself. Officer Luke attempt to shoot Robert, but found that he couldn’t. The hospital separated Nathan from Officer Luke and Louise, and Robert took the opportunity to slash Nathan’s throat.

This episode’s second standout scene was Nathan’s death. Watching a seemingly pivotal character get taken off the board was shocking but the way it was filmed and edited made it something special. All the little details, from Louise’s face as Nathan’s blood sprayed on the automatic door to Nathan’s reflection in a pool of his own blood to Robert slurping up the blood pool, were perfectly executed. It was a horror show staged with the precision of a ballet performance.

Also, the Butcher’s Block hospital has to be one of Channel Zero’s creepiest settings. It was clear that something was clearly wrong with it as soon as it was introduced, even with the explanation that it was in the process of closing. It was underlit, nearly empty and the people that were there seemed unaware of what was going on around them. While the Peaches obviously hold some sway over the entire town, they were able to alter the hospital’s physical reality. I think this is because it was effectively abandoned. Having lost its purpose as a place of healing, it has become an abattoir.

I think I made you up inside my head

Officer Luke subdued Robert and Louise suggested they interrogate him back at her place. Alice searched the hospital for medication to quell her visions but was attacked by the physical manifestation of her schizophrenia. A pregnant Edie Peach (Diana Bentley) visited Zoe and advised her to give in to her carnivorous urges. While hiding from her psyche, Alice received another invitation to join the Peach family. On their way back to the police station, Robert taunted Officer Luke into repeatedly shooting him. Alice left the hospital and arrived at the staircase just in time to see Zoe leave with Joseph. With great trepidation, Alice followed.

It was intriguing to see that what actually “broke” Zoe was Edie’s offer to become part of a new family. Paradoxically, Joseph curing her illness worked against his aims. With her thoughts clear, Zoe was able to fully understand the essential wrongness of the Peaches. In the end, I don’t think she would’ve succumbed just to save herself. But the possibility of salving the primal wound inflicted by her mother’s insanity and her subsequent alienation from Alice was just too much. Right now, I still think that she’ll pull away for the family before being completely devoured.

Next: Channel Zero Season 3, Episode 2 recap: Meat is murder

At the same time, I don’t think that Alice will fare as well. Given the flashbacks we’ve seen so far, it’s clear that her anxiety over losing her own sanity is greater than her concern for her own family. As such, I’m thinking that Joseph will be able to convert into her by appealing to her sense of self-preservation. As her disinterest in Nathan and the constant harassing collection calls she receives demonstrated, the real world doesn’t have much to offer her. If she loses her connection to Zoe, she’ll have no reason to hold on to her humanity. And in this case, I don’t think blood will be thicker than water.

Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block airs on Syfy Wednesdays at 10 pm.