Channel Zero season 3, episode 4 recap: Blood ties

CHANNEL ZERO: BUTCHER'S BLOCK -- "Alice in Slaughterland" Episode 204 -- Pictured: Olivia Luccardi as Alice Woods -- (Photo by: Syfy, Acquired from NBCUniversial Media Room)
CHANNEL ZERO: BUTCHER'S BLOCK -- "Alice in Slaughterland" Episode 204 -- Pictured: Olivia Luccardi as Alice Woods -- (Photo by: Syfy, Acquired from NBCUniversial Media Room) /

A chilling new episode of Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block saw Alice find salvation, Zoe resist temptation and Officer Luke experience a terrible revelation.

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It wasn’t until this episode they realize the season of Channel Zero’s core theme is family. All of Butcher’s Block’s core relationships represent variations on the same thing. Alice (Olivia Luccardi) wants to be free of her family and the madness that comes with it, Joseph (Rutger Hauer) wants to fill the hole made by his daughter’s death, and Officer Luke (Brandon Scott) wants to live up to the legacy established by his father. Thus far, none of those characters have gotten what they want, but that’s true to life. Family can be as much a burden as it is a support system. And expecting them to live up to your expectations is an easy way to be disappointed.

“Alice in Slaughterland” began with Alice entering the world at the top of the staircase. This world contained a boundless flower patch and the Peach mansion. Alice tried to go to the manor, but couldn’t get any closer to matter how long she walked. Zoe (Holland Roden) was with the Peaches but still resisted adopting their diet. Back in Butcher’s Block, Officer Luke (Brandon Scott) brought Robert’s (Andreas Apergis) body to Louise (Kirsha Fairchild). Together, they reenacted one Pulp Fiction’s best scenes in the back of Robert’s squad car. While Luke and Louise were cleaning, Robert got up and hid Louise’s basement.

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CHANNEL ZERO: BUTCHER’S BLOCK — “Alice in Slaughterland” Episode 204 — Pictured: Olivia Luccardi as Alice Woods — (Photo by: Syfy, Acquired from NBCUniversial Media Room) /

Although the circumstances were undeniably horrific, most of this week’s scenes with Louise and Luke were very enjoyable. Kirsha Fairchild’s reaction to a man is basically a stranger to her bringing a body to her home was hilarious. It had just the right mix of incredulousness, anxiety, and resignation. That section of the episode also spoke to Butcher’s Block’s unique tone. It’s rare to see any form of media blend humor and horror so potently.

Dark little heaven at the top of the stairs

While walking toward the plantation, Alice had a flashback of one of Zoe’s psychotic episodes. Luke killed Robert a second time with a shovel and Louise dismembered him with power shears. Unbeknownst to her, Alice was being stalked by the physical manifestation of her schizophrenia. Luke convinced Louise he could trust Chief Vancyk (Tyrone Benskin) despite his connection to the Peaches. Alice came upon Izzy (Linden Porco), but her schizophrenia frightened the young girl away. Luke presented his father with Robert’s head and was angrily chastised for his stupidity. Edie (Diana Bentley) very politely pressured Zoe to embrace cannibalism.

I know I bring this up every week but this season of Channel Zero is incredibly beautiful. While cinematographer Isaac Bauman and director Arkasha Stevenson have done a phenomenal job crafting an ordinary world that’s being intruded upon by the fantastic, they really got to cut loose in this episode. What we got to see of the Peaches’ realm was gorgeous and fascination. The mansion had the styling of an elegant midcentury Southern estate and the warmth of abandoned mortuary. It seemed to be covered with an imperceptible layer of dust, a home that absence and age had turned back into a house.

The area surrounding the mansion was just as intriguing. The endless field full of bright yellow flowers suggested natural splendor but it was undercut by ominous grey skies. And the notion that its fields were full of body parts was delightful Lynchian. Like the Peaches’ promise of immortality, health and stability, their home’s pleasant surfaces conceal something terrible. And the aerial shot of the three white doorways sits alone in the field was as grand as it was unsettling.

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CHANNEL ZERO: BUTCHER’S BLOCK — “Alice in Slaughterland” Episode 204 — Pictured: Holland Roden as Zoe Woods — (Photo by: Syfy, Acquired from NBCUniversal Media Room) /

Take me like that, ruin it all

Alice encountered a riddle-posing meat harvester (Julian Richings) who showed her the Peaches’ realm contained several interdimensional doors. She went through one and found herself in some part of the Peaches’ mansion. Chief Vancyk revealed that he made a deal with Joseph (Rutger Hauer) because he offered to make him chief of Butcher’s Block’s police department. While exploring the mansion, Alice finally noticed and ran from her schizophrenia.

Among its many highlights, “Alice in Slaughterland” beautifully paid off a big part of Officer Luke’s arc. For four episodes now, the character has been defined by his failings and limitations. He didn’t believe Alice because her story was too fantastic and he doubted Louise because of her past attacks on his father and he couldn’t acknowledge his dad’s complicity because it diverged too sharply from his conception of the man who raised him.

Tonight, he finally came to grips with the horrific nature of Butcher’s Block and his father’s role in it. And the “weak stomach” he believed to kept him from realizing his family’s legacy was actually his greatest strength. In fact, his inability to tolerate monstrous moral compromise makes him a much better man than his father. And his lack of faculty with violence isn’t a character flaw, it’s something that separates him from the Peaches of the world. If he makes it through all this, I believe Luke could save the city. But that’s a big if.

Then build it again by the light in the hall

To sate her cravings, Alice ate another piece of her leg, which was now thoroughly cut up. Just as she was about to be attacked by her illness, the creature was killed by Joseph. At a remote location, Louise watched Chief Vancyk cut his son’s throat while he buried Robert’s body. After the Chief left, Louise rushed to the burial site. Alice entered the Peach dining hall and shared a toast with the family as Zoe looked on in horror.

“Alice in Wonderland” was exquisitely filmed but it was also extraordinarily well-written and edited. Writer Harley Peyton and an editor Michelle Harrison crafted an episode of television where no scene ran too long or short and no moment hit the wrong note. Luke’s quiet disillusionment with his father, his unusual but poignant interaction with Louise and his injury were all exceedingly well done. As was Zoe’s struggle not to give in and Edie sweet but relentless push for her to do so. But its best bit was Alice’s decision to join the Peaches.

Next: Channel Zero season 3, episode 3 recap: Monster hospital

This episode finally brought the season-long motif of flashbacks to a head. While previous installments added context to Alice and Zoe’s relationship, this one revealed that they really providing context for Alice’s fateful choice. For years, her mother and sister’s illness had made her life into a swirl of terror, anxiety, confusion, and pain. The weight of all those emotions, combined with Joseph’s influence, has brought her to a place where she’s so desperate to save herself, she’s willing to sacrifice her humanity. I would’ve thought it possible to empathize with a cannibal, but that’s Channel Zero for you.

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