Channel Zero: The Dream Door Episode 2 recap: Secrets that kill

CHANNEL ZERO: THE DREAM DOOR (Photo by: SYFY, Acquired from SyfNBCUniversal Media Room)
CHANNEL ZERO: THE DREAM DOOR (Photo by: SYFY, Acquired from SyfNBCUniversal Media Room) /

Channel Zero: The Dream Door’s Episode 2 shed more light on Jill and Tom’s darkest secrets. And Pretzel Jack returned to claim another victim.

One of the most complicated aspects of having a romantic relationship with someone is the problem of intimacy. While physical intimacy can happen early in such a relationship, true emotional intimacy takes longer. But because of the emotional intensity inherent in sex, it’s easy to confuse one of the other.

This season of Channel Zero has been exploring that tension in a really interesting way. As shown in the first two episodes of The Dream Door, Jill (Maria Sten) and Tom (Brandon Scott) are very sexually compatible and clearly care deeply for one another. But their relationship lacks trust, and therefore true intimacy.

Despite knowing each other for decades and now being married, Jill and Tom are both hiding major secrets. Jill is reticent to explain her childhood connection to Pretzel Jack (Troy James) and Tom isn’t being honest about his relationship with Sarah (Diana Bentley). Although corrosive, their secrecy makes a lot of sense. Jill feels suspicious of Tom because of her dad issues and Tom’s secretive behavior. And Tom doesn’t want to open up about the Sarah situation because he fears it might ruin their marriage. But in keeping those secrets from each other and confessing them to people they shouldn’t, they are weakening their connection even more.

Channel Zero has always excelled at rooting its horror stories in believable and sympathetic relationships. But The Dream Door represents a new high point for the series in that regard. With all its lived familiarity and unspoken communication, their marriage feels incredibly real. In fact, their relationship so well observed, I’d be interested in following its development even without the supernatural aspect. After all, even without the murderous imaginary friend running around, their marriage is plenty haunted.

Channel Zero: The Dream Door, Channel Zero
CHANNEL ZERO: THE DREAM DOOR (Photo by: SYFY, Acquired from SyfNBCUniversal Media Room) /

Reaching up from within

Following the events of the last episode, the police arrived at Jason’s place and were immediately suspicious of Jill’s explanation of his death. Tom supported his wife with the cops but privately expressed concern that she was keeping things from him. Tom secretly gave a toy to Sarah’s baby, whom he resembled. After a strange conversation with Ian (Steven Robertson), Jill returned to her childhood home and discovered a papered over a miniature version of the blue door. Behind it was a husk resembling Pretzel Jack.

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Even more so the last episode, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” was an excellent showcase E.L. Katz’s direction. The use of flickering lights and bold bursts of color when Jill’s emotions overwhelmed her were very effective.

As the series is shot so naturalistically, the device suggests the intrusion of the supernatural into the real world and the effect is both subtle and profoundly unsettling. I also liked how much information he was able commutate with framing, such as Tom’s growing distrust as he observed Ian and Jill talking. Once again, Channel Zero has brought a cinematic level of storytelling to television.

But I won’t let you slip through again

Jill tried to talk to her therapist Abel (Steven Weber) about Jack but he dismissed her concerns. Over a cup of kombucha, Ian helped Jill realize Jack’s manifestations were connected to her anger. The pair rushed to Abel’s office and found that he was totally fine. Afterward, Ian and Jill continued talking and he tried to foster a connection between them. And subtly undermining her marriage but she seemed oblivious. Tom visited the older woman from the last episode, who’s named Vanessa (Barbara Compton), and she counseled him not to cross boundaries with Sarah.

In addition to its direction, this episode’s performances and writing were also excellent. In stories about conflicts between couples, it’s difficult to make both parties truly sympathetic. However, Sten and Scott’s performances have ensured that there is no bad guy in their relationship.

Their perspectives are both clear and provide an explanation if not justification for their actions. And the clear warmth and affection in their interactions make it clear that they are not intending to hurt one another. And the depth of feeling that they bring to their relationships makes the disintegration of their marriage all the more painful.

Also, Stephen Robinson is doing strong work as Ian. The character comes off is so sweet and empathetic that his manipulative nature is incredibly well hidden. Though it would be obvious to an observer what he’s trying to do, a simple listing of everything he said and did would make them seem innocuous.

Additionally, Robinson brings a bruised fragility to the role that really sells his “just trying to be a friend” act. By making the characters seem openly brittle, he seems like someone who couldn’t possibly have a hidden agenda.

Channel Zero: The Dream Door, Channel Zero
CHANNEL ZERO: THE DREAM DOOR (Photo by: SYFY, Acquired from SyfNBCUniversal Media Room) /

It’s finally soaking in on me

Vanessa brought Tom to a hydrotherapy chamber in her home and later masturbated to footage of him undressing. Jill took a call from Sarah on Tom’s phone and Sarah said she’d call the police if Tom didn’t leave her family alone. The call caused Jill to experience another episode and Jack was summoned. Though shot several times by Vanessa, Jack got past her and attempted to stab Tom. After Tom knocked the knife away, Jack started to drown him and the episode abruptly ended.

As with “Ashes on My Pillow,” this episode brought together humor and horror in a really interesting way, specifically with the way Pretzel Jack was depicted. Covered in blood and dripping white fluid, he seemed even scarier than before. But there is also something incredibly comical about him. His gangly movements and showy hand gestures make him feel like a clown, not a monster pretending to be a clown a la Pennywise. His presence is terrifying but also eerily goofy.

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That twisted comedic sensibility also came through in the show soundtrack. When Jack was stabbing the water around Tom, Jeff Russo inserted blasts of what sounded like metal being sawed in half. That odd choice gave the fight between Jack and Tom the air of a deranged pantomime. As such, the episode’s final sequence was both terrifying and hilarious. That’s a very difficult tone to make work, but so far Channel Zero: The Dream Door is it pulling it off.

If everyone you care about is lying to you, is it really fair to say you have trust issues? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Channel Zero: The Dream Door airs on the Syfy at 11 pm nightly from October 26-31.