Note: this is a recap, which means major spoilers! If those scare you, don’t continue reading without watching the episode first.
Candle Cove, the inaugural season of Syfy’s creepy horror anthology series Channel Zero, never shied away from embracing the weird and macabre, or from showing us really horrible acts. But as it turns out, they saved their scariest and darkest moments for their very good finale, a fitting cap to an entertaining first season.
We knew a showdown was coming between Mike and Eddie, but the question of who would win turned out to be neither, with Mike sacrificing himself for the safety of everyone else. Depending on your own view this was either an optimistic and hopeful ending—with the goodness of one person overcoming true evil, and the children of today spared unlike in 1988—or it was very dark, since Mike’s fight to reign in his brother appears to be an eternal struggle waged from a house of horror. This was the ending to A Tale of Two Cities, only if Sydney Carton was a good person who gave more than he deserved, and whose sacrifice will continue being made forever.
Before that creepy skin-decorated game of War though (and the Skintaker who we had only seen flashes of thus far), the scariest sequence of the entire series took place in the hallway of Eddie’s mind, which was filled with genuine monsters and skinless dead children. If anything, the images here were so awful I almost wish they had abandoned the puppets of Candle Cove earlier and started showing just how terrible Eddie’s creations really were.
It also turned out that the slower episodes at the beginning were worth it, since the time committed to making us care about Mike and his mother paid off with the emotionally brutal scene where she had to kill him to stop Eddie. Fiona Shaw was very good throughout as Marla, and getting us to feel real empathy, on a show that featured a literal Tooth Child, was impressive.
So too was Paul Schneider‘s, whose understated portrayal of Mike always felt like an eruption waiting to happen, but by the end felt like someone who always knew how this was going to end, and had resigned himself to doing what was necessary, just like he had in 1988. Knowing that will make re-watching the season even sadder.
And as sad as the Painter family’s ending was, it was certainly satisfying to see the evil Mrs. Booth get that hook firmly planted in her own head, and it was also hopeful to see Gary Yolan rescue his possessed children from one last meeting of the Killer Kids Association. (Probably just go ahead and burn that trailer down though, it’s probably not worth trying to salvage.)
So even though the show’s main premise of pitting a good and evil twin against one another is a classic trope, Channel Zero‘s mixed timeline and commitment to embracing the strangeness of their story made it feel fresh. Eddie turned out to be a much more horrifying villain than we thought possible, and Mike turned out to be a better hero than we might have imagined. The mysteries never needlessly lingered too long to keep us tuning in, instead we always got the right mix of answers and new questions to keep us invested.
And though we don’t feel great about the idea of Mike being forever stuck in that room with his brother, the decision to not give us a happy-ending was the right one, because Candle Cove turned out to be a truly scary place.
But we want to know what you thought of this first season, so don’t be afraid to travel into our comments section below to share your thoughts. We promise you can leave when you’re done.