Channel Zero: Butcher's Block Season 3 Episode 1 Review: Insidious Onset

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If Channel Zero Season 3 Episode 1 is any indication of what lies ahead in the newest chapter of this Syfy anthology series, then we're in for another treat.

Butcher's Block isn't just the name of the latest chapter of Channel Zero, but the name of the town where Alice has decided to take a new job to escape the realities of life within her family. That reality includes mental illness.

The mental illness that runs in the family of Alice and her sister Zoe, who already has the disease, comes on as insidious onset. It is treacherous and already ripping apart your brain before you even know it's there. But the women in the family dread their 26th birthdays because then it rears its ugly head.

Butcher's Block - Channel Zero

For some reason, Alice feels responsible for her older sister, Zoe. 

It could be in her nature to feel that way. She's taken a job as a family advocate teaching families to use the system, so it works better for them. She cares about people and their wellbeing.

Alice cares about her sister, too, even if Zoe might have had a period when she was trying to cover up or escape her mental illness with drugs and alcohol. Alice considers where Zoe is now a transitional phase. As far as Alice knows, Zoe has kicked her habits. I guess she's as normal as mental illness can get.

But as we learn throughout the hour, there is a lot more to Alice's family than she's willing to admit out loud in one conversation.

Banshee or Bust - Channel Zero Season 3 Episode 1

Their mother also has the mental illness Zoe grapples with, and Zoe knows it scares the bejesus out of Alice as she creeps toward her 26th birthday. For the record, it's great seeing Holland Roden on TV again, and I like Zoe already. She's doomed but has come to terms with it. The role suits Roden.

Zoe: OK, I get it. You're the same age I was. You're the same age mom was.
Alice: That's not what this is about.
Zoe: Your worst fear is that you're going to become me, isn't it?
Alice: That is not true.
Zoe: Well guess what, Alice. There is nothing you can do about it. It's either a part of you or it's not. And if you can't come to terms with that, it's going to eat you alive.

Running from their home, from their mother, won't make Alice any less likely to get the disease herself. 

Alice's relationship within the family was already questionable, as we learned when she described herself as a child, throwing herself down the stairs to get some attention because she thought all of it went to Zoe.

Whether it was true that the attention was focused on Zoe or not, the family dynamic immediately comes into question. Could Alice care for her sister as much as she says she does when she grew up in such an atmosphere? It seems questionable, don't you think? I'd harbor resentment whether it was Zoe's fault or not.

Just Stuffing - Channel Zero Season 3 Episode 1

Being the avid little Googler that she is, Alice knew a lot about landlord Louise and nothing about Butcher's Block, or so we're led to believe. Is that something that makes sense? Not to me, it doesn't.

Given what we know of her family and Zoe's inability to stay clean, I have to wonder if Alice didn't pick Butcher's Block to serve a nefarious purpose. After all, she's pretty adamant she's not going to get the disease her sister and mother share. Maybe she had genetic testing.

Butcher's Block would be a great place to drive your sister straight out of her mind once and for all and stop feeling guilty for having her around. It could also be the place where a gal who Googled one time too few gets a comeuppance of sorts. I hesitate to strike out on which is coming.

Let's face it, Butcher's Block is one strange place.

If this was the time Alice didn't do her due diligence, then she deserves what's coming. She got so much information while searching for information on Louise; I can't believe she wouldn't be interested in searching further.

Little Red Hood - Channel Zero Season 3 Episode 1

The family she met up with during her first day on the job came complete with a spooky little girl wearing weird jammies with "smart mouth" handwritten on the inside tag who was bitten, a possible entity living in their walls (and a hole big enough to feed the mystery), and her sudden disappearance along with her mother.

The conversation Alice had with the little girl, Izzy, should have been sparking memories of the town tale her new boss had shared with the just the day before, but if it didn't, searching in the woods later should have added fuel to the fire.

Over Her Shoulder - Channel Zero Season 3 Episode 1

What's funny is that despite hearing that super scary story from her boss, it didn't even turn Alice's head. Granted, the old guy in the woods did, but had Alice already known about the woods before she got to Butcher's Block? Had she already come across the nefarious Medallion Park stories on Google?

Surely searching for Louise and her missing brother must have led to the story of Peach's Meats and their entire family disappearing in 1952. That kind of thing would be a huge story on the internet, especially if Louise was writing a book in connection with it.

Zoe didn't know about the story, but when she told Alice what she saw in the woods (and I don't know how much of what Zoe saw she shared with Alice), Zoe didn't react as if she knew any of what Zoe was sharing.

If my sister, nuts or not, was packing to go home to our crazy mother after witnessing a floating staircase in the middle of the woods after chasing a skeevy little dwarf baby to get there, I might think to mention she's talking a lot like one of the town's local folklore tales.

Hey Little Man - Channel Zero Season 3 Episode 1

Instead, Alice was trying to get her to stay in town, but not all that hard. Zoe was on her way out. That was it for her. Back to Grand Central, baby. 

So it's also weird and kind of throws a wrench in my theory that Alice may know more than she let on when she saw Louise's mystery board. While Joseph Peach had certainly aged since the photo on the board was taken, he's lookin' mighty fine for 130.

Hello Handsome! - Channel Zero Season 3 Episode 1

There wasn't all that much time for Alice to react, but she's a slow one, isn't she? Whether it was shock or she was surprised to have her suspicions realized or pleased her plan was progressing, something isn't right with Alice, sweet Alice.

She doesn't react the way I expect her to react. And that, my friends, could be a part of the insidious onset. She's reaching the age of 26 when no symptoms are outwardly present. She's a normal person to you and me, or is she?

Color me confused and incredibly intrigued. Hell, I guess it doesn't take much for me to get into things these days as long as they are different and boundary-pushing. It's been a while since I've seen a stairway in the middle of the woods with a skinless demon-ish thing exiting and readmitting a dwarf baby.

I like it. I want to see more. I want to know why Alice chose Butcher's Block and why Joey just chose Zoe. 

How about you? Are you in for the latest Channel Zero ride? Will you take it with me? Hit the comments!

Insidious Onset Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 (7 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Channel Zero Season 3 Episode 1 Quotes

Zoe: You are going to let me hit that...
Louise: You know, your sister said you were clean.
Zoe: Yeah, I don't like to stress her out.

Alice: Hey Nathan! Nathan! I think there's something inside the wall.
Nathan: What?
Alice: There's something inside the wall.