If you’re still thinking about the finale of the Syfy series “Channel Zero: No-End House” by this time in 2018, not only has series creator and writer Nick Antosca done his job, he’s made the kind of show of which he’s a fan.
“There’s a particular trap you can fall into in telling a horror story where you prioritize in-the-moment scares over character development and psychological depth. It’s more important that the character have a complete and fulfilling journey than you jump. The kind of horror I love is the kind that unsettles me a year after I saw it, when I think about it,” Antosca said in a recent interview with IndieWire.
For him, part of making a more dynamic approach to the No-End House story culminated with The Father, the being that takes on the appearance of Margot’s (Amy Forsyth) dead dad while she’s inside the house’s clutches. Wednesday’s finale, written by Antosca and Angel Varak-Iglar, showed that there was more to the character than being a devourer of memories.
“There’s a version of this story where The Father is just terrifying, purely bad. We wanted to create a nuanced monster. The real kind of monster turns out to be Seth. The Father really does care about her and ultimately sacrifices himself to let her move forward.”
“No-End House” ended how it began, as a story of family and friendship and two women’s journeys back to the outside, offering up one of the show’s most surprising scenes yet: a moment of muted triumph amid the grief.
“To me, the story has a happy ending,” Antosca said. “I would say that I think they made it out of the house and into the real world. But it is built so that you could wonder.”
That farewell image of Margot and Jules (Aisha Dee) closing the door behind them wasn’t always the ending that Antosca had in mind. But some last-minute additions from director Steven Piet gave the season its final flourish.
“Originally, the first draft of the finale ended with the two of them sitting beside the pool, still in House World, after having killed The Father. You’re sort of left to wonder, ‘Will they make it out?’ The implication is that they’re good here and they’re gonna go, but initially my instinct as a beautiful moment to end on was the two of them there,” Antosca said. “But I thought, ‘We should shoot them going out the door, just in case we want it.’ When I was in the edit, Steven and I both felt like you want this final moment. It’s so much more satisfying emotionally. I wanted to see the two of them going out together.”
Of course, Margot’s journey to that moment was never an easy one. Antosca described how everyone knew that her and Jules’ sacrificial killing of The Father (John Carroll Lynch) would be one of the most vital days of production.
“That’s obviously one of the most important scenes of the entire season. I’m really proud of what everyone was able to do here and that last scene is one of those things that I’m most proud of in the show,” Antosca said. “They all nailed it. Amy is an amazing actress. John Carroll Lynch is obviously phenomenal and I’m really happy we were able to go out on a moment of emotion.”
Of course, Jules had her own literal fight with her past. Aside from helping Margot navigate the treacherous world of the house, her season-long relationship with the ever-present mysterious orb took on a story of its own.
“We called it a number of different things: The Presence, The Succubus, The Embryo. I don’t want to speak too literally about that because obviously it’s supposed to represent something amorphous and mysterious in Jules’ past. We figured out what it meant to her, but we didn’t want to spoon-feed the audience in a traditional way. That image comes from conversations that Steven and I and [special effects artist] Sarah Sitkin and [cinematographer] Isaac Bauman had about dream imagery. Both Sarah and Isaac had had dreams when they were young about an orb or an embryo and we talked about what that meant and what that represented to Jules. Aisha had a really good idea about that, so we incorporated it into the show,” Antosca said.
That bittersweet sense of vanquishing manipulative villains seems particularly timely, given the headlines of recent weeks involving various men in positions of power. But Antosca explains that the kind of real-life villain that Seth (Jeff Ward) represents still felt relevant to him even before the past few weeks.
“It’s a timely thing. Even though it’s particularly timely right now because of what’s in the news, it was a timely thing last year when I wrote it,” Antosca said. “It’s a very specific kind of person who we all know, who thinks of himself as a sensitive person and that because they’re damaged, it’s OK to use and discard people. He thinks of himself as a good person, but he leaves a trail of damaged, empty people behind him. To me, he’s the true villain of the story.”
Like the exponential growth in the number of women who have come forward about men in power across the industry, the number of Seth’s victims also grew unexpectedly over the course of production.
“I think that in the first draft of the script, we just met the one previous girl in the house. We talked about seeing more and seeing that he’s truly a serial manipulator and a psychological vampire,” Antosca said.
After one particular day in pre-production, the show had a brand new canvas on which to stage the final image of numerous unnamed women, all walking down the driveways of their respective homes on a lonely cul-de-sac.
“Steven was location scouting and called me and was like, ‘You have to see this neighborhood we found. It’s insane. The houses are all identical, they’re in this little circle and it looks like something that we built.’ Our budget is super low. We can’t afford to build a neighborhood, or even a facade. But he sent me a picture and I was like, ‘Holy shit.’ So we went there and wrote that scene with that visual to take advantage of that, because it was such a perfect spot to tell that story. It was very valuable, visually to tell the story of what Margot could become,” Antosca said.
The show’s third season, “Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block” will come sometime on Syfy early next year. Starring Olivia Luccardi, Rutger Hauer, and Krisha Fairchild, the season will head back into the city, tracking a series of disappearances that might have to do with a local legend about some mysterious staircases. With shooting already wrapped on “Butcher’s Block,” the team is already hard at work at writing the fourth installment.
“A lot of the themes we explore show up again in future episodes. That’s just a function of our writers room and the kinds of stories that we like to tell that have psychological components. That sad, the first two seasons stylistically are very different. The third season is even more different,” Antosca said. “They’re gonna go some crazy places.”