In this age of box sets and binge marathons, one of the advantages of an anthology series is there’s no need to have seen season one to jump aboard season two because each is a standalone story. There is one actor who does return from last season but it’s not quite in the same league as “American Horror Story” where the resident repertory company return year after year.
Margot Sleator (Amy Forsyth), still recovering from the loss of her Father the previous year, is invited by a stranger to a house that presents a unique challenge; face the personal experiences presented to the occupant in each room and escape to win. Simple. However, all is not what it seems regarding the house, its purpose or the stranger’s true motives.
This season feels more complete, but somehow not quite as good as the previous one. Maybe it’s because, at times, it feels like we’re treading on familiar ground, borrowing from films like “Saw” and “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers”.
The show really excels is when it places the horror in the background in favour of focussing on the emotional resonance of Margot’s strained relationship with her best friend following the suicide of her father (played brilliantly by John Carroll Lynch), and in turn the rekindling of her paternal relationship through the experiences presented by the house.
There are some genuinely great and novel concepts here regarding how her father must survive and the struggle he faces, trapped in the mystical realms of the No-End House and torn between the love of his daughter and the basic human need to exist. Another positive was the house itself, without the constraints of tangible dimensions the writers play with so many different concepts for each room that it mostly works. Where the series stumbles in in the male lead, Jeff Ward, who feels uncomfortable in the role of protagonist and eventual love interest as the season slowly transforms into a weird romance for a brief period before his true intentions are revealed. The supporting cast is also a little hit-and-miss; Aisha Dee good as the distant and guilt-ridden best friend, Sebastian Pigott very good as the alpha-male protector of the group and Seamus Patterson is just plain out of his depth as the muted sidekick.
Although there aren’t any stand-out episodes the finale is very well constructed, providing genuine closure to the story unlike the first season but it doesn’t quite achieve the heights, maybe because the underlying story isn’t quite as strong or psychologically unsettling as season one.
Watch this if you like “Channel Zero: Candle Cove”, “American Horror Story”, “Hellraiser”, “Saw”.