Episode 1- – Ashes on My Pillow
Newlyweds and childhood friends, Tom and Jillian, are moving into Tom’s childhood home. They spend the first days having sex, making alterations to the home, and reminiscing about themselves as children. During a dinner party with their neighbor, Tom volunteers that Jillian use to frequently draw a contortionist clown “Pretzel Jack”. We learn that she created him after going to the circus with her father, so it’s pretty clear that there’s existing trauma deep within Jillian. Her apprehension grows stronger when she witnesses Tom having a clearly pointed argument with another woman. Jillian confronts him, and he explains that it was just a woman his construction company had done work for who “wasn’t pleased”.
The following day, they discover a blue door in the basement that will not open.Tom’s coworker is able to shoot the door open; revealing a set of descending stairs leading to another door of the same design. This door is even more resistant to being opened. Jillian discusses her growing anxiety about the door and her persistent thoughts of infidelity. She reveals that their phone bill showed Tom making several calls to an unknown number. Left alone, Jillian is finally able to open the second door, revealing an empty room with the exception of one figure who then rushes at her before leaving the home upon which she calls for help. During the sweep, she apologizes to Ian, and he responds compassionately. She then calls the number, and Sarah Winters (the same woman from the store) expresses that she will get a restraining order if he persists with harassment. She confronts Tom only to be doubted again. When Tom leaves. Jillian follows him to a house where he is greeted by yet another woman.
Jillian drives to Jasons (Tom’s coworker) home, and she demands that he be honest and disclose that Tom is being unfaithful. He becomes indignant; ridiculing her and making comparisons to her father. This escalates until the same figure from the door materializes. They then proceed to violently mutilate Jason to death until she exclaims. The figure then contorts itself in a series of bizarre movements leading to a dramatic exit. Jillian realizes that the man was Pretzel Jack.
Dream Door has started off with what is, without a doubt, the pulpiest first episode of the show to date. And honestly, it works incredibly well. The original story that this season is based on is quite short, but there’s definitely an Adam and Eve quality that translated very well into overall concept of The Dream Door. There’s just enough surreality to keep those who have read the story intrigued while also offering an unexposed audience a very nuanced interpretation. Jill is such a dynamic character, and Maria Sten imbues the role with a genuine quality that perfectly compliments Brandon Scott’s performance (whom I was elated to see back). But the standout character, despite not knowing a great deal about him, is Pretzel Jack. Had I not had knowledge of the source material, I would have believed the whole story was based on him as a completely solo character; and frankly, it still could be. I have a feeling this season will be a Freudian lottery, and I have nothing but time for it.