In Seasons 1 and 2 of From, the sci-fi horror series traps travelers in a nightmarish town full of creepy forest creatures. Here’s a recap of what unfolded.
By far, one of the most curious and exciting shows to hit over the past year-and-a-half is the sci-fi horror series From, on Epix/MGM+. Taking place in a nightmarish town somewhere in Middle America, the story follows the terrors and threats that lurk in the town forest and the lives of the people who inexplicably show up and thus become trapped. Once you enter, you cannot leave, no matter how hard, how long, and which method you try, or which direction you go. Once you’re there, you’re there.
Oh, did I mention there are also some super creepy (unkillable) monsters living in the woods who come out to hunt once the sun goes down? Because there are, except they’re not giant and grotesque; they’re human-like in form and walk around dressed in regular clothes, knocking on doors, wearing cartoonishly unnerving smiles. The second you give in to them, they pounce and rip you apart. There are two rules in this hell on earth: Do not go outside at night and do not let them in. Season 2 just ended, and while it may have offered some answers to the burning questions left by Season 1, it also poses new questions along even newer paths. Here’s a quick recap of Seasons 1 and 2, which I highly recommend getting into if you’re a little lost amongst the writers’ strike.
From stars Harold Perrineau of Oz fame, who is absolutely gripping (as always) in his role as self-appointed sheriff and Iraq War veteran Boyd Stevens. The series also features a cast of characters across a diverse spectrum of races, personalities, abilities, beliefs, and morals and includes, to name a few, Catalina Sandino Moreno (A Most Violent Year), Eion Bailey (Once Upon a Time), Scott McCord (The Sinner), and Elizabeth Saunders (Orphan Black). You’ll also notice many other faces best recognized in an “oh, that’s the guy/girl who was in that thing” sort of way.
If you’ve already been watching From, or maybe you plan to after reading this recap, you might feel some similarities to a certain other popular TV show that aired in the early 2000s and also revolved around a group of people stuck somewhere: Lost. That’s because Lost executive producers Jack Bender and Jeff Pinkner are also From’s executive producers, but don’t get all moany groany about it and start having expectations. While the two stories do have parallels—let’s be honest, a lot of shows have parallels—they also have their differences. From raises so many good questions, it can be unclear as to which path to explore for the answers, but that’s part of the fun and the mystery: allowing your mind to take you everywhere.
People arrive to this town by traveling along whatever back road, then coming across a downed tree. The tree is the indicator you’ll never get out, as once you pass it, travelers find that all roads seem to lead in a circle and there is no way out. The only thing around is a small, rundown town with some houses, a diner, and a few other structures. There’s also a strange symbol that appears everywhere. We follow these characters and group of new arrivals as they face reality, melt down, then submit to adjusting to finding a way to live.
While they don’t have much, the patrons do have a tiny bit of electricity, some working vehicles, and they’re able to grow some food. They work hard to understand where they are and how to escape, but every time they make a big attempt, like in Season 1 when they tried to build a radio tower to communicate with the outside world, it’s clear the town (or maybe the forest of fear) does not approve and something awful happens to stop them, like a destructive storm or a random explosion or a house collapsing. In my best Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure Keanu voice, “Dude, strange things are afoot at the Circle K,” only the Circle K here is this weird Stephen King-ish town that won’t let people go.
Furthermore, in said forest of fear, there’s a tree called the Faraway tree that acts as a portal between different worlds. No one knows about this tree but Victor (Scott McCord), because he’s the one who has been stuck in the town the longest—since he was a small child, in fact. Now, clearly a grown, late middle-aged man, he still thinks and operates, on some level, like the child he was when he first got to town. He seems to know more about the area than anyone else, but he has also witnessed many terrifying things and keeps mostly to himself, isolated from the rest of the townspeople … until a little kid befriends him. Only then does Victor start revealing details from his childhood memory about the town, and even stranger things start to happen.
In Season 1, character Sara (Avery Konrad, of Honor Society) starts hearing a voice in her head advising her to open the door for the monsters and kill certain people—her little brother included, and she does, but she also hears voices that seemingly want to prevent all of them from dying. And there’s a boy in white who appears randomly to guide Victor and the others in their battle to survive.
By Season 2 the Faraway tree is discovered by two other patrons, but when they enter, they wind up stuck in a stone crawl space with no way out or they end up wandering through dark, lost caves where the monsters sleep. After Boyd (Harold Perrineau) enters the tree and escapes the stone crawl space, he encounters a music box and an old, sick man chained to a wall. He tries to help the man, who cuts himself then cuts Boyd and mixes their blood together, passing off to Boyd the evil that’s been plaguing him for God knows how long.
Boyd eventually makes it back to reality, but he unknowingly brings with him some unseen evil that thrives like worms under his skin. After he starts having nightmares that include the music box, and when he notices what’s crawling under his skin, he comes up with a plan to cleanse himself. He cuts his hand then slices the throat of a forest creature and touches his bloody hand to the creature’s throat, repeating a spell of sorts. Within moments, the creature dies. But that only seems to disrupt things even more.
This music box keeps appearing, more people are seeing things, then by the end of Season 2, no one can go to sleep because they’re susceptible to horrific dreams that have the ability to physically harm them and turn deadly. Then, three people enter a trance-like state where they randomly scream out in horror, eyes a pale white and almost rolled back in their heads. So not only are the townspeople tired, frustrated, confused, lost, afraid, hangry, and desperate, but after a busload of new people arrive in Season 2, they now find themselves facing an extreme shortage of food and they’ll all soon be sleep deprived. That’s a combination that makes for extremely rash, impulsive decisions. What’s gonna happen when everyone turns on each other?
Additionally, let’s talk about these monster creatures. Why are they there? How did they form? Where did they come from? And do they want something with the humans in the town beyond using them just to satisfy a killer instinct? Whatever the case, it’s clear these creatures are intelligent. They’re smart enough to preserve their energy during the day to protect their existence when feeling threatened by the humans, but what’s their obsession with humans and why?
Also, there’s a creepy nursery rhyme floating around towards the end of season two foreshadowing what we can only assume will manifest deeper in Season 3: “They touch, they break, they steal / No one here is free / Here they come, they come for three / Unless you stop the melody.”
What? Who is coming? For which three? If you ask me, the real question here isn’t where they are or how to get out; it’s who’s behind all this. Are these people trapped in some classified experiment and presented with a certain reality only to be observed as to how they’ll handle it, adapt, and survive—if they can handle it, adapt, and survive? And that further begs the question about the creatures in the forest: Are they former townspeople who did die and somehow become a forest creature? What if the fears and nightmares of those who died became part of the forest and that’s what the townspeople are experiencing? And, if this really is an experiment, there must be two things: observers and insiders. So, who’s working the lie from the inside to protect the truth?
There’s so much at play with possibility here, and while From may present some plot holes and lag in pace at points, there are some interesting characters and the underlying narrative holds enough of a mystery to keep you coming back. If you exercise patience and really pay attention to the details unfolding in the story (and not expect instant gratification), you might just find more than you’re looking for with this series. Appreciate the mystery. And appreciate Harold Perrineau.
Seasons 1 and 2 of From are currently streaming on Epix/MGM+ in the US, and available to watch globally on digital and on demand. Look for Season 3 to return in 2024 with a lot more action, a lot more horror, and hopefully a lot more answers.