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American Horror Story adds some horrific layers

Photo: Kurt Iswarienko (FX)
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Mr. Jingles is quickly becoming American Horror Story’s most tragic character, and that means he’s clearing a pretty high bar. His post World War II backstory (with the not at all subtle reminder that even before Ryan Murphy and company splattered that quaint ‘40s tableau with blood, America after the war was already sitting in the shadow death) was one of the more horrifying moments of the season, because it was so ordinary and plausible, yet so bloody. I mean, the motorboat definitely shouldn’t have been in the lake where all the lightly supervised kids were, but that’s probably exactly where it would be in real life too.

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The boat motor was most likely brought in because drowning doesn’t provide that cinematic cloud of blood poor Bobby produced, but because his grizzly end was just left of a complete tragic summer camp cliche his mother’s (yay, Lily Rabe is back!) need to blame everyone else seem particularly unhinged. While it’s never ok to put the burden of a child’s death on a teenage lifeguard or your prepubescent son, if Bobby had drowned because no one had been watching him, at least the blame game, however twisted, would have been rooted in truth. But even if he had people watching him like a hawk, that motor seemed to rip him apart almost instantly.

Rabe’s ghostly mother roaming the woods for decades, her rage powerful enough to keep generations of late-counselors trapped at the camp is an intriguing twist that works, for the most part. While it makes sense that little Bobby’s spirit isn’t hanging around (whether by the rules that govern those who die younger than ten, or by more Casper-esc, no unfinished business laws of the afterlife), where are the 1940s counselors that Lavinia slaughtered? And while moral ambiguity and the question of who is truly innocent and who is guilty when corruptible forces are in the mix is a key question present in every season of AHS, knowing exactly how much sway ghost-mom had over Margaret’s self-conscious would have been nice. While realizing, at the moment Benji cuts his hand Margaret might have been genuinely fond of him is properly sad, it’s left up to interpretation if Mommy Dearest’s whisper is what lead her to her bloody rampage, or only what lead her to frame Benji for the whole thing. And coming up on what will likely be Margaret’s very gruesome demise, having some clarity on her evil-level seems relevant.

It also doesn’t quite track that Benji, definitely the most level-headed victim of multiple murder attempts ever seen on TV, would be so wedded to the idea that the only danger to his son is Ramirez when his mother had just confessed to causing him so much pain. Plus, there’s the whole detail of the devil. The devil’s biggest fanboy might have been the last son of Satan Benji hung out with, but he signed a contract with the big man downstairs himself. Who’s to say if any plots against his son will stop just by killing one dude in a leather jacket?

The counselors’ (and Mr. Jingle’s impersonators’) newfound cool and calm attitude is a nice break from constant struggle and gore of the rest of the episode, but their need to move on was toothless because of it. Are they so sure there’s something better on the other side? Or that anything could be better for them than the murder/hook-up fest they’ve been enjoyed for the last few years?

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Dylan McDermott pulls off a hat trick of common sense reminders, at least for women in ‘80s horror flicks —don’t trust a hitchhiker, don’t trust someone who talks about karma and don’t trust someone who pairs aviators with a mustache. His morality puzzle comes off as way too forced after his unceremonious killing of both the cop and the trucker unlucky enough to be the first car the in the multi-car crash. Would someone who was trying to match Ted Bundy’s body count try anything so fancy when he could have easily offed both Donna and Brooke while they were unconscious?

Next week, Brooke is introduced to the concept of the final girl, then is introduced to the idea that she is one, and then decides to see if she can really make it until the end of the movie.

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Stray Observations

  • Brooke forgives Donna really, really quickly considering she is the reason she ended up in jail for those five long years (she had a lot of time to think, so it stands to reason she would have worked out Margaret only felt comfortable going on a killing spree once she realized Mr. Jingles had escaped and was thus available to take the fall.
  • Poor Benji is also too trusting too quick. When your ghost mother has explicitly told you she’s going to do everything in her power to make you suffer, you probably shouldn’t trust her to give you the real rules of the afterlife/purgatory.
  • Some quick Googling seems to suggest that, despite the final scene of this week’s episode, all members of Kajagoogoo are alive and well. No way to tell if they have signed any contracts with Satan, though.
  • Trevor adapts to the idea of hooking up with a ghost a lot faster than Brooke did.
  • For those still playing ‘80s bingo at home, for this week’s episode — Doogie Howser, MD, “Too Shy,” The Neverending Story, and Donna’s violently blue eye shadow.
  • Yes, there was a definite dip in roller rinks post-1984, but there’s more than one in the LA area as of 2019. Donna might have been blowing the roller rink crisis a little out of proportion.
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