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American Horror Story comes back to the future

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It’s fitting that 1984's season finale begins with a flashforward fakeout. Though Flock of Seagulls is blaring from the car that pulls up by Camp Redwood, it’s being driven by a rideshare employe, meaning even before the blood-spattered card pointed out the show has rocketed to present day, it was clear the ’80s had been left behind. Likewise, Montana and Trevor sitting down to tell their tale to Mr. Jingles Junior was a nice final nod to the camp horror genre, one final campfire story told by a couple of ghosts. Beyond those particular structural flourishes, though, this week’s episode felt a little too neat to end a season full of so many messy murders.

It seems like the comically bloody murder (and re-murder, and extra murder) of Ramirez and Margaret were so cartoonish to balance out the otherwise, if not outright pleasant, then at least hopeful vibes from the finale. This is AHS’ shortest season yet, and the effort to tie up loose ends sometimes left things a little too clean. Donna has remained working at the asylum right by the site of a few of the worst nights of her life, for some reason. Character-wise, it’s pretty inexplicable, but it does make storytelling convenient for when a long lost son shows up at Camp Redwood looking for answers. Brooke is pretty easy to track down using the banking info from the checks she’s been sending Jingles Junior, because of course she’s alive and living the life of an Instagram influencer in Oregon (sidenote, while living an anonymous, post-death life in 1989 seems possible, how does she go through the forever tagged, uploaded and shared world of 2019 as a person that can’t be found?) That should be enough reason to let her husband put down the fillers and allow her face to reach its actual maturity, just to get the true-crime junkies off her case (because Camp Redwood would have at least three podcasts by now).

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Even Margaret’s murder came off as both sudden and inevitable. It’s almost strange that it took Montana’s epiphany and subsequent organization to get the ghost mob to go after Margaret. After all, she had murdered most of them. or at the very least set their murders into motion. And as a self-serving, but not stupid psychopath, shouldn’t she have felt a little trepidation going into a place she knew was full of the ghosts of those who she had wronged?

The episode’s ending, complete with the ’80s emotional family ballad “In the Living Years” (all the pathos of “Cats in the Cradle,” but much more danceable) was so sweet, there was almost an undercurrent of panic running just beneath the surface. Was Bobby’s grandma going to kill him in a murderous rage, because as handsome as he was her Bobby never got to grow up? Were the ghosts going to learn that even though they can’t cross the property lines, if a certain vengeful spirit chucks a knife through the camp’s gate, it could lodge in the head of Jingles Junior, who was only trying to catch his breath? But it turns out Jingles and company really are at peace (so Mr. Jingles being snatched below the lake by the slimy hobbit wasn’t actually sinister, somehow? And after thirty years chilling in that peaceful afterlife, they can now come and go on the campgrounds as they please?) and the band of intergenerational campers are more or less content hooking up and finding new, creative ways to kill Ramirez and Margaret over and over again (although it isn’t clear if the unfortunate souls Montana killed before her spiritual awakening are so happy to be spending eternity with her and a bunch of other people willing to overlook her murder). All she asked of Bobby was he tell his children their ghost stories, so they aren’t forgotten. Which...is what the dead, or the about to die often say onscreen, but those are going to be some bleak, bleak camping trips.

That’s it for this year’s season of American Horror Story! And if you need any Ryan Murphy content before another season next fall, you’re in luck—he has four new projects to drop by next year.

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Stray Observations

  • Would anyone living in Uber driving distance really have never have heard of Camp Redwood, the sight of three mass murders?
  • Even if Donna and Brooke were only in their mid-20s by ‘89, they’d be in their mid-50s by 2019. Brooke isn’t the only one who should be spilling her skincare secrets.
  • Little Bobby Ritcher is not the sharpest tool for a number of reasons (why, why go back to the camp?) but up there is not realizing that going into an asylum bloody and ranting is more likely to nab you a room than a chat with management.
  • Get it, Chef Bertie. Ideally get it when you’re not on Satanist watch duty, but still, get it.
  • Yes, quartering Margaret and throwing her through the wood chipper must have been very cathartic for the ghosts. But when you’re dealing with some kind of unseen but very regulated magic of resurrection you should be really, really sure someone’s not going to come back from the dead on a technicality.
  • Maybe all good parents are willing to sacrifice themselves for their child, but certainly, they don’t all do it. Then you end up with a lot of orphans with guilt complexes. Much like the cast of This is Us.
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