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American Horror Story goes back to the future, or a different past

Photo: Kurt Iswarienko (FX)
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This season of American Horror Story might be titled 1984, but this week’s episode endeavored to cover more of the decade, and all the things pop culture homages have used to signal the Regan era since the late ‘90s were present and accounted for. Fluorescent make-up! Computers straight out of War Games (or, if you prefer, Jumpin’ Jack Flash)! Cassette Tapes and the boom boxes that housed them!

Beyond its use as an ‘80s references bingo, AHS’s 100th episode showcased so many of the things it’s been doing well for the last eight seasons, as well as some of its pitfalls. And all with a very important reminder — never eat the prison chow.

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Brooke’s 1989 wasn’t very surprising, with the events of last week’s episode and her stunning track record of really, really bad luck. There was a little tension when Richard offered her a way to escape the needle — she’ll be the first person this season to reject the siren call of Satan (Satan... Satan...Satan). What was surprising, and surprisingly effective, was the almost quiet way five years behind bars has hardened her. Yes, flipping someone off and telling a priest exactly what she thinks of God isn’t anything early-season Brooke would have done. But avoiding the temptation to make her become raving and revenge hungry like Montana, or sullenly murderous like Mr. Jingles makes her almost even-temper monologue directed at Margaret that much more chilling. This is someone who has had only misfortune, who has completely embraced her fate, and who seems to believe, deep in her heart, that karma will visit anyone who has wronged her. An effective contrast to the rest of the Camp Redwood crew, who seem to think killing those who wronged them directly is the only way to go.

The fuzzy rules of the ghosts of Camp Redwood (they are real enough to murder, not to leave) make for some fun, comparatively low stakes bloodshed (RIP bird enthusiast), but while any opportunity for Billie Lourd to stare daggers in a multicolor zip-up sweatshirt is welcome, Xavier’s turn from ostensibly good guy to unrepentant murderer seems a little abrupt, even in a world when so little can turn someone bloodthirsty (and, as Xavier points out, apparently a world where nothing can change the limbo they’re living in one way or the other).

But Trevor’s ability to let Brooke take the fatal fall for Margaret while married to her might have been the night’s biggest head-scratcher. Would she really be stressed over his testimony, enough to marry him, when he had just explained he didn’t call the cops because he felt so sure her money would shield her from any accusations? And if he did feel so guilty about his silence, would it be that easy for him to watch Brooke’s execution?

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The most endearing and weakest story of the night was Mr. Jingles’ transformation from Satanist sidekick to family man in Alaska. Beyond the truly bizarre idea that someone, anyone, would equate being a prostitute with being a mass murderer aside...once he’s lucid, Jingles is portrayed as a pretty smart guy. And pretty smart guys might think they’re able to hide from law enforcement in Alaska (the anonymity of the pre-internet, pre-facial recognition cameras era is truly terrifying), but probably not Satan. Maybe he got a little too cocky with the ease with which he was able to get rid of the devil’s most loyal, Billy Idol loving servant, but some black smokey force brought him back from the dead. And that doesn’t sound like something that’s going to be scared off by the cold.

The reveal that the person that gave Brooke the not quite lethal injection was Donna was genuinely satisfying and leaves plenty of questions for the next episode. Why not try to get an innocent woman out of jail before her execution? How could she be stable enough to perfectly apply blue-winged eyeshadow after the ghost of her father told her she was born to be a killer?

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Next week, Donna and Brooke go on a road trip, Mr. Jingles returns to Camp Redwood, and maybe there’ll be a peak at a celeb doing their best Billy Idol impression?

Stray Observations

  • Being sentenced to death for a series of crimes you didn’t commit probably weighs on you in a way that would negatively affect your decision-making skills, but that was a sad-looking last meal Brooke was enjoying. Even with a Snapple.
  • The town where Richard was finally taken down has an excellent neighborhood watch program.
  • Money can help you get around a lot of red tape, but surely Camp Redwood would be a crime scene if there was still blood on the dock?
  • Poor dead Lorraine’s sister does not ask the right questions. When your brother-law-shows up at your door and yells that your sister is dead, your first follow up should not be “Why are you leaving the baby with me?”
  • Did the German woman not call the cops when she was narrowly, at the very least kidnapped by her noisy neighbor? It would have been easy enough to direct them to the scene of the almost crime — just follow the blaring Black Sabbath.
  • Margaret’s real estate ventures are super morbid, but honestly would probably be even more popular in 2019 than in 1989. Faux-skin covered lampshades? She might be a cold-blooded killer, but you have to respect the woman’s attention to detail.
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