Most weeks Joe (@bstolemyremote) and Terry (@gaylydreadful) discus the most recent episode of FX’s American Horror Story, alternating between our respective sites — queerhorrormovies.com and gaylydreadful.com.
Episode 9.08 “Rest in Pieces”: A deadly trio emerges, hell-bent on unleashing a new era at Camp Redwood. Our former counselors desperately try to keep history from repeating itself.
EXT — CAMP REDWOOD — NIGHT
Resigned to their fate, Joe and Terry are sitting opposite each other, leaning against trees.
The silence stretches for a long period. Joe runs a thumb against the blade of his knife and sighs.
What do we do now?
There’s another long pause.
Terry locks eyes with Joe and shrugs.
I guess we recap 1984?
Terry, I’m back! I’ve returned from exile to recap the last two episodes of the season with you and boy…am I ever wondering why? Because this episode was baaaaaad.
First, some kudos: big shout out to Nikki for doing a great job the last two weeks. I appreciated her musical knowledge, because I was totally lost (Kajagoogoo? Oingo Boingo? Chumbawamba? It’s all the same to me).
So now let’s turn our attention to the task at hand: trying to squeeze ~1000 words out of “Rest In Pieces” which more or less contributes nothing to the overall mythology of the season and once again simply moves the players around the board. Tragically, I saw a bunch of folks tweeting that a) this was a lifeless episode and b) this hardly feels like the penultimate episode of the season. Terry, I think this season may actually be creatively bankrupt!
The kinda/semi most interesting element of the episode is its metatextual commentary about the rise of the public’s fascination with serial killers in the 80s. This is a beat that the show has been hitting pretty aggressively hard throughout the season, but the introduction of National Enquirer writer Stacey (Stefanie Black, from Scandal) really synthesized 1984’s narrative approach. Stacey is covering the Camp Redwood music festival when she spots Brooke (Emma Roberts) and Donna (Angelica Ross) having breakfast. She then goes into a spiel about America’s love of Dahmer and Geins which would almost seem prescient, if you forgot for a moment that this is 2019 writers reflecting back on 1990 (Sidebar: why isn’t this season simply subtitled Slasher or Camp Redwood? Roughly 25% has actually been set in 1984)
Anyways, Stacey might have been a useful observer of the proceedings as we ease into the climax, but instead she’s simply killed (like pretty much every other character is, because American Horror Story writers still struggle to understand that horror fans don’t need death to find something scary or interesting).
So much of this season has been about people turning into casual serial killers and “Rest in Pieces” is no different. When Brooke learns that Stacey knows her secret and she’s not convinced that the tabloid writer won’t turn them in, she’s convinced that the only thing to do is stab her. I don’t buy for a second that her time in prison reduced her to this (what a statement to make about incarcerated people, AHS!) and despite acknowledging the time difference, this is still a jarring – and unearned – character development. At this point Donna is the only rationale, sort of fleshed out character on this show and we’re talking about the woman who only a few episodes ago released Jingles to kill camp counsellors in the name of science!
And then there’s Montana (Billie Loud)’s rant to Baby Elephant Trunk (Matthew Morrison) about sexism in killing (preach!) before she sends him away because she’s “bad” and wants someone fucked up. This is the most basic Psych 101 approach to character development: Montana’s obviously withdrawing because she’s found a man who loves and respects her (which…barf on that simplistic heteronormative idealization nonsense), but the show thinks it’s pulling a bait and switch as though they won’t end up together. Instead we just have Margaret Booth (Leslie Grossman) staring at them like she actually gives a shit, despite the fact that all she ever talks about is making money.
Who could care, Terry? WHO COULD CARE?!
Alright, I’m yelling, so I’ll turn it over to you. Were you frustrated that Stacey got killed so quickly (or does it even matter since everyone just turns up as a ghost)? Are you warming up to Dylan McDermott’s shaggy mop is doing on this season? And can we hope that the Jingles (John Carroll Lynch) storyline has finally been put to bed now that he’s been Friday the 13th’d by his dead brother Bobby into some kind of utopian picnic fantasy (eyeroll)?
Welcome back, Joe! I’ve missed digging into the terribleness that is AHS 1984 with you. But also, I agree, Nikki kicked ass filling in and her knowledge of 80s music is bar none. Whereas mine is just…well, the none part. And I think the music is the only interesting thing this season has done because…Joe, I agree. This has been a wasted season.
More so, a wasted opportunity to dig into the 80s fad we’re currently experiencing. As we’ve discussed, I have a love/hate relationship with American Horror Story. Sometimes it works for me; a lot of times it doesn’t. BUT even when it doesn’t work for me, there’s typically a strong theme that carries the narrative through. It might not be a good theme or a deep theme, but there’s at least some kind of foundation. That’s completely missing here.
It makes me wonder how much oversight Ryan Murphy had on this season. Between this, Pose and his Netflix deal, I think he’s being pulled in too many directions. Because even when AHS was trash, it was beautiful trash. I honestly cannot find a single thing that made this season worthwhile.
I’m glad you brought up the heteronormative idealization BS because it’s something I realized after last week. This is the straightest season of AHS. Like ever. If you think about it, the only queer representation we’ve gotten in the show is the bad porno producer and the killer lesbian trope that was Montana’s obsession with Brooke. They’ve cast LGBTQ actors, which I appreciate, but I think that’s it. It’s jarring, coming from seasons past with the BDSM latex butt sex. So you’re doing a show about the campiest decade in cinema and you DON’T lean into the queer angle?
I got nothing.
When Stacey showed up, I literally sighed in exasperation and wrote down “now who’s this bitch?” Why are we still adding in these minor, one-note characters at the end of the season when we should be tying up loose ends and doubling down on our main characters. She adds nothing to the story. The sentient being living on Dylan McDermott’s head adds even less. I didn’t even care about his rant about Mary Kay and pink Cadillacs. I. Just. Don’t. Care.
I did slightly care more about the Montana and Baby Elephant Trunk moment because I legit laughed when she kicks him to the curb. The note I wrote was, “Go! Go Trevor! She Harry and the Henderson’s him!” He’s the Bigfoot to Montana’s George Henderson.
But that’s all I got. That single moment. It made me chuckle. Which probably says a lot about the episode as a whole.
Now I’m frustrated. And I didn’t even get to the utopian dream sitch with the happy Jingles family. I literally said, “that’s it?!” when the episode faded out on their happy family…when not even an episode ago, the mother (Lily Rabe) tells him the wrong child died. So I’ll let you dig into that…mess, Joe.
Since we didn’t get to chat about THAT whole side plot from last episode, what do you make of this inanity? After Jingles spills all of the tea about Montana’s dealings with Richard (Zach Villa) and the resounding response was just a shrug emoji, does any of the previous season even matter? And will we see Billy Idol next episode? Who will play him? And finally with the fourth wall break mentioning The Final Girl, do we even bring up the fact that term was coined in 1992?
Oof – I’m still seething about how Lily Rabe has been misused this season. I always love seeing her, but let’s get honest: she hasn’t been well used since Asylum. Sure, watching her Stevie Nicks impression on Coven is mildly amusing, but it ain’t a character.
Here she’s basically even less than that – she’s merely channeling a number of other (more memorable) horror icons in a bizarrely whitewashed way. So no, I didn’t care for the white lady version of La Llorona (we already got that this year!) and the stilted resolution of a fantasy family reunion – if that’s what this was – makes it all the more disappointing. Do we even care if any of these people get a happy ending? This season is filled with characters who all deserved to be flushed down the crapper.
Sadly I’m throwing all of our potential “Final Girls” into that mix. Montana is sad and boring; Emma Roberts is trying to keep Brooke interesting but this latest killer angle is just poorly conceived and I fear that Donna’s racially informed comment about the treatment of Black characters is tantamount to foreshadowing…not that it matters since no one ever dies and there are no stakes!
Which brings me to the way that everyone at Camp Redwood is reacting to their situation. Kajagoogoo reappears after being brutally murdered in their RV and they’ve never sounded better? Baby Elephant Trunk is content to throw his life around to be a piece of ass for the rest of eternity? Ray (DeRon Horton) and Chet (Gus Kenworthy) are hanging around as part of a lynch mob, but they don’t even get dialogue anymore? More than any other season, 1984 has failed its actors by stranding them in a narrative that truly doesn’t give a shit about them.
I spent almost the entirety of “Rest In Pieces” feeling sorry for these talented actors, forced to slum through hackneyed narratives and bad dialogue, which tends to happen at least a few times a season, but not in such a sustained fashion. How has this show messed such a fun premise/good actors/campy subgenre?!
Ugh, I’m depressed now.
Looking ahead to next week’s finale…yes I’ll imagine that we’ll see Billy Idol and I’m guessing he’ll be played by Cheyenne Jackson or some other absent Murphy regular (in a bad wig, obviously). Will we get a rock performance for the ages, or more random deaths that are meaningless? Terry, what are your predictions for the finale…and is there anything that can save this season at this point?
Okay, about the baby noise band, I know AHS (and Murphy in general… I’m looking at you “Wintour is Coming” Pose anachronism) likes to play with history, but like the Not Goo Goo Dolls are still around. So unless somehow the curse of Camp Redwood is broken, how are they going to do their reunion shows in the 2000s? And if you were going to immortalize an 80s band…I mean, there are probably better choices.
Yes, I am critiquing their choice of band.
But, Joe, in surprised we’ve wrung this much out of this vapid episode. I hate Kajapoopooing a season as much as we have 1984 because there’s a fine line between watching and hate watching. But the only thing this has given me is the chance to write with some of my favorite people.
I have no idea what’s going to happen in the finale and I don’t think I care? As you noted, none of the choices in Final Girl are good because the narrative has mistreated a bunch of actors who have always been fun to watch, at the very least.
Bring on the finale.
Next week: we’re wrapping AHS up (and we’re back on gaylydreadful.com). Here’s your promo for ‘Final Girl’: