Note: This review was originally written by Roy Buckingham (aka JesterDFW) and recovered from oblivion by Matt Morrison (aka StarmanMatt)
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Last week, we were introduced to our band of potential victims, as they headed out from Los Angeles to work at Camp Redwood. They met their born-again Christian camp leader with a traumatic past, a nurse who would rather be elsewhere and a horny well-endowed extra from the Jane Fonda Workout Video. The episode also set-up the arrival of serial-killer Mister Jingles and established that real-life serial-killer Richard Ramirez (aka The Night Stalker) also exists in this universe.
Quite a lot for one hour of television, eh? But did episode 2 live up to this setup?
I would say so, considering that this episode’s first five minutes reveal the death of the show’s Dr. Loomis character and that the born-again Christian is a gun-totting badass. The biggest shock, however, was that the first five minutes of the episode were nothing compared to what came afterward, as all the characters’ secrets came out and their backstories were explored. This made it clear that American Horror Story 1984 is going in a unique and wonderful direction and that we are not getting your typical slasher formula film.
If it seems like things are moving quickly this season, it may be because this season seems to be only six episodes long. I’m happy if this is the case, because I fear this premise can only go so far. That being said, this episode was even better than the season premiere!
The episode mingles shocking secrets with equally shocking deaths. For instance, we learn about good-girl Brooke’s past, and it pretty much explains why she is the way that she is. It is refreshing to see Emma Roberts (who is usually cast in evil bitch roles) play against type portraying a character like Brooke, who is vulnerable yet not aware of how strong she really is.
In fact, the entire cast act their hearts out in this episode. Not only does Roberts get to shine, but so does Cody Fern as Xavier. When we learn Xavier’s secret, it shows us the cracks in his macho veneer and serves as a biting commentary on the ugly underbelly of the Los Angeles/Hollywood life, where people will do anything for fame.
However, the standout performance of this episode belonged to Leslie Grossman as Margaret Booth. We learn there is a dark side under her prim and proper facade and a justification to the sins she commits in Jesus’ name. It is the scene where she suddenly bonds with someone with whom she should not be bonding with that we realize there is a dangerous side to her.
Moments such as these define the episode and make it clear that American Horror Story 1984 is defying the genre conventions to tell a unique story instead of merely parroting slasher horror cliches. Any fears of this show being a second-rate Scream died with tonight’s episode. If the rest of this short season is like tonight’s episode, this may be one of the best seasons of American Horror Story ever.