American Horror Story
Watching this episode of American Horror Story: Accents was sort of like going on a shopping spree, eating a whole box of candy, or actually paying for internet pornography. It wasn’t just a little indulgence — it was a whole heap of them all at once. The feeling left me giddy afterwards, like I wanted to buy more, eat more, and watch so much more.
But instead of clothes, candies, and hot European muscle bottoms, this episode OD’ed on blood, death, and some of the most gruesome footage we’ve ever seen on this show. Given the “twist” last week, when the reality crew returned to film another show at the Mott Manor, I thought death would slowly be meted out on the newly reassembled cast. Boy, I was more wrong than that joke your brother’s best friend made during his best-man speech. In the first few minutes, producer Sid got the literal axe when Agnes, playing the Butcher, returned to take her revenge. As collateral damage, a cameraman, and a PA whose name we don’t even know, ended up adding their arterial spray to consecrated the ground.
We know that every person but one is going to die, but I assumed that it would all be as a result of going back to the house. That would just mean Matt, Shelby, Lee, Fake English Sarah Paulson, and the rest of the gang were going to get murdered for being stupid enough just to return to the scene of the original haunting. What happened to Sid was something a bit more meaningful than that. He wasn’t a victim of his own idiocy, but rather of the horrible way that he treated Agnes, the woman who played the Butcher. She was obviously mentally unwell, so not asking her to return was the right move, but the way he did it with such cruelty was not deserved.
He also hoped that, by pissing her off, she would come back and make for some great TV. He just didn’t know how homicidal she would be when she came back. Kathy Bates, yet again, proves that she’s an amazing actress: She slips in between characters, vacillating between Agnes and the Butcher like Gollum, but without all the motion-capture mumbo jumbo. When she was talking in her awful Butcher accent, I really had no idea what the hell she was yammering on about, though. She sounded a bit like a drunk duck trying to explain astrophysics to toddler.
Just like Gollum, she is obsessed with her “precious.” It isn’t a ring, but fame. “I just wanted to be on the show and he wouldn’t let me. He said no one cared about me anymore,” she says at one point, before the real Butcher (who, breaking gay hearts everywhere, was not played by Jessica Lange) slices her skull open. As the founder and president of the Real Housewives Institute, Agnes reminds me of a Real Housewife who has been kicked off the show. They’ve tasted notoriety, and when it’s stripped away, they’re willing to do anything to get it back. Now, I’m not going to say that Jill Zarin would go on a murder spree if she ever got Andy Cohen and a bunch of his Real Housewives in a house together, but that is the Real Housewives fan fiction I would write for Halloween.
Speaking of Real Housewives, when Dominic goes into the confessional and says that he’s happy to play the villain just like “that crazy one that threw her leg,” it incensed me with anger. Her name, Ryan Murphy, is Aviva Drescher, and she gave of herself so that we could have joy. She threw her leg onto the floor of Cipriani, and she shall forever go down in the annals of the reality-television arts, and that should never be forgotten.
Although I would rather have sex with a half-rotten jack-o-lantern sitting in a pile of subway-platform vomit than think about Cuba Gooding Jr. in a sexual way, the relationship between Dominic, Shelby, and Matt is wonderfully interesting. It all comes to a head after Agnes attacks Shelby in her bedroom and then runs off (seriously, how many doors can there be in one bedroom?) when Dominic saves her. Matt feels guilty that she’s injured and she’s hoping that will get her back in his good graces. Dominic wants Shelby (well, he wants to make good TV), Shelby wants Matt, and Matt wants to get it on with the gross wannabe Lady Gaga in the basement.
Like so many gay couples before them, Matt and Shelby break up because Matt would rather spend his time with Lady Gaga than with her. Well, it isn’t quite Mother Monster — it’s the “original Supreme,” the spirit of the woods that has been haunting the house for centuries. I loved the turn when Matt confesses he’s in love with her and not Shelby. Damn, that must be some real magical sex they’re having, because he’s certainly not into her for her looks.
When he tells Shelby this, she snaps and bludgeons him to death with a crowbar. What’s great about all of these deaths (except for Rory’s) is that the house didn’t kill them. Instead, other forces undid them. Even when the Butcher fells Agnes, it’s not because she’s a victim, but because she allows herself to be. The spirits might have been the method of her demise, but they weren’t the cause of it. Agnes kills out of her need for fame, Shelby kills out of her anger and jealousy, and the Polks, well, they kill because they’re hungry.
Of all the story lines going on this week, the one with Lee, Audrey, and Monet is the weakest. They’re just wandering around the tunnels under the house and through the woods with their phones up in the air, like this is the world’s worst Pokémon Go expedition and they only thing they catch is a giant fork to the thigh. I don’t really care about the flesh-eating, weed-growing hillbillies in the woods, though, they do provide us with some really grisly scenes.
What I liked about this whole episode, and the Polk scenes in particular, is how much scarier they were than when we saw them in the reenactments. My Roanoke Nightmare looked like any other season of AHS, with its bad accents, lush costumes, and stylized deaths. Ever since they returned to the house, everything has been grosser, more stripped-down, and much more terrifying. If this were to actually happen (and of course it couldn’t), Mama Polk wouldn’t look like Frances Conroy. She’d be some gross, skinny lady in a bathrobe. The season is deconstructing the idea of how we imagine horrible things, thanks to popular media, and what those horrible things would really be like. It’s also deconstructing the very idea of the series and how it displays the terrors of the occult world.
What’s most thrilling about this episode is how everyone in the house is beset on all sides with no escape. The production crew is trying to get them to destroy themselves, the Butcher is on a rampage for revenge, their own desires and vices threaten them with destruction, and the people out in the woods are trying to gobble them up like so many skin-flavored gummy bears. The ghosts are the least of their worries, even as they drive each character from one perilous situation to the next. Yes, this episode was like a shopping spree, and we’re throwing away the receipts.