The best episodes of American Horror Story leave me with a handful of questions: What is going to happen next? How did I not see that coming? Who knew that Jessica Lange can sing? However, the worst episodes also leave me with questions: How do they expect us to believe that? Why the hell would the characters actually do that? Is that really supposed to be scary? This was one of those episodes that definitely left me with the second set of questions. After last week’s episode — one of the best ever — this is surely a letdown.
The biggest problem is that we spend a majority of the episode with the Polks, who have consistently been the most boring aspect of this season. Maybe this is foolhardy of me, but I have an easier time believing in a mansion full of crazy pig-headed monsters and bloodthirsty colonists than I believe that cannibal weed dealers are living in the woods. That is surely impossible. The body torture Hostel-esque scenes that Lee and Audrey and Monet endure are so incredibly similar, it’s such a slog. Yes, the idea of someone pulling out your teeth without your consent (or heavy anesthesia) is terrifying, but I just didn’t care about their well-being or this story. It simply didn’t hit home for me.
The scenes between Lee and Jether (an unrecognizable Finn Wittrock) felt like they lasted forever and filled me with such snoozes that I actually fell asleep for a bit. We all knew that Lee was going to get out. In fact, I’d bet good money on Lee being the one who survives this whole ordeal. The only people left are her and two stupid, vain actresses who are more worried about the performances they didn’t get to deliver than living for any real reason. Lee has to see her daughter again. She has the determination to make it through, even if she has had big chunks carved out of her leg.
The one payoff is that Lee finally confesses to killing her husband Mason when he tried to take Flora away from her. Sidney said that is all he wanted from and he got it, just not in the way he wanted. One of the things that I’m continuing to love about this second half of the season is that the monsters aren’t the ones doing the killing. Aside from Rory, whom the nurses killed to complete their “murder” anagram, the other characters are offing each other week after week, whether because of Shelby’s anger, everyone’s poor treatment of Agnes, or Lee locking Dominic out of the bathroom so that the Pig Man could tear him apart. The real horror here isn’t the monsters. It’s other people, just like Sartre told us.
But I have so many questions about the Polk scenes, the biggest of which is how, exactly, was this filmed? The problem with making these “found footage” horror movies is that the source of this video is always incredibly suspect. I can believe that they’d be filming on their phones as long as they thought that there was a reality show in the offing. But the three women at the farm found Sidney dead. They know there isn’t going to be a show anymore. Why are they still on their cameras? The writers seem to know this is a problem, since they have Aubrey ask, “How is this phone not dead?” when she wakes up.
It’s explained that the footage from the Polks’ house is security footage, but if that’s the case, why would it be discovered along with the cell phones? How did someone get their cell-phone footage? Why were they so intent on filming this anyway? And if this is security-camera footage, why is it so good? How was each scene filmed from so many repetitive angles? Why isn’t there footage outside of the house where we could see Monet running away? See what I mean? I have questions.
Of course, they don’t stop after Lee uses her feminine wiles to strangle Jether and Aubrey gets out and smashes Momma’s head with a hammer. The biggest question of all is: Why the hell would they go back to that awful haunted house full of murders? Sure, Aubrey has some Oxy in her bag, but you know who else has Oxy? Hospitals! When they wake up in the house — yes, they expect us to believe that Aubrey fell asleep in that house of horrors — Lee proposes they go back to the Polks’ to erase the tapes of them killing their captors, but what Lee really wants is to delete her confession. She says they’re going to hot-wire a car and escape. Um, you were just at the farm, why not take one of trucks? Instead, they go back to that horrorscape full of pig-headed villains? That does not make any sense at all.
Equally stupid is Shelby and Dominic’s decision to flee through the secret tunnel. First of all, that necessitates them going into the basement. Why are these people always insisting on going into the basement? It’s even worse now that Matt’s headless corpse is down there, collecting flies and giving off an unholy stench. When they get to the passage, they don’t find Edward, its guardian. Instead they find the Chens, who attack them and send them skittering back into the house.
I have some questions about the Chens, too. It seems like everyone who died in the house — the nurses, the hunters, the Pig Man, the Butcher and her crew — all look like they did during life. Sure, they may be a bit grimmer and scarier, but still look like humans. What, exactly, happened to the Chens? How did they go from hapless Taiwanese family to a clan of ceiling-crawling spider people right out of a Japanese horror movie? Is it because they’re Asian? Is turning them into Asian horror movie creatures just because they’re Asian vaguely racist? Is it entirely racist? And why would the Chens be attacking other people that live in the house? Shouldn’t they want to protect those people the ghosts would kill, like they needed someone to protect them?
It’s all just too much. When American Horror Story doesn’t lay the groundwork, we’re not left scared. We’re left only with questions.
In the end, Shelby kills herself because she couldn’t stand the guilt from killing Matt. Lee (who is challenging Agnes for the highest body count of the season) kills Dominic because she thinks he killed Matt and Shelby. And we’re left with even more questions. Why the hell is Dylan (the actor who played the Butcher’s son in My Roanoke Nightmare) dressed up as the Pig Man? Was this all a fake too? Did Sid plan all of this out just to get a confession out of Lee? Are we going to find out the entire sequel was just as staged as the original? Or maybe he’s just the world’s latest actor? With only two episodes left, I don’t even know if I have the energy to ask anymore.