With only two episodes left in part one of Double Feature, “Red Tide,” we’re at the point where we as viewers are challenged on the validity of our own creative interpretation of what we’ve seen so far. Will episode six prove that our theories and predictions have proven true and allow us to brag, “I knew it!”? Or will we come to find that this truly was just a stylized take on the standard bloodlust for ambition and talent, whether you have it or not, with no grander subtext in the form of nefarious alien content farms à la Neo waking up in a milky pod in The Matrix? It’s all so very “There is no spoon”; one thing we know for certain is that time will tell, but we’re running out of it. It seems like, as is often the case in the AHS universe, there’s a lot to wrap up in two remaining episodes, and it’ll be fun either way to see how it’s done regardless of whether the windup is more exciting than the pitch itself. It’s like sex, when you think about it. The before stuff is always better.
The challenge of an origin story, which is essentially what episode four, “Blood Buffet,” can be called, is that it either adds to what we’ve built up in our heads, ramps up to it, or subtracts from it. I feel like this sucked a little of the speculative fun out of my sails while also providing a great deal of info on the Chemist (Angelica Ross) and her reasoning behind creating the little black pills that have erupted Provincetown into a catty bloodbath with optioning rights. Flashback to five years ago, and we see her setting up her lab in a stunning rental shown by local dandy Holden Vaughn (Denis O’Hare) and then setting out on the town to secure guinea pigs for her pills. Having worked with the U.S. military for nine years as a biochemical engineer, she became an expert on what ignited a person’s creativity so that she could harness a way to shut it down to make soldiers more malleable. (You know, kind of like how billion-dollar editorial companies target people with only two years of experience to run a whole vertical and convince them that an office filled with K-pods is better than ever going home or pursuing romantic relationships that last more than five months. Work until you bleed from the eyes or get buried by the wave of bodies behind you who will, and for less.) The Chemist’s pills target the part of the brain that houses creativity, the occipital lobe, and cranks it up to ten. But, as we learned in earlier episodes, it only “benefits” those who already have at least some talent. One of her earliest P-Town subjects, a wannabe singer recruited by Mickey (Macaulay Culkin), doesn’t have what it takes and, before long, starts feeling sick, loses his hair, and buys a Klaus Nomi–esque jacket for himself from Lark’s (Billie Lourd) vintage shop before going full feral on the townsfolk. On Halloween evening, he stomps past the Chemist’s candy bowl, displayed on her porch behind a sign that reads, “Take one bitches,” to complain that the pills obviously didn’t work to his advantage, and she delivers the harsh news that his rage is fueled by the fact that he now knows the truth about himself: that he can’t sing for dick. Harsh notes for a former vegan U2 fan.
We also come to see how Belle Noir came to be the show-stealing eccentric that we’ve loved from first sight, and she sure as shit didn’t come by it easy. In Provincetown on vacation with her husband Ray, who has the personality of a baggie full of phlegm, she gives a reading of her self-published book, Martha’s Cherry Tree, at Tip of the Cape Books and sells only one copy, to the Chemist, who was one of about four people who cared about the event. After being introduced to the black pills by Mickey, she writes a new book in one night and then kills her husband, drinks his blood, and scatters his body parts along the shore. Good riddance, dickhole.
Nice and settled into her new vamp way of living, Belle gets a new set of pointy teeth and a makeover via Lark, and then takes herself on a date to the drag show, where she meets Austin, performing under the name Patty O’ Furniture. He takes his first pill, they do their first round of damage together, and that’s about that. So what’s next? What now?
Before watching episode four, I went back and watched the previous episodes to see if anything jumped out at me in a new way, and there’s a lot that could come into play in the remaining episodes of “Red Tide.” When Harry, Doris (Lily Rabe), and Alma (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) first arrive in Provincetown, they make their home in a rental owned by the Browns, who selected Doris from an interior-decorating Instagram contest pool of 100 people to live there, free of charge, for three months and decorate the place, even though she’d only ever had one (failed) decorating gig previously. Who are the Browns, and why did they need her to decorate the place when Holden said in episode three that he’s the go-to designer for Provincetown? People seem to continuously get handed opportunities far too easily here, regardless of whether they’ve taken the black pill or not. For instance, when Mickey hands Ursula a stack of Kinkos-printed first-draft scripts in episode three, she returns to her rental and immediately reads them. Now, if you’re an agent or have ever queried an agent, you know damn well that that’s not a likely scenario. If the Chemist is in town to test out a drug that will unlock a person’s creativity so the military will, in turn, know how to clamp it shut, how could that … aliens! Okay!? This is going to segue into part two, “Death Valley,” which is going to be about some Matrix-level alien-pod shit. Bet you a drink at the Muse.
Totally Gay Sunsets
• Don’t we all yearn for a time of homosexual Americana? I mean, really?
• More than any other show, AHS goes to great lengths to make sure people have the perfect outfits for committing unspeakable acts.
• Why does it seem like the black pills are location-specific? When Harry first took them, he abandoned the idea of going back to N.Y. in favor of staying in Provincetown and writing. Couldn’t he just have taken his baggie of pills back home with him? Pill-takers are encouraged to stay. For what purpose?
• We still need to find out what the red lights mean. In the first episode, when Harry takes his first walk into town to pick up groceries, red lights turn on in front of one house and another as he passes by. This is a signal or beacon for something.