American Horror Story
As much as I’ve been looking forward to the finale of “Red Tide,” in hopes that the bloody footpath laid out in the previous episodes would lead somewhere delightfully horrible and surprising, I’ve been dreading it all the same. I haven’t grown this attached to an ensemble of malcontents and a-holes in a long time, and, well, I’m going to miss them. Most of them. Alma can now, and forever, shove her violin straight up her lobster roll.
While the conclusion to part one of Double Feature could have gone in many different directions, it followed a pretty clear-cut path, as far as Ryan Murphy/Brad Falchuk projects go. The team behind American Horror Story has often been chastised for crafting amazing introductions to their seasons that then run out of gas toward the end, but I doubt if anyone will feel that way about this season. Although I found myself tipping a bit toward the “Well, okay, that’s that, then” side of the scale as the credits rolled on “Winter Kills,” it was still an exceptional finale.
Alma (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) severed all remaining ties to her humanity, Belle (Frances Conroy) and Austin (Evan Peters) died at the hands of the talentless piss-ons they so desperately feared becoming, and Ursula (Leslie Grossman) and the Chemist (Angelica Ross) turned Hollywood into a deep-fake, real-time Walking Dead soundstage. The moral? Be careful what you wish for because you won’t even be able to appreciate it after you get it because you’ll already be wanting something else, something more.
In my recap of episode five, I theorized that the tricky thing about success is that success isn’t the real draw; it’s the striving and the doing that get you to it, and I stand by that, especially as a thematic map pin stuck in this finale. In the case of Harry and Alma, they never get to enjoy the success they quite literally killed to achieve because they were so consumed with obtaining even more of it. Harry tried to stop, telling his daughter that now that spring is on its way, and he’s written what amounts to five years of work in one winter season, they can go cold turkey with the black pills. His attempt to pump the brakes gets his neck chewed out by the fruit of his loins. Kids are nasty that way. It’s all “I love you, Daddy” when they’re greasing their palms with allowance, but things turn ugly in a flash when that giving hand starts turning up empty. Just like it’s virtually impossible to eat just one Oreo and then walk away from the bag, it’s equally difficult to achieve one coveted professional milestone and then walk away peacefully satisfied. More. There’s always more.
After a bloodier-than-usual winter, the townies of Provincetown gather to prepare for the warmer seasons but are confronted with a problem. The uptick in murders could keep tourists and visiting gays away if the news made it to the national press. Belle and Austin make moves to clean up the town and preserve their snack supply and their formerly quiet writers’ retreat by targeting Harry, Alma, and Ursula as the vermin that needs fumigating. Belle kidnaps baby Eli as a ploy to get Harry and Alma over to the house to kill them, but Ursula tricks a handful of pale people into crashing the party. The pales feed upon Belle and Austin, Alma feeds upon her dad, and Ursula guns down anyone left who isn’t part of her endgame plan.
Ursula lies to the pales, telling them that sometimes there are second chances, but there are no second chances left in Provincetown. Flash forward three months, and Ursula, the Chemist, Alma, and Eli are shacked up in Hollywood like the, yes, blood-sucking Brady Bunch, and Ursula is handing out black pills to anyone with a laptop at Starbucks who looks like they could make her a buck. More black pills lead to more pale people, and before long, they run out of chances there. The Chemist and baby Eli drive off searching for a new city and the creation of a new pill. Maybe this one will help them live forever, the Chemist says to baby Eli. An eternity in a landscape of talentless bloodthirsty zombies? Does that ring prophetic, bleak, or familiar? I think we’ve seen that show before.
Ursula lingers behind as an unhinged Willy Wonka, only instead of candy that turns greedy kids into blueberries and floating farts, she’s turning everyone into a killer or a douchebag. Is there such a thing as “special” if everyone’s special? Put that under your pillow along with your collection of participation ribbons. I mean, really.
And That’s a Laurence Fishburn(e)
• At the end of the finale of “Red Tide,” they showed a snippet of part two, “Death Valley,” which is definitely heavy on the black-and-white early-’50s top-secret aliens and government secrecy vibes. There were snippets of Hollywood throughout this, and it’ll be interesting to see how, if at all, the finale of part one will lead into this.
• It felt very shoulder-tappy when the Chemist told Eli that she might develop a new pill that allows them to live forever. If anything, this seems like a good tie between bloodsuckers and aliens. And after seeing the kind of damage a pill that promises success caused, imagine what would come from a pill that promised immortality.
• If Holden could stop a Burger King from opening in Provincetown, he could stop aliens from doing whatever they’re sure as hell planning to do to poor Sarah Paulson in part two. God, they really put that lady through the wringer. No wonder she’s thinking of calling it quits. (DON’T GO!)