American Horror Stories is the American Horror Story spinoff we’ve all been waiting for since it was announced. But the two-parter premiere episodes are not a good sign of what direction this anthology might take.
I recapped the first part yesterday and now that I’ve watched part two, I’m disappointed in the tired storytelling presented here. I think returning to Murder House was a mistake meant to excite fans who miss the glory days of the Ryan Murphy-created series, but considering the parent series revisited Murder House not that long ago in Apocalypse, it feels like yet another retread.
It was interesting to see Scarlett embrace her Rubber Woman persona but beyond that, every other story beat has been covered before. The human/ghost romance between Scarlett and Tate is an obvious parallel to Violet and Tate (Ruby is even seen wearing Tate’s old T-shirt in one scene), another gay couple with marital problems that culminate in cheating and both of them dying? We’ve seen that before, too! Murderous mean girls? Check. Exploration of what Halloween night means to the ghosts in the house? Been there, done that.
The most interesting part of the premiere episodes was Scarlett as a character, both because of Sierra McCormick’s performance (which poor Kaia Gerber failed to stand out next to) and because it’s so rare we see the exploration of a young woman with dark, sadistic sexual fantasies. The problem is, any complexity in Scarlett’s storyline is pushed aside in favor of making her just another murderer.
American Horror Stories proves that Murder House needs to be put to rest permanently
Okay, Scarlett likes killing people. That’s not actually in line with what her fantasies are. She admitted to Maya in the first episode that she likes to see people in pain and the shame they feel from being sexually stimulated from it. There is no exploration of that and the fact Scarlett was kidnapped and missing for 10 days as a kid is also never brought up again.
Is Scarlett a psychopath? Probably. But it would have been more interesting to see a more insular storyline revolving around her character than her sudden arc into a practiced murderess. The episodes don’t take any time to explore Scarlet’s dark depths in a meaningful way. The dialogue is often clunky and not in the tongue-in-cheek way we’ve come to expect from this series. It just doesn’t settle.
By the end of the second hour, everyone in Scarlett’s life is dead and she makes the decision to leave Murder House behind because she doesn’t want to get stuck inside the house for eternity. Instead, Scarlett returns each Halloween to visit her beloved Ruby and her dead dads on the one night a year the dead can roam the earth. It’s a somewhat happy ending, again similar to the way things ended with Murder House with the Harmons finding peace inside the house among the ghosts.
That said, since this is an episodic anthology series, I’m trying to be hopeful that future episodes will be much more interesting in tone and storytelling. Personally, I’d like it if American Horror Story finally put Murder House and its ghosts to rest, permanently.
New episodes of American Horror Stories air Thursdays through FX on Hulu.