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American Horror Story: 1984 9.4 Review – ‘True Killers’

October 10, 2019 | Posted by Wednesday Lee Friday
American Horror Story: 1984
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American Horror Story: 1984 9.4 Review – ‘True Killers’  

Before we begin with this week’s ep, let’s look for a moment at the series as a whole. If American Horror Story has a single theme—what would it be? Dead people rarely stay dead. Plenty of evil people avoid their fates while mostly decent people are roasted (literally at times) for simple slips. Satanists (who here, believe in a literal Satan) seem to fare pretty well, while Christians are generally portrayed as self-righteous whackadoos. Yet the Satanists aren’t quite the good guys, are they? It may be this absence of a moral center that leaves the series lacking in overall impact.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m a fan. I hang on every development, every sassy line, every self-referential joke, and every casting choice. But over time, I think the constant need to shock and thrill us keeps the show from really grasping a central theme or deeper meaning. When future generations talk about the show, it’ll be in terms of individual scenes or its understanding of horror on the whole. I just feel like we see so much and address so many themes on this show—yet we never get to the guts of things like right v wrong, good v evil in a way that translates to our world in a lasting way.

With that out of the way–we can probably agree that suggesting Cyndi Lauper to a room full of adults rocking to Billy Idol is not a wise move. Neither is getting it on with a dude who just murdered a stranger for mouthing off to you. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see the appeal. Montana is a fan of grand gestures and cheap thrills, so her budding friendship with the Night Stalker is understandable. She’s enchanted by his bloodlust and um…regular lust.

What do we learn? That Montana is the sister of Sam, the childhood friend of Brooke’s late fiancé. So, when the demented jealous fiancé murdered his BFF, future-father-in-law, and then himself—Montana blamed Brooke rather than the killer. That’s some highly internalized misogyny. What are the odds that you’d never meet your brother’s best friend’s sister? Then again, Montana didn’t seem to be at the wedding. Anyway, that’s why Montana sent Ramirez to kill Brooke, and why she’s so intent on him finishing the job. Anybody else wonder if Ramirez would have been a different guy in RL if he’d had a steady girlfriend who wasn’t a psychopath?

We’re in the confounding position this week, of half the camp staff hysterical over various murders—while the rest are obscenely clueless. Margaret comes upon the dead fake Jingles dudes, and is nonplussed. Chef Bertie is equally clueless when Xavier comes upon her calmly making sandwiches. Benjamin arrives, and we see that Bertie and he share a past…of her making sandwiches and him eating them. Watch for Bertie’s bit of wisdom to Jingles: “We can’t fix what’s already done, but we always get a say in what happens next.” Sage, my girl.

This scene ends with Xavier locked in a hot oven and Bertie near death. I was thinking that we hadn’t seen anyone burned alive since “Murder House,” No wait, “Asylum,” no, “Roanoke,” No wait, last season. So, I guess the takeaway is that AHS loves to burn people alive. But not this week. Xavier didn’t die in the oven, though the Maillard reaction was already well underway. I thought he might be a suicide once he caught his reflection—but so far—he’s still with us. I think the oven took too long to kill him. I should think breathing the hot air would have done him in long before the searing heat and burns. It felt like he was alive in there for a loooong time. Sadly, for Xavier, he did have to heed Bertie’s last wish and put her out of her misery. Chef Bertie was criminally underused, and I may not forgive them for that.

We learned this week that Donna is the one whose been setting all the traps. She fancies herself a bold scientist who’s unafraid to take big risks to get the facts. But her experiments are flawed, lacking in a control group, and steeped in utter batshittery. Her declarations of importance might have meant something if she was applying any kind of scientific standard to her experiments. But she isn’t. Plus she’s a psychologist, not a psychiatrist. So that’s a non-starter IMO. Brooke is right—Donna is just another killer pretending to be more.

Next thing we know, Brooke is in one of Donna’s traps while Montana pretends she lacks a sharp object to cut her ‘friend’ down. We know she carries a knife. This situation culminates with Ramirez fighting Jingles over who gets to kill Brooke, while Donna and Montana stop observing long enough to kick each other’s asses. Donna seems dead or knocked out, while the NightStalker is murdered waaaay ahead of history’s schedule. While all this is sorted out, Brooke frees herself. Brooke is an incredibly boring character, really only interesting because of what’s happening to her.

Then comes the sad tale of Benjamin Richter. If I were going to guess their backstory based on the clues so far, it would be pretty much what was described. Back “then” (I love the use of “then” and “now” to describe the time frame, though they probably stole that from my own first novel that does the same thing). Margaret’s peers were just as annoyed by her as the contemporary campers, and Richter was her big protective bear. As predicted, Margaret is the real killer, always has been. Jingles was set up by her, and tortured at an asylum using ‘treatments’ like ECT and old-school hydrotherapy. No wonder he’s bitter now.

The end of this scene was damn gripping. Richter realizes the scope of the injustice that’s been done to him, only for Margaret to shoot him when he makes a move to kill her. He’s okay though. Speaking of okay, Chet is somehow alive thanks to a Pulp Fiction-style scene with an adrenalin shot. And Ramirez? Well, we see the power of Satan whisper his wounds closed and put him back up on his feet. Wow! When Trevor goes back to save his dear friend Margaret, she kills him and takes his ear.

I’m curious to know how fans will respond to Ramirez’s assertion that Jingles should give him Brooke to kill—because Jingles already has a reputation and he was still establishing himself. Though I imagine most don’t, Ramirez is one of those serial killers who was concerned with his own legacy. That just seems so…pedestrian.

After this week, I’m ready for a big switch-up. Camper kids need to arrive, or cops, or another killer—something to break up this not-very-tense succession of chases and arguments. The slasher genre mostly works because those films are 90 minutes long and every story has at least two sex scenes and a song or dance number. This storyline will not hold our interests all season, because there’s not enough plot to be getting on with. I also don’t want this season to become, like “Coven,” a string of deaths that end up meaning nothing in the end. We’re going with a lower than usual rating this week. The performances were solid and the pacing was good. But I’m finding this season less impactful as it begins to look like a big sexy nothing.

See you’s next week!

The final score: review Average
The 411
Was anyone in this group telling anyone else the truth about anything? Chef Bertie was, but alas, we can no longer thank her. As much as I enjoyed having so many backstory tie-ins and much-suspected reveals, this season has already become convoluted AF. Maybe Jingles will bring in enough poison apples for everyone and we can start again next week.