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American Horror Story: 1984 9.5 Review – ‘Red Dawn’

October 17, 2019 | Posted by Wednesday Lee Friday
American Horror Story - Red Dawn
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American Horror Story: 1984 9.5 Review – ‘Red Dawn’  

Given the title of this week’s episode, “Red Dawn,” it’s easy to think there might be a child army or maybe some Russian invaders involved. No dice. Unlike the 80s movies where teens team up to fight an invading army—episode five was more about double-crosses, splitting-up, and impromptu murders. That’s about what we’ve come to expect from American Horror Story, but I’m beginning to ask whether or not it’s enough. As always, presume spoilers to follow.

We begin with a flashback to 1980, where we’re reminded that 1980 is still part of the 70’s—certainly as far as fashion goes. Because I assumed Donna was following a serial killer, the reveal that her father was a killer was far less impactful. But yeah, she thought her father was cheating on her mother, and merely expected to catch him having random sex with a bar girl. Instead, she learned that her father had been a killer “all his life.” There’s a lot else wrong with this.

In addition to this reveal having a bad setup, it’s kind of a tired premise. If a psychologist choosing to study serial killers because their dad is one sounds familiar—it may be because Law & Order, Criminal Mindseveral times , Bones, and at least four movies have already done this. Sure, it’s a compelling motivation, but it’s pretty overdone. When “Dede” asks his father how long he’s been killing, he tells her he was born with that, it’s always been there. I question this, because every killer remembers the first time they killed—when, who, why, how. I think he was too shocked to lie, and this is just bad writing.

All that said, Donna was trying to figure out whether her dad was ever the man who she loved, or was he always the killer. She tries to suss this out further in her talk with Ramirez. She doesn’t seem to consider that it’s possible for a man to have two separate lives that (but for the law, that pesky business) have nothing to do with each other. In the end though, Donna’s tragic flaw is pretending her personal crusade is actually for humanity at large. Is “pure, uncut evil” a thing? Ramirez thinks so.

We’re teased a few times with a Brooke v Montana confrontation, and it’s pretty funny. “Good idea, keep that with you,” is a hilarious response to seeing that a chick you’re talking to has a hatchet at the ready. Elsewhere, Xavier wants to burn the whole camp down when he should be moaning in incredible pain. Even these kids don’t have enough drugs to keep massive burn pain at bay. At one point, Xavier is actually resting part of his burned face on the pillow. What? Again, bad writing or is there a reason for that we haven’t seen yet? I did laugh that Xavier was moaning Bertie’s name in his sleep. She would have laughed too, I think. Watch also for Xavier to whine about his face only being suitable for radio. He could have totally become Shadoe Stevens—wait, do y’all know who he is?

Ray shows up at the camp. We all saw him die, but Brooke and Montana didn’t. This leads to an exchange where Brooke reveals that she’s book smart but weak willed and gave up her agency so people would like her. Ray tells a similar tale, only about wanting prestige. This leads us to what may be the biggest flaw in this season. All of these people are horrible human beings. There’s not a single one who deserves having us root for them. Not one. Vain, shallow, selfish, (and that’s the non-murderers), all hiding things and preparing to stab backs.

Now that we know Ray is a ghost, we have to ask—did he and Brooke just make another devil baby? Another, for lack of a better term, Michael Langdon? If she’s pregnant and doesn’t die, that seems like the most likely outcome here. What was a bit unexpected was the lovers finding Ray’s head in the fridge. Of course, we’ve seen refrigerator heads in American Psycho, Friday the 13th pt 2 and in pretty much every movie about Jeff Dahmer. The staged corpse thing is also a slasher staple.

It’s 20 minutes until sunrise when the brawl we’ve been waiting for finally goes down. It’s easily the best fight of the season in its sheer brutality and aggression. Montana reveals what her problem with Brooke is, and Brooke, for her part, fights back damn hard. Watch for a knitting needle stab (Halloween homage) that would have made Jaime Lee Curtis smile. Better still, Brooke is finally set up for some real character development and advancement. She was by far the most boring and predictable character, basically the control in the experiment. Now, anything can happen. Maybe she’ll even learn the difference between “psychotic” and “Psychopathic.” Because I don’t think Montana is the one Brooke said she was.

Margaret being the killer was not a surprise to anyone. Her being anti-booze, and anti-sex was also pretty typical of her type. But the homophobia? I don’t know why I found that surprising, but I did. Maybe it was the phrase “real” versus “fake” boys. Yuck. And yeah, killing Chet was also pretty rude. Donna’s exchange with Jingles was much more enlightening and surprising. Jingles is one of the more well-adjusted characters in this season, considering what he’s endured and where he is now. When Donna, fully feeling the weight of her impact, asks Jingles to kill her—he refuses. Not only does he not want to kill her, but he correctly believes that she should have to live with what she’s done.

A few scuffles later, Xavier and Jingles are killed. Ramirez offers Satan powers to Jingles, while Margaret manages to get away unscathed. Pinning the murders on Brooke—who finally found her inner killer to take out Montana—as a busload of children saw her commit that killing.

Dawn comes and makes everything a bit less dark—literally and figuratively. There’s cops everywhere and we realize everyone but Margaret and Brooke are dead. Ray is a ghost, as is Montana, so will they be hanging out with Jonas? Will anyone explain to Jonas why “There is no Montana only Zuul” is funny? When the ambulance tries to transport Ray, it confirms that we’re working with the same standard ghost rules as “Murder House,” “Hotel” and “Roanoke” among others. What about everyone else? When a cop car drives away, it’s pretty funny. When we see that the thieves are Ramirez and Jingles, headed to L.A. it’s even better. We know exactly what kind of havoc they intend to get up to out there. And them without seatbelts!

The music this week was pretty dang good. Rose Royce, Amii Stewart, and Billy Idol among others. Next week marks the 100th episode of our beloved show. So what will happen at the camp? Is it just populated with an ever-increasing cast of ghosts? Do you only become a ghost if you die outside? Or in the woods? Chet died in the water, will he come back? How will Margaret explain all this? Why would the cops take her word over Brooke’s?

This week’s rating is higher than last week’s, which was the lowest score I’d ever given an AHS episode.

This season is just falling flat in a few important ways. I’m hoping I’ll start to like the remaining survivors more. What do you want to see in the 100th episode?

See you’s next week!

The final score: review Good
The 411
Some episodes of American Horror Story leave us with more questions than answers. I daresay that was not the case this week. Donna confessed this week, and was not let off the hook by anyone concerned. Margaret came perilously close to getting her just desserts. Xavier busted out his Robin Hood skills, and Brooke…well, Brooke has a lot going on.