American Horror Story Recaps: Mid-Western Assassin

by thethreepennyguignol

First off, I just thought I’d let anyone who cares know that Riverdale is back this week and I’m going to be picking up a series of recaps on the second season of the CW’s most CW show, so if that’s something you follow, be sure to check in on Friday for a new recap!

But back to the task at hand, and that is, of course, dissecting this week’s episode of American Horror Story, Mid-Western Assassin. And hey, this is certainly another solid, steady episode for the show – but I have no idea how they’re going to fill out the rest of the season.

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Okay, let’s talk first about what I actually liked about this episode. Last week was a lot of rather perfunctory (if entertaining) set-up, and that gave Mid-Western Assassin a little more room to have fun. And that fun came in the form of special guest star Mare Winningham, who all but strolled up to Evan Peters, plucked this episode right out of his hands, and calmly announced “I’ll be having that, thanks” in that deliciously polished way she has. The two of them shared the screen a lot in season five, as she played the housekeeper to his murderous psychopath, and even just the one major scene they have this week is already one of the season highlights: injecting a crumb of reality back into the show, Winningham rocks up to run for the city council seat that Kai seems to have on lock, giving a killer speech about the place of people like Kai on the political spectrum. As soon as she stood up at that meeting, I legitimately whooped, and I wasn’t disappointed – well, I was when I realized that she was literally only going to be in two scenes, but still, what scenes. AHS has always had this awesome stable of great actresses to draw on, and Winningham is just another in a long line of subversive, superb performances for female actors in this show.

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And things are falling into place plot-wise, with Meadow’s apparent revealing of the truth to Ally turning out to be a ploy put into motion by Kai and his sweet, sweet muderous dick. It’s a solid episode for Leslie Grossman, who I’m not nearly as convinced by as Billy Eichner, but I’m not super sad to see her go (though the explicitness of that suicide was…concerning to me) – hopefully, she’ll leave some more room for an increasingly unsettling Cheyenne Jackson and a sharp and savage Alison Pill.

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Speaking of, the centrepiece of this episode (which, once again, was anointed with a lush visual signature from director Bradley Buecker) revolved around the Soft Butch of My Dreams, and really did a lot to flesh out her character. She’s always felt a little thin, a little unformed, but here, as she laid out her barely-contained disgust at her own wife, the blanks were filled in. She’s another in a long line of AHS characters who’s reactions and emotions aren’t invalid, but who have ended up down a hideously overblown path to justify or act on them; that moment in the flashback to Oz’s birth, as the camera pans away and leaves her standing alone in the edge of a tilted frame, was just the perfect visual metaphor for the abandoment she felt in her own family. Is joining a killer clown cult to drive her wife crazy and get hold of her kid justifiable? No, but then AHS characters have never exactly been a temperate bunch.

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Ally, too, is better now that she’s not just crazy – with a little purpose, the show gives Sarah Paulson something to do beyond shrieking and gurning, and it’s about bloody time. But, once again, it’s Evan Peters who dominates this season; it’s truly a just fucking fantastic performance, from that almost-genuine smile he gives Mare Winningham when she challenges him to the his almost-heartfelt promise to a gathered crowd that he will not abandon them, he’s slippery, sexy, sickening, and so damn good. Though those POV shots of him, all lanky hair in your face, having sex with Leslie Grossman was enough to give me flashbacks to my entire first year of university. Yeesh.

You know what? This season is keeping me interested. Yes, I just can’t see where this is going – what’s the logical end point for this? Where can it wind up that won’t feel like a jump? And there are some leaps in logic (surely, dozens of people saw Meadow shooting the gun, thus rendering the attempts to frame Ally redundant?). But despite that, I’m just…here for it. It has it’s sights set, some nuanced politics to explore, and a handful of just outstanding performances to build it’s story around. AHS is here to make a point – and even if I’m not quite sure what that point is yet, that’s a first.

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