American Horror Story S8E3: Forbidden Fruit

by thethreepennyguignol

Well – what?

Alright, before I get to my blatant dissapointment, I want to admit that the third episode of this season, Forbidden Fruit, is a whole lot better than the two that preceded it. Kathy Bates, as the motherly sapphic robot of my dreams, gets a whole backstory vignette, and it’s as tender and rich as you would expect from someone of her enormous and obvious talent. Billie Lourde, coming into some witchery powers, actually starts having some relevance to the plot, and, while I can never decide if she’s a good actress or not, I do enjoy watching her.

Billy Eichner gets a C-plot where he’s allowed to Mad Max around the post-apocalypse with bits falling off of him: obviously fun. Fern Cody is still swanning around in avant-garde runway makeup and a sneer, smearing himself in sexy satanic blood and maybe making some thrilling reference to Jessica Lange’s Constance Langdon (!!!!!) in the process. Someone cracks an X-Men joke with Evan Peters standing right there. It’s silly, it’s goofy, it’s Halloween in American Horror Story. I’m also starting to really fall for the aesthetic of this season: the radiation suits matched with the Plague doctor-esque masks are a perfect capturing of the feel of Apocalypse so far: gothic meets dystopian, nightmare future meets Edgar Allen Poe’s version of the past. It’s working for me, more so than it did in last week’s cavernous episode.

The plot of this episode revolves, roughly, around Sarah Paulson as the leader of the safehouse deciding to poison and murder everyone else there to escape being trapped by the Cooperative. And she just…does it. That’s it, all the characters we’ve been following for the last few episodes (well, most, but I’ll get to that) are dead. Evan Peters, Jeffery Bowyer-Chapman, Adina Porter: the Boring YA Couple: say goodbye, they’re all fucking dead, as is Sarah Paulson, at the hands of her robotic love-slave on the orders of Langdon.

Which is, fair enough, a decent surprise. But then, the season can’t just end there, so there’s more to come. And that more – yeesh.

I’m not going to front with you: I think Coven is the worst season that AHS has ever made. I know that’s an unpopular opinion, and that’s fine, but I fucking loathe it. Cheap, rambling, invoking rape as character development, lacking real stakes, poorly-defined villains, dull, cliched characters, wasting extraordinary actors in Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, and Denis O’Hare…I think it’s truly dire television, even outside the comparisons to excellent couple of seasons that it followed (and, to be clear, I think that season two’s Asylum is the finest and most coherent the show has ever been). And honestly, when the three witches from that season (played by Emma Roberts, Sarah Paulson, and Frances Conroy) turn up at the episode’s close to bring a few chosen ladies back to life, I let out a groan. 

I knew that this was going to be a crossover between Coven and Murder House (the first season of the show), but having Coven strut in, spouting out much-meme’d quotes to announce its arrival, after disposing of the characters we’ve meant to have been getting invested in these last few weeks – it was a wincing reminder of the fact that I just hate these characters and, however thin I found the new cast, I sure as hell liked them better than this lot. Sarah Paulson has never had a more outstandingly boring role than her one in Coven, but here it is again, because apparently the bottom of the barrel hadn’t been entirely scraped yet? Just as I was starting to relax into the loose, fun, silliness of this season, it’s done. And what it’s replaced with just so happens to be something I already hate with vehemence. It also leaves the last few episodes feeling relatively inessential – like the midseason reveal in Roanoke did a couple of years ago – which is really not something I want to be feeling after three whole weeks of investment in these characters. Sure, a few are brought back from the dead by the witches (reminding me that the lack of death in Coven was one of the things that made it feel so stakes-free), but for the most part, it’s done.

Cynical? Yes, of course it is. And maybe these Coven characters will work better out of their original context – I sure as fuck hope they do (and honestly, Coven was a cracking season for Frances Conroy, so I’m actually alright seeing her back in this capacity). But it’s so disappointing, just as this season really seemed to be stepping forward, to have it slip backwards almost immediately. A rug-pull like this one is a dangerous move for this show – if what follows isn’t as good or better, this feels like wasted potential. But what would a season of American Horror Story be without some fuck-ups along the way?

And that’s where we leave off for this week! If you want to read some of my other recaps, I’m also looking at the first Harry Potter book chapter by chapter right now, and recently finished reviewing Sharp Objects episode by episode. If you enjoyed this recap and want to see more stuff like it, please consider supporting me on Patreon! You can also find more of my writing on my film site, No But Listen.

(header image courtesy of Fox)