American Horror Story S8E9: Fire and Reign

by thethreepennyguignol

Alright, American Horror Story, we need to have a talk.

Because it’s clear you’re in a bad place right now. You’re acting out for attention – we’ve all been there, trust me, here, come sit down and have this tea I made for you. I’m worried. We’re all worried. I just want to talk.

Really, I started out angry at you for all the shit you were putting me through, but now I’m just concerned. Because at first, it seemed as though you were actively choosing not to choose the best storytelling routes you could for fun, because the dumber, thinner ones looked kookier to you. But now, I’m beginning to wonder if you even know how to tell a good story anymore, and that’s just sad.

What really tipped me to the scales of active concern was the plot revolving around the witches this week: Michael, with the help of Adina Porter and Kasmimov Bates (she’s a robot, is what I’m saying) breaks into the Coven house and murders most of the witches present there. The survivors (Sarah Paulson, Frances Conroy, Emma Roberts, Billie Lourde) flee to a safe place, where they decide that the only course of action is to…send Billie Lourde back in time to save Anastasia, daughter of Russian Csar Nicholas, from the Bolshevik firing squad?

Well, no, let me explain fairly: Conroy and Paulson hope to prove that Lourde can travel back through time and thus avert the events of Michael’s attack on the house. Now, before you mention it, there are plenty of fucking enormous holes in this storyline: the as-yet unconfirmed power that Billie Lourde apparently has is based on the fact she can restore creatures to life and heal their injuries, which we have seen at least one other witch (Lily Rabe) pull off, so why are they so certain that Lourde is the only one who has ever had the potential to do this?

More cogently, there’s the question of why in the fucking hell the show decided that sending Lourde back to Revolution-era Russia to save Anastasia was the best way to explore this power of hers. I know AHS has a problem keeping its fingers out of every beautiful murdered young woman it can think of (the Black Dahlia, Anne Frank, Sharon Tate, Betty Lou Jenson, to name a few), but could we just…fucking not, maybe? Given the fact that they could have chosen literally any single other event in history to change, it’s somewhat typical that they would focus on the gory death of another young woman, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t piss me the fuck off.

But, in all fairness, I suppose that this episode did have some other nonsense going on in it as well: Evan Peters and Billy Eichner, in full bowl-cutted nightmare vision versions, strut about as Silicon Valley cokeheads and members of the rebranded Illuminati. They’re just here to corral Michael towards the all-powerful of the world so he can bring about the apocalypse, and I suppose this is meant to be…somewhat compelling? We know that the apocalypse happens, and most of the characters we saw in certain positions at the start of the show have now ascended to those positions. Everything’s in place. The question isn’t if, but when. And that, to me at least, just isn’t very interesting.

As I said last week, I still don’t understand why American Horror Story decided to tell its story like this. The first three episodes, during and post-apocalypse, have robbed this part of the season of any tension over whether the end of the world will come or not, while throwing in dumbass characters and pointless young-adult snogging (still mad about that, always will be). But following the world to its inevitable demise could have been interesting, despite that. However, the show has felt more as though it is piecing the story together as best it can, gumming it to something that passes for working at a glance, rather than taking the time to really delve into anyone or anything in any meaningful way (except Michael, who I still don’t actually like as the full-blown Antichrist – Fern is a tender, emotional performer, and the coldness doesn’t suit him).

There’s a line Evan Peters has this week, about Michael stealing his plot from the story of The Omen 3, and yeah, it’s a gag, but it’s more than a little accurate: AHS Apocalypse is lifting stories from media that was bad in the first place. Pointing it out doesn’t make it alright. This still sucks. American Horror Story, I’m worried about you. But I’ll happily put you out of your misery if it means this is all over a little sooner.

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 picked up on my Riverdale recaps for the new season.. If you enjoyed this recap and want to see more stuff like it, please consider supporting me on Patreon! And if you’re in a horror mood, go check out Halloween season on my film site, No But Listen

(header image courtesy of Fire and Reign)