American Horror Story S9E8: Rest in Pieces

by thethreepennyguignol

I want to make it very clear, right at the top of this review, that I am not the kind of person who believes that subtlety is necessary for good storytelling. My favourite genre of anything is the musical, a world often delightfully devoid of nuance; one of my favourite movies is Streets of Fire, a film which can’t even spell subtlety. I reviewed Riverdale for two entire seasons, not entirely unfavourably. I’m not asking for Barry Jenkins-levels of deep emotional wit here, is what I’m saying.

But there’s such a thing as a good lack of subtlety and a bad lack of subtlety. And, as ever, American Horror Story has far too much of the latter for my liking in this week’s episode, Rest in Pieces.

To be fair, if we’re getting into this, I do want to give a fair shoutout to the deliciously unsubtle Dylan Mcdermott performance and character in this week’s outing; I’m actually a little sad we didn’t get more of the thumbless wonder that is Bruce, since Mcdermott is clearly having such a ball with the role and brings a brilliantly no-fucks-given awfulness to the screen. Like so many seasons of this show, characters just sort of seem to wander in and out of the story at random, but I would have loved it if we’d had a little more of this seethingly ridiculous but wildly entertaining serial killer, if he could have wandered in a little sooner.

And that, uh, is where my patience for this episode runs out. From the very first scene, when Brooke and Dede are approached by a reporter at random who joins them in their diner booth to spend three straight minutes monologuing the themes of the episode just in case we were too fucking dim to get our heads around them, through to a ridiculous about-turn from Montana who decides all of a sudden that she feels bad for the whole Richard Ramirez thing despite boning in him pools of blood just a few episodes ago, American Horror Story has tossed out any notion of remotely trying to tell a story that isn’t just so blatantly and brutally unskilled in its execution that trying to analyse what we’re given feels like a waste of my fucking time, to be honest. I don’t mind this show when it’s using this over-the-topness to excavate some big ideas, but I don’t even know what the point of this season is beyond “A man walks into a bar…the eighties!”.

Which is a shame since there are these vague hints of story threads that could actually go somewhere. Benji (John Caroll Lynch) is just far too good an actor to be stuck with a plot in a season this slack-jawed, and I actually find the idea of exploring what makes a serial killer and how the society around them allows them to function pretty interesting. But we’re not getting answers to these questions, we’re getting endless indulgent semi-music-videos, bad hair, and Angelica Ross forced to earnestly sit here and explain what a Final Girl is to an audience that probably already knows it well, given the title of this show and all.

For every good episode of this show, for the ones that indicate a little bit of wit and sly self-awareness, there is one like Rest in Pieces. One that’s dumb and silly and forgets characterisation that we’ve spent the season working on. That wastes the talents of good actors and the potential of good storylines. With only a couple of episodes left, I have no idea what AHS is going to offer us up next, but honestly, I don’t think I’ll be sad when it’s all over.

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(header image via FXNetworks)