So, we should probably start out this week’s insight into American Horror Story with something of a disclaimer: For now, we’ll look at the series as a standalone entity. So, any connections with other seasons or “conspiracy theories” about how everything ties together will have to wait until the conclusion of the season. Regardless, there are several interesting points and further questions that we can take away from last night’s addition to the season.
Point 1: The Documentary Style Might Actually Work
Last week I mentioned the fact that I didn’t know whether or not the whole documentary style they have chosen to use was going to be successful. After last night’s episode I feel like they might actually pull it off. It seemed as if the transitions between the “real” characters and their reenactment counterparts were more seamless, and the overall narrative style worked much better.
Now, this could be because the interruptions between the fictionalized segments and the real-life interviews were better, but a part of me doesn’t feel like that is the case at all. Rather, this was simply the first episode thus far where I found myself fairly lost within the story. Granted, there are a few issues that still seem a bit forced, but the overall narrative of this particular episode flowed much better than those previous.
Point 2: Backstory is Inevitable, and It’s Great!
The narrative improvement in this episode could be attributed to the fact that there was an ample amount of backstory given in a rather short space of time. For example, last night we discovered that there have been numerous tenants of the house, all of them meeting inexplicable and equally gory fates. We learned of an immigrant family, for example, who quickly fell prey to The Butcher and her cohort. We learned of a group of hunters who met a similar, grisly fate. Additionally, we found out about the demise of the nurses, which did not disappoint in its goriness and felt at home in this particular setting.
We can’t help but notice, additionally, that a learned figure in the form of the incoherent and babbling professor briefly shown in earlier episodes made a more pronounced appearance in this episode. He, inevitably, pulls from a secret stash a pile of documents lending credence to the story of the house’s previous occupants and their macabre fates. He brought a certain groundedness to the episode, which was made all the more upsetting when he met what may have been his demise.
Point 3: Learned Individuals Never Survive
It’s become something of a horror archetype that any wise sort of figure with a set basis in fact and reality typically meets an unsettling end. It’s almost like the writers and directors briefly dangle before us the opportunity to put some of this story to rights and give things an opportunity to make sense, then abruptly jerk the proverbial rug out from under us.
The same can be said of the little psychic fellow, a character that appeared long enough to give viewers a ray of hope that there would be something there to fight the forces of darkness manifesting themselves in and around the house. Just when we got the opportunity to start to warm up to him and the brief comic relief he provided, he, too, went the way of the Dodo bird.
Point 4: Can We Have “Sympathy for the Devil”?
Backstory and learned figures aside, it was definitely great to see and learn more about Lady GaGa’s character in this season. Last night we found out that she was, herself, an English immigrant, a character with a basis in Celtic folklore and the worship of deities unfamiliar to Christendom. Through the development of her past in last night’s episode we were able to sympathize with her just a bit and this gave us an opportunity to understand something of her motivations.
In true Horror Story fashion, viewers are going to be torn between the obvious evil that this character perpetrates and the reasoning as to why she does so. It was easy to feel sorry for her as she lamented in the cellar due to the loss of someone it seems she desperately needs in either a physical or emotional sense. It definitely seems as if her motivations are not entirely selfish in regards to this twist, but only time will tell for sure.
Point 5: What’s Going to Keep Them There?
Halfway through the episode it seemed rather obvious as to what was going to hold the family in the house and keep them from making their swift egress. However, with the resolution of this minor conflict it seems as if something else is definitely in the works. New questions were raised by the episode, but the inclusion of so much vivid and ample backstory definitely improved the overall feel of this season, and can only hint of what is to come in further episodes.