True fact: last week’s AHS recap was the first time in my history of writing for AfterEllen that I did not read the comments section. I mean, I read a couple to get the general tenor, which seemed to be, “Why are you writing about a show you don’t like?”—and then my girlfriend advised me to avoid the rest. I took this advice in the interest of maintaining an even keel and enjoying my Halloween, but I have spent most of the week seriously considering what I can do to be a better recapper of a show about which my feelings are admittedly mixed.
And here’s the thing: All I can do is be honest. My honesty is really the only thing I have to bring to this or any other conversation. I can’t take TV any less seriously, because I believe the stories we tell ourselves, no matter how over-the-top, deserve serious consideration. But I can and do give every new episode a chance to impress me, even though some people think I should dismiss the whole series on the grounds that Ryan Murphy is attached to it.
And here’s another thing: I really liked this week’s episode. I laughed, I yelled at the characters for being morons, and I became genuinely terrified of small noises in my apartment, which is all I ever ask from horror as a genre. But it’s no guarantee that I will like next week’s episode. I will just come to it with my tastes and prejudices, and try to make the end product as amusing as possible. I will never claim that my recaps contain some sort of objective truth; I’m just a person with a lot of opinions and I choose to put them on the internet. But I would not be doing my job if those opinions were anything other than what I truly feel. (p.s. I just plucked up my courage and read the comments and they were not as scary as I was led to believe. I am particularly grateful to those people who disagreed with me while acknowledging my basic personhood.)
So, when the episode begins, we travel back to 1781, to a Halloween ball thrown by Madame LaLaurie. She’s doing that thing again where she tries to scare away all the menfolk from hitting on her daughters, this time by taking them on a trip through her “chamber of horrors,” which is not, in this case, a vaginal euphemism. She takes Borquita, her “plainest” daughter, and the young man of her fancy to feel the items in a number of bowls.
Dude: Ah, this is like that Buffy episode where the eyeballs are really peeled grapes, right?
Delphine: Well, it’s like the second half of that episode.
Afterwards, her horrified daughters plot to kill Delphine, but she overhears them and locks them in her torture-attic, vowing to keep them there for a whole year.
So in the present day, when the zombified corpses of her daughters show up on the front porch, Delphine’s immediate reaction is: “We’re doomed.”
After the title sequence—during which it has become my viewing tradition to minimize the window so I can take a bite of food without being grossed out—we return to the bar where the hooded figure threw acid on Cordelia. Fiona rushes to her aid, and her horror at her daughter’s mutilated face provokes the strongest show of feeling we have seen from Jessica Lange in the past two seasons. It provides an emotional anchor to her storyline for the rest of the episode, when Fiona rushes Cordelia to the hospital and learns that she has been permanently blinded.
Back at Miss Robichaux’s, Zoe tries to take charge of the zombie siege situation. As a fledgling heroine, she must go through all the usual baby steps.
But Johnny Cornbread, the neighbor, interferes with even these most basic precautions when he rushes outside to tell the zombies to take a hike.
Across town, Marie Laveau is pulling the strings of this undead army while she levitates in a trance eight feet above the floor. And when she commands the zombies to attack, their first target is Johnny Cornbread.
In the house, Zoe orders everyone to get upstairs, away from the windows. And just like that, she has shot ahead of dozens, if not hundreds, of protagonists in zombie movies who could not make the simple deduction that 1. Zombies can break glass. 2. Zombies cannot climb. However, her work is far from done, because the next step in the evolution of any horror heroine is rescuing a stray lamb. In this case the lamb is Nan, who goes to rescue Johnny Cornbread, because like hell is she going to let him die before they have made out. But Nan, for all that her heart is pure, is not really heroine material for her inability to grasp that you should never take refuge in a car that you don’t have the means to start.