“American Horror Story: 1984” Episode 5 – “Red Dawn” (Sans the “Wolverines”)

Last night’s episode of American Horror Story: 1984 continued the gonzo goings on at Camp Redwood while introducing viewers to a whole new passel of conundrums and even answering the occasional question or three we’re all – ahem – dying to know.

 The 99th episode of this over the top gem from Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk finally revealed just what Donna Chambers’ (the always illuminating Angelica Ross) glitch is anyways, unveiling a traumatic past in which she discovered that her own father was a notorious serial killer, leading her down the briar covered path of her own obsession and emulation with the darker nature of humankind. Of course, Ramirez figures prominently into this arc with Donna, as it was this corrupted and evil soul that she witnessed last episode being resurrected by what he claims to her is ol’ Beelzebub himself. Hinted at in past episodes, last night’s deep dig into Donna’s past spells out once and for all just why exactly she assisted Richter with his escape from the mental institution. Or does it? The great thing about American Horror Story has always been the blurring between what is fact and what is fiction and the cajones of Murphy, Falchuk and their little band of creative gremlins who trust the intelligence of their audience; they know that they have one of the smarter fan bases of any television show currently ongoing that thrives on much of the ambiguity of the show.

 The big appeal of this season of the FX hit show has been the slavish homage of such slasher flicks from the 1980s as the Friday the 13th film series and last night we got to witness the ultimate in hat tipping when Margaret and Chet decide that boating across the pond for help might be a great idea. Ye olde scribbler of letters and words came of age with all of the tropes of the slasher genre, but even if I hadn’t I would have still been screaming and frothing at my television set last night, imploring these two not to undertake what is the horror movie equivalent of a suicide mission. Of course, Margaret – in typical American Horror Story fashion – has her own agenda and her own secrets, chief among them being that she was the actual person responsible for the 1970 bloodbath. Halfway across the water, Margaret reveals this to Chet before killing him (see, I knew that boat ride was a mistake, Chet!), adding to an already bloody tally of her victims. C’est la vie, Chet, no more trumpet playing in your future.

 The cards are really being played in this dangerous hand by episode five and characters once in the dark about what precisely is going on are beginning to see the proverbial light. But is it too late? Xavier buys the farm, too, after learning from Donna about Richter. As he goes on to meet his bloody fate – at the hands of Margaret, who else? – Donna is reunited with Richter whom she pleads with to kill her. After he refuses he heads to Margaret for a long overdue confrontation before being dispatched by the not long for this world Xavier. But it just ain’t in the cards for the ultimate pawn in this game to samba on to the Happy Hunting Grounds just yet: Ramirez uses his dark powers to bring Richter back from the dead, forcing him to continue his own pained existence.

 Brooke meanwhile finally loses her virginity to the ghost of Ray before discovering his grisly fate. Brooke is the perfect Last Girl as popularized in everything from Halloween to A Nightmare On Elm Street and we can’t help but root for her as she navigates this brutal maze. In a confrontation five episodes in the making, Brooke and Montana finally have it out as the sun peaks out over the horizon, revealing not only a brand new sun-drenched day, but also a whole swarm of kiddies arriving at the scene of this bloody bacchanal for their first day of camp. Their arrival is ill-timed, as they all witness Brooke seemingly murdering Montana in cold blood. As the episode ends on one of the series best cliffhangers, Brooke is taken away by police for the murder of Montana and Margaret has more than seen to it that she’s also been framed for all of the murders of her fellow friends. Oh, and Ramirez and Richter, the original Odd Couple? The episode fading to black, the two abscond with a police car and make tracks for the City of Angels, Los Angeles, California.

 This has been a slow burn of a season, score card or not, and the gradual escalation works to the advantage of the story that Murphy and Falchuk have crafted. You’ll not find a better Halloween present to yourself than American Horror Story: 1984.

About Ryan Vandergriff

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