‘American Horror Story’: Soul Survivor

American Horror Story
“Chapter 10”
November 16, 2016

Hey! If you missed it, here is the previous recap.

We begin by going back. Paleyfest 2016: Toothy and the cast (real and reenactment) talk to fans about My Roanoke Nightmare, “one of the most successful shows of all time,” (LOL OK) signing autographs, taking selfies, accepting fan art and giving the AHS fans a little bit more Evan Peters for their money. You’re welcome, AHS fans.

In a YouTube video, Fan Art Fan explains that it’s been a year since My Roanoke Nightmare, and “everything has gone to shit.” The sequel was “exploitative” and “crass,” Reddit blew up with theories that the cast didn’t actually die, and Sister ended up on trial for murder. WHY DID THEY HAVE TO GO BACK?

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But did you really? Really, though?

Also uploading to the interwebs his reaction to Three Days in Hell: Hillbilly #2, the one surviving Polk who tucked tail and ran when he saw the Torchies coming for him. He’s still a bit bent out of shape over the whole thing where Sister and her friends took his feral kids away and killed his entire family, and he vows revenge.

As for Sister, we learn from Crack’d, a reality docu-series that DEFINITELY airs on Investigative Discovery right after Wives with Knives, that she was tried for everyone she killed on camera, including Momma Polk, Taissa Farmiga, Puck’s half-brother and Other Guy. “Slam dunk!” thought the prosecutor. However, between the fact that the Polk’s pot had “highly hallucinogenic properties” and the part where the Polks pickled her ear for Christmas morning, the jurors found her not guilty thanks to “diminished capacity.”

The prosecutor wasn’t done with Sister, however, and decided to prosecute her for the murder of Ex-Husband, which should have been an easy win between her taped confession and the testimony of an eye-witness who happened to be in the woods that night and saw Sister bash Ex-Husband’s head in with a rock: Flora. “Slam dunk!” thought the prosecutor. However, the moment the defense attorney started asking Flora about her BFF, the little ghost girl in the woods, the prosecution lost the case because LOL GHOSTS.

Once exonerated, Sister sits down for an interview with one Lana Winters, heroine of “Asylum”/Barbara Walters wannabe, because what this season was really lacking was Sarah Paulson. During the live special, Sister explains that during her darkest moments it was the thought of Flora that kept her going, and she just wants to see her daughter again and watch her grow up. Which, considering Flora is living with Ex-Husband’s parents and refusing to speak to her mother, is currently difficult.

Lana wonders why she was the one Sister chose to tell her story to, and Sister reminds us that Lana has been through some shit herself, what with the whole killing her own son and all that. So Lana gives Sister the camera to speak directly to Flora, and Sister uses that time to tell her daughter she loves her and will never give up trying to be with her again. “Cool, cool, cool,” Lana says, “So where do you have her hidden? Flora’s grandparents have reported her missing, so where is she?”

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Before Sister can fully process this surprising news, Hillbilly #2 shoots his way into the interview. However, Lana Winters manages to yammer at Hillbilly #2 about how killing Sister won’t bring his fellow yokels back long enough for security to shoot and kill him (but not before he pistol whips Lana). HEY, YOU POCKMARKED BUMPKIN:

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The next piece of video is from the series Spirit Chasers, the ghost hunting series that clearly was hastily put together by Destination America in the wake of the popularity of Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. The spirit chasers, along with Ashley Gilbert, the actor who played our beloved Cricket …

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… have trespassed onto the property during the blood moon because they are damn fools to chase some spirits. As soon as night falls, things immediately start going hooky, and Ashley becomes alarmed when he finds a bonnet — a real bonnet, not a prop bonnet. And that’s when Sister shows up looking for Flora. Fortunately for the Spirit Chasers cast, she’s apparently no longer in the thrall of Feral Gaga, and does not murder everyone on the spot. Unfortunately for the Spirit Chasers cast, they do not heed her warning to leave and are promptly picked off one by one by Pigman, the Chen ghosts, murder nurses, The Butcher and some arrow-slinging ghosts. Not even Ashley Gilbert screaming “CROATOAN” accomplishes anything, and everyone but Sister is ghost-murdered.

R.I.P. Ashley Gilbert. It’s a tragedy  you won’t be around to play the role you were born for: Jeff Sessions in the miniseries about the Trump presidency.

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That’s when Flora comes out of hiding, revealing herself to Sister, but refusing to leave the house with her. This sets off a 14-hour standoff between Sister and the police for some reason. Do they think she killed everyone? Why is there a standoff? What is happening? I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS.

But too bad for me or internal logic, the point is, Flora is refusing to go live with her mother, she wants to stay with her ghost buddy, Priscilla, and become a ghost herself. However, Priscilla is being completely uncooperative on that front, and refuses to kill her. Sister suggests instead that Flora go live with her grandparents, and she’ll stay with Priscilla as a ghost, becoming the mother that Priscilla needs. And Flora can come back and visit anytime she wants — as long as it’s not during the blood moon. “Cool,” says Flora, an apparent 10-year-old sociopath who is happy to allow her mother kill herself to become a companion for her ghost friend that she’s known and hung out with for a few days.

And so Flora leaves the house and Priscilla kills Sister and the house blows up and Flora waves goodbye to her ghost mom and BFF then the Torchies come marching towards the whole scene and that’s your happy ending.

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So … it was always about Flora.

Huh.

Alright, look, let me just preface this by saying that I actually enjoyed this season, especially as compared to other recent seasons. I’m still hella mad about “Freak Show,” for starters, and “Hotel” was. not. good. But this season was a refreshing change of pace not just because the reality show format was a unexpected and clever twist, but also because keeping the season to a tight 10 episodes, and writing the whole thing ahead of time limited just how much mischief Murphy and his writers could actually get into with the plot. This season was interesting, at times actually quite smart, and for the most part, well-executed.

But this season also blew a number of opportunities to take an unconventional framing device and do something really insightful with it. I spent the first half of the season convinced that the show was exploring themes of fiction vs. truth vs. reality, and I genuinely believed that the second half of the season would reveal that the “reality” show’s story had no actual footing in truth — that, in fact, what really happened to Matt, Shelby and Sister in that house was something much darker.

Instead, what we received was another season where the major theme was motherhood:

Season one: Vivien has twins — one fathered by her husband, the other by her ghost rapist; Constance has issues with her children.

Season two: Something about alien babies; tons of heavy-handed Virgin Mary imagery; Lana Winters has issues with her son, Bloody Face.

Season three: Fiona Goode is replaced by her daughter Cordelia; Madame Lalaurie has issues with her daughters.

Season four: Elsa is a complicated mommy to the freaks in her freak show; Dandy’s mom has issues with her son.

Season five: Lady Gaga has a monster baby named Bartholomew; she abducts other people’s kids because; Chloë has issues with her daughter.

Season six: FLORA!

Never mind all those pieces on the internet explaining how all the seasons tie together. The secret to American Horror Story isn’t that the Motts are connected to Roanoke, or that The Countess didn’t have an abortion in Murder House, the secret is that all the seasons are about motherhood. And while it is kind of interesting to note that this is a recurring theme in each season, it’s also growing tired. WE’VE ALL JUST ABOUT HAD ENOUGH OF YOUR MOMMY ISSUES, RYAN MURPHY.

And here’s why this is a problem with this season: because they decided to conclude with Sister sacrificing herself for her daughter, the back half of the season was devoted to just killing off all of the characters in pursuit of that result instead of exploring a more interesting narrative. There was no furthering of any of the other characters’ stories, there was ultimately no meaning behind the use of the reality show format, and this clever framing device of having everything shown to us through a screen — in the end it was just generic torture porn.

And while I actually enjoyed this last episode and its clever use of multiple media sources to tell the rest of Sister’s story, it also left me a little disappointed in what could have been had they just tried a little harder. What began as a self-aware, bonkers and insightful look at the intersection of celebrity and the justice system — a kind of The People vs. O.J. Simpson on hallucinogens — collapsed into a pile of sentimental mush that left me with more questions than answers. This child really wants to kill herself so she can hang out with some ghost she barely knows? Why didn’t Feral Gaga’s spell last on Sister the way it apparently did for The Butcher and Matt? How on earth did the producers think they would get away with having so little Evan Peters in the season without intense backlash?

And with that, we’re done with another season of American Horror Story. But don’t worry, they’re already teasing next season:

Some think that this, combined with that model ship that was prominently shown during the Spirit Chasers segment is hinting at a sea-faring season.

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American Horror Story: Cruise? American Horror Story: Mayflower? American Horror Story: Norwalk Virus? I guess we just sit back and wait for more teasers. Until then, my little hillbillies.

American Horror Story airs on FX. It will return some time in 2017.

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