All roads lead to Camp Redwood, where the '80s live forever!
For once, we have no more questions except how many days until "American Horror Story" Season 10 kicks off? "AHS: 1984" wrapped a truncated season in exceptional fashion, tighter than most seasons and fully satisfying.
One thing about Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's love letter to horror is that it's always left audiences feeling either overfull with too many ideas in the mix or dissatisfied with jumbled and confusing twists and turns at the end.
Ironically -- or perhaps appropriately -- their actual homage to the slasher horror films of the 1980s turned out to be their most cohesive story yet, and one of their strongest. Sure, it still reveled in its gory excesses and campiness (we are at camp, after all!), but the overall storytelling for this season is sharper than this show has been in years.
On top of that, with a largely newer roster at the top -- no Evan Peters or Sarah Paulson -- there was a renewed sense of energy and freshness to the proceedings. Don't get us wrong, we love Murphy's regular players and look forward to their inevitable returns, but this was nevertheless a refreshing mix of actors and actresses bringing a whole new energy and excitement to the series.
But what has helped this sit as the highest-rated season among critics by a mile simply comes down to the writing. This was a season built around a story idea rather than a concept and it shows. This was always the story of Benjamin Richter and his family. With that clear focus, we got a more cohesive and complete story than we've ever seen.
On top of that, Murphy and Falchuk brought in some real powerhouse performers to bring this story to life, led by John Carroll Lynch, who had the most challenging role as Benjamin, and Emma Roberts, who brought a surprising sweet strength to Brooke. Opposite them, both Billie Lourd and Leslie Grossman were utterly mesmerizing in much darker roles.
Grossman, in particular, was clearly having a blast playing straight-up evil. The only misfire was in the casting of Gus Kenworthy, who proved more pretty than talented. The one scene two weeks ago where he had a few substantial lines was actually painful to watch, so it's good he wound up with a lesser role than DeRon Horton, who actually brought a lot of heart to the character of Ray.
That isn't to say Murphy and company didn't have more twists and turns up their sleeves for this final outing. It was all we could do to keep up with all the twists, turns and time jumps. Let's break down the best and most shocking moments:
It's Jingles Junior!
We did not expect to get the 1989 festival story in the form of a flashback, nor did we expect to jump ahead to 30 years later. But as soon as we saw it was 2019, we knew exactly who "AHS" alum Finn Wittrock was as he made his way into Camp Redwood. Bobby Richter, aka Mr. Jingles Jr., was coming to find out what happened to his father and boy was this a very, very bad idea.
In fact, the whole hour was about accomplishing two things: finding out what happened in 1989, considering all the ghosts seem to still be there, and getting Bobby the hell out of Camp Redwood before he's forced to become a permanent resident. It was a fresh way into the story as it left the viewers curious as to what's been going on these decades since Margaret's proposed death festival.
Good Montana and Ghost Trevor?
This one is a twofer, because they apparently went through with becoming a couple. But the most remarkable thing was seeing Montana as a heroine of sorts, considering what a monster she'd been throughout the season. It turns out the reason for her change and the presence of Trevor as a ghost are one and the same.
Of course it was Margaret who shot and left Trevor to die just outside the camp boundaries, knowing this would prevent him from coming back as a ghost. This was her revenge for him effectively ruining the festival by turning people around at the gate. But Brooke showed up (everyone is always where they need to be and just in the nick of time) and helped get him back over the line into Montana's arms, despite everything, so he could live forever.
And as Montana is a leader, her change of heart led to a change of heart for all of the other ghosts, too. It was like a complete turnaround. Well, almost complete.
Murdering the Murderer
Perhaps it was enough to sate their bloodlust, but it was a stunning revelation to find out the resident ghosts of Camp Redwood had made it their personal mission to kill Richard Ramirez over and over and over again for eternity. It turns out new-and-improved Montana managed to lure him into a cabin with the promise of meeting Billy Idol, where he was attacked and stabbed by all the ghosts.
And they've been killing him over and over ever since ... until Chef Bertie makes her move on Chet while Bobby is in the camp (because everyone is also where they're not supposed to be at just the wrong time). One brief makeout session is apparently all Satan needed to revive Ramirez, who immediately set out to kill Bobby.
This time, though, the ghosts were ready and managed to subdue him over and over again until Bobby (injured but alive) managed to escape, with Montana sending him to the asylum Benjamin was in for answers.
Final Girl and Final Girl
It was here that we got the end of the story of what happened in 1989 when Margaret's festival was falling apart around her, because it turns out Donna was the "final girl" of the horror story, going completely against '80s horror tropes. The black characters are always the first to die. But that wasn't even the biggest surprise.
Following the trail of who'd been sending him money all these years, Bobby discovered another "final girl." Brooke had somehow survived her final encounter in Camp Redwood and not only looked none the worse, she looked almost identical to how she looked in 1989. Now, this is probably because they didn't bother to really age her up enough (or is there another story here?).
Also, we love that it was Ray who carried her out of the Camp and saved her life, giving him a bit of redemption for the pledge he may or may not have killed before he came to Camp Redwood. But there's a huge gap from when she collapsed to when she shows up 30 years later looking no different, and she was a little cryptic about how she pulled off such a youthful look.
Now that we know "AHS" seasons are connected, maybe this is a setup for a future story. Vampires?
Margaret Chips In
We're so glad the writers were more on top of this disgusting plot twist than the ghosts. When they decided to dismember and kill Margaret by throwing her in a wood chipper after she'd attacked and seemingly killed Brooke in the cabin, they were so proud they "knew" that the head can survive for 30 seconds or so after it's been cut off.
The idea was the chipper was shooting her remains outside the property line. The problem is that they didn't just check her head over the fence, instead feeding it into the chipper. Hey idiots, that kills her instantly and before she crosses the line. So we really needed Margaret to still be there to cover up this seeming plot hole.
Thankfully, she was, setting up the dramatic final encounter when Bobby inevitably returned to Redwood to get the closure with his father he was still needing in his life. Apparently, answers weren't enough. And apparently knowing that the ghost of Ramirez is there and desperate to kill him isn't enough, either.
A Happy Ending?
The biggest shock of all came when we actually choked up as the episode drew to a close. When Margaret came out of hiding after 30 years declaring that she was the "final girl" and trying to kill Bobby, Benjamin showed up at the right time to take her down (though only momentarily). A few moments later, with Margaret again trying to kill Bobby, it was Lavinia who stopped her.
And just like that, Bobby had managed to meet both his father and grandmother at the same time, suddenly gaining more insight into his paternal family than he'd ever known. And what he knows is that despite everything, they loved him and they wanted better for him.
The final moment with him over the line and his family on the other side smiling at him was palpable and strangely beautiful, considering how much blood and gore we'd seen.
This was the story of a slasher who was a good man and how goodness can triumph in the end.
Benjamin's goodness helped bring his brother back and reunite his family.
Brooke's goodness helped turn Montana around and ultimately changed all of the ghosts at Camp Redwood. She was also instrumental in Donna's reversal and good turn throughout the season.
In the end, goodness won out over evil (and gets to kill evil over and over again) and that's perhaps the biggest surprise of all in this dark and twisted saga that is the sprawling "AHS" universe.
We can't wait to see where Murphy and Falchuk take us next year.
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