Leslie Grossman's Hollywood agent comes to Provincetown to figure out why Harry is suddenly a great writer and finds herself in the middle of the town's filthiest secrets -- or is that opportunity?
We were kind of wondering where the story could go after last week's two-part premiere set up the basic premise of the first "Red Tide" chapter of this season's "American Horror Story: Double Feature." It turns out all we needed was a few new characters to mix things up.
Interestingly, we didn't see any pale people this week, but that's because like "The Walking Dead" before it, it's quickly becoming apparent that the pale people aren't the real danger. It's the regular people who are the real problem.
And if this season is all about that obsessive creative drive that pushes artists to greatness, and the price they're willing to pay to achieve it, this week's installment appears to be about how ruthlessly ambitious and soulless their agents are.
Leslie Grossman is clearly having an absolute blast playing Ursula, Harry's (Finn Witrock) Hollywood agent who found herself suddenly getting not just the best scripts he's ever written over the course of the first two episodes, but some of the best she's ever seen.
We're not sure how Austin (Evan Peters) and Belle (Frances Conroy) managed to keep their own agents, or other people in their lives, from finding out where they really get their talent. Maybe it's because Harry had a mediocre screenwriting career before he took the pills.
It could be that Austin and Belle were more like Mickey (Macaulay Culkin), who never really accomplished much in his pre-pill screenwriting days. In fact, he never even completed a script. As such, maybe Austin and Belle didn't suddenly become great but rather were discovered that way.
Ursula quickly took center stage this week with an incredible performance, including one of the most hilarious "murder" scenes we've ever seen that she got to share with Mickey. There's always a beautiful marriage between horror and comedy, and this one was played to perfection by Culkin.
That was just one of this week's biggest WTF moments. As always, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk pack each episode of "AHS" with as much ridiculousness as they can squeeze into their scripts. It's not always logical, but it's always entertaining -- even if we're scratching our heads half the time.
They always say it's important to suspend your disbelief when enjoying this kind of entertainment. We'd argue that in the case of "AHS" you have to expel it completely, and bar it from the premises while watching.
Father of the Year
We've already established that Harry has a dark side, and the pills push him beyond himself in that area as well -- and we're not just talking about the murders -- but he sure took to the idea of his nine-year-old daughter continuing to take these black pills, even knowing what it will do to her.
In fact, he even acknowledges that they also don't know what it will do to her, a young girl who's not yet developed into adulthood. Who knows how they could mess up that development, but apparently none of that matters.
Is he just happy to have something he can bond with her over? At least he drew the line at having her go on hunting trips with her to kill and bleed out victims. Instead, he said he'd bring blood back for her.
But he also acknowledged that while he can do what Austin and Belle do -- feed and write three months out of the year -- Alma's going to have to take pills year round. What's the logistics of that? Are they going to stay in Provincetown? Start murdering in New York? You have to think these things, through, Dad!
Gratuitous Snuff Porn TMI
They sure put a lot of effort into Harry's capture and imprisonment by the couple making an elaborately detailed snuff porn film starring Harry in his first and final role. With as much detail as we got in that scene, including "Rules" for captured victims, we really expected it to go somewhere.
It was another opportunity for absurdist comedy, though, with the male partner failing to charge the camera battery, allowing Harry to take off his teeth caps to expose his razor-sharpened teeth.
So he attacked the woman, ripping her throat out and shot the guy. This was his first opportunity to hunt for Alma, bringing her back plenty of blood, but wow did we get a lot of detail as to what was going to happen for a scene that turned out no different than all the other hunting murder trips we've seen. So what was the point of it all?
Quentin Tarantino Among Pill Poppers
Ryan Murphy must be a huge Quentin Tarantino fan to suggest that the prolific writer and director is one of the mysterious Chemist's clients We'd love to get a more complete in-universe list of clients, but that's kind of a fun Easter egg.
We weren't even told directly, though, with Ursula telling Harry that Tarantino wanted Harry to write his first Hulu limited series because, as it turns out, since Tarantino got married, he's found it's not as easy to do what he needs to do to write.
That could mean any number of things, but we'd bet a thermos of blood it means it's not as easy to murder people and drain their blood with a wife around. Harry has certainly found that to be the case, taking full advantage of Doris being hospitalized after early false contractions left doctors concerned because of two prior miscarriages.
She's only going to be gone for so long, though Alma appears read to ditch mom altogether. We still think she may have a pale future, as her interior design skills are -- less than inspired. One pill could doom her if she really is the hack she appears to be.
Ursula On Board Just Like That
Perhaps the largest leap of logic was how coolly Ursula just seems to have accepted the truth after blackmailing Mickey into telling her the truth after she'd read a few of his incredible scripts.
Oh, they're taking pills to suddenly be great writers. I'll just believe this junkie meth-head who says he's been clean a few days. Granted, she'd already seen Harry's quality jump out of nowhere, and Mickey's scripts were probably pretty incredible, but it's still a big leap.
Not only is she just on board with this whole pill thing, she immediately starts thinking how she can make an opportunity out of it. Honestly, this show has murderers all over it, and we really think the moral of this episode might be that Hollywood agents are worse than all of them.
Mickey the Murderer
She proved again that she's ready to roll with absolutely anything when Mickey showed up in her hotel bathroom ready to kill her and she just talked him right out of it without even dropping her Toblerone.
She'd already blackmailed him and told him he'd need to bring her more pills and take her to the source. Now, she played on his own eagerness to be accepted and for greatness by telling him they wanted him to write the "Speed Racer" reboot film. Is it a lie? Who knows.
This woman was laying there naked in her tub, as vulnerable as you can be, and she talked Mickey out of killing her within seconds, got him excited about the possibilities of his own future, and he agrees to take her to the Chemist.
As for why he was there to kill her in the first place, that's because he nearly bungled an earlier kill attempt under the same "dick dock" where Harry killed a male prostitute. Mickey just isn't cut out for cutthroat. He did finally kill the guy, but it was a close call and wouldn't have happened at all if the guy didn't know him and lower his own guard.
It's a testament to the hold the pills have on Mickey, or perhaps his own depravity and desperation, that he was willing to kill someone he knew to feed. None of our other artists have really stooped to that that we know of.
Chemist Cold as Ice
This whole season is full of cold players. Austin and Belle, after finding out that Alma has taken pills and Harry is bring her thermoses of blood, decide they need to kill him and probably his whole family. This just moments after threatening to feed on Alma if Harry didn't agree to stop giving her pills immediately.
Then Ursula showed up and we thought we'd just met the coldest b in town. Enter the Chemist (Angelica Ross). Ursula made her pitch, offering the Chemist ten percent of post-pill proceeds on writers Ursual would choose, plus back-end deals, but the Chemist wasn't interested.
She was happy with the way things were, and who came along and messed all that up? Austin and Belle are the ones who offered the black pills to Harry and that's what got this whole mess going.
So The Chemist's ultimatum to our favorite over-the-top duo was that they would need to kill Ursula and Mickey (who stole pills from Belle) and Harry and -- hell, why not? -- Harry's whole family, too. In other words, reset it back to before the first episode and all will be well.
That's already enough conflict to carry this show through the rest of its season, but they weren't done yet. We still had the kitchen sink to get to.
Alma's First Kill
Technically, the rabbit was her first kill (if it wasn't dead already), but the episode ended with our first major character death, and it definitely wasn't one we were expecting. Chief Burelson (Adina Porter) has been nosing around since the premiere.
At first skeptical that anything major was going on, she was starting to put the pieces together that this murder spree up and down the Cape of degenerates might be leading to something bigger. And she rightly suspected that Harry and Alma were a part of it.
What she probably shouldn't have done was underestimate Alma, or tell her her intentions to take Alma down to the station and arrest her father. It didn't help that Alma was already "hungry." This seems to be her default setting now, but out of nowhere, with one slash of a blade, Alma had murdered the police chief.
Add to that the fact that Ursula was upstairs and napping when it happened, and downstairs playing gin rummy with Alma next to the body by the time Harry came home, and now we've got a whole ton of conflict brewing -- enough to cover several seasons (or one season of "AHS").
Let's see, Harry had told Doris that he and Alma would return to New York, which was a lie. They're still in Provincetown. Now, they've got the town chief dead and lying on their coffee table in the house they're renting. This isn't an undesirable that no one will miss. How do you get out of this one?
On top of that, Austin and Belle are now tasked with killing half of the cast or they won't get their pills back. Ursula is aware of all of it and isn't even concerned about the police body in Harry's house, which could make her an asset to Harry and Alma staying alive at this point.
The whole situation in Provincetown is getting ready to boil over, which will royally infuriate the Chemist, who wants it all to go back to the way it was when this was all very much on the downlow. Any chance at that may be shot now that Burelson is dead.
Plus, there's still all these pale people wandering around town and surely they've killed some people by now. How many are they? Why do they hang out together? Where do they get their ridiculous outfits? Does someone control them?
Does Harry show up on the short bit of video that the snuff film creators made before he launched into them and murdered them? Hell, the camera may have caught all of it. If so, that could justify some of that detail we were given about their plans -- nothing can justify all of it.
And we didn't even get an appearance from Sarah Paulson's TB Karen, who knows all about what's going on but (so far as we know) has resisted the urge to take the pills, despite her own artistic inclinations. We also don't know what's wrong with her, as tuberculosis seems to tidy an explanation for this show.
And there must be more yet to come from interior designer Holden Vaughn (Denis O'Hare), who debuted this episode and is a likely candidate for pills (or might be interested, if not), and Billie Lourd's dentist/tattoo artist. You don't cast Lourd for one scene in one episode and put her in the opening credits -- we're so far beyond the kitchen sink at this point, where do we go from here?
The "Red Tide" insanity continues on "American Horror Story: Double Feature," each Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on FX.