Only serial killers wear pants loose enough to allow key jingles. These 80’s kids are into tighter fashions, so they know a killer when they hear one.
“Mr. Jingles” opens with psychiatrist Karen (Orla Brady) arriving at Camp Redwood, with intentions to warn Jerry Falwell-devotee Margaret Booth (Leslie Grossman) of coming danger. Mr. Jingles is loose, having escaped from a mental hospital, like the Boulet Brothers. Booth could care less, acting so disinterested that she’s either a red herring (a Jingles accomplice?), or it’s just the writers being unsubtle (I really can’t tell with this show). Could Karen be our Dr. Loomis, but gender-bent? “There’s only evil in his eyes!” she might say, waving a pistol around, trench coat flapping as she chases Jingles from one kill to the next.
Nope, she’s dead. I’m sad to see her go, but this gives me hope that Mitch Pileggi might fill a role similar to that of the good doctor’s. Just imagine him stuck in a car with the local sheriff.
This is America, so murder is featured news in the era of “if it bleeds, it leads.” Brooke, our innocent leading lady, remains traumatized from a previous attack. But that’s not all, as a flashback to “last summer” proves. Come to think of it, Roberts is channeling Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Jingles is straight out of I Know What You Did Last Summer. Anyway, it appears that Brooke’s husband-to-be went mad from jealousy at the altar, shooting dead his best man, then himself. This reinforces the idea that our girl is wholesome–she was no doubt waiting for marriage, and denies ever messing around with anyone else. Her word isn’t enough for the fiance, and instead of a life filled with love and devotion, she gets red on her.
It’s an absurd, but funny scene. While it does make her more pitiful, I can’t help but wonder if she’s now imagining things as a result of her traumas. Her peers treat her like she’s crazy, and she’s such a lamb that it’s hard not to mistrust her authenticity on a show like AHS.
However, her friend Montana (Billie Lourd) appears to be a “what you see is what you get” case. Part free spirit, part aerobics pinup, I’m not sure what to do with her character. She likes to be inappropriate around peers, and she likes to have sex. Sure, it’s accurate to the genre, but I feel like Lourd deserves better.
Our other genre mainstay, closeted yuppie Xavier, meets with his blackmailer, “Daddy.” Daddy is a possessive pornographer, twisting Xavier’s arm for more gay-for-pay screen time. The boy worries this will get out and ruin his career, so he offers up Trevor (Glee‘s Matthew Morrison) as a sacrifice.
Trevor is a fun character, whose burden is of the cockular sort.“Takes more than it gives,” he says, referring to his hog, his John Holmes, his Dirk Diggler (though his aesthetic is a bit Kyle McLaughlin). AHS’s parody of the well-hung adult film star is surprising. While he was cartoonish in the premiere, Trevor comes across here as very level-headed, which is…odd? Let’s hope he gets a chance to develop further.
Daddy takes Xavier up on his offer, and finds a shower peephole to scope out Trevor. It’s a nice change to see a (deep breath) male-focused male gaze on television, as the camera switches to voyeuristic POV while the boys scrub. Daddy doesn’t get to enjoy the view long, as Mr. Jingles interrupts this pervy activity with a spike through the man’s head. A fun queering of the peephole scene in Porky’s, to be sure.
Meanwhile, we learn that the hippy without an ear, Jonas, can’t die. It’s unclear at the moment, but he seems to regenerate when eviscerated, which raises questions. We know AHS is a shared universe, so the ghost rules of previous seasons apply here. If he is indeed a ghost. “Wait, I don’t die here,” he says at one point, which takes my mind in meta directions.
Oh, and Richard Ramirez (Zach Villa) is back, having witnessed Jonah’s powers of redemption himself.
I’m not sure how to react to Ramirez as a character within a fantasy narrative. It’s clearly been done before with serial killers, and if I’m criticizing the show for making a rapist of grandmothers sexy and cool, then I have to condemn a lot of well-made films too. It’s ridiculous to say such-and-such is off limits because their crime was “this,” as murder is murder. But this episode moves him into a killer vs. killer role, and who is the audience going to root for? Ugly old Mr. Jingles, or the model-esque Villa?
My discomfort stems from childhood memories. I was old enough to recognize what his crime spree meant, and I’d wait for my parents to return from shopping trips as Ramirez’s sexual assaults were announced on nightly CBS broadcasts, along with his “Satanic” impulses (which strikes me as an attempt to be “edgy,” not dissimilar from his leather jacket). I wasn’t alive for Ted Bundy’s reign, but I’ve seen most of the adaptations of his life. Maybe I’m able to separate the fictional portrayals of past killers in my head with the help of distance?
But I digress. Booth finds Ramirez waiting for her in the cabin, demanding answers about this unkillable hippy who was a mate of Booth’s. Booth is the lone survivor of Jingle’s 1970 massacre (we know this because flashback shows her hiding under a pile of corpses, covered in blood). Booth, who doesn’t seem shaken at all, cites “God and trauma” as a great concoction upon hearing the killer’s sad backstory (Ramirez was exposed to a lot of bad as a youngster, which is true to life). “Can I see your feet?” Ramirez interrupts, at one point. Is there documentation regarding this foot fetish?
Meanwhile, our camp counselors discover Daddy’s corpse, and try an escape by van. This leads to a wreck, where the gang meets Rita (Angelica Ross, who is excellent in Pose). This entertaining episode ends with someone beating on the door of their cabin. Who’s gonna come through?
I guess we’re getting Nightstalker vs. Jingles next time. I’ll have the fight breakdown for you then. Jingles clearly has a weight advantage, while Ramirez has more reach. I’m rooting for the ugly one.
AHS 1984 airs Wednesday nights on FX