TV Review: American Horror Story 1984 “Rest In Pieces” (S9 E08)

It’s now 1989. Halloween is right around the corner, like Michael Myers behind shrubbery. Donna and Brooke discuss being “final girls” over hotel-complimentary breakfast until they’re interrupted by a reporter for the National Inquirer. The term “Final Girl” didn’t exist until 1992, coined by author Carol J. Clover. And yes, I’m sure this is to “educate” the audience, but this could’ve been an opportunity to have the characters voice a different interpretation of the trope, to bring new meaning to a tired concept that honestly doesn’t apply to the genre in the same way it once did. You know, for fun or something deeper. Oh well.

Speaking of missed opportunities, rapist of the elderly Richard Ramirez bemoans that Mr. Jingles ruined his killing streak by assisting in his capture. This episode explores what it means to be a fanboy, to live up to someone else’s standards. Ramirez is to Bruce (Dylan McDermott) as Billy Idol is to Ramirez. Or Satan to Ramirez. The undead Jingles impersonators are obvious examples. The Inquirer reporter obsesses over pretty much all of them.

Bruce (sans thumbs) picks up the ghost hippy from the first few episodes who wanders at the roadside in his usual fog. Bruce is on his way to Margaret Booth’s festival, just like everyone else in 1984. He complains about New Wave music and professes his love for the Eagles. “It’s about the storytelling,” he says, and I can’t help but wonder if this is an inside joke about American Horror Story’s penchant for style over substance with Bruce as parody of critics. If it’s not, it should be.

American Horror Story 1984 “Rest In Pieces” (S9 E08)

Our characters move around a bit here but mostly sit waiting for things to come to a head. Mr. Jingles appears to reach his resolution. He attempts to take out the Night Stalker but fails. Then he’s at the mercy of the dead counselors. He pleads his case (to trap Ramirez here to avoid more bloodshed), but Xavier and the rest laugh him off. That is, until he exposes Montana’s relationship with Ramirez, where—for the first time—the show mentions Ramirez’s brutalization of kids and the elderly. A bit too late, AHS.

Montana gets to experience a reunion (and much sex) with Trevor, who offers to kill himself for her. Their romance is good to go until she’s blamed for “creating” the Night Stalker, which gives her a platform to speak about “women as scapegoats” for male serial killers. Men get to be rock stars, while the mothers and female acquaintances are monsters, and decidedly uncool. This is another case of AHS trying to play both sides of the fence. I’m not sure that Montana’s speech makes up for their idolization of Richard Ramirez who is certainly presented in rock star fashion this season, complete with music cues.

American Horror Story 1984 “Rest In Pieces” (S9 E08)

If this review comes off negative, I think it’s because I’m frustrated by this standstill. There’s some fun to be had here (Ramirez’s panic at the idea of Billy Idol dying, the Friday the 13th boat scare homage), but also the typical broad comedy (Brooke fighting Donna while “Eye of the Tiger” plays, “writers make me sick”) that’s more groan than camp. Brooke’s unseen transformation from sweetheart to “This is who I am now!” killer still baffles me. I should care about her revenge, but I haven’t experienced those years she missed. Half her journey is missing, and the show doesn’t care to give us that. Booth is such a cartoon, that I’m sure she’ll pull an “Oh, shit / eyeroll” death once it comes. There’s no weight behind any of this.

But again, Jingles reuniting with his mother and brother? Good resolution. He remained sympathetic once Booth’s lies came to light, and I actually cared to see where he ended up. Everyone else in this “blood game?” Not really.

I cared about Tate and Violet in Murder House. About Misty Day in Coven. And Lana Winters in Asylum. These characters could die, they could become fodder, and they could certainly be fleshed out to create an emotional reaction once that blow landed. This doesn’t subtract from the “humor” that AHS is so hell-bent on showcasing, it enhances it.

Xavier went from complicated (closeted, dealing with blackmail) to brat who’s only mad about his lost fame. Donna Chambers suddenly wants to make up for sociopathic behavior, with very little motivation to change. Maybe Trevor is the only remaining sympathetic character, who shows vulnerability when he says, “I peaked at 25.”

AHS 1984 airs Wednesday nights on FX