Recap: American Horror Story – S10 Ep2

Despite season 10 being titled Double Feature, it only has ten episodes, so that does make me wonder how they are going to fit two stories into ten episodes when keeping storyline follow through isn’t always this series strong point. Consider me even more suspicious that they premiered both the first and second episode on the same night. Ryan Murphy has said that he started writing the past few seasons of AHS knowing that a lot of people wait for the entire season to be available via streaming so they can binge watch it. Maybe they were trying to placate that glutinous desire in us? Whatever the reason, it was a good decision because while episode one did a solid job of introducing everything, on it’s own, it’s a titch boring. The second episode, however, is far more intriguing and brings up lots of new questions and predicaments.

Harry has taken the mysterious black pill and just as he is about to drive his family away to safety, the pill kicks in and his “inspiration” ignites. He literally jumps out of the car and bails on his wife and daughter because whatever tv pilot he’s about to write is that fucking important. Cue the myriad shots of what an inspired writer looks like. Harry is furiously tapping away at his keyboard and blown away by his own intellect. He doesn’t move from the spot, he doesn’t eat, he doesn’t sleep, he snaps at his daughter. Allegedly, this is what genius looks like. To me, it looks a lot like what some people describe a bipolar episode to be and how awesome would it be if AHS was going to kindly and intelligently speak on mental health? Very.

After Doris asks Harry if he took speed, Alma throws him right under the bus and explains that she watched him take a pill and this is what leads to Harry saying, to his daughter, “Don’t be jealous because I found inspiration and you can’t play fucking Paganini.” Father of the year will be passing him by in 2021.

This outburst does lead to one of the first really shady things that writers Murphy and Falchuk kindly throw our way this episode. When Doris suggests they leave P-Town, Harry makes a remark about how it will be the second job she has walked out on, to which she replies, “They didn’t understand minimalism At. All. A monochromatic blush color scheme, thank you very much, which is VERY NOW, by the way!” Doris is legit foaming at the mouth about people having poor taste because they didn’t want their home to be all one color or boring. To her credit, though, the house they are in right now is already monochromatic, so I guess she will do a bang up job turning all of the white to sad oatmeal shades.

On the way to the market, Harry is surrounded by some of the pale people, but when he is recognized as someone who has taken the pill, they leave him alone. This is moderately interesting because wouldn’t he taste extra delicious now that the pill is working such magic within him? Perhaps there is a hierarchy within the users of the pill? I suppose we will find out soon enough.

While filling up his cart with tons of red meat, the market owner is clearly judgmental of knowing Harry took the pill and then TB Karen comes and yells at him for being stupid enough to take the pill. So, everyone just knows about the pills and the pale people, but they choose to live here, anyway? And why are some people not worried about the pale people, but Karen is constantly terrified of them? Whatevs, Harry drinks a blender of blood and starts writing furiously again. This motherfucker is so impressed with himself, he brings himself to tears over how good his work is. Fucking hilarious. Meanwhile upstairs, mom is looking at swatches of fabric that are all the same shade of oatmeal and makes excuses to her daughter for why Harry is allowed to behave like an entitled man baby and they need to just give him space and cower at his mood swings. And THIS is why Alma thinks she needs to take one these pills so she can play fucking Paganini and be great, although Doris does tell her, “There’s no magic pill for greatness, sweetheart.”

While Austin and Belle spy on Harry furiously writing away, they talk about how, “Nothing feels better than those first few nights on Muse. That’s what we should call it by the way, The Muse.” I guess taking the pill allows you to write Tony award winning plays, but NO ONE who has taken it has been able to come up with a better name than Muse? At least Harry is writing something, allegedly, brilliant. He actually says, “My god, it’s brilliant. I always wondered, when I saw or read great writing, where did that come from. How can Tarantino or Sorkin say the same things that other writers say, just in a way that’s so much better?” This had me howling because it felt like some serious shade from Murphy and Falchuk and in the words of Austin, I’m here for it.

Harry goes to confront Austin about Muse and we learn about The Chemist. Housing crisis, people are bored, yada, yada, yada, speed, meth, opioids, someone makes a hybrid meth/opioid drug that only works on people who have talent. The pale people roaming around town are people who took Muse, but don’t have talent, so now they are literal bottom feeders. Harry wants to know why he is craving blood and in the most obvious moment of Murphy and Falchuk taking the piss out of everyone, Austin says, “Metaphorically, I don’t know, maybe something about artists stealing other peoples life blood to inspire our art. Scientifically, the drug severely depletes the four major minerals in our blood.” Really, they did everyone a favor by flat out telling you that you can look at the flesh eating in a metaphorical way, or you can just take straight up science and accept it as a logical side effect of Muse. I enjoyed this. They know that everything they write is inspected and torn apart to such an inane degree, that they are telling us we can all calm the fuck down and try to enjoy the show. Where’s the fun in that, though? I have opinions and a laptop, so sorry Murphy and Falchuk, I’m one of those bottom feeders that would end up wandering around P-Town looking like I just got fired from Hot Topic.

Doris tells her husband that her job is important too and we hear about the Instagram contest that she won which landed her this design job. If Instagram thinks she’s talented, then she must be, right? She then tells Harry that she worries that he doesn’t think she’s good enough, that it’s just a hobby or something. Now, this is definitely the writers talking about themselves right now. Anything ruled by the right brain is always seen as a hobby to the public at large.

When Harry receives a phone call from Ursula, telling him that Joaquin Phoenix loves his writing so much, that he will do it for free and Netflix is hiring him, they both celebrate, but Doris takes an uncomfortable amount of joy in this. It kind of feels like she has now been validated as the doting wife who supports her artist husband. She’s talking out of both sides of her mouth: she wants him to sacrifice for the family, but then immediately encourages him to be selfish again because Joaquin Phoenix is interested in his work. So lame. Guess Harry better get some more Muse.

When Harry shows up looking to beg for more Muse, Belle tells him that, “There’s nothing more addictive than success,” and then they teach him how to find food. They feed on people whom they perceive to be a drain on society. Austin even quips that, “Since the opioid epidemic hit the cape, it’s been a breeze.” They use the same logic as a serial killer, but they think they are allowed to do this because they are so talented. Apparently there are a few rules about feeding Harry’s new thirst, though: he must never feed in P-Town because the new sheriff is nosy,( so I guess that answers my question about how complicit she is) and they tell him to never take off his gloves. Can’t wait to find out what the consequences will be when he inevitably breaks one, or both, of these rules.

Mickey and TB Karen smoke crack and have an endearing conversation about the Jaws cinematic universe and Karen learns that Mickey has started five screenplays. He just knows that he could write something great if he could only follow through. So, of course he has stolen some of the black pills from Belle and is going to take them. Karen tells him that taking those pills makes you a bloodsucker. (She’s definitely speaking literally and figuratively.) Mickey is ok with that because if you want success, you have to compromise. Everyone has to go a little Darth Vader to get ahead in life. This is all very on the nose for stories about selling your soul for greatness.

As Change (In The House of Flies) by the Deftones plays, Harry shows up at a tattoo parlor, looking for Dr. Feldman. Enter Billie Lorde as Lark. Technically, her name is Leslie Feldman, but she goes by Lark in the tattoo community. She went to dental school to appease her parents, so she also does backroom dental work in the form of filing down teeth to fangs and making “normal” looking teeth to go over those.

Unsurprisingly, Alma takes Muse and finally plays Paganini without fail only to immediately pass out. This is interesting because as far as we know, she seems to be the only person with actual talent. Harry has been rewriting other people’s work, Doris clearly struggles with being great and we don’t know the history or Austin and Belle. Maybe there are levels of greatness and how Muse affects you? Anyway, Alma won’t stop practicing and when Doris asks her to take a break because she has a headache and the music sounds fine, Alma turns full on bitch. She tells her mother, “You don’t understand greatness. Sounds fine to you because fine is good enough to people like you. For people like daddy and I, fine is failure.” Ouch. Doris tries to take care of this in a calm way, but Alma digs deeper and tells her, “You want us to leave because you’re jealous. I told you, you don’t understand art, you don’t understand inspiration, you don’t understand how hard it is to be great. Daddy and I have found something special out here that helps us be great and we don’t want to leave.” She also accuses Doris of being perfectly ordinary and it’s unclear if Doris is sad that her daughter was being cruel or because Doris is truly afraid of being ordinary and her daughter can see it.

I’d like to take a moment here and address Alma’s violin case. It’s red. Red is one of the only colors on the show. The show is making fun of a monochromatic scheme while simultaneously using it to tell the story. Blood, red lights, the sign at the restaurant, the violin case, these are all red. Now, stay with me. Nicolo Paganini was a violinist who’s talent was so great that he was accused of selling his soul to the devil in exchange for this talent. Paganini leaned into this urban legend about himself and when on his deathbed, he refused the final Catholic sacrament. Otherwise known as a Faustian bargain, selling your soul for greatness is nothing new in storytelling, but it is interesting that they keep making sure we know the music Alma is trying to master is Paganini and Belle always finds a way to comment on greatness and what people are, or are not, willing to do to be around it.

Another thing of interest is the lack of talk about the baby. It seems as though Doris is more concerned about interior design and Lyme disease than she is about the baby she’s carrying. And how far along is she? She looks pretty close to the due date, but they are scheduled to be in P-Town for three months? The only time Harry acknowledges the baby is when he momentarily kisses her belly and then when he cruelly tells Doris that she’s being irrational and this happens every time she gets pregnant. Is this a mean way of reminding her of past miscarriages or is she a surrogate? Why is a pregnant woman more concerned about winning that Instagram contest and Joaquin Phoenix than she is the baby? At least she is concerned about Alma when she can’t find her in the house. When she does finally find Alma, the little one is eating an animal and all of the pale ones are giving both her and her mother a wide berth. Very interesting.

Sidenotes:

-Take a shot every time the word ‘inspiration’ and ‘greatness’ are uttered.

-The restaurant where Harry met Austin and Belle is called Muse and the sign is bathed in red
light.

-Leslie Grossman is fun when she is a guest on Housewives podcasts, but she is one note on
AHS and it’s becoming boring.

  • Am I the only one who does not think Billie Lorde is an amazing actress?
  • Karen’s art pieces are all depictions of the show and they are pretty cool.
  • Between The Chemist and Harry saying that he “eliminated the threat” by killing the pale guy, this is all making me miss Breaking Bad a little bit.

Lisa Fremont

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