As the first part of Double Feature comes to a close, most fans are disappointed. The AHS Reddit community is overflowing with posts complaining of how lackluster the finale of Red Tide was for them, so I went into the episode knowing that the majority of people were disappointed, but I hadn’t read any spoilers. Knowing that the overall feeling was one of disappointment may have helped put any hopefulness aside for me, or maybe I’ve simply gotten used to not being excited for an AHS finale. For all of it’s faults, the AHS universe is a really cool place where everyone can find at least one season that they love. A lot of the earlier seasons were great or were good with some great episodes or particular storylines. Somewhere around Roanoke and Cult is where the show went left for a lot of fans. Personally, I find Roanoke very clever and very funny. Watching it in real time, I was not as enamored, but in retrospect and in comparison to other seasons, it’s a pretty awesome season. Cult is viewed in the same way by a lot of people as well. Maybe Cult simply hit too close to the bone when it premiered, but in our time of COVID, it is appreciated in a different way. And then Apocalypse happened and let’s be real: it shit the bed. Here’s the thing, though; it’s around this time that Murphy and team began writing the show knowing that a lot of people choose to wait for it to be available on a streaming service so they can binge it. This is a big deal. Instead of fighting against the new way of watching tv, they leaned into it and those of us who still make AHS appointment television are the ones who got screwed. Was I shocked to see that the run time of Winter Kills was only 37 minutes? Absolutely. Would I have cared if I had just watched all of the previous episodes back to back? Probably not. Brad Falchuk is a writer on all six episodes of Red Tide and the only writer on the bulk of them and up until the finale, people were really happy with Red Tide and proclaiming it a return to form or, potentially, their new favorite season. Apparently, all it takes is 37 minutes for everyone to turn on you. I have fully enjoyed Red Tide and the accompanying Reddit chatter surrounding it because we all played into Brad and then were disappointed in the results.
Let’s deal with the episode that has caused such a fuss.
We get to see a town hall meeting where someone has requested to change the color of their house shingles from Simply White to Mountain Peak White. While it is true that the historical homes are unable to change their aesthetics, it was quite funny to come full circle with Doris and her various shades of oatmeal. Doris isn’t here, but we do have Holden and he can read anyone for filth. When a Levy who owns Irish pubs dares to ask for something, Holden is having none of it. I would happily watch an HGTV show where he just goes around critiquing people’s taste. Trooper Jan Remy (Hello Dot-Marie Jones!) let’s everyone know that she will be taking the recent homicides seriously, but she is quickly shut down with the explanation of “winter time problems”. The people who reside in P-Town are all aware of what happens during the winter months and they are fine with it because it affords them the ability to live in such a special place. “Everyone in this room depends upon the summer to pay for the winter.” To sum it up: “The gays might stop coming,” complete with a dramatic thud after that sentence. Despite the trooper’s proclamation that she is going to get to the bottom of things, Holden says he will take care of it.
Holden is having a discussion with The Chemist, Belle and Austin: he’s congratulating himself and the rest of the town on their patience about the pales and the blood drinking because the pales recede into the woods in the summer and Belle and Austin never eat anyone who matters. Austin adds, “And we don’t feed past Memorial Day.” The system has held. They get to write and feed and the locals get to have their charming winter houses, but this winter has been completely out of control. Belle says, “It’s not us. It’s the Hollywood people. They ruin everything.” Austin agrees with the logic that writing a novel or for the stage requires a degree of decorum that a Hollywood person can never understand. They compare Harry giving the pill to his daughter to the Q-Anon theories about everyone in Hollywood being baby killers. Basically, Belle and Austin are the mouthpieces for every poor, Hollywood type who thinks that they are unfairly criticized, but just like us regular plebs, Holden gives zero fucks over what their reasons may be: he wants the Gardners taken care of or all of them (The Chemist included) will be having some very annoying issues. Holden will ruin their charming seaside existence because you know what? “I stopped Burger King from opening in this town. I can stop you, too.” Fucking hilarious. We do not deserve Denis O’Hare.
Meanwhile, Ursula has declared Harry’s latest work the best thing ever and he should just quit. So, he decides that they are done with the pills. He can provide a comfortable life for his kids and enjoy his success, but Alma is having none of this. She’s been a sociopath since day one and the pills only made it worse. Add Ursula as her wicked stepmother and it makes for an evil team that is not interested in Harry’s opinions. Alma placates her dad, but gives Ursula a very meaningful look over his shoulder. (The number of meaningful, thoughtful faces that have been made while hugging someone on this show is through the roof.)
Eli has been kidnapped by Belle and, surprisingly, Alma is very upset by this. Since when does she give a shit about her brother?
Ursula makes a trip to the graveyard where she makes a Laurence Fishburne plea to the pales. She compares them taking the pill to Fishburne turning down Pulp Fiction, but everything worked out because Fishburne beat out Sam Jackson for The Matrix and now she is about to give them their second chance.
Harry and Alma are met with not just Belle, but Austin and The Chemist show up as well. He tells them that they are off of the pills and he just wants to go back to his old life. They don’t believe him, taunt him with the fact that he’s not actually a writer because, “screenwriters are more like creative typists.” She doesn’t stop there, though. Belle has a full on monologue about how movies and Hollywood types ruin everything. “Is there anything Hollywood hasn’t fucked up in the end?” she asks. And just as she finishes her grand statement and her and Austin are about to kill Harry and Alma, the pales bust through the windows and carnage ensues. Alma looks positively delighted to watch all of the mayhem and then Ursula comes in with a gun and finishes everything off. It’s all very Tarantino and this entire scene is Brad Falchuk getting a lot of complaints off of his chest and he already knew everyone was going to say this finale sucked, because that’s what everyone says every season, he just beat you to the punch. I do wish Doris would have been one of the pales, though. It would have been great to see her kill Alma, but then I suppose Alma would not be able to kill Harry because she just has to be the greatest and, for whatever reason, Ursula and The Chemist sign off on this.
Time jump three months (does anyone like a time jump?) to Hollywood and The Chemist is using her pill to clean up the Bad Apple Cops. Thank goodness the Hollywood types are here to be the moral compass for us. The Chemist really digs in to the fact that she made the pill for the military and they will never admit to it or sell the proprietary recipe. I feel like this will bite her in the ass sometime.
Alma and her competition are left alone while it’s decided who will be brought on to the philharmonic. He explains to Alma that she won’t get the job because hiring such a young prodigy would be a huge news story and that’s a distraction because audiences will show up just to see her, which means she would need to be featured and that causes a whole host of issues for the entire philharmonic. “It becomes a freak show. We play classical music. We are as square as we can be. You are the fucking bearded lady, kid.” He is so right. And that’s why Alma kills him. Not because she believes she’s the best, but because Rory was right. Cue the sinister smile of an evil child. Meh.
Ursula shows up at a screenplay writing seminar. She pulls an Oprah and everyone has a gift under their seat. You get a pill! You get a pill! EVERYONE GETS A PILL! She then goes in for, yet another, Matrix reference. Chaos breaks out because, apparently, everyone in Hollywood is talentless. While we watch pales devour one another and everyone in their path, Ursula explains that most people aren’t willing to put in the work, focusing on success, notoriety and wealth instead, blah, blah, blah and, “Those who achieve greatness only do so because they are fucked up enough to push through the pain and failure it takes to reach your potential.”
So, he’s basically talking about himself. While people sit on the internet and incessantly critique his writing, claiming that it’s always lazy, he’s the one enjoying success, notoriety, wealth, a marriage to the GOOP herself, because he pushed through the pain and failure to reach his potential. We’re just a bunch of pales who don’t have the drive to do what he did. The entirety of Red Tide was a Hollywood type needing to be coddled for his creativity to thrive and regular people can never understand greatness and only people who are truly willing to work for what they want will be rewarded. And no matter what he or his partner, Ryan Murphy, may bring to the table, we live in a world where opinions are bountiful and can be posted immediately. Netflix and Hulu are both name checked in the show and Austin bemoans streamers. As viewers turn from weekly viewing to binge viewing, they rolled with it, but we still weren’t happy.
-We don’t feed past Memorial Day is the new not wearing white after Labor Day.
-If only all kidnappers would leave their ransom note on personalized stationary.
-I really enjoy how Belle’s look at her house, in front of the fire, was reminiscent of Apocalypse.
-The donut shop that Ursula picked up the hustler from is a donut shop owned by Danny Trejo,
who was in, for my money, the most amusing episode of American Horror Stories.
-The showdown in Belle’s house felt like Falchuk’s nod to Tarantino’s Manson murderers scene
in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, so I shall now assume all of the previous Tarantino
references were sincere.
-Ryan Kiera Armstrong is a standout as Alma. I loathed her character so much and that is a
testament to her acting.