After the finale of Red Tide that was so disappointing to everyone who thinks that they are a better writer than Brad Falchuk, (again, I don’t know what show you were watching, but you definitely were not paying attention) episode 7 is the beginning of Death Valley, the second half of Double Feature, and it’s a delightful throwback that is very aware of how much it’s trading on tv nostalgia.
It’s 1954 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, we hear retro outer space sounds in that Americana time of black and white when women wore heels, a dress and full makeup to make dinner. Timmy is outside playing when he sees what he thinks are dust devils, but inside, the lights are flickering and the record player stops only to begin playing backwards, the clock starts spinning and Timmy is taken straight up into the sky. Mom picks up the phone to call for help, only to hear her son on the line say, “Mommy, please don’t be afraid.” Chaos ensues and when dad comes home from his day at work, expecting his perfect nuclear family to be waiting for him, he is greeted with his wife Maria levitating and then she makes his head explode. And this is how you open a new season within a season.
We now travel to Palm Springs, California where President Eisenhower (I love you, Neil McDonough) is insisting on being referred to as Ike while he golfs. After he is informed of an encroachment of U.S. air space, he is quickly packing and we get to see his wife Mamie (Sarah Paulson) who is having none of his malarky because she’s not an idiot. She knows that he is not leaving for an emergency dental appointment and says, “One year in office and you still can’t lie to save your life. I guess I should be proud of you.”
Seeing the spaceship wreckage and a pensive older gentleman with glasses take everything in, wondering why this is happening, all feels so very X-Files and I love it so much. They find a naked woman near the wreckage and she has strange markings on her back. When Ike asks her who she is, she says that she’s Amelia Earhart (Lily Rabe). She explains that she encountered the UFO while flying and ended up being subjected to their experiments. “Sometimes they took my blood, sometimes they…put things inside me.” When Amelia asks where she is and hears the answer, she becomes very upset and begins yelling, “You’re not Americans! You’re not Americans!” Talk about timely. Here’s the thing, though: Amelia Earhart disappeared in 1937. That’s 17 years ago, which would make her almost 60, but she has not aged and she’s two months pregnant.
Ike goes to observe an autopsy. An alien autopsy. If you are anywhere near my age, you are now pretty convinced that you have taken a time machine back to 1995. Between the heavy X-Files feel of the episode and now an alien autopsy, AHS is definitely tugging on a lot of nostalgic heartstrings, but they aren’t done yet. They are about to introduce the second timeline of this story and Kaia Gerber is one of the main characters. Kaia looks so much like her mom, Cindy Crawford, that I now feel my time travel back to the 90’s is complete. Cindy Crawford is a household name, The X-Files is appointment television and everyone is talking about that alien autopsy they just saw on tv.
Cut to modern times. Our four characters are introduced with military looking files and a snapshot; Cal Cambon, Kendall Carr, Troy Lord and Jamie Howard. They are all beautiful young people who are caricatures of what the world at large perceives twenty somethings to be like: shallow, vapid and addicted to their phones. We learn that Cal and Troy began dating during their time at Princeton, Jamie is really upset about being allergic to someone’s sperm and Kendall is super smart and recently cured of her addiction to her cell phone. She recently took a class titled ‘Fifty Years of Technology’ and learned that in the last fifty years, the human race has had more technological advances than in the previous twenty thousand combined. We have adapted technologically faster than our brains or emotions can adapt. This is, obviously, a huge plot point and also very true. Kendall fucks her professor, becomes a luddite and convinces her friends to do their impending camping trip without any technology so they can have fun like they did when they were 8. Despite being an obvious and convenient way to isolate these four out in Joshua Tree without phones, it is sweet to see these childhood friends all be excited about renewing their lifetime friendships.
Only rich people can camp like this. It’s a picture perfect tent with a full bed inside and leather ottomans to rest their precious feet on. They enjoy their time in the sun, around a small body of water that is no longer there the next day. Cue some The Hills Have Eyes POV and then they discover cows cut in half. Because these are smart kids, they decide to leave as fast as possible, but on the way out, the car is stopped on the road and tentacles begin enveloping them.
When they get back home, Kendall calls her professor and asks for permission to use a computer so she can Google some things. This is so problematic, but not as bad as when she later suggests to Jamie that, perhaps, Cal and Troy dosed them and had sex with them while they were passed out. WHAT THE FUCK? I really hope this is a poorly executed commentary on how women still live in a reality that expects them to need permission from men to do, well, anything, and also just accept being viewed as a sexual vessel. Anyway…
All four of them are pregnant and Kendall does reference a show she saw as a kid that had time loss and alien abduction as a theme and this is why I’m enjoying this so far. As far as I can tell, writers Falchuk, Reidel and Coto are one hundred percent aware of how tongue in cheek all of this is and they are paying their dues and respect to one of the shows that absolutely paved the way for them. As per usual, there was a lot of hate for this episode online, but again, it seems like people are missing the point. Not everything is as deep as you need or want it to be. It’s television. It’s fun and an escape and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Ike in the 50’s and then with these Gen Z’ers right now and look forward to see where all of this is going, how the two timelines will intersect and if they also combine with Red Tide or any other part of the AHS universe.
-Love the Village of the Damned eyes.
-Venemous jizz. hahahahahaha
-Luddite Summer!! We should probably all take a luddite weekend every now and then.
-If we are in present day, why is all of the music from the 80’s?
-I appreciate the male and female gaze on these young, beautiful people.
-Am I the only one who got a Hentai vibe from the opening credits?
-More head explosions, please.