BWW Recap: And Then There Were Three on Shocking AMERICAN HORROR STORY
With only two more episodes left of AMERICAN HORROR STORY and a death toll we're just counting down, as could be predicted "Chapter 7" would be filled with more carnage, brutality, and...you guessed it...death. The show went from five to three this week and the only thing keeping the audience hanging on with suspense is the knowledge that only one of this thrilling cast of characters will survive. This episode, as did last week's, toed the line between horror and torture porn, but ultimately barely treads above that water by focusing on the compelling performances and dealing with the effects this hellish situation is having on these people. As the steaks are upped, everyone appears to be pushed to the edge and it is clear that no one will walk away without first getting their hands dirty.
This theme and structure shines best on AMERICAN HORROR STORY when the parallels with the "performance" in the first season line up with what we're seeing now. That pre-knowledge and cruel irony that plagues the cast in those moments heighten the power of what structuring the season the way they had could have. That parallel turns the romance of horror and torture that happens on television and in our media on it's head, as we see the spirits of Roanoke are much more horrifying and less forgiving than their fictional counterparts. Though the writing doesn't lean on this most compelling feature nearly enough, which would ultimately strengthen the season thematically, a focus AMERICAN HORROR STORY hasn't had a firm grasp of since Season 2 or 3, it's gratifying for the viewer to see that whatever they feared before was tamed compared to what these horrors are in actuality.
As Shelby (Lily Rabe) and Dominic (Cuba Gooding Jr.) find themselves cornered in the house, the spirits of Roanoke seem to come from everywhere. They keep running and darting but cannot escape these non-human entities, never even allowing themselves to stop for a moment to take a breath. It's overwhelming for both them and the audience, and one can thank Gwyneth Horder-Payton, director of this episode, for this sense of paranoia and raised STAKES that are reflected in the shots. It's important to note that ever since Angela Bassett directed the episode that turned this season on its head, AMERICAN HORROR STORY has been helmed by female directors, an admirable step by Ryan Murphy who had recently launched a foundation for diversity amongst directors, something he admits his shows have been lacking over the years.
Cruel irony weaves itself in as the chandelier falls from the ceiling as Dominic and Shelby try to escape, crushing Shelby's ankle, something we know was recounted on the first season of their first escape. The two make it into the bathroom upstairs, locking themselves away from the spirits but Shelby, understandably, seems to have lost all hope. From the endless spirits attacking them to her crumbling state of mind dealing with the fact that she had killed Matt, Shelby believes there is no way out and even if there was, there is no place for her out there. Thus we have another life taken not directly by the inhuman powers at Roanoke, but rather the people said horrors have forced our cast to become. Shelby takes the knife in her hand and kills herself, much to the horror of Dominic who feels like she's the only person he has here in this house of horrors.
Things aren't any better at the cannibal hillbilly farm as we see they had cut off some of Lee's leg to feed to Audrey and Monet. Lee (Adina Porter) is strapped to the chair, left alone with one of Mama Polk's sons who is filming everything. We learn he has a dream to be on television, a dream his mother had denied him, and Lee finds her way in. She starts getting to him, letting him open up to her and promising to get him on TV if he lets her go. Tempted but still afraid of his mother, he resists, but offers her a snort of coke to help ease her pain when they hurt her more. At first Lee protests, having put her everything into maintaining her sobriety, but eventually relents, realizing that she is at the end of the line here, no one will judge her and at the very least, make it easier on yourself. This place breaks everyone and turns them into their worst selves, a commentary that runs throughout this season, however unintentional it might be. Lee coerces him further into allowing her some peace by recording a message to Flora, where she shockingly admits that she really did kill her ex-husband, Mason and that she did it because he was going to take Flora away. She apologizes to her daughter, the last weight on her shoulders finally lifted.
However, it becomes more and more clear that Lee is a fighter and a survivor, perhaps a hint that she might be our cast member who escapes. How ironic would it be though that she had gone on the show to clear her name and had most of the audience rooting for her, only to turn that on it's head and have the one SURVIVOR be the cast member who had murdered before the show even plagued their lives.
Survivor mode kicks in as she seduces the Polk boy to get him to undo the straps on her hands so she can touch him. He unwittingly does so and she takes her opportunity to strike him and kills him, escaping.
Monet (Angela Bassett) and Audrey (Sarah Paulson) are in the other room, begging with the Polks to let them go. The Polks begin blaming the captivity of their children that Matt and Shelby happened upon on the two actresses, but they push back saying that they were just acting. It's clear that everyone is on their last threat and are just clinging for any hope of survival as they offer to take the Polk's to Matt and Shelby and let them into the home, in the hope that will get them on their side. It's refreshing to see people actually compromise their reality and attempt to intelligently play the situation when face to face with death as so often all survival instinct other than to kick and SCREAM runs out of your brain in horror films.
They try and rip out one of Monet's teeth for their collection but the chair and tool both break, giving Monet a chance to break out, hitting the boy over the head and leaving Audrey behind, promising to come back for her. Mama Polk comes in, livid, and sends the boys out to find Monet. Alone with Audrey, she tries to pull out one of her teeth for her boys as Audrey fights back with biting words; words that most would wish they had the bravery to say in the face of your death. Eventually however, Audrey relents and Mama Polk pulls out one of her teeth, Audrey crying out in pain. Lee arrives to the rescue though, and unlike her television counterpart, helps Audrey out of her binds. Audrey is overwhelmed with emotion, thanking Lee and then turns to Mama Polk and, reminiscent of Shelby, hammers her to death.
The two get back to the house, holding onto each other, and to Lee's horror find Matt's body. Audrey tries to comfort Lee but tells her they must move on because whoever or whatever did that to Matt could still be there. Little do they know, the person who did it to Matt would be the person they end up defending one moment later. They go upstairs to find Shelby, dead, and Dominic. Lee kicks Dominic out of the room, insisting that he must have killed Matt and Shelby because Shelby couldn't have done that to the man she loves. Audrey, afraid but convinced, also reprimands Dominic. Lee holds the door closed, as Audrey insists she saw something out there with Matt and Matt bangs on the door, the Pig Man right at his back. The Pig Man kills Dominic, his blood too on the hands of Audrey and Lee, more so than the supernatural.
Audrey also showed her absolutely hilarious flare for dramatics that we got a taste of last week during all of this, first proclaiming, when she finds Shelby's body, ""It feels like a part of me had died with her." She then uses her closeness to Shelby as a character and an actor to defend her accusation of Dominic, claiming that she knows Shelby wouldn't have killed herself in that way because of how well she knows her.
Morning sets in and the the two women are still miraculously alive, as are their phones. "I can't believe this phone is still working," Audrey proclaims of her phone with the magic battery, something we have all been saying. At first to Audrey's protestation, Lee says they must go back to the Polk farm to retrieve the video that will classify them as murderers, for the fear of people twisting their defense into a different story. Audrey eventually agrees and the two set off, stepping over Dominic's body as Audrey brilliantly cries "He really was such a wonderful scene partner," staring longingly and sadly at his corpse.
Just as they open the front door however, someone in a Pig Man costume appears on their steps who resembles Wes Bentley, and Audrey questioningly asks "Dylan?!"
With but one more episode and one more moon to go before the finale which the creators have said is something of its own volition, we will presumably see who is our last survivor and what causes the others to face their demise. Who will go next and what will be the cause? Who is Dylan?
Check out a sneak peek at the next episode of AMERICAN HORROR STORY below:
Photo Credit: FX