BWW Recap: Blood, Gore, and Pigs Galore on AMERICAN HORROR STORY
The fifth and final episode of AMERICAN HORROR STORY (before the big "twist" creator Ryan Murphy revealed would be happening in the sixth episode of the sixth season) just aired and if anything, it was horrifying, bloody, and emotional. While last episode started to feel like AHS was hitting its character slump, this episode stepped it right back up. Perhaps that was all due to the split and thus allowing the season to contain two stories, two arcs, two climaxes, and tow finales. That kind of formatting prevents the action from ever truly slowing down and thus, despite the fact that it might have hit a snag last week, this week hooked audiences right back in and the all too short and mysterious teaser for next week left them wanting more.
Instead of picking up with Matt and Shelby as we left them, facing a murderous ghost mob outside of their window, we get a little more backstory of the house and its previous inhabitants. A historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, tells the tale of Edward Mott (Evan Peters) who, yes, is a relative of "Freak Show's" Dandy Mott, and he is ever much the man-child that Dandy was. Peters is great in this role and is doing an all to brilliant impression of Jonathan Groff as King George in Hamilton. From, bourgeoise attitude, his full face of makeup, powdered wig, and a house full of servants, Mott lives seemingly just for himself and his collection of art. He also has a boyfriend, Guinness (who is one of Mott's servants), but the fact that he is an employee is never forgotten. Mott even mutters, during their love scene, that he loves his paintings more than his lover. Soon Mott begins to experience the horrors of the house as he wakes up one night and finds that all of his paintings are slashed. He calls all of his servants into his room, and like the whiny, arrogant, privileged man he is, begins berating his servants, going so far as to hit one woman, and throwing temper tantrum until someone confesses responsibility. The woman, understandably fearful and shook up, confesses that she did see something, or rather someone; a woman and a child. The Butcher has struck. However, Mott, the true toddler he is, will hear none of it and locks his servants up in the cellar, nude and without any provisions. His servants didn't all appear to be women, however the camera angle we were shown into that cellar of hell seemed voyeuristic, focused on the female bodies which neither meshed with the character nor the storytelling. Guinness didn't agree with Mott's outburst and cruel treatment either, so he walks off, a servant forever but a lover no more. The Butcher strikes again, of course, and this time, they get Mott for good. The police, of course, will believe not a word of it so the death is pinned on ex-lover and servant, Guinness, and the servants were never let out. This story seemingly does nothing for us except add another ghost and victim of The Butcher to our tally, but was enjoyable and not exposition heavy like the past few information dumps have been.
Matt and Shelby, when we get back to them, are in the same place as they were before. Matt calls 911, to no avail of course. He decides the only way to escape is to cause a distraction long enough for Shelby and Flora to reach the van. The plan is cut short, however, when they find it's not just the outside forces working against them, but rather then entire house. Flora is grabbed right out of Shelby's arms by a double jointed, crab-crawling, "Grudge"-esque ghost of THE FAMILY that had once lived in the house. The special effects and visual movements of these ghosts are just so utterly creepy and eerie, as they crawl on the floor quick, like bugs or crabs, and crawl onto ceilings and walls. There is no escape from them. Desperation is the theme of the episode, as everyone reaches their BREAKING POINT and beyond. The house begins to "come alive" as Shelby puts it, and all of The Butcher's old victims who she has begun to use to her advantage to corral the sacrifice. With no where to go but down, Matt, Shelby, and Flora reach the basement and who is there? None but the man of the episode himself; Edward Mott.
Mott, who is described as suffering from social anxiety, wants nothing more but to help Shelby, Matt, and Flora to get out, solely so he can be alone and in as much solitude as a house like this might provide. He leads them down the secret tunnels he had built and out of the house, into the woods. It is there that he takes his leave of them, happy to be rid of them and patting himself on the back for allowing them to escape so that they might die in "peace." Desperate, scared, and cold, with no where to turn and no concept of direction in the seemingly endless and dark, damp, woods, they walk on. That is until they are knocked out and bags are thrown over their heads. It was actually the hillbillies this time. The ones that they've been blaming all the strange occurrences for the entirety of the season. Despite their craze and blood-thirsty hunger in their eyes, Matt and Shelby beg and plead, hoping that somehow, these people, these actual, real life, human beings, could be on their side. All of that is proved wrong when they go inside to find Elias on a slab, down a few limbs and crying out, having had Ma (Frances Conroy), work her hillbilly "magic" on him. He tells Matt to get away and then, in one last attempt, pleads with Matt to end the suffering and torture right there and just kill him. Matt backs down, and Ma begins to offer some food to Flora, which we quickly find out is made from none other than Elias. When Flora and Shelby reject her food, she tastes it herself, spits it out, and kills Elias right there. I guess human jerky doesn't taste too well...Shelby wails, clearly well past the breaking point, but instinctually shields Flora from seeing the horrors going on around her. It is in moments like these, moments that are actually quite frequent in this episode, that the spark in this ensemble and the emotion in these characters come to life; moments when we get to see that they actually are a family.
Ma and her group of hillbillies, as part of a deal with The Butcher to leave them alone, bring the trio back to their house and back into the mouth of hell. Matt and Shelby make one last escape attempt on the drive over, as Matt grabs one of the guys guns while he's distracted, un-arming him and accidentally shooting the driver. It's a brilliant sequence full of futility, desperation, and the strength you have to fight only when you are reaching your death. However, the intelligence ends there, as they leave the truck behind and go to take cover in the woods to take their "chances" rather than "be slaughtered like pigs." This move makes absolutely no sense for all they had to do was knock out the body in the front and drive off, far and away from this house of horrors. Of course, they would never decide to do the smart thing an so they just duck and hide in a random pontoon of the wood. Matt's phone rings and it's Lee, who has just gotten out of being questioned continuously by the police, but it's not the phone that reveals them, but rather their absolutely terribly hiding spot in plain sight.
Lee, police and mother instincts kicking in after receiving a lot of frantic texts from Matt, including one that said they had Flora, taps into fight mode and orders a police officer to give her a ride. Lee is ours, as well as Shelby, Matt, and Flora's one chance, a comforting and glorious hero riding towards us to save us in the night. Goodness knows, Matt and Shelby are useless in this situation.
After they are recaptured, Ma berates Matt and Shelby for killing her son and curses the fact that they must save the couple and child for The Butcher. Not being able to resist her anger and violent rage completely though, she takes an axe to Shelby's ankle. "I never felt more useless," Matt says, and more couldn't have been closer to the truth. He accepted Ma's chosen fate, presuming it would be him, yet it wash Shelby she chose to hurt. They are thrown back into the truck and the two, Matt and Shelby, share a beautiful moment of desperate love. There's nothing to hold back for. If you could see the end of your life, you'd try to soak in as much of what you love as possible. It's as Padme said in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, "I think our lives are about to be destroyed anyway. I truly... deeply... love you and before we die I want you to know." Their small despairing, hungry, and sad kisses are all they can do to keep going.
Ready to be killed, all is turned on its head, to the dismay of Pricilla, and they choose to sacrifice Flora first. With Matt and Shelby tied down, they can't reach her and she's about to be killed when The Butcher's son stops her. Ambrose White (Wes Bently) says he is sick of his mother constantly spilling innocent blood, and in one final dismissal of her and independence, he pushes her into the flames.
Meanwhile, Lee arrives, at the ready, and when seeing the mob, tells the officer to simply call for more backup. The officer does nothing, not that surprising, and rides away, leaving Lee on her own.
With Flora's life at stake, however, as a Pig Man begins to approach her with a knife, Lee comes in and saves the day, driving one of Shelby and Matt's cars that The Butcher had begun to set fire too. With Flora, Shelby, and Matt drive off, they leave all of their nightmares behind...or do they. The four of them stay in a motel, where Shelby cannot stop having nightmares of The Butcher killing her. They will never forget what happened to them and they will always see it, remember it, and fear it, no mater how many miles they put between them and the house.
With that, the docuseries is appearing to be over, but we know it's not. In the one teaser for next week, we saw Cheyenne Jackson telling his documentary crew to never stop filming. With that in mind, it seems the theory that the sixth season with intersect with themselves, and the nightmare becomes a reality for the documentary crew, is a true possibility. One can only hope, and if the docudrama format is used to its full advantage, turning the series on its head would be the perfect element to kick up Roanoke another notch.
Photo Credit: FX