"Rest in Pieces" – American Horror Story S09E08 Review

Another episode, another week of pointless slaughter and mayhem.

Zach Villa, American Horror Story S09E08

I've realized one of the main reasons "AHS: 1984" is less than thrilling is because there's nothing particularly new. We've seen it all before on American Horror Story. Spirits who are back from the dead but essentially solid "human" beings? Check. A man falling in love with a spirit? Check. Greedy person willing to exploit murder to make a profit? Check. Woman railing at the patriarchy? Check. Richard Ramirez? Check? Pointless violence just to demonstrate bad things happen to good and not-so-good people? Check.

The setting is different because it's 1984 at a summer camp. But thematically, is "AHS: 1984" doing anything different from the preceding eight seasons? Not that I can tell. It feels like it's just going through the motions. And that's why I feel like I'm going through the motions reviewing the show. It's not quite bad: there are good performances here and there, like John Carroll Lynch.

Emma Roberts, Angelica Ross, American Horror Story S09E08

However, many of the characters are such two-dimensional caricatures it's hard to enjoy the show. Margaret, Richard, Xavier, Montana, Trevor... they're just self-absorbed 80s types. Brooke and Rita are all over the place. Brooke has gone from innocent, to one-time killer, to vicious killer. Rita has decided to redeem herself for no particular reason other than a vague "I've seen what's on the other side, and I've decided to redeem myself" rationale.

Brooke and Rita are involved in one of the major plotlines with "Rest in Pieces". They are eating at a diner, and run into National Enquirer reporter Stacey Phillips (Stefanie Black). She soon reveals she's recognized both of them, and is going to reveal to the world Brooke is alive. Brooke offers to take her to Camp Redwood and reveal the full story between the camp massacres, and show Stacey Margaret was the real killer all along. Except for the murders Jingles committed.

When they get there, Brooke is all big on killing Stacey. Rita stops her, and I'm not into how the two of them have changed places. Brooke has been hardened by prison, Rita is trying to redeem herself. That's it. Stacey runs off and meets the diabolical trio of Richard, Bruce, and Margaret. Richard and Bruce kill Stacey.

Dylan McDermott, American Horror Story S09E08

Yes Bruce (sometimes the closed credits call Alex") is back. He's thumbless and killed a Mary Kay lady who freed him, and picked up Jonas (Lou Taylor Pucci). Jonas then disappeared on Bruce, and Bruce continues on to Redwood. There he meets Richard and gushes over him like a serial killer fanboy. Richard is seemingly amused by Bruce being there, and is hunting down Jingles who already attacked him once. Margaret shows up to shoot Jingles, which "kills" him so he can come back as a ghost yet again.

After the two men kill Stacey, Margaret announces her plan to kill all the musicians at the festival and turn Redwood into a musician memoriam that she'll make a buck from.

Meanwhile, Montana and her batch of spirits have captured Jingles. Jingles gives a heart-felt plea for them to release him so he can stop Richard and save his son. Montana looks guilty, but the rest of the spirits want to kill Jingles repeatedly in return for him killing them. Xavier stabs Jingles repeatedly and leaves him adrift on the lake. And Jingles finds himself on shore with the spirits of his mother Lavinia and his brother, Bobby. Somehow all of this has brought Bobby back, and Lavinia is grateful to Jingles for reuniting her with her Bobby. She invites Jingles to stay with them so they can be a family, and Jingles accepts.

Billie Lourd, Matthew Morrison, American Horror Story S09E08

Also, Trevor and Montana have sex and later Trevor suggests he die in the camp so he can be with Montana always. Jingles revealed Montana and Richard were involved, so Montana thinks she's a monster and flies into a rage when Trevor offers to be with her. She complains men get all the credit and women get all of the blame when a man turns killer. I'd care about this if the creative team had done anything to make these characters at all likable or at least relatable.

There's also a bit with Courtney (Lesley Jordan) cleaning up the Kajagoogoo Band slaughter, and discovering the band members are now spirits and performing in the afterlife. Richard expresses his obsession with Billy Idol a couple of times. And Brooke and Rita talk about how Brooke is a "final girl", and black characters are never final anything in horror movies. Because that comment hasn't been done better on dozens of other TV shows and movies.

And... that's it. Nothing really happens. Jingles fights Richard, then gets away, then fights him again, then gets away by dying. Stacey gets away. Jingles gets "killed", then gets away from it all by reuniting with his family. Margaret gets away with covering up the Kajagoogoo slaughter. There's a certain black humor to the entire thing, but it's not that funny.

Dylan McDermott, Zach Villa, American Horror Story S09E08They still don't explain how Bruce (Dylan McDermott) knew Rita's real name last week. I'm already sick of Bruce. He's a bad 80s stereotype and basically Trevor without the wit and charm. And Trevor doesn't have much wit and charm, so that should tell you how little Bruce has. Other than to give us yet another serial killer at Redwood, Bruce doesn't serve any purpose. He was introduced last episode and this episode he's Richard's fanboy lapdog. I doubt we're going to get some big revelation about him in next week's episode, but even if we do... we've barely had time to see the character. Tossing in some big last-episode revelation is a two-edged sword: yes, it gives Bruce something to do and a purpose for being there. But it's much too little too late. Making him a major player now would just highlight how abruptly the creative team did so.

Overall, "Rest in Pieces" isn't bad. It's just... indifferent. There's nothing significant or interesting going on. It has the token American Horror Story black humor, and some decent performances. But as I've noted before, it seems like the creative team stopped at "The 80s? Let's mention it and everybody laugh!" That's most of the extent of humor and social commentary in "AHS: 1984". We've got it: the 80s had goofy hairstyles and self-obsessed people and strange clothing. I don't agree the 80s were that bad an era, in 40 years, people will say the same thing about the 2010s. I just don't need the creative team relying on showing us the 80s to generate some cheap laughs.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?

Written by Gislef on Nov 7, 2019

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