This American Horror Story 1984 review contains spoilers.
American Horror Story: 1984 Episode 8
The action at Camp Redwood has jumped forward in time to 1989, and it shows both in character actions and in character motivations. That’s a big milestone; the change-over from one decade to another always seems like a big deal to people, and in a lot of ways to the characters on American Horror Story: 1984, the end of the Reagan era is also the end of their era of relevance. It’s been a common retrain in the later portions of the season. Their time is ending, and they’ll all soon be forgotten, but never is it more explicitly stated than in this week’s episode, with multiple people eulogizing the good and ill of Reagan’s America in long rhapsodies.
It makes sense that characters talk so much about the importance of the passage of time. For Margaret (Leslie Grossman), the end of the 80s and the literal death of Kajagoogoo has given her a brilliant plan, one she’ll need the help of her serial killer friends to pull off. She’s going to turn Camp Redwood from a true crime novelty to the biggest graveyard in music history by enlisting the aid of Alex/Bruce (Dylan McDermott) and Richard Ramirez (Zach Villa) to kill every act that showed up for her music festival, from Flock of Seagulls to The Go Gos and everyone in between, except for Ramirez favorite Billy Idol; he’s the musical Final Girl of Margaret’s insane plan.
In a way, Margaret’s idea is a brilliant one considering the rest of her business, and while her 80s nostalgia is more financially motivated, the nostalgia of other characters for the 80s is more character-driven. The first person to mourn the passage of time was Ramirez himself, doomed to be trapped in one decade rather than to spread across a lifetime like a true artist, but every character seems to have a reason to miss the prosperity of the cocaine decade, with Trevor lamenting the loss of his glory years and the demise of cocaine as a party drug to Brooke mourning the loss of a decade she didn’t get to experience thanks to her time spent in prison courtesy of Margaret. Stacy (Stefanie Black), a reporter for the National Enquirer working on a book about the Camp Redwood massacre gets an opportunity to lament the passing of the decade, as all the talk of Satan and serial killers was good for her employers, and thus, good for her career.
All of these condemnations of the decade, or celebrations of the decade, courtesy of the script of Adam Penn, are all wildly entertaining, and also serve to be revealing about the motivations of the characters involved. Margaret is all business. Trevor is all sadness about the passing of his youth combined with a desire to stay with the “80s forever’ Montana. Stacy’s condemnation of the innate darkness of the decade early in the episode suggests an optimism for the proceeding decade and an Alex-like preference for the culture of the preceding decade (though Alex is mostly motivated by the superiority of the music of the 70s rather than a dislike of AIDS, crack, or Reagan).
In between all the serial killer stalking and lament regarding Morning in America is a very solid, very emotionally resonant B plot in which Mr. Jingles has to plead his case to a bunch of people he’s killed that he should be allowed freedom to hunt down and kill Richard Ramirez in order to protect his baby son. This has been something of a showcase for John Carroll Lynch, offering up a chance to do the thing he’s made a career of (being scary) while still showing a range of emotion and impressive acting chops. At certain points, Jingles is begging to be let go to do what he came to do, and he’s willing to endure any punishment in order to make it happen until he’s rescued, ironically, by the very family he’d lost to Camp Redwood’s evil.
Those little scenes that take place after a brilliant recreation of a classic jump scare are stunningly beautiful. In the hands of director Gwyneth Horder-Payton, it’s easy to see how afterlife in Redwood could be as beautiful as spending the afterlife anywhere else (Trevor’s drawn to it for reasons other than Montana, judging by the opening helicopter shots of the camp area). It’s idyllic and touchingly lovely to watch Ben and his mother reconnect over Bobby, and the scene is washed in beautiful golden light to make it even more heavenly, and a solid contrast to the treatment he received from the other ghosts at Camp Redwood prior to being saved by his terrifying mother.
It’s setting up a choice for Mr. Jingles. Does he give up as close to heaven as he’ll get to save his son from Richard Ramirez? Will Trevor voluntarily give up his life to spend eternity longing alongside a Montana who says she doesn’t want someone who isn’t as screwed up mentally as she is? (This will undoubtedly lead to Trevor killing someone in the finale to prove to Montana that he can keep up with her on the ruthlessness front.) There are also dozens of ghosts on the Camp Redwood property who might have something to say about pretty much all of the things happening on the camp and the threatened increase in ghost population disrupting their afterlife.
Things are building to a head at Camp Redwood, and the season finale promises to be a huge blow-out battle between serial killers with a lot of innocent people trapped in between the two stabbing, slashing, shooting sides. The only real question I have is this: will Billy Idol himself show up on American Horror Story? If they can work Stevie Nicks and Lady Gaga into multiple seasons, why not bring him on board? Maybe he can be interviewed as the massacre’s only survivor by Billy Deane or Lana Winters in a retrospective appearance?