Home Of The Brave
By far the most harrowing episode of the season, one guesses, this one not only borders on torture porn but relishes in it. Remaining characters are cut alive by cannibals, have teeth extracted with plyers and lose all hope to the point of suicide. This season is as cruel as it’s bleack, it’s an horror story alright, but most of all it is American, a dimension that previous entries tended to downplay, their thematics being less rooted in the specific history of the country.
Take the Polk family, this week’s retard redneck heroes. We know from My Roanoke Nightmare that they’re inbred cannibals growing cannabis, in cahoots with The Butcher for two centuries. The re-enactment told us that much of their business card, glossing over the gory details. They make for a great real life bogey man, trapping the main characters just as they think they have escaped the ghosts haunting the land. But in this episode they become more than that: they are given a background, and this background is American to the point of being nightmarishly Rockwellian.
Following the steps of Kinkaid Polk, The Piggy Man, who slaughtered so many animals that he escalated to humans during the 1860 World Fair, “the First Family”, as they call themselves, was hit hard by the 1929 Great Depression. Some low lifes slaughter their last pig and had a feast, so they reciprocated, swearing never to go hungry again. They cut their preys alive “mostly by tradition”, and because of the delicate taste exhaustion and fear give to the meat. On the other end, “we are part of the United States of America and we’ve got TV!”, proudly proclaims one of the sons. The balance between comedy and horror is not an easy one to achieve, especially when you throw some historical perspective in the mix. It’s actually hard, this season, to separate wicked humour from visceral gore; somehow Lee’s (Adina Porter) confession she actually murdered her husband plays like the worst joke of all, an anticlimax that may/may not bear later fruits.
Something AHS is also brilliant at is subverting horror clichés while doing a thorough job at not letting them spoil the viewer experience. We think we know what mistakes the characters will make: not finishing the killer, or separating at the most threatening moments. Nothing of the sort here. The simple (not no simple really, one salutes the amount of work behing it) fact that the uncanny ability of found footage to edit itself is given a logical explaination in Episode 6, or that the Polk family saw the Episode 1 rain of prop teeth as an omen are demonstrations of how tight this particular tapestry is woven. Just think, the black characters die last. Well, almost.
Dominic (Cuba Gooding Jr) has a great turn, finally realising that there might be a problem with the production, and reacting accordingly, exploring the whole length of the spectrum from hope: “I’m gonna get my spin off!” (a motivation for survival as good as any) to despair: “I’ve never been flying first class!”. There is an awkward seduction scene guaranteed to make you feel queasy if the torture scene leading to it didn’t. There’s another poke at Blair Witch with Audrey (Sarah Paulson, still forgetting her English accent half the time, but with extenuating circumstances) thanking her fans. There are Shelby’s last words or so, “There is no after after this.”.
But, but. There is this cliffhanger and two episodes left. Remember, nothing is like it seems in Roanoke. Is the last scene with another Piggy Man another subversion of horror clichés, or a transition to yet another level of reality? One can’t wait to see what will happen next, and if this is the measure of a series’ quality, well AHS deserve to be bumped more than a few ranks up in the format pantheon.