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Thursday, November 17, 2022

“AHS: NYC” Review – Final Episodes End a Powerful Season With Melancholy and Class

AHS: NYC trades its standard sarcasm and screams for an insightful and artistic reminder that real life is full of its own horrors and tragedies.

“You are way too young to be thinking about how to die. Don’t forget how to live.”

You wanted death? You wanted horror? Well, how about slowly passing away from an autoimmune disease while you’re completely ignored and resented by your caretakers? If you’re looking for a real American Horror Story then look no further than the AIDS epidemic during the 1980s.

Yes, after a season of decapitations, Angel of Death tarot warnings, and a human piñata sentinel, it turns out that the worst serial killer of them all is AIDS. This may seem like a facetious turn, and it’s one that’s not going to work for everyone, but it’s crucial to the final two episodes of AHS: NYC. These are delirious, surreal installments that thrive on dreamy metaphors rather than logical reasoning. They also might be the most important episodes that American Horror Story has ever produced. In a show that’s often all-too eager to punch down, “Requiem 1981/1987 Parts One and Two” are a rarely mature finale that use the power of genre storytelling to amplify an important subject that’s infinitely scarier than witches, aliens, or murder houses..

”Requiem 1981/1987 Parts One and Two” are light on visceral scares and supernatural boogeyman, but these episodes are still full of terrifying, tragic images. HIV and AIDS were always in the background of this ‘80s-set season. However, this two-part finale emphasizes the very real horrors that so many people had to deal with in the 1980s as they suffered and died alone. These episodes artfully shine a lot of light on their pain. “Requiem 1981/1987” is full of stylistic flourishes, but that doesn’t save Gino and company from reaching their inevitable, sad fates. If nothing else, this season will have been a worthwhile experiment if it enlightens a younger generation of viewers over the severity of the AIDS crisis.

Big Daddy turning out to be a metaphorical manifestation of the AIDS virus is one of the smarter decisions that American Horror Story, as a whole, has ever made. A lot of viewers have likely already keyed into this revelation, but AHS: NYC benefits from how it never feels the need to explicitly spell this out to the audience. It’s a hell of a twist that’s simultaneously brilliant and absurd. It makes this season retroactively full of glorious misdirection, too.

AHS: NYC’s finale has a lot to say on grief, acceptance, and closure, but the ways in which this finale expresses those ideas is where “Requiem 1981/1987” is likely to draw some criticism. In a season that’s avoided extraneous padding, many may grow tired with the approach that’s taken in these final episodes. American Horror Story turns into a piece of black box theater. It’s Angels in America meets A Christmas Carol. Curiously, Zachary Quinto’s Sam isn’t the moral beacon that AHS: NYC presents him to be, but that doesn’t make his violent childhood any less painful. 

“Requiem 1981/1987 Part One” gets lost in a haze and the song remains the same in its second-half, only the episode’s perspective shifts from Sam to Patrick. This exploration of Patrick’s grief, shame, and pain is more morose and peaceful than Sam’s angry, spiteful fate. However, they’re expressions of the same idea as these tortured souls attempt to find closure. Both of their twisted fates are juxtaposed against each other to better highlight how similar these two aggressors–and victims–really are. To the episode’s credit, for all of its heavy-handed storytelling there are still moments from Patrick’s awful childhood that connect and generate true pathos. Its ending is also genuinely touching, even if it does rip off David Lynch (whose daughter helms the finale).

“Requiem 1981/1987 Part Two” is even more of an existential internal tone poem. Adam obsesses over Hannah’s research and the “twist” that he’s the one who’s responsible for her infection and death is devastating, but effective–like most of this finale. The ways in which doctors almost gleefully ignore Adam’s tips in “Requiem 1981/1987 Part Two” nearly verge on parody, but it never crosses the line. However, this is still an episode where expository monologues dominate the storytelling. This two-part finale is a blunt instrument with the way in which it hammers in its points, but the larger themes hold up and make sure that this is a story that’s worth telling. It’s surprisingly wholesome that large stretches of the finale revolve around Adam’s chaste crusade to instill safe sex in the city. It’s the absolute last thing that one would expect to see happen in a Ryan Murphy finale. Against all odds and after a decade of cynicism, AHS: NYC manages to pull all of this together into something special.

There are some incredibly on the nose sequences in the finale’s final act, which is ostensibly one giant music video that’s an ode to Gino’s dwindling life and how he’ll be haunted by Big Daddy until his final moments. There’s a parade of people–who wear skeleton masks no less–that march into an open grave. Big Daddy double-fists semi-automatic weapons in a crowded room. He throws a bucket of blood at another victim. These broad gestures are completely void of the season’s subtlety and yet they’re not awful, cringe-inducing moments either. It’s a gamble, but AHS: NYC forges the right cocktail so that these moments actually work as they feed into the season’s theme. There are going to be far more viewers who cry during this season’s finale than those who laugh in mockery.

American Horror Story: NYC has been the anthology series’ most unconventional season, right down to its chosen theme for the year. It’s also proven itself to carry the most loaded of social commentaries in a season this side of AHS: Cult. What’s important here is that the message in AHS: NYC doesn’t feel forced. These ideas are expressed in a beautiful manner that’s distinctly unique for American Horror Story, but also completely in line with the genre series’ heightened sensibilities. AHS: NYC is likely to go down as one of the series’ best and most consistent seasons and it’s only going to age better over time. AHS: NYC concludes in such a classy, atypical manner that it’s a shame that “Requiem 1981/1987” isn’t the anthology show’s series finale. AHS: NYC might not be what everyone wants out of a horror series, but it’s going to be hard for American Horror Story to thematically and emotionally top this season. 

Two-Part Finale Grade:

Overall Season Grade:

The post “AHS: NYC” Review – Final Episodes End a Powerful Season With Melancholy and Class appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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