After a year’s wait, “American Horror Story” returns to FX with its newest season. “AHS:NYC” released its first two episodes as a starter for what’s sure to be a roller coaster of a season. It’s not wholly certain whether this will be a good thing, especially given that this season is tackling some rather sensitive subject matter. The season looks to tackle the LGBTQ communities of the 1980s- their subcultures and circles, and the struggles therein. Whether it will be handled respectfully remains to be seen. After two episodes, the plate is already full with Ryan Murphy plot threads.
Episode 1: “Something’s Coming”
The series opens with the start of a series of murders happening within the gay male community. The social commentary comes out swinging, as the police don’t give these acts of violence a second thought. Aside from closeted detective, Patrick (Russel Tovey) who can’t yet bring himself to come out. Especially living with journalist and boyfriend, Gino (Joe Mantello), who runs a gay-focused paper. Having just recently divorced his wife, Patrick struggles with his true self and works in a homophobic precinct. So you do feel for him, pulled between two halves of himself.
Patrick struggles to act when Adam (Charlie Carver) comes to him for help after his roommate Sully vanishes. Having been pursued by a giant man clad in leather and a gimp mask in Central Park. Incensed that the police can’t even be bothered, Adam meets Gino while performing his own investigation. This also puts him onto the scent of Theo (Isaac Powell), whose photography features a man eerily similar to the assailant Adam saw in the park that night. He reaches a dead end when Theo explains that a man named “Big Daddy” fits the description, but that he died a couple years ago. Regardless of the fact that we see a man fitting the exact description later. Though that smells like a red herring to me.
This takes us to another story branch. A mysterious plague has infected the deer of a nearby island, with the threat of spreading to the populace. Doctor Hanna Wells (Billie Lourd) orders the culling of the deer populace, but seems concerned it won’t be enough. The worry of a dangerous pandemic looms in the background of all the other goings on. Not wholly unlike our current social situation. Every AHS series gives us a supernatural or bizarre twist of the paranormal. Curious to see if this deer plague will evolve into something more.
Episode 2: “Thank You For Your Service”
After being drugged via cocktail while trolling bars for information, Gino finds himself the victim of what looks and sounds like a serial killer. Soft-spoken, meticulous, a tick or two of OCD, his assailant tortures him. He claims that the police will do nothing, even if he tells them about his experience, but that “something is coming” — a phrase uttered more than once already — and he will make sure that those who don’t see will see the suffering they’re causing through the blood he spills.
Given this is “American Horror Story,” you’re prone to think “here’s the first death.” But upon opening Gino’s shirt and revealing a tattoo of the marine corps., it gives his assailant pause. Choosing instead to let Gino live, drugging him again and releasing him back onto the streets whilst thanking him for his service as a veteran. For a horror series, a survivor is an interesting turn. Furious with the police’s negligence and accused of making up their stories of violence and abduction, Adam and Gino decide to team up. They create a hotline for sightings and reports of violence against the gay community, taking matters into their own hands.
This increases tension between Patrick and Gino. Patrick can’t help either of them in front of his other officers, lest he be outed, severely testing their relationship. Gino was attacked and watches his boyfriend do nothing about it. At least not while someone is watching. Tensions rise even further when Patrick’s wife, Barbara (Leslie Grossman) reveals to Gino that he has accessories related to the leather scene of gay subculture. Patrick feigned ignorance to that side of things. So why is he lying?
Do Your Research
In the meantime, Sam has kidnapped an aspiring young actor. This is where the series is losing me a tad. After coming home to his apartment, Sam heads into a secret room. What appears to be a sex dungeon, specifically. Sam has caged this young man, refusing to release him. There’s a stigma that surrounds the BDSM communities, and television has a very bad habit of casting fetish and kink in an extremely evil and insidious light. Most TV fails to educate about rules and consent. So I’m rolling my eyes a little that the “sex dungeon” is what the predatory agent has. Because of course he does. If this is a bluff, I’ll be happy to be wrong.
Meanwhile, Doctor Wells is finding a few disconcerting things happening with patients in her clinics. Some seem to be coming in with an unexplained rash that won’t go away. And it turns out that one of her patients just happens to be Gino’s assailant from the other night, Mr. Whitely (Jeff Hiller). In a striped polo shirt, high-waisted pants, and thick glasses, he’s pretty Dahmer-esque. Do people just have one view of how a serial killer can look? It’s a bit too on the nose for me, but I’m a hard sell when it comes to overused tropes.
After hours, Doctor Wells gets a phone call from a source saying they know what’s happening with the deer. While waiting for her informant in Central Park, Hannah is confronted by the shape of Big Daddy, before he mysteriously vanishes. Her Informant Fran tells her the deer plague is the responsibility of the US government. And on the other side of things, the killer Patrick is investigating has struck again, leaving severed hands as a calling card.
It’s hard to gauge just where the series will go from here. We’ve got a serial killer, a potential plague, and a leather daddy who may or may not be a ghost or some other entity. There’s a lot to sift through in the two episodes. And it’s not enough to give us any real answers. The human stories of “American Horror Story” can be a little weak at times, overpowered by the horror for that season. This one might take a more sensitive route, and involve the characters lives and struggles a little more than just setting them up to be killed later. We’ll have to see. There’s heavy emphasis on the casting and exploring the subcultures of the gay communities that don’t get a lot of attention. So they get some points there. I’m interested enough to stick with it and see where it goes. In a time when the LGBTQ communities are still fighting so hard for equal treatment, this season is going to need some respect. So far they seem to be doing okay. Whether or not the showrunners can retain it remains to be seen.
“American Horror Story: NYC” airs on Thursdays on FX, and the following day on Hulu.