American Horror Story: “Gaslight” Review

Following an episode that halted the season’s momentum in a way that wasn’t entirely justified.  The latest from American Horror Story: Red Tide got us back on track.  The longest episode of the season thus far is aptly titled “Gaslight”.  Storywise, there’s a lot happening.  It’s simultaneously intriguing, while also sending a few mixed messages…

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Sibling Rivalry
Opening with Doris giving birth to a baby boy, the first concern of both her (and the audience) is the way that Alma looks at the baby with ravenous eyes.  Apparently the blood of a newborn is the most pure and sustaining of all blood (which is why Belle had Karen get a baby for her previously).

Even Harry can’t resist drinking from all the bloody rags from the delivery.

But as Doris witnesses Alma taking a few drips from the baby, the trio of her, Harry, and Ursula do all they can to convince Doris that she’s merely insane or dreaming (hence the episode’s title).

In many ways, Doris is the Skylar White of this season.  Like that character on Breaking Bad, Doris is the one who’s morally right, telling Alma that no amount of talent is worth hurting people over, but she’s treated like the crazy one or the shrew for not going along with it.  Which ultimately makes her fate all the more tragic (which we’ll get to).

The story would play out very differently if told from her perspective.

Hard Choices
Besides Doris, the major standout in this episode is Sarah Paulson’s TB Karen.  This character is without a doubt one the best Paulson has played on the series simply because of how layered, complex, and flawed she is.

She’s struggling with addiction and enjoys the mass ridicule of everyone around her, but she’s also among the most noble, refusing to take the pill (at first), and refusing to continue to supply Belle with innocent newborns for her to feast on.

In a world filled with monsters, Karen (despite her heavily worn appearance) actually seems the most pure and human.  Even if she has delusions of raising the Gardener baby for herself, and thinking that doing so will make her life less stressful.

Season 9 really felt Sarah Paulson’s absence and it’s good to see her back.

Remarkably Unremarkable
In a strange way, both Doris and Karen’s stories seem to be mirror images of each other.  They both share the same concerns about this vampiric pill, but Karen is someone who’s already very talented naturally, and Doris is someone who’s afraid she might not be.

This is what makes Doris’ fate both tragic, and ironic in a cruel way that may send the wrong message.  You could argue that she fits the “nagging shrew wife” stereotype from the get go, when she’s critical of how Harry is suddenly very successful.  Even her own daughter thinks so little of her that she asks her dad why he still keeps her around.

Alma’s the most savage 9 year old in history!

A true subversion of expectation and cliché would have seen Doris take the pill and become the most talented out of anyone there.  However, the sad reality is she discovers that she just wasn’t that special to begin with and quickly transforms into one of the monstrous creatures that plagues Provincetown.

While Harry does seem genuinely sorrowful for the turn of events, even he admits that Doris was always holding him back.  And the most sympathy she gets from Ursula and Alma is a glance as she’s devouring a small animal while they’re on their way to see the chemist (another plotline that was seemingly forgotten but will probably open up next week’s episode).

“Gaslight” is not only this season’s longest episode, it’s the most tragic and disturbing from a character standpoint, as we see the real cost of Harry’s actions on his family.  However the true reckoning is yet to come.  And with seemingly only one episode left of Red Tide, we’ll see that reckoning next week!

Definitely gonna miss this scenery during the second half of the season.

What was your favorite part of this episode?  What do you hope to see next week?  Let us know in the comments!

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