After an incredibly frustrating premiere episode, the “Death Valley” segment of AHS: Double Feature gets a little better in the second episode. Its concurrent storylines are actually starting to converge in such a way that we can see the pieces coming together.
3 Presidents Walk into a Room
Opening in 1963, we see a retired President Eisenhower speaking with his former VP (and future president) Richard Nixon regarding the events we saw in last week’s episode. It seems that some sort of deal was struck between the US government and the aliens, allowing for a certain quota of 5,000 Americans per year to be abducted for experiments.
This revelation automatically puts things into greater perspective with previous seasons of AHS. At this point, we can assume that Death Valley takes place in the same universe shared by Asylum, Freak Show, Roanoke, Cult, and 1984 (check out our full piece on the AHS universe here).
Their discussion turns into debate on whether or not to clue JFK in on this massive secret, something that Nixon begrudgingly agrees to at Eisenhower’s behest. Kennedy seems taken aback and just before he has the chance to go public with this knowledge, he’s being assassinated in Dallas, Texas. So yeah, we’re going down that rabbit hole as well.
A flashback within this flashback goes back to 1954 to then President Eisenhower struggling with the ethics and morality of making this decision. It isn’t until the aliens use his wife Mamie’s body as their puppet that he’s horrified enough to choose the lesser of two evils.
Props once again to Neal McDonough who does a great job portraying an Eisenhower who feels incredibly conflicted. There’s a real powerlessness to him which seems to hit extra hard, considering this is the man who was Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in WWII and successfully defeated Nazi Germany. To see him go from that to being dictated terms is understandably distressing.
Craig Sheffer’s Richard Nixon portrayal admittedly comes off as more of an impersonation than a fully fleshed character, but it’s a damn good impression. Plus, in Sheffer’s defense, Nixon has a much more iconic and distinct voice and syntax, making it harder for anyone to play him without feeling like they have to rely on those.
Back in the present, the insufferable quartet of friends are all reeling from their pregnancy diagnoses, including the two men. As they go to an OB/GYN, men in black suits show up, killing the doctor and drugging them until they wake up in what appears to be an Apple store.
Here we get a glimpse into what happens to those who are abducted. And between some really cool set design and awesome makeup effects, the modern storyline starts to redeem itself here. Assuming these are the same aliens that kidnapped Kit and Alma back in Asylum, it will be interesting to see it from the other side.
The characters themselves still aren’t the most likeable, and Kaia Gerber still remains one of the weaker cast members in AHS history, but there’s enough other plot going on now and new characters being introduced that this modern portion is starting to get better.
Still, it would have been interesting to have the entire season be set in the 50s/60s, or at least done this split midway through the season. Then again, splitting a season in half didn’t go so well for Roanoke and 1984 according to fan and critic reception.
Admittedly, I wasn’t the biggest fan of last week’s episode, but this was definitely an improvement. Hopefully this continues this way and doesn’t end as the massive disappointment that Red Tide did…
What did you think of this episode? Did you prefer the 50s or modern setting? Let us know in the comments!