It’s hard to believe that this was already the penultimate episode of AHS season 10. With the dual themes this year, the stories felt like they’ve moved faster than ever, with Death Valley only getting 5 episodes to Crimson Tide’s 6.
This storyline has largely been a mixed bag so far, with its concurrent timelines. The black and white segments taking place in the 1950s/60s are both intriguing and compelling, featuring amazing performances by Neal McDonough and Sarah Paulson.
Meanwhile, the modern segment has struggled between choppy writing and lackluster performances. Though to its credit, it’s been getting better each episode. However, with only 5 episodes, it’s running out of time to get truly better…
Following the aliens’ use of Eisenhower’s wife Mamie as their puppet, he struggles with the concept of signing their agreement, and allowing them to experiment on US citizens. Reluctantly he signs, fearing for his wife’s life, as well as what they might do if he refuses.
As the years follow, he’s riddled with guilt over his decision, especially as he sees people going missing, including a little girl. It doesn’t help that the aliens set up their laboratory in the basement of the White House, which prompts him to create Area 51 for them to go to.
The episode also introduces AHS alum Cody Fern as Valiant Thor, a liaison between the humans and aliens that seems to last several presidents. We see him showing up on the White House lawn in 1954, and then briefing newly sworn in LBJ in 1964.
Once again McDonough really steals the show with an Eisenhower who’s incredibly conflicted. What makes it even worse for him is how quickly everyone else seems to just accept it. Nixon is more than happy to make shady deals if it gets a one up over the Russians, and Mamie seems more interested in her image as First Lady than the serious human rights violations occurring in her own basement.
As I’ve said before, Death Valley would be a much better storyline if it was solely set in this time period and focused just on this narrative.
Labor and Monstrosity
Back in the present, the abductees learn what happens when they give birth. In a genuinely shocking scene, we see an alien/human hybrid born, just for it to be immediately killed and dumped into a tank.
What’s even more disturbing is when one of the hybrid babies lives and then immediately attacks the face of its parent with tentacles and teeth. Based on the preview for next week, we can infer that the aliens have been experimenting for decades, trying to create a viable hybrid, but with no such luck.
It’s a legitimately interesting concept that makes the modern storyline more disturbing and unsettling, but we still have to deal with an extended segment about the moon landings being faked by the aliens in a telecast directed by Stanley Kubrick. On the surface, it seems like a random throwaway detail, but it’s a symptom of a larger issue with AHS.
The whole Stanley Kubrick directed the fake moon landing is a well known conspiracy theory that’s been actively disproven (see Adam Ruins Everything). But it represents AHS’s tendency to go for easiest, most low-lying fruit. Of course they went for that conspiracy theory rather than try to subvert it or be creative in any other way.
It’s much like how in Apocalypse, they randomly included Anton LeVey (founder of modern Satanism) in a throwaway scene that sees him seeking out the Antichrist. The real life Church of Satan protested this, stating that they are actually a nonreligious organization who doesn’t really believe in Satan.
This inclusion showed that the writers of AHS merely Googled LaVey’s name and didn’t actually understand who he was. It just feels like they include random historical references just to name drop them, without really making any analysis or commentary on them.
With only one episode left, it’s going to take a lot to wrap up this story that’s already felt a bit all over the place. Crimson Tide had a great story with a disappointing ending. Hopefully Death Valley manages to pull it off, but given how things are currently, it’s sadly unlikely…
What did you think of this week’s episode? What do you hope to see in next week’s season finale? Let us know in the comments!
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