American Horror Story

Episode Report Card
Joe R: B | 201 USERS: A-
Big City Living and a Voodoo Woman Named Phyllis
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!

"The following program is rated E for ERRRRRYTHING."

We begin our story in the antebellum South. New Orleans, to be exact, in 1834. There, we meet Kathy Bates as Madame Delphine LaLaurie. She's throwing a party for all her rich friends, at which she is showcasing her three daughters for potential suitors. The youngest, Pauline, is said to be not particularly talented, though she suggests to the suitors that her talent may end up being in the bedroom. Delphine grits her teeth through such awfulness, but Pauline's eyes are already on the black domestic help across the room. We know this, because the camera does an old-timey iris-in to focus on the man.

Later that night, Delphine is applying some kind of face salve made from blood and… well, blood. She's interrupted by her house servant (a white one, so she likes this one), saying that there's a problem downstairs. Cut to Madame LaLaurie raging at Pauline. Seems sweet Pauline and that poor houseman were caught doing it, and Madame LaLaurie can't deal with that. She smacks her daughter around, calls her a slut, says doing it with the help is the same a "rutting with the house dog." She says they're going to claim that the houseman raped her, to which the houseman objects. He says Pauline came onto him and that he belongs to another. Madame LaLaurie has her white servant clock him over the head, then instructs him to haul the man "upstairs."

If that sounds ominous to you, it should. Once we join Madame LaLaurie up there, we see she's got a good half-dozen black men in cages up there. Maybe more. One's got his eyes and lips sewn shut. One's had the flesh peeled back from his face, maggots crawling all over it. One asks her why she's doing this. "Because I can?" is her cheery reply. Finally, there's the houseman, Bastien, who's just been chained to the walls so that he's upright and spread-eagled. She tells him if he wants to rut like a beast, he'll be treated like one. She calls for her "pickaninny with the head." Sigh. I'll just say this: I like American Horror Story quite a bit, and I often forgive its forays into bad taste, as horror is a forgiving medium for bad taste. But do I trust Ryan Murphy to handle race as an issue in a responsible or satisfying way? No. No, I do not. But on we go.

So this little black boy approaches with a severed bull's head in his hands, and at his mistress's orders, he places it, bloody and gristly, over Bastien's head. Madame LaLaurie starts waxing poetic about how her daddy used to read her stories from Greek mythology. The story of the Minotaur was always her favorite: half-bull, half-man. "And now," she says, "I have one of my very own." The camera pulls back from Bastien, writhing and shaking, trying to break free and throw off that abominable thing on his head. From the outside, it just looks like a fearsome beast grunting. A monster in the attic.

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American Horror Story




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