A smallpox outbreak has ravaged a small colonial New England town.
Guest writer (and Ryan Murphy regular) Our Lady J attempts to bring something to AHS that is typically quite lacking: substance. Her queer influence and feminist-forward attitude are evident and happily welcomed in the episode’s themes; however, once the viewer catches onto what direction the story is headed, they may wish she would reign things in just a bit. By the end of the 48-minute soap opera of disgust, I felt like I had whiplash from the numerous twists and turns, not to mention the episode’s theme being beaten into me as hard as the pious characters might thump their Bibles onto a non-believer.
Does the episode have a valid and timely point to make? Absolutely. I firmly believe that horror reflects the cultural zeitgeist more relevantly than any other genre. We are entering a time when art reflects the universally-lived experience of the Covid 19 pandemic, and now we begin to see the sprouts of it in many artistic mediums. Add to that the recent monkeypox outbreak, and therein lies just one of many horrors in this episode (others include men not believing women, the denial of science, and religious zealously).
I wish the episode had undergone just one more draft to tighten the dialogue and show us the themes rather than outright spelling them out. If we’re purposely tuned into a Ryan Murphy show written by a fierce and well-known trans woman, there’s no need to preach to the choir. We’re probably all on the same page.
My harshness for the episode comes only from a desire for it to have been better— the concept was there. Looking past the (extremely) gross elements and imagery and focusing on what the episode is trying to say, I applaud the often-vapid series for trying to make a bold and culturally relevant statement. Adding some subtlety to the subject matter would have really driven it home.
Like most episodes of the series, I did enjoy watching it; I just wish it had been great instead of just good.
It’s available on Hulu FX.