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REVIEW: ‘American Horror Story: 1984’ Episode 2: “Mr. Jingles”

by Rex Meyer Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for this episode and previous episodes of American Horror Story: 1984. American Horror Story: 1984 returned this week to continue its tale of severed ears, bad 80s hair, and deadly misfortunes. Although it was not as exciting as the premiere, this episode resumes the story of Mr. Jingles’ journey back to Camp Redwood and Brooke’s PTSD regarding the fallout of the Night Stalker’s attack. Character arcs are expanded upon and some unexpected twists reveal that this season is not completely set on replicating the slasher genre.

Image from IMDb
Similar to last week’s opener, a gory murder occurs to shock and terrorize the audience. The scene begins with Dr. Karen Hopple arriving at Camp Redwood to warn camp director Margaret about Benjamin Richter (Mr. Jingles)’s escape from the insane asylum. Margaret is not surprised when she learns about the situation and her brilliant mind insists the camp will still open as scheduled. Unfortunately for Dr. Hopple, her car breaks down on her way back and Mr. Jingles, posing as a truck driver, proceeds to stab her in the neck (ouch). While the opener was gruesomely entertaining, the real significant developments of this episode do not occur until later. After hearing of a murder at a gas station near the campsite, Brooke continues to worry about The Night Stalker following her to Redwood. At this point, we learn Brooke planned to marry a man named Joey Cavanaugh the previous summer. On the night of their wedding, Joey decides to shoot her father, the best man, and himself after accusing Brooke of cheating on him with his best friend. Compared to the context of the entire episode, this segment seemed pretty insignificant to the progression of the story. While Brooke has consistently dealt with people not believing her stories, the writers could have explained this without going into some random anecdote. It seemed like an uninspired attempt to flesh out more of Brooke’s character. Hopefully, later episodes elaborates a little more on the importance of this event in Brooke’s life.  Another matter revealed in this episode is Montana’s bisexuality. This is shown when she attempts to kiss Brooke as a way of comforting her. Even though her sexuality was not majorly hinted at prior to this moment, it now makes more sense as to why Montana was so adamant about Brooke joining her and her friends in coming to Camp Redwood. Xavier’s sexuality is also put up to speculation when his cousin appears at camp to blackmail him into doing explicit “gay modeling.” This subplot does not last very long, however, as his cousin Blake is soon murdered by Mr. Jingles when he peeps through a hole into the men’s shower. I must admit, I am living for the queer representation in this episode because it adds a bit more depth to its characters and furthers the campy atmosphere.
Image from IMDb
Most of AHS: 1984’s second episode revolves around the unveiling of the characters’ backstories, but there are some remarkable advances in plot that make up for some of the monotonous character arcs. The biggest progression in plot would be Richard Ramirez, The Night Stalker, being designated by Margaret as “protector” of the camp; she convinces him that he should not feel guilty for his heinous crimes if they were done in the name of God’s work. While I mentioned the previous episode’s inclusion of The Night Stalker negatively offsets the campiness of AHS:1984, the writers seem to have come up with an intriguing idea that merits the use of a real life serial killer in a fictional 80s-themed horror series. In addition to Ramirez’ presence, AHS: 1984 has introduced a supernatural element that looks promising in how it will affect the narrative for the rest of the season. An amnesiac hitchhiker run over by the group of counselors in the first episode reappears only to be murdered by Richard Ramirez... twice. According to Margaret, the hitchhiker was a counselor named Jonas who was run over by Mr. Jingles when he fled Camp Redwood in 1970. While it was unexpected of AHS: 1984 to include a paranormal element in a season that was (thus far) somewhat grounded in reality, this twist adds an original element to a season that has to rely on recreating the formulaic structure of an 80s slasher film in an innovative way.
Images: IMDb Featured Images: TV Movie Fix

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