Welcome back, campers. Threatening and moody, episode two of American Horror Story: 1984 takes the slow route that really makes the viewer sit with our cast of camp counselors, crew, and killers through the long, dark, and twist-filled night. This episode seems to mostly be backstory: if the first episode “Camp Redwood” started the series out with a bang, episode two titled “Mr. Jingles” takes a quieter, meditative approach and only really progresses the timeline of events forward a few hours in the middle of the night (I would guess the action takes place between about 10pm and 12am, subsequent to the events of the first episode).
One of the biggest developments this episode occurred in the form of a flashback that helps expand upon Brooke’s (Emma Roberts) traumatic history. In an intimate conversation with Montana (Billie Lourd) after the boys leave the cabin for lights out, Brooke reveals that being attacked by the Night Stalker in her apartment is, surprisingly, not the most traumatic event that has happened to her recently. The episode proceeds to flashback to approximately a year or so prior, meeting Brooke at the altar being walked down the aisle by her clearly loving father. Brooke appears to have it all and couldn’t look more like the picture of a glowing bride. However, things go downhill quickly when her fiancé is asked the pivotal “Do you take…” question by the priest as they exchange vows. Her fiancé grows quiet, then dark. Clearly suffering a psychotic break, he begins accusing Brooke of sleeping with his best man the night before their wedding. She ardently protests, insisting that she just doesn’t like being alone so she asked him to crash on the couch, but her fiancé has already decided he needs to have the final word: he whips out a handgun and shoots his best man dead, shoots Brooke’s father dead, and after holding the gun to her chin threateningly he turns it on himself and commits suicide, blood splattering her white gown.
Another plotline concerns Xavier (Cody Fern). While walking alone to shower before bed, a car approaches and asks him to get in. Inside is Blake (Todd Stashwick), whose official occupation is never fully revealed but he has a proclivity for being called “daddy” and, oh yeah, he produces gay porn films. A blink-and-you-missed-it mention in the first episode, Xavier dreams of being an actor. It turns out that in exchange for quick money and ideally a career boost, he starred in one of Blake’s films and Blake seems to feel he’s owed a sequel. A D story, if you will, of these first two episodes has been the size of Matthew Morrison’s character Trevor’s genitals, so Xavier decides to lead Blake to a hole in the wall outside the showers where he can peek in at Trevor showering in the hopes that he will hire him instead as Xavier insists he’s not gay. Unfortunately, someone else was lurking in the woods by the showers: Mr. Jingles takes a stab at Blake, literally, and impales him, effectively nailing him by the head to the wall where he was peeking and of course takes off with his signature trophy: Blake’s ear.
The last two major plot points to touch on concern the intersection of the Hiker (Lou Taylor Pucci), Margaret (Leslie Grossman), and the Night Stalker aka real-life LA serial killer Richard Ramirez. Richard Ramirez, much like Mr. Jingles, is haunting the woods at Camp Redwood looking for Brooke when he encounters the Hiker from the first episode. He brutally murders the Hiker… only to run into the same Hiker once more. He kills him again, confused.
The timeline then skips to Margaret coming back to her cabin after officially announcing lights out and busting the co-ed cabin party up. She walks into Richard Ramirez hanging out in her kitchen. Rather than responding in fear, she engages him in normal conversation as if it’s completely casual to run into a creepy man in your private cabin in the middle of the woods around midnight. The two seem to hit it off immediately, but the contrast of their personalities is not lost: a known serial killer (one that especially the audience at least will recognize and can identify as “evil”) and the holier-than-thou Margaret whose devotion to God allegedly saved her life from Mr. Jingles and led her to re-opening the camp in the first place. An intimate conversation between camp director Margaret and Richard Ramirez reveals that according to Margaret, they’re on the same team. She makes a fascinating moral point about how God and religion are the perfect excuse/rationale for any action, both hers and his. She essentially uses this logic to convince Richard to protect the camp from Mr. Jingles by whatever means necessary – again, as in the first episode, we see the two killers pitted against each other in a sort of real-life vs. horror film villain showdown.
Their conversation also reveals that the Hiker is actually a ghost named Jonas from 1970 who died in the same attack by Mr. Jingles that Margaret survived.
This episode definitely felt a bit busy – it felt as if all of these plot lines and backstories were shoved into this one episode, I’m sure to foreshadow the remainder of the season, but it still felt a bit clumsy and overwhelming. Despite that, I’m still immensely excited for what is yet to come this season. Here’s hoping the next few episodes aren’t bogged down by so much exposition.