“There is a line when sex stops and something very dark and unhealthy starts.” This is meant to be a warning in the first episode of American Horror Stories, but let’s be honest, it could also double as the FX on Hulu series’ official logline.
The American Horror Story spinoff gets the party started by taking us back to where it all began, Season 1’s infamous Murder House. It’s the third time we’ve returned to this hallowed place, following brief visits in Hotel and Apocalypse, and the Harmons’ old stomping grounds are exactly as we remember them. Only now one of the ghosts looks a lot like a young Cindy Crawford.
We’re reintroduced to this iconic locale by way of Michael (Matt Bomer) and Troy (Gavin Creel), a pair of horror-loving husbands who plan on turning it into a ghost-themed bed and breakfast. They’re ignorantly optimistic about their prospects, likely because they haven’t watched the first season of AHS. If they did, they’d know that the only people who fare worse here than straight couples are gay ones.
Less thrilled about the family’s new digs is Michael and Troy’s 16-year-old daughter Scarlett (Sierra McCormick), though she changes her tune when she discovers a slinky rubber body suit in her bedroom closet. Proving that she also did not watch the first season of AHS, Scarlett immediately tries it on (no questions asked!). Despite it fitting her like a glove, something doesn’t feel quite right, prompting Scarlett to peel off the cursed garment and throw it in the trash outside.
But not every secret is so easily disposed, which Scarlett discovers when her dads confront her about watching extreme torture porn on the family’s WiFi network… again. They threaten to ground her, but because that would keep her from attending a sleepover with secret-girlfriend Maya (Paris Jackson), she agrees to see a therapist. (Side note: It’s during this intense discussion about violent porn that I remember where I know the actress playing Scarlett from — Disney Channel’s A.N.T. Farm!)
On the eve of their family therapy session, however, Scarlett finds the rubber suit back in her closet. Convinced that her dads are pranking her, Scarlett scares the crap out of them by suiting up and busting into their bedroom with a knife. Needless to say, they’re not amused. (“A used S&M suit?! Why the f–k would we do that?!”) Despite their pleas, Scarlett refuses to take off the suit, and she “accidentally” slashes Troy when he threatens to remove it, prompting him to make the most dramatic exit I’ve seen from a parent on TV in a long time: “Please be aware, young lady, that I will not be talking to you for weeks!”
But he does talk to her again — the next day, in fact, during a session with Dr. Grant (the always delightful Merrin Dungey). We learn a lot from this conversation, including that Scarlett was kidnapped from the grocery store as a child and went missing for 10 days. It’s a productive session, but the minute Dr. Grant asks to use the bathroom, you know it’s about to be curtains for poor Merrin Dungey. This time, it appears to be the actual Rubber Man (or whoever’s wearing his suit these days) who slashes her throat and pushes her into the basement. Classic Rubber Man.
Michael and Troy discover the bloody suit later that night, grossly deducing that the blood probably belongs to Scarlett. But don’t take my word for it. I’ll let these misogynistic idiots speak for themselves:
Michael: Whose blood was that?
Troy: I don’t know. Hers maybe? Time of the month?
Michael: Oh, right. It would also explain how bitchy she’s been.
At this point, I no longer care about these guys. Their brutal murders cannot come soon enough.
Anyway, the sleepover turns out to be an even bigger disaster than Scarlett ever could have imagined. After changing in Maya’s bedroom and revealing some of her violent kinks, she discovers that their entire conversation is being live streamed for all to see. A devastated Scarlett returns the favor by threatening to blame Maya’s friends in her suicide note unless they come to her house in 30 minutes or less. You know, like a pizza that doesn’t know it’s about to get brutally murdered and stuffed behind a brick wall to the tune of Patience and Prudence’s “You Belong to Me.”
Warning: Everything from this point on spoils the plot of “Rubber (Wo)man Part Two.” Consider yourself warned!
The second half of the premiere introduces us to a pair of delightful new characters, including Scarlett’s ghost girlfriend Ruby (Kaia Gerber), a switchblade-toting badass whose idea of romance is whispering sweet nothings like “kill yourself” into Scarlett’s ear. There’s also Adam (Aaron Tveit), a con-man contractor who jokes about accepting payment in the form of oral sex… until he’s no longer joking, and he’s literally just having an affair with Troy.
Adam eventually discovers Maya and the other girls’ corpses rotting behind the brick wall (what did Scarlett think was going to happen?), but rather than turn Michael and Troy over to the authorities, Adam simply murders the only other witness (R.I.P., Martin!) and presents some demands of his own: Not only does he want in on the haunted house business, but he also wants in on the marriage. Again, it’s all very dramatic, but things are ultimately put into perspective when Michael and Troy discover that (gasp!) they’re already dead.
Meanwhile, Ruby takes advantage of All Hallows’ Eve by leaving the Murder House for a “non-stop orgy of trouble and pain” with Scarlett. In other words, the usual, only with townies. Ruby spends most of the night pushing away Scarlett’s only living friend Shanti (played by Belissa Escobedo, the mere sight of whom makes me miss The Baker and the Beauty — there I said it!), while also preventing Maya and her gaggle of dead besties from killing Scarlett outside of the manor. Still, Ruby’s worst nightmare eventually comes true when Scarlett reveals that she doesn’t want to live out the rest of eternity in one place. And because Ruby loves Scarlett, she agrees to let her go.
Despite literally everything that has occurred until this moment, the story ultimately has a happy ending. Not only is there finally peace among the ghosts of Murder House — at least the ones we get to see in these episodes — but Scarlett makes good on her promise to be with Ruby every Halloween. Plus, Scarlett’s freedom enables her to track down the abusive “uncle” who made Ruby’s childhood a living hell, so… win-win-win?
OK, let’s talk about “Rubber (Wo)man.” Did you enjoy your latest trip to Murder House, or were you hoping for a few more familiar faces? Are you excited about more Horror Stories to come? Grade the two-part premiere in our poll below, then drop a comment with your full review.