Though this cycle of American Horror Story has admirably managed to shirk formula for the better part of the season, we’ve reached chapter 8 and, as such, a season staple: The “death and destruction” episode. That’s not to say that this season has been lacking in overflow (wrong choice of word?) of blood and gore, but this week’s vein openings seem to be directed toward a very specific endgame in the final two episodes. Ryan Murphy even said that this week’s episode was its “most intense” ever — and hell, I’d believe it if had the preceding five not been just as bloody disgusting as this one.
We pick up in the aftermath of Shelby and Dominic watching Agnes straight up get chopped (someone didn’t use all the mystery basket ingredients) and Shelby hilariously asking Dominic if he has any advice on what to do next, given that he’s “played this before.” Girl, you LIVED IT. But neither of them has any good idea what to do next. I mean, Shelby has an idea — to go through Edward Mott’s underground tunnel — but just because it’s an idea doesn’t mean it’s a good one.
Passing through the basement and, as such, the convenient reminder that Shelby bashed Matt’s head in, the duo finds the tunnel and comes face to face with the Chens. Remember them? They’re that Taiwanese family that also got slaughtered in the re-enactment and now crawl Exorcist–Grudge style toward Shelby and Dominic at rapid speed. The duo manage to escape, but Shelby’s had it. “We’re going to die in here,” she tweets with her mouth. “There is no escape.” And from here on out, she just loses all interest in sticking around on this planet anymore.
Dominic (who apparently only came to Roanoke to get a coveted spin-off, which we must remember is on a TLC network, so, like, who cares) gets attacked by Piggy Man; Shelby stabs him in the head; and then the old chandelier chooses the perfect time to fall from the ceiling and help them escape yet again. Really, Dominic and Shelby’s whole arc this episode is various escapes and enclosures: Tunnel, kitchen, foyer, bedroom, etc. But the bedroom is the last stop for Shelby: She’s now fully delirious and, for the most part, unwilling to live after killing the only man she ever loved. So, she slices her own throat and goes to that great network spin-off in the sky.
Dominic keeps spouting jokes, though, lamenting the loss of his first-class trip to Thailand, so you know it’s only a matter of time before he’s gone, too.
But first, we return to the real Polks: the cannibal family that sort of looks like what might happen if Jan Brady started binge-watching Weeds and never stopped. They continue to slice and feast on their Lee Apron meals; Lee, to her credit, has a surprising amount of stamina and grit, which makes me believe further that she’ll be the only one to emerge from this whole mess. Her ear, not so much.
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The real juice (again, wrong choice of word?) to the Polk story this week is the big reveal about the family: The story of them becoming cannibals is woefully uninteresting (surprise: they were literally hungry one day) but what’s more intriguing is the revelation that it was a Polk who became the first Piggy Man in response to the Butcher’s fetish for them. Is this particularly shocking? Sure, why not. Is this a tradition one honors in the same way that families pass down ravioli, kugel, or banh mi recipes? Sure, why not again. Apparently, for southern cannibals, going full Piggy Man is as heartwarming a tradition as a patriarch dressing as Santa.
NEXT: The Polks also have a thing for teeth[pagebreak]
But Lee, God love her, is too much of a bad-ass to die at the hand of an incestuous horny hillbilly, so she does what we all hope she will: snort coke, woo Jether, and seduce her way out. Before strangling Jether and stabbing him in the head, though, she records a goodbye video for Flora in which she admits that she killed Mason. She’ll later regret this, as one often regrets admitting to things in the final moments before we think we are going to die (for instance, I did not enjoy Carol).
There’s one last story line to track, and that’s Audrey and Monet, who now enter the picture. They’re close, but still so far: They’ve been relocated down into the Polk basement, where their captors are a little less naive than Jether but apparently big fans of the Roanoke reality show. Horrifyingly, the basement Polks are into teeth — which really did rain down during the blood moon, apparently, and went right into the Polks’ mouths — so they go after Monet’s. Bad idea.
Monet’s chair breaks and she escapes before they can snatch a molar, but Audrey isn’t as lucky. Monet leaves her — just long enough for Audrey to spit in Mama Polk’s face and get some pro bono rusty dental work in exchange. Ultimately, Lee rescues Audrey, and in turn Audrey pulls a Lee and kills Mama Polk, meaning we’re down to… honestly, I don’t even know. I feel like for every Polk that dies, three more pop up, like some backwoods Hydra in overalls.
With Monet in the woods, Audrey and Lee head back into the house — why!? — and discover Matt’s now-headless body, and Shelby’s throat-less one. They find a manic-depressive Dominic, who exists in the scene just long enough to explain the whole situation to the surviving ladies, who don’t believe a word. He tells Audrey and Lee that it was Shelby who killed Matt, but they immediately accuse him of doing it because he’s got the knife.
Audrey gets the line of the night as they push him out of the bedroom: “Shelby would never killed herself! She’s way too self-centered to commit suicide. I played her for six months!” But outside, Dominic gets slaughtered by Piggy Man.
It’s morning, which in any horror movie might suggest some reprieve from violence, but not so on American Horror Story. As day breaks, Lee has a truly terrible idea to go back to the Polk farm to get the video of them killing the Polks. Audrey wisely points out that nobody would ever convict them, but we know better: Lee needs to retrieve that whole “I killed Mason” confessional tape, now that she thinks they might actually have a shot at making it out alive.
But they’re barely out the door when they come face to face with the Piggy Man, who takes off his mask and reveals himself to be… Wes Bentley! “Dylan!?” Audrey exclaims. And scene.
I completely forgot about Wes Bentley as a re-enactor who should theoretically be involved in the story line (and Lady Gaga, for that matter), but chances are his re-introduction is not going to last that long, either. My bet is still on Lee to make it out alive, although what the season finale looks like, I really have no idea. What would constitute a satisfying end to the season in two weeks? Everyone dead? One alive? Kathy Bates pulling off Piggy Man’s mask and yelling “Live from New York!?” The options, like Lee’s upper thigh arteries, are open.