FX’s American Horror Story
Season 9, Episode 5: “Red Dawn”
Directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton
Written by Dan Dworkin
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “True Killers” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Episode 100” – click here
In 1980, Nurse Rita a.k.a Donna was spying on a man. She caught him clearly doing something naughty. It was her father. He was cheating. Busy listening to Amii Stewart’s “Knock On Wood” and getting it on probably. She bust in to find he wasn’t doing anything of the sort: he was a serial killer. He’d just butchered a woman. His wall was full of photos of other women, all numbered, many with souvenirs pinned to them. A horrific discovery. And the disembowelled woman on the bed wasn’t actually dead yet. Perfect time for daddy to find his daughter in his room. “You were never supposed to know this side of me,” he told her. Then he planted a knife in his own neck.
This is the beginning of Donna’s fascination with serial killers. This is her motivation.
In ’84, Donna witnesses Ramirez resurrected by Satan himself. The Night Stalker knows a few things about her past, he’s seen it himself in Hell. He knows everything about her, accusing her of being evil herself. She sees an apparition of her father in the forest, telling her: “The darkness is inside you.” Daddy wants her to carry on the family legacy. Could be another killer out in the woods tonight.
Xavier’s freaking out trying to get his friends to help him light a big fire. He’s eventually knocked out by Margaret, supposedly for the good of them all. There are so many different people with different motivations right now, it’s almost dizzying, in the best sort of ’80s-era slasher way! When Marg and the counsellors regroup back at one of the cabins, she and Chet go to check on the boat while Montana and Brooke stay with an unconscious Xavier.
Brooke thinks she sees Ray outside, getting her away from a murderous Montana. She finds him, but the guy seems to not really remember too much. He can’t remember what happened after getting on the bike and heading away from camp. Is he caught in a similar kind of time loop / warp like the old counsellor from ’70, Jonas? There are odd things happening at Camp Redwood. They hide away together. Brooke talks about not knowing herself and wanting to be “nobody” instead of “somebody.” Ray mentions he worried about the wrong things so long he wound up forgetting himself. The two of them get intimate, considering it may be their last night alive. This is also when we find out Brooke’s a virgin— that’d mean she definitively did NOT sleep with Montana’s brother. Afterwards, she stumbles across Ray’s head in a fridge. WHAT THE FUCK? She goes running straight back to Montana and a meat tenderiser.
In the boat, Marg asks Chet does he ever “think about death.” They have a strange conversation, mostly on her part. He’s not too interested in hearing her whole God shtick. She asks him to confess his sins. She decides to confess to him her plan, right as she whacks him in the head with an oar, delivering a wonderfully cheesy “so I can kill you” as she attaches him to an anchor and lets him slip overboard. She makes sure to get one of those ears before he’s gone below the surface.
Donna goes back to Xavier and Montana, telling them she’s the one who let Mr. Jingles out. She admits everything, then tells them she can help them get out of there. But X flips out over his wasted future due to his burned face, and he tries to kill Donna, sending her fleeing into the trees.
Montana now has Brooke captive, railing against her as someone who plays the victim. She talks about seeing Brooke show up at the studio that day, then explains sending Ramirez after her. Again, more of that expert homage of the ’80s slasher with all its expository dialogue to help explain the usually simple plots. Perfect work! Brooke ends up getting herself out of there, making another run for it in the dark.
When Richter finds Donna again he explains the truth about what Margaret did at Camp Redwood in 1970, how he was essentially hypnotised into believing he’d committed those crimes. Donna offers herself up as a victim. She wants to die for causing all the carnage at the camp, fed up with the darkness. Richter only has one person he wants to murder. He finds Margaret in the woods. Although before he’s able to kill her he gets filled with arrows by Xavier in revenge for getting stuffed in that oven.
Despite Richter dying, he doesn’t have to be truly dead. Not with the supernatural playing games. The same goes for poor X, whose gut is torn open by Margaret. His ear’s cut off as a prize, like the others. Out of the darkness comes Ramirez, offering the gift of life back to Richter if he’ll accept Satan into his heart.
The sun is rising. Hard to remember at times that these camp counsellors haven’t even had campers to counsel. When Brooke sinks a knife into Montana over and over, she’s greeted by a bus full of young boys and girls screaming in horror at the blood-soaked young lady standing not far. It doesn’t take long before cops and paramedics are swarming the place. Margaret puts on her best act to make herself look like a victim— ironic how Montana was claiming Brooke was the one who did this when Marg’s the queen. Everything’s made out to look as if the new counsellor “went crazy” and “attacked everyone.” Another perfect scapegoat for Ms. Margaret.
Ray’s walking around as cops bag his head as evidence. He’s put in an ambulance and driven off the grounds. Except he can’t leave. He stops at the gate, forced to turn around and head back. Jonas emerges once more to put things in perspective for him. Back at camp, Montana returns to life and guns down one of the cops. She’s into the whole “Purgatory thing” they’ve got going on, referencing Ghostbusters for a laugh. There’s a whole lot of madness going on at Camp Redwood, between her, Richard, and Richter.
A wild one. Excited to see where the supernatural angle and Brooke’s framing takes the narrative. Plenty of slasher homage and weirdness to enjoy. Sky’s the limit from here this year, given all the strangeness mixed together with the slasher gore and tropes.
“Episode 100” is next time.