FX’s American Horror Story
11×09: “Requiem 1981/1987, Part 1”
Directed & Written
by Our Lady J
* For a recap & review of 11×08, click here.
* For a recap & review of the season finale, click here.
Theo is being laid to rest and everyone left behind has questions. During the funeral, Sam passes out briefly, seeing Big Daddy in the distance watching him. Then he wakes up in a hospital being cared for by a familiar face, the dead Billy, as well as dead Theo. Sam’s told his immune system isn’t doing well. “People are afraid of this thing,” Theo says. “They‘re afraid of you.” A truly horrifying vision.
Theo takes Sam for a walk in the corridor. They talk about the last night of Theo’s life. Sam’s confronted with the other lives he’s “devoured” now, too. He’s brought to see a young man, Danny, dying with the same virus that’s in him, too. Danny was the first guy Sam and Theo opened their relationship to, a struggling writer that Sam blew off. After that, Sam and Theo go to see Stewart, yet another young man inflicted with the virus. “Look beyond yourself,” Theo tells Sam. Then he tells Sam to give Stewart a kiss, to show compassion. Eventually Sam reluctantly kisses Stewart’s forehead.
Then Theo takes Sam back to see an older, more ill Sam rotting away in bed. Here, Sam wonders why nobody who loves him is there to take care of him. Theo makes an important distinction about being “celebrated” v. being “loved” in that people will celebrate gay artists (etc), as they have in pop culture, but that doesn’t mean it equates to love because gay men still suffered greatly during the AIDS crisis; we can apply this also to Black culture being celebrated (or, rather, often appropriated) but Black people still being faced with injustice constantly. And a little later, after sicker Sam starts to cough viciously, choking on his own fluid, the real Sam wakes up inside one of those cages with which he’s so familiar.
Unfortunately for Sam he gets visited by a leather-clad Henry, who’s full of internalised homophobia, piss, and vinegar. Yet Henry does have good points about Sam’s narcissism. He also makes clear the divide between BDSM and genuine torture. “You inflict pain because you are in pain,” Henry tells Sam. A horrific vision appears before Sam as he’s made to acknowledge his father, being whipped mercilessly, as the source of his pain. Another vision shows us Sam’s first boss on Wall Street, where Sam was discriminated against despite being the best in his firm; the boss has his nipples torn off.
And finally, it’s Sam up on the bondage cross to face his own fears.
When Sam wriggles free of his bonds he’s face down in the sand on Fire Island. He’s not alone, either: Big Daddy is right behind him once again. He tries to run, but Henry appears, warning that he can’t get away from the darkness. Henry says the only thing to do “is transcend.” Then the young ethereal men with the antlers appear again, one of them now being Theo, all standing on the hill nearby. Sam turns around and pulls off Big Daddy’s mask, discovering that underneath is a beautiful young man. They kiss, then Sam’s ready to go into the light.
Jump ahead to 1987.
At the hospital, Gino walks through to the AIDS ward where there are no nurses or doctors to be found, only lonely rooms with men slowly dying inside plastic tents. He takes fresh flowers into Patrick’s room and then has a look around, noticing the latter’s IV drip is empty for who knows how long. The place is all but deserted. A doctor shows up to explain Patrick is permanently blind now because AIDS patients “aren‘t eligible” for certain procedures. Gino rages about the “fucking horror” of how AIDS patients are treated, but Patrick only wants his partner to be there with him, frightened by the literal and figurative darkness around him. Patrick doesn’t want his life insurance to go to his parents, urging Gino to sell it and pay for the funeral. Out of all the American Horror Story seasons, NYC has offered some of the most human horror of any season before it apart from Freak Show and Cult; it’s certainly been the most melancholy in that sense, too.
At night, Patrick tumbles out of bed, hearing someone calling to him. He’s get to a wheelchair and moves into the corridor, looking for the source of the voice he hears. Then he realises Barbara’s there, and suddenly he can see again. Patrick sees Barbara in her wedding dress, asking: “Are you here to punish me?” She says she’s only there to help him see. Barbara takes Patrick by the hand and leads him down the corridor, as they’re both enveloped in a bright light.
Barbara takes Patrick to a crime scene in 1980 when Patrick first met Gino; supposedly a young man tossed himself out the window on PCP. Gino made the first move on Patrick, handing over his number. Back to 1977. Patrick’s partner Steve took a gunshot and they wound up in the shower together momentarily, caught by one of the other detectives; Patrick lied, pushing Steve back violently, calling him “faggot.” Then we jump to Patrick cutting up a corpse with Mr. Whitely, arguing about how the process is “so ugly.” They use Patrick’s head to put on top of the puzzle-piece body.
And then, back to Patrick’s youth with his father learning how to shoot a pistol. Dad wasn’t happy with young Patrick’s bad aim, calling it “limp wristing,” which holds a whole lot of other connotations. He yelled at his son to make the men in his family proud. Young Patrick tried to shoot again but missed, called a “sissy” and “limp wristed.” After that, dad fires the pistol a bunch over his son’s shoulder, nearly blasting the kid’s eardrums out until they bleed. A sad day in Patrick’s personal history.
Gino sits at the bedside holding Patrick’s hand when the latter wakes up, happy to see his partner. Patrick apologises to Gino, but Gino won’t hear it. He sees Barbara standing nearby, as well as Kathy singing “Calling You” by Holly Cole in a spotlight just behind his ex-wife. Big Daddy’s there in the shadows, too. Gino knows that these are the last moments he will spend with Patrick, crawling into bed next to his man as Patrick slips away.