FX’s American Horror Story
11×10: “Requiem 1981/1987, Part 2”
Directed by Jennifer Lynch
Written by Charlie Carver & Ned Martel
* For a recap & review of 11×09, click here.
* Recaps & reviews of Season 12 to come!
Back to 1981. Adam finds out that Dr. Wells is dead. He goes up to her apartment to speak with a cop, telling them she had a low red blood cell count but otherwise there was nothing out of the ordinary. Adam takes a minute alone and notices Hannah’s notes and tape recorder on the table. He has a listen to a tape talking about the deer repopulating on Fire Island after the big cull recently. Adam can only sit and cry. At the same time, Big Daddy stands nearby lurking.
Adam takes Hannah’s work back to his place, listening to the tapes and taking notes himself. He eventually hears the moment when Hannah starts coughing and succumbs to her illness. He rewinds it over and over, listening to the sounds and trying to figure out if it was really illness, or if Hannah was actually attacked before she died. Adam goes to a doctor, recommended by Patrick, who says there’s nothing connecting Hannah’s case with Theo. The doc explains everything away. But it’s not enough for Adam to gain any sense of closure.
Adam keeps going through Hannah’s work, only to discover that she’d narrowed things down after getting pregnant by him and realised that her symptoms mimicked those of Adam’s and her other gay patients. He flashes back to encounters in the park, then he sees Big Daddy behind him, that looming spectre of darkness. Death is everywhere for Adam; even the foam in his beer is a skull, the shadowy danger always hovering over the lives of gay men in the 1980s. The next day, Adam goes to see a doctor and have the lesion on his shoulder checked. He knows what it is already, and he urges the doctor to make other medical officials aware. Yet, of course, the doctor doesn’t believe any of it.
Adam keeps on listening to Hannah’s tapes, hoping she found out something more that’ll help him. Hannah talks about the “weaponised ticks” she was told about by Fran. But she believes it’s “an entirely new pathogen” given that it’s not just deer on Fire Island getting sick. Meanwhile, Adam starts printing off flyers about safe sex, believing the only way to stop the spread is to get to the gay community and stress public health. He goes to Kathy’s place and she’s already worried about her patrons getting sick despite the business’s cleanliness. He’s brought posters and a bunch of condoms. He mentions “something deadly” going around. Kathy laments the loss of “vitality without shame” and worries about this new dark era. Then she tells Adam not to forget “how to live” while he’s concerning himself with how not to die.
On the subway is an ominous poster for the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a plague doctor image and someone’s spray painted DADDY in big red letters across it. Adam starts to experience strange things while riding the subway, as a woman appears and reappears, telling him: “I told you.” He reads a paper about a new form of cancer affecting gay men. There’s no escape from all the death.
Jump ahead to 1987. There are ads everywhere about AIDS and safe sex. Gino’s at a pharmacy, where Big Daddy lurks in the background, where he fills a prescription for his meds. Afterwards, he goes to Patrick’s funeral, where the family shun him. He has a terrifying vision before the service starts, imagining Patrick’s dead painted face coming alive again. Gino then must start the service, but he sees Big Daddy waiting in the wings. The rest of it floats by in a dream. Gino sees himself watching Big Daddy bury one man after another after another, all of them falling headfirst into the grave while Big Daddy tosses dirt on top of them.
It’s 1988 and Gino’s part of ACT UP, doing public demonstrations and fighting for AIDS to be taken seriously while the U.S. government continued their lacklustre response. Gino keeps writing, even as Big Daddy lurks on the periphery of his mind, taking more gay folks. Soon it’s 1989, the years keep wearing by, as Gino writes and goes to the bar and it’s mainly a routine, all the while the journalist is haunted by Mr. Whitely, though even Big Daddy turns up to sever that memory; Gino, in one way or another, can’t escape the death that Big Daddy represents. Even when Gino goes home with a man he winds up having a coughing fit, the illness never far from his everyday existence. Wherever he goes, so does Big Daddy and death. Even before Gino can take a guy home, there Big Daddy comes to strike preemptively; it’s inevitable, anyway.
Great use of “Radioactivity” by Kraftwerk in this sequence.
Gino walks through The Native past a bunch of men in hospital gowns, the door closed behind him by Big Daddy. At home, he takes his pills, along with using a bunch of different medications from balms to powders and more; the necessity of home pharmacy many gay men undertook during the 1980s and the AIDS epidemic. Nothing ever changes for Gino. Everything just seems to get worse and more melancholy, as Gino keeps feeling worse and keeps watching people he knows die—again, this is the real American Horror Story for gay men in that era.
Skip to 1991. Gino’s getting worse all the time, slowly having trouble with getting around to the point he’s using a walker, and he passes by so many others in the same situation. And still, Big Daddy’s just on the horizon, never out of Gino’s sight. There comes a day when Gino, all alone, finally succumbs to his illness, falling straight into the grave in front of Big Daddy. In bed, Gino sees Patrick come towards him from the light. At the journalist’s funeral, Adam says goodbye to his friend and leaves the journalist with the small familiar necklace. Unlike other seasons of American Horror Story, there isn’t much of a happy ending for any character while others suffer terrible fates. In this sad season, all the main characters have become victims in their own right, all of them feeling despair and pain. A tragic season, but a strong, important one, too.