Sunday, March 19, 2023

‘American Horror Stories’ Finale Recap: ‘Game Over’ Goes Super Meta With Yet Another Return to Murder House

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched the Season 1 finale of “American Horror Stories,” “Game Over,” streaming now on FX on Hulu.

The final episode of “American Horror Stories” Season 1 took viewers back to where the season (and the franchise) started — the Murder House — but in a very tongue-in-cheek way.

The episode started off focusing on two murder buffs who were self-proclaimed “huge ‘American Horror Story’ fans” — so, in the world of “American Horror Stories,” “American Horror Story” exists as a TV show. The couple met at Comic-Con where Dylan (Adam Hagenbuch) was dressed as Son of Bloody Face and Connie (Noah Cyrus) was dressed as Sister Jude, both from “Asylum.” Also, did you notice their names are Dylan and Connie, a la the first names of the actors who played Ben and Vivien Harmon, Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton, in Season 1 of “Horror Story”?

Anyway, the fictional Dylan and Connie rented out the Murder House for a night to take part in the “Escape From the Murder House” experience that the new owners have set up. The game began with a clue in the kitchen that read, “We hear you are Violataters,” which is a reference to Violet (Taissa Farmiga) and Tate (Evan Peters) from “Horror Story.” The clue directed Dylan and Connie to follow the black rose petals to the room where Violet and Tate “first consummated their forbidden and fateful love.”

Dylan and Connie headed upstairs to a candlelit bedroom and their house-of-horrors horniness took over. After a quick sex sesh, the house started coming to life: Beau’s red rubber ball rolled into the room, the bloody nurse appeared on the stairs, Rubberman walked by the bedroom door.

As Dylan and Connie headed to the basement, Dylan said they could always back out, go home and “binge-watch ‘Roanoke,’” to which Connie replied, “Why does Sarah Paulson shit-talk that season? It’s so good,” which is a great line that really doubled down on how meta things were getting.

Down in the basement, they found three young women trapped in a dungeon of sorts and a flashback revealed that 10 years ago on Halloween, the women came to the door trick-or-treating and were murdered in the living room by Rubberman and the Pigman while Ruby (Kaia Jordan Gerber) watched.

Back in the present, the Pigman, Rubberman, Addie (Jamie Brewer), Twisty and Bloody Face appeared and slaughtered Dylan and Connie. Connie, rightfully, pointed out that many of them shouldn’t even be allowed to be in the house, since they died elsewhere (like Addie on the street) or were from other seasons of the anthology. But as Connie met her end, she began to glitch, which revealed that what we were all just watching was actually a video game. (Hence the episode title.) A young man named Rory (Nicolas Bechtel) was testing it out for his mom, Michelle (Mercedes Mason), who designed it.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but have you ever even watched the show?!” said Rory, explaining that having mistakes, like Addie being there, would enrage fans. Plus, he tried to explain that people get stuck in the Murder House because they can’t “deal with their human shit.” His mom argued that it should be enough that the video game is scary, to which he fired back, “That’s exactly what the people who made ‘Jaws 2’ thought.” Heh.

Rory told his mom she just didn’t get the vibe of the show at all, which is why the Tate/Violet thing made more sense in hindsight. There is a vocal faction of fans that treat Tate and Violet as some sort of modern-day Romeo and Juliet — exactly the sort of thing a casual fan like Michelle would have picked up on and included.

But in an effort to connect with her son, Michelle started binge-watching “American Horror Story” and then suddenly she was getting a house tour from realtor Tim (Tom Lenk). She offered the seller $100,000 for it and just like that, the house was hers. “I am going to make you reveal all your secrets to me,” she vowed, ominously.

That Halloween, Michelle walked up to the house as a bunch of the ghosts left for their one night they can wander the earth. Ruby stayed behind to wait for Scarlett (Sierra McCormick) and they went inside, as Michelle trailed after them. She searched high and low for Ruby and Scarlett, to no avail.

They were in the bathtub again where Scarlett confessed that her life kind of sucks. She took a job at a grocery store just to have something to do and she basically just waited around all year for Halloween so she could see Ruby. They take off to cause trouble while downstairs, Michelle encountered Beau’s red rubber ball and a crying Ben Harmon in the den.

After a minute, she recognized him, but she recognized Dylan McDermott, the actor from the show, whereas this man was talking like he was actually Ben. “You know what’s a bad combination for eternal happiness? Your wife, your forever teenage daughter, her boyfriend, a newborn, and your former mistress all trapped in the same house together,” he said.

But it started not to matter so much — Michelle got sucked into talking to Dylben McHarmon about the house, positing that if people learn and grow and “deal with their human shit,” they could escape the house.

But Ruby told her that for most of the spirits, the suffering and the endless repetition was the point of Murder House, and they don’t actually want to be free — they just keep needing more souls to feed the misery. Rubberman appeared and Dylben McHarmon advised Michelle to “run like hell.” He tried to help her get out the front door, but Ruby and Scarlett stabbed her in the stomach and started making out.

One year later, it was Halloween again, and the now-ghost Michelle found Rory, who was still angry that her obsession with the Murder House got her killed. He said the only way to free everyone was to burn the house to the ground and he’d be happy to do it. She asked him not to, but we all knew he was going to at least try.

Cut to the next morning and Rory showed up with a wheelbarrow full of gas cans. Ruby was determined to stop him, but several other spirits were all about letting Rory free them, including Maya (Paris Jackson) and her crew, who murdered Ruby with an assist from Ben. But as she lay dying, she texted “HELP” to Scarlett, who came running.

As Rory went to light the gasoline, Ruby tried desperately to get to him and Scarlett also tried to stop him, but he dropped the match and the house went up in flames. Scarlett chose not to rush into the inferno to die with Ruby and then a newspaper report showed that the house all but burned to the ground.

But wait! There was more!

Three years later, Scarlett went to see realtor Tim about a condo that was built on top of the Murder House property. She offered $1 million all cash and when he asked how a woman her age has that kind of money, she revealed she became a hired assassin. Well, that’s pretty great — where’s the episode about that?!

But the reason Scarlett bought the condo was that she was finally ready to be with Ruby forever, but she feared it was too late — until that night when Ruby appeared in her bed in the gimp suit.

Ruby revealed that most of the spirits, including Scarlett’s dads, chose to move on. “They seemed happy … I was the only one that wanted to stay. For you, Scarlett. I knew you’d come back to me,” she said.

But wait! That wasn’t real either. That was Michelle’s second swing at the video game and Rory gave her a big thumbs up. So, at what point did the storyline diverge from the video game?

Rory and Michelle ended the episode talking about what happened to the spirits from the Murder House. She thought most moved on, to heaven or hell, and he wondered if some chose to stay around on Earth.

Are we to think that the entire plot was real and that Michelle chose to stick around on earth, be a better mom, and design a video game based on their experience with Murder House? It seemed like that was the takeaway — Ruby did choose to stay to be with Scarlett and Michelle chose to stay to be with her son, but everyone else moved on.

But Michelle was not tied to the grounds of Murder House. She and her son walked out of their house at the end of the episode. And when they did, Beau’s rubber ball came rolling in, perhaps implying that if you share these spirits with the world through a video game — much like the Netflix release of “Rabbit Rabbit” in the third episode — they can reach out and touch more than original expected. Why “American Horror Story” proper, which already existed in the world of this episode, didn’t do that was not explained, but perhaps it was Michelle’s personal connection that made the difference.

It was certainly a very meta way to end the season and we suspect that may be the last we see of the Murder House — though “American Horror Stories” did get renewed for a second season, so never say never.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *