In the debut episode, Welcome to Camp Redwood, AHS 1984 laid out a pitch-perfect homage to 80’s slashers. But leave it to Ryan Murphy and company to stir things up. At the very least, no one could ever accuse American Horror Story seasons of being boring. Not surprisingly then, Episode 2, entitled Mr Jingles, throws several curveballs into the mix. In spite of its title and what we’ve been led to believe up to this point, Mr Jingles may not this season’s main villain.
Okay, so a lot happens in Mr Jingles. Following his escape from the asylum, Benjamin Richter, aka Mr Jingles, has arrived at Camp Redwood. He quickly kills Dr Karen Hopple, who arrived at Camp Redwood to warn owner Margaret Booth. As quickly as he’s murdered Hopple, Mr Jingles is attacking Nurse Rita, who somehow manages to escape. But Mr Jingles isn’t the only killer at Camp Redwood. Cue The Night Stalker who attacks poor Brooke, and then kills our hiker from last episode. Twice. If you’re keeping score, our hiker has now died three times. We also learn the identity of the anonymous phone caller who threatened Xavier in Welcome to Camp Redwood. He’s an unscrupulous producer, named Blake, who coerced Xavier into doing gay pornography. Fortunately, Blake isn’t around too long before Mr Jingles shoves a spike into his head.
If you’re keeping score, our hiker has now died three times.
Lots of additional tidbits are dropped here and there. We learn about Brooke’s bloody and disastrous wedding attempt. In addition, we also learn that our hiker, Jonas, was one of the original counselors murdered at Camp Redwood in 1970. Consistent with American Horror Story’s established lore, Jonas’ ghost is now trapped on the campgrounds where he met his untimely demise. Arguably, Mr Jingles’ most interesting development concerns Margaret Booth. Our stern, pious camp owner and massacre survivor may be hiding something. When she meets The Night Stalker, she manipulates and ‘recruits’ him to protect the camp from Mr Jingles. Later, she finds Jonas and seems particularly concerned about what the ghost remembers about Camp Redwood’s massacre. At the close of the episode, the counsellors, divided into two group, are cornered by two killers.
Mr Jingles Shows AHS 1984 More Than a One-Note Homage
Episode 2 leaves its audience with a lot to unpack. And that’s a good thing. No season of American Horror Story has ever followed a straight line. Like past seasons, AHS 1984 promises that there will be lots of curves along the way. This addresses one of the major concerns that emerged in Welcome to Camp Redwood – would AHS 1984 be content to bask in slasher nostalgia? Just two episodes into the season and not one, but two, killers are already stalking our counsellors. Everything about this episode suggests AHS 1984 may deviate from the slasher formula sooner than later.
Undoubtedly, Mr Jingles most interesting development is the season’s potential ‘fake out’ with its Camp Redwood killer. Is Mr Jingles a wrongfully convicted man out for revenge? With the season set in the 1980’s, during the ‘Religious Right’s’ successful efforts to re-elect conservative Ronald Reagan, Margaret Booth as a villain offers some interesting thematic avenues. That is, a villain using twisted morality to justify brutal crimes adds layer to this season. Moreover, Brooke’s tragic backstory plants seeds for a possible character arc that will outgrow the familiar ‘Final Girl’ narrative. And at the very least, Mr Jingles’ death scenes are appropriately gruesome.
Can AHS 1984 Stay Focused?
Episode 2, Mr Jingles, delivers another fun ode to 80’s slashers. Most importantly, the episode offers assurance that AHS 1984 will be more than just an ‘Easter Egg-fest’ tribute to a decades old horror sub-genre. Now the only question is can Ryan Murphy keep this season more focused than past entries? Even Asylum, often considered the best season of American Horror Story, felt overstuffed at times. Next week’s episode, Slashdance, continues to embrace the season’s 80’s setting.