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'AHS: 1984' Episode 2 Recap: God and Trauma

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 26, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 26, 2019 |


Are you someone who grew up in the Bible belt, surrounded by Baptists who went to church every week and were told that, as long as you’re “saved,” God will forgive everything, including adultery, racism, homophobia, domestic violence, and child abuse? Praise God!

It’s all good, as fundamentalist Christian Margaret — the head of Camp Redwood — explains to serial killer and Satan worshiper Richard Ramirez in this week’s AHS: 1984: You can do whatever you want in life as long as you have two things: God and trauma. Ramirez — the Nightstalker — has never felt more seen or heard. Who cares about all those murders he’s committed? He had an excuse: Trauma, in the form of the chemicals his mother inhaled while pregnant with him, and the murders he witnessed as a child. In God, meanwhile, he has forgiveness for all his past and future transgressions. “You can use him to explain why you did something,” Margaret tells Ramirez. “Even something horrible.” That echoes a lot of what I heard in Baptist churches growing up.

Meanwhile, Margaret and Ramirez bond in the episode after Ramirez shows up at Camp Redwood in search of Brooke, only to stumble upon Jonas, the hippie kid murdered last week by Mr. Jingle. Ramirez murders him again. A few minutes later, he murders him a third time. Then he finds Margaret and asks her, “What’s up with this kid?” Why does Jonas keep showing up, even after he dies? After their bonding session, in which Margaret asks Ramirez to kill Mr. Jingle for her, she goes out into the woods and finds Jonas. She recognizes him. Jonas was among those at Camp Redwood in 1970 during Mr. Jingle’s murder spree. Jonas hasn’t aged a day. Margaret and Jonas put their heads together and conclude that Jonas — who was originally killed while trying to escape Camp Redwood in 1970 — must be a ghost. “There are ghosts in the Bible, and you’re here, so they must be real,” she tells him. Makes sense. Alas, Murphy’s already commingling horror genres with a ghost in a slasher show.

We also learn more about “aspiring actor” Xavier this week. His sugar daddy, Blake, shows up at Camp Redwood. Blake found Xavier in MacArthur Park with a needle in his arm, and “saved” him by giving him a role in a gay porn video. Blake wants Xavier to perform for him in another video, or else Blake will go public with the video and ruin Xavier’s acting career. Xavier insists that he’s definitely not gay, and offers instead to find Blake another subject for his gay porn, drilling Blake a peephole in the men’s shower room. While Blake is investigating Trevor’s Act of God penis, Mr. Jingles (presumably) stabs him through the head.

Chaos ensues, and everyone tries to escape Camp Redwood, but Xavier crashes his van into the nurse’s car, disabling both, leaving the gang stranded at Redwood with Mr. Jingles, Richard Ramirez, and someone who may prove to be more dangerous than both: Margaret.

Additional Notes

— Karen, the head of the mental asylum from which Mr. Jingles escaped, is the episode’s first murder victim. She drove out to Redwood to warn Margaret about Mr. Jingles and demand she shut down the camp. Margaret refused, because Margaret is insane. Karen is killed while leaving Camp Redwood.

— We also learn more about Brooke in the episode. In addition to being hounded by the Nightstalker, Brooke’s ex-fiance broke off their engagement by killing her father, her best friend, and himself at the wedding in a fit of jealous rage. Her father, by the way, is played by Steven Culp, who most people remember from Desperate Housewives, but I mostly remember him for playing Robert F. Kennedy in Thirteen Days and the Speaker of the House in West Wing. It was a weirdly small part for him.

— Montana remains the season’s stand-out character. She expressed empathy for Brooke after hearing about her murdering ex-fiance, telling Brooke that she, too, had suffered a traumatic experience: “A stranger once grabbed my boob outside a Sam Goody, so I get it. Trauma’s a bitch.” Montana then tried to make out with Brooke, which I guess is progressive for ‘80’s slashers?

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

Header Image Source: FX