American Horror Story’s premiere episode ‘Election Night’ revealed that sometimes the monsters we fear live in our neighbourhood. The paranoia was palpable, and Ally was absolutely helpless against it.
Then our second episode of this season ‘Don’t be Afraid of the Dark’ rolled around, and Ally started to fight back. She was not going to let the monsters win. And yet throughout the episode, a much more disturbing truth came to light: giving into this fear can turn us into the monsters that terrified us to begin with.
Unfortunately, ‘Don’t be Afraid of the Dark’ does little else to live up to its predecessor’s strong start to the season. The formula is starting to get pretty predictable: when Ally is on her own, scary stuff will jump out at her. When she is trying to prove that scary stuff is real to other people, nothing will happen. It is a well-worn trope that can only be used so many times before it gets stale.
On Kai’s side of the story, we get a great deal of development for such little screen time. It often feels like this season’s most engaging moments are driven by his capricious, twisted mind.
Following on from last week, Kai’s assault has leaked to the media and it couldn’t have worked out any better. He uses this as an opportunity to run for the city council, taking the position of councilman Chang – the same man who was recently killed under suspicious circumstances. This may point towards Kai being a mastermind behind more than we give him credit for.
The first proper confrontation between Ally and Kai is also incredibly intense, signalling the beginning of a rivalry that will likely become the centrepiece of this season. Ally’s assertion that she is about reaching out to people and building bridges is quickly shot down. She can proclaim that she is immune to the right wing’s fear-mongering, but Kai can see very clearly that she is just as easily manipulated as everyone else.
With all of Kai’s scenes teasing so much in so little time, it is a pity that the rest of the episode leaves so much undeveloped. The introduction of the Wiltons throws an eccentric new couple into the mix, touching on Ally’s trypophobia once again. But other than the possibility that they may be working with Kai, they offer disappointingly little to the story.
Winter is back at the brainwashing, corrupting Oz with the strange cult initiation that we last saw conducted by Kai. The ritual has sinister undertones, but with so little known about Winter’s character or the implications of the ceremony it is difficult to fully invest in the scene.
I was worried that this episode was going to end with another cheap jump scare, and yet the stakes were driven even higher, with Ally’s paranoia reaching terrifying levels. In the final moments, a blackout sends Ally spiralling into a panic attack, giving her cause to shoot at anything that remotely scares her – even those she has defended in the past.
Ally’s shooting of Pedro makes her an offender of the kind of racial profiling that she has so adamantly condemned previously. How will she handle this? Not well, obviously. But she is now undeniably right in the middle of that grey area that she has so stubbornly refused to admit she is embroiled in.
While ‘Don’t be Afraid of the Dark’ offered frustratingly little development, it still managed to set up some intriguing plot points that will likely become more substantial as the season progresses.
What did you think of the episode? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!