American Horror Stories season 1, episodes 1 & 2 recap – “Rubber (Wo)man: Part One & Two”

FX on Hulu’s American Horror Stories is technically a spin-off of American Horror Story, but that show has become so convoluted and has undergone so many reboots and reimaginings that it’s basically the same show. And that’s no bad thing! Not all the time, anyway.

American Horror Stories

American Horror Stories

The show has always had some terrible impulses, but when it’s firing on all cylinders it’s a pretty great example of schlocky horror with some fun formal and storytelling ideas. Repurposing largely the same cast in several distinct but interconnected time periods and settings was always fun, at least until the weight of the continuity became too much for the show to bear, and so an anthological format seems like a good way of revisiting some stuff from the series’ heyday.

It makes sense, then, that “Rubber (Wo)man”, the two-part opener, revisits the ill-fated L.A. home known as the Murder House.

In American Horror Stories season 1, episode 1, we see house-flipping couple Michael (Matt Bomer) and Troy (Gavin Creel) move into the Murder House with their isolated teenage daughter Scarlett (Sierra McKormick), who has a penchant for violent, sadistic p**n and doesn’t exactly have her impulses quelled when she discovers and tries on the now-famous rubber gimp suit. Pretty soon she develops a rather unhealthy interest in classmate Maya (Paris Jackson) but has her slumber party plans waylaid after a prank and a violent mistake leave her dads no choice but to enlist the services of a therapist.

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As it turns out, as a child, Scarlett was kidnapped for ten days, and while the event seems to have scarred Michael and Troy more than her, there’s evidently something amiss. But there’s something much more worrying about the house itself, which as we know is inhabited by spirits who can never leave, including those of the Rutger twins, whom the therapist sees briefly before a figure wearing the rubber suit slices her throat.

The Rutgers aren’t the only cameos. After Scarlett sneaks out for the slumber party and finds herself the victim of a cruel prank, she threatens to commit suicide unless her tormenters all come to the house to see her. Venturing into the basement, Maya is set upon by the Infantata, and Scarlett, in the rubber suit, stabs the others to death and hides their bodies in a wall.

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American Horror Stories season 1, episode 2 continues this storyline, but with Scarlett having found a new subject for her affections: Ruby (Kaia Gerber), who killed herself a while back and has been a captive of the house ever since, but seems to be enjoying herself more than the others. She’d like Scarlett to off herself too, so they can be together forever, but that’s quite a commitment. Luckily, Ruby has enough affection for Scarlett to protect her from the Mean Girls classmates she killed in the first episode, who are using their ghostly torment to plot their revenge.

In the meantime, we see some cracks beginning to form in Michael and Troy’s relationship. The latter has hired a contractor, Adam, to renovate the house since it isn’t looking to make them any money, but since they don’t actually have any money, he’s trying to pay him in sexual favors. When a foul smell leads Adam and his colleague to Scarlett’s bricked-up victims, he senses an opportunity, kills his colleague, and tries to blackmail Michael and Troy. On his way out, though, the rubber-suit man kills him, and Michael and Troy, while trying to flee from the killer, discover they can’t leave the house. As it turns out, they’re already dead, killed by Ruby in an attempt to persuade Scarlett to stay with her.

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American Horror Stories season 1, episode 2 comes to a head on Halloween, which is the day that the dead can walk wherever, and also happens to be the day that Scarlett’s victims plan to enact their revenge since if they kill Scarlett outside the house, she won’t be able to live forever with Ruby. But Ruby is able to redeem herself, even if Scarlett, who got over the deaths of her dads laughably fast, decides to live her own life outside the house as a gimp-suited serial killer.

Ten months later, we see Scarlett pull up outside the house of Ruby’s abusive “uncle”, wearing the suit and carrying a hammer. I suppose that constitutes a happy ending.

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