SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the “American Horror Stories” premiere, “Rubber(wo)man Part One” and “Rubber(wo)man Part Two,” streaming now on FX on Hulu.
“American Horror Stories,” FX on Hulu’s new episodic anthology, returned to its “American Horror Story” roots with its two-episode premiere, “Rubber(wo)man Part One” and “Rubber(wo)man Part Two.”
Taking viewers back to where the Ryan Murphy horror franchise all began — the murder house from Season 1 of the flagship series, these episodes consisted of a self-contained story that began with a new family moving into the infamous Los Angeles mansion. Two dads, Michael (Matt Bomer) and Troy (Gavin Creel), and their teenage daughter, Scarlett (Sierra McCormick) didn’t buy the murder house despite its reputation; they bought the murder house because of its reputation. The dads planned to fix it up and start offering scary experiences for people — scary getaways, haunted honeymoons, slumber party massacres, that kind of thing.
Of course, since we all know what kind of house they moved into, those experiences were probably going to become all too real. And they did. But first, the house and its ghostly inhabitants had to slow-play it. It’s not like murderous Dr. Montgomery (Matt Ross) was just going to come bursting out of a closet wielding an axe. Instead, a red rubber ball rolled into Scarlett’s room, and then she found the rubber gimp suit in a closet. If you’ll recall, in the first season, the red rubber ball was Constance Langdon’s (Jessica Lange) son Beau (Sam Kinsey) trying to get someone to play with him.
When Scarlett tried on the gimp suit, she liked what she saw at first, but putting it on did seem to put some terrifying scream noises in her head — undoubtedly remnants of what Rubberman had done in the past. Scarlett was ripe for the Rubberman suit, though, because it came out later that she is interested in sadomasochism — her dads had to put their foot down about the disturbing pornography they found on her computer. She also masturbated thinking about a girl from school, Maya (Paris Jackson), that turned from a hookup to Scarlett choking Maya. The Rubberman also visited Scarlett in what she thought was a dream, but viewers know better.
The next night, Scarlett donned the gimp suit again, which made her eyes turn big and black. She took a kitchen knife up to her dads’ room where they naturally freaked out, thinking there was an intruder. She revealed herself and claimed it was a joke and they then freaked out for a different reason — why would you wear a used S&M suit?! Seriously. Gross.
Scarlett didn’t want to throw it away, so when Troy-dad tried to remove it, she sliced his arm, which earned her a grounding and some family therapy. Troy-dad also yelled that he wouldn’t be speaking to her for weeks, which — real mature, Troy-dad.
At therapy, the dads revealed that they’re overprotective of Scarlett because when she was 3-years-old she was kidnapped when someone stole their car with Scarlett inside. She was missing for 10 days — they found the car right away, but no Scarlett. Finally, a woman brought Scarlett to a doctor and it came out that the woman’s ex-husband had murdered their own daughter, so she snapped and went looking for a replacement. Scarlett was returned in fine condition and said she doesn’t remember being mistreated, but the dads were worried her predilection for S&M stems from the kidnapping.
The therapist, Dr. Grant (Merrin Dungey), suggested that part of the problem was knowing the terrible things that have happened in their new house and how it affects them. It’s a heaviness, a darkness in the air. She excused herself to use the bathroom, but before she could leave the house, the red rubber ball lured her to the basement door and a Rubberman (who was definitely not Scarlett based on the male shape) stabbed her and threw her down the stairs.
When the dads found the bloody gimp suit near the basement door, they threw it in the fire, which seems ill-advised just from a fumes standpoint, but OK. Then Troy-dad uttered the single funniest line of the whole two episodes: “Wanna get blitzed on Xanax and edibles and watch ‘The Crown’?”
While they checked in with the latest palace intrigue, Scarlett sneaked out to Maya’s slumber party, where Maya and Scarlett went off privately and kissed. Then Maya asked Scarlett to describe the kind of porn she likes and Scarlett’s best friend Shanti (Belissa Escobedo) had to text her to tell her they were live-streaming it for everyone to see and hear. Oooh, those girls didn’t know it, but they were in for a world of hurt.
When Scarlett got home, she called Maya and said she was going to kill herself and leave a detailed note about who was responsible, and Maya and her posse would get arrested just like “those kids at Rutgers” unless they came to Scarlett’s house ASAP. “Slumber party massacre,” indeed.
Scarlett told the girls to go down to the basement where they found Beau’s fort, and Scarlett stabbed them all to death as a jaunty “Tonight You Belong to Me” by Patience & Prudence played. Scarlett then hid the bodies inside an unfinished wall and… busted out her masonry skills by brick-and-mortaring the wall to completion. Sure, yeah, 16-year-olds totally know how to make brick walls. In one night.
Rather hilariously, the therapist was now haunting the house because that’s how the murder house rolls, and she pleaded with Scarlett to have a session with her about murdering four girls, but Scarlett said she had never felt better in her life and then smirked at the Rubberman in the hallway.
The second episode opened with a reenactment of the nurse murder from the first season of “American Horror Story,” with Scarlett finding herself a lesbian murder partner in one of the ghosts named Ruby (Kaia Jordan Gerber). Clearly there had been a little jump in time because Ruby was a new addition to the show — although apparently she had been in the house for a little bit already by the time Scarlett came to live there.
Ruby told Scarlett that she committed suicide in the murder house after growing up with an abusive man she believed was her uncle — only for him to reveal to her on the 16th birthday that, surprise, the parents she thought died in a car crash were actually still alive and living well. She believed they sold her to this man when they were simply done with her.
So now Ruby is another permanent resident of the Murder House, and she encouraged Scarlett to become one as well, so they could be together forever.
The time jump turned out to be two months, as discovered when detectives turned up at the house to ask more questions about the missing Maya and her fellow mean girls. They said they had cell phone records showing that Scarlett called the girls and they drove over to the murder house, but then the phones stopped transmitting any signals.
The detectives suggested that perhaps the dads helped their daughter hurt those girls, so they sent the detectives packing. Meanwhile, the therapist kept trying to talk to Scarlett as Maya’s posse threatened her with, “Is today the day we’re gonna kill you?” But Ruby rode to the rescue and ran the girls off.
Dr. Grant managed to get a session with Scarlett and her dads because, hey, they don’t know Dr. Grant is a ghost. And Michael-dad admitted he was starting to believe in ghosts because he saw the Pigman in the shower, so he suggested they move. But Troy-dad dug his heels in and found a contractor, Adam (Aaron Tveit), to finish the work on the house. Troy-dad confessed to Adam that he had been dipping into Scarlett’s college fund to pay for renovations, so he needed this finished on the cheap.
But Troy-dad got caught flirting with Adam and Michael-dad accused him of perpetrating an act of violence toward their marriage. Troy-dad insisted it wasn’t like that… until the show cut to him giving Adam a blowjob in the basement in exchange for the house renovations.
As the renovations started, a smell began emanating from the bricked-up wall, and Adam and his assistant found the girls’ bodies. Then Adam shockingly murdered his assistant with a hammer, putting the three of them in bed together as murderers and as lovers. He wanted all in — they run a haunted B&B and they all have sex together. Michael-dad tried to kick Adam out, but the Rubberman stabbed Adam to death on the porch, keeping him there into perpetuity.
Suddenly, the dads were surrounded by the house’s ghosts and they tried to run for it, but they found they just looped back around. They couldn’t leave the house because — DUN DUN DUN — they were dead too. Apparently Ruby killed them because she didn’t want anything standing in the way of Scarlett being with her.
The dads tried to process what happened to them with Dr. Grant, who revealed she was “working with the other therapist who’s trapped here on a book for all of us.” Bwahaha. A nice nod to Dylan McDermott’s Ben Harmon.
But anyway, Scarlett told her dads that she was going to keep seeing her girlfriend, and they naturally took issue with the fact that her lover is their murderer. But the fact that they were dead and she was not meant she was basically emancipated, so she and Ruby headed out to a Halloween celebration because, remember, the ghosts can leave the house on Halloween.
Maya and co. overheard that they can leave the house and set out to kill Scarlett outside of the house, which would have been quite the tragic ending to this episode.
At the Halloween bash, Shanti confronted Scarlett about being a psychopath and killing Maya and her friends, and told Scarlett she didn’t want her in her life anymore. Maya and her posse then threatened Shanti, and Ruby saved her, telling Shanti that a friend of Scarlett’s is a friend of hers. But Shanti said she’s not much of a friend if she’s keeping Scarlett from living her life.
In a haunted house, Maya and co. tried to kill Scarlett, and Ruby told her to run home. Scarlett was saved but later broke up with Ruby because she wanted to live outside of the murder house. After apologizing to Maya and co., Scarlett went inside to gather her things while Maya’s minion Nicole (Valerie Loo) told her brother, who saw her at the Halloween party, to tell the police they would find all the bodies in the house, and Ruby said he could tell the police that she did it.
Ruby told her dads goodbye, saying she’d go abroad and wouldn’t have to worry about money now that they’re dead. They had a tearful goodbye and then Scarlett said goodbye to Ruby and left.
Fast forward 10 months and Michael-dad was making pancakes for everyone when Scarlett called to check in. Scarlett told Ruby that she found her fake uncle and today was his last day on earth. And every year on Halloween, Scarlett would come back to the house to spend some time with her love. The episode ended with Ruby delivering voiceover about how much that meant to her, but the future image was not of Scarlett too much older than previously seen. Since the series delivers new stories each week, viewers won’t learn definitively if Scarlett ever stopped visiting the house or found herself a live girlfriend. Instead, the audience just has to process whether or not this love story had a happy ending when the women could only be together one day out of the year.
It was an interesting first episode, to be sure, featuring a lot of good callbacks to the first season without getting too bogged down in that season’s characters or plot. Will subsequent episodes of “American Horror Stories” touch on different seasons of the show — next week “Asylum,” the week after “Coven”? That would be cool, but with only seven episodes for the season they wouldn’t get to every previous season of “American Horror Story,” so they may have gone a different way for future episodes’ inspiration.
“American Horror Stories” drops new episodes Thursdays on FX on Hulu.