American Horror Story: 1984 wrapped up its nine-episode season last night with “Final Girl,” which—despite some spectacular moments of bloodshed—pulled the ultimate AHS bait-and-switch and gave its delightfully entertaining slasher story a most unexpected ending.
A happy ending! A tear-jerking, totally sincere, unapologetically happy ending, set to 1988 cheeseball classic “The Living Years” by Mike + the Mechanics! Sure, most of the characters in the episode are actually dead—the victims of Camp Redwood, forever frozen in the 1980s (or whatever decade in which they were massacred)—but irony is dead, too. American Horror Story simply adores doing the exact opposite of what you expect, and the earnest “Final Girl” might be the ultimate example so far.
Over nine episodes—though it was the shortest AHS season to date, it was the perfect amount of time to tell its story, so kudos to Ryan Murphy and FX for resisting the urge to add any padding—1984 morphed from note-perfect summer-camp slasher homage (complete with totally tubular 1980s outfits, hair, cultural references, and nostalgic tunes) into something that also encompassed true crime and the study of serial killers, a ghostly mystery, two Death Row jailbreaks, multiple redemption stories, and one of the coldest villains AHS has ever seen in Margaret Booth (Leslie Grossman).
As the title suggests, the bulk of 1984 takes place in 1984, but the season also gave us plenty of context-supplying flashbacks (including a glimpse at Camp Redwood, circa 1948) and flash-forwards. The finale takes us all the way up to 2019, as Bobby (Finn Wittrock)—the long-lost son of falsely convicted Camp Redwood boogeyman Mr. Jingles (John Carroll Lynch)—shows up looking for answers about the father who vanished when he was a baby. Fortunately, the first ghost he meets is Montana (Billie Lourd), who’s mellowed out a lot in the past three decades, and has become a much more compassionate person in her afterlife. The same isn’t true for the Satan-powered Richard Ramirez (Zach Villa), who still has zero chill, to the point where the ghosts (including Chef Bertie!) take turns killing him and waiting for him to revive so they can kill him again.
This is a lot for Bobby to take in, especially when he realises that he’s Ramirez’s number one target, but he catches on fast enough to realise that some of the closure he seeks actually lies outside of Camp Redwood’s borders. In the land of the living, he tracks down Donna (Angelica Ross), who’s now running the asylum where she helped Mr. Jingles escape all those years ago; together, they find out that Brooke (Emma Roberts) managed to survive her wounds after trying to kill Margaret in 1989, and has been living a quietly comfortable life in Oregon ever since. She’s also been sending money anonymously to Bobby, hoping to help him build a life away from the cycle of Camp Redwood violence that claimed his grandmother (Lily Rabe), namesake uncle, and father.
For all the episode’s talk about “final girls”—as slasher fans well know, that’s the term used to describe the lone female survivor in films like Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc.—1984 actually settles on a final guy, as Bobby makes his way back to the camp for the second time, hoping to finally make contact with his father. Though Margaret Booth, who’s reassembled her Ivana Trump bouffant in purgatory after a spectacular wood-chipper death in 1989—tries to get in the way, there’s no stopping this weird reunion from beyond the grave. The ‘80s will never die!
As for what’s next for AHS, show creator Murphy wouldn’t divulge any potential themes in a recent Deadline interview, but he did note that since it “might be our last season.” And his idea revolves around “reuniting fan-favourite actors to come back…the people who helped build this show into what it is, who believed in it from the beginning, have been contacted [for roles on the show] and are interested.”
Sounds like good news for the Sarah Paulson faithful.