American Horror Story: NYC (Season 11), Episodes 9 and 10: So it wasn’t a reunion after all. Nor was it anything that you’ve previously experienced in 11 years of the Murphy-Falchuk-universe. Looking back, AHS has been everything horror could be. It’s been campy, it’s been gory, it’s been scary, and it has even been depressing. But most of all, AHS has always been brave in its mad endeavors. Every season has pushed the boundaries of the peculiar and conjured up spirits and ghouls–killers and lunatics. Even Trump demons have MAGA-ed the wrecked streets of America. While some groaned about the lack of familiarity in the latest season, it is also Murphy and Falchuk’s long-awaited attempt at breaking out of the safe pattern of getting all the favorites together in a madhouse world.
But we expected something new, didn’t we? Especially after aliens tried to crossbreed with humans and take over the world in the last season. Yeah, it had the familiar mumbling cries of Sarah Paulson and the sexy evil of Cody Fern. But it was still considerably detached from the usual style of AHS. That said, season 11 is still the farthest the show has gone to birth something new and unexpected.
Big Daddy unboxing and “is it AIDS? “It’s AIDS, isn’t it?” have been the expected vibe for the final two episodes, whether this season has satisfied your ghoulish cravings. Awful deaths of pivotal characters and the hauntings remind you that you’re watching AHS; all of your questions are answered in the finale. But you’re also getting way more than you bargained for.
American Horror Story: NYC (Season 11): Episodes 9 and 10: Recap
A group of tuxed men flocks to say their goodbyes to Theo. Sam is surprisingly present in the mourn-gathering and not so surprisingly collapses from the same disease that took the avant-garde photographer. Waking up in a gloomy, blurry hospital, Sam is met with scrubbed Billy and Theo, who are medical professionals in his feverish, hardly conscious state. “A Christmas Carol” -ish apparition Theo strings Sam along in his morbid purgatory and gives him a look at the pain he has caused. The stroll ends in Sam’s very room, with his out-of-body miserable consciousness seeing himself struggle in the helpless hospital bed without any loved ones.
What looks like death but isn’t wake Sam up encaged in endless darkness, and who do we have here? It’s Henry in a cop outfit, ready to force Sam into facing his trauma. Leather dom Big Daddy mercilessly whips Sam’s father, and his first homophobic boss’ nipples see a far worse outcome. In a flashback, Sam’s rough childhood outing with his bully father ends with his eardrum getting burst and bleeding when his dad shoots a gun too close to the “limp-wrist” kid’s head.
You would think his purgatory would end here. But no. He still has some running to do, and now he’s on the Fire Island beach running away from Big Daddy while the gorgeous deer-men, who now Theo is a part of, keep watch. Playing referee between death and Sam, Henry convinces Sam to stop and take a look at Big Daddy. Removing the giant phantom’s mask, Sam finds a beautiful blonde, whom he kisses and gets accepted into the arm of death softly. Henry scatters Sam’s lonesome ashes into the sea.
Jump to 1987, the disease has a name it is, no shock to anyone, AIDS, and now Patrick is in the same hospital suffering from the very deadly HIV. The virus has taken his eyes and strength, and most importantly, there is no cure. Gino is enraged by the lack of care and treatment Patrick receives in the hospital. When alone, blind Patrick is visited by the apparition of his dead wife, Barbara, in a wedding dress. It is now Patrick’s turn to walk through his purgatory.
He is brought back to the wholesome moment of meeting Gino for the first time and yanked back to the time he kisses a male coworker in a vulnerable moment and throws him under the bus to protect his reputation. His horrors don’t end here. The diseased ex-cop finds himself in the Mai Tai killer’s murder room, and Patrick is, in a way, the Frankensteinian sentinel. Barbara reminds him of the countless times he has been shattered and has put himself back together. What remained of him was a botched-up, sewn-up soul that carried on, causing the pain that had started before him. He is back in the hospital bed, now losing his battle with AIDS and being carried into the afterlife with the angelic Kathy singing “calling you.”
On his way back from the funeral, Adam runs into a gathering of law enforcement in front of Hannah’s apartment. Devastated by the news of her death, Adam enters her apartment with Big Daddy looking over him. He finds Hannah’s tape recorder, and in a manic process of figuring it out, he concludes that the disease is sexually transmitted. He begs medical professionals to take it seriously and find a way to fight it before it’s too late. Not about to sit down and do nothing, Adam puts up safe sex awareness posters and even shows up at Kathy’s bathhouse with boxes of condoms.
American Horror Story: NYC (Season 11) Episodes 9 and 10: Ending Explained
Who is Big Daddy?
Gino sits at Patrick’s funeral with a bottle of AZT in his pocket. In a ghostly montage, he sees Big Daddy digging a grave and an endless line of men dropping dead into the grave. The entire city is now faced with a very real disease that’s here to stay. But it isn’t like Gino to do anything in the face of the extreme. Even with his cancer worsening, Gino becomes an active part of the protest against the indifference shown for a community that is dropping dead like flies.
On his way to move on, manic with his desperation, Gino visits bars and pubs but is never without the image of Big Daddy hanging over him. In an entire sequence throbbing at the beat of Kraftwerk, the leather-masked death bringer destroys everything around Gino. He wrecks the bar patrons and shoots up his coworkers at The Native’s office. Even in Adam’s imagination of how he has gotten the disease, the person he got intimate with takes the form of Big Daddy.
Although never directly answered in the show, Big Daddy seems to be an angel of death and the phantom-like manifestation of AIDS. This grim reaper haunts every character with a close brush with death or straight-up death. In the last montage, Big Daddy represents AIDS, brutalizing everyone around Gino. But he still doesn’t give up. Not even trying to hide the new lesions on him, Gino walks through the devastated streets of the contaminated city. But as death will come for everyone, it comes for Gino too. Lying in the casket in a room full of loved ones and admirers, Gino’s fight has ended, but there’s still Adam.
American Horror Story: NYC (Season 11): Review
This isn’t the first time American Horror Story has seasoned its horror with actual incidents. Real-life crimes have haunted LA-based seasons, and even currently relevant conspiracy theories have been used as a host for the supernatural parasite to make a home. The debunking of conspiracies in NYC is the most impressive and equally shocking coming from Murphy. Could he have taken an easy road to appease the fans that just wanted a quick, familiar fix for the major missing and developed on Fran’s bizarre conceptions? Yeah. But I’m glad the campy creator duo decided not to go heavy on the mystic and the supernatural for a season dealing with genuine horror.
Let’s face it. Nobody needed a reminder of the gruesome disease because nobody had forgotten it. But AHS: NYC is not about reminders or awareness. It’s about acknowledging the horror that took place in the epidemic. The season didn’t rely on overdramatic sympathy tropes to communicate the urgency and the pain of the abused community at a time of even worse intolerance. Instead, we were given characters brave enough to die fighting, flawed enough not to justify veiled homophobia by being the “perfect gay,” and, most essentially, real enough to root for.
The friendly pack being absent has been a thing of unpleasant suspicion towards the credibility of the season. But if I can vouch for anything as a long-term fan–they weren’t missed. Murphy and Falchuk know how to immerse you into a brand new story entirely, and season 11 has been a glaring proof of that.