It’s been a shame to see American Horror Stories struggle so much to merge the shock value the franchise has been known for with quality storytelling. It seems that the episodes have largely leaned one way or the other. They either go for an average story that doesn’t quite feel like an American Horror Story tale or produce a cringey body horror episode that falls flat on characterization. This changes with this week’s episode, entitled “Necro,” that marries the shock value fans can expect from American Horror Story while also telling a heartbreaking tale through a profound character arc.
Right off the bat, the episode leans into American Horror Story’s shock value by having a young toddler breastfeed off of her dead mother. It seemed as if the story was going to be all about shock as that girl (Madison Iseman) grew up to be a mortician. Surprisingly, the story fleshes out her life as someone who is deeply traumatized and unable to form a meaningful relationship because of her history with death. After an incident of necrophilia, the story ultimately ends on a horrifically beautiful note as she ends up finding true love in a truly macabre finale.
The one downside to the episode is that it largely leaves out any of the supernatural aspects that American Horror Story has become known for, but that’s actually fine. Not every episode has to feature ghosts or witches. What is important is that an episode features strong characterization and thematic elements. Too often, American Horror Story and its spinoff sacrifices that in the name shocking the audience. Fortunately, this episode has found a way to actually tell its story by creating plot points that are intrinsically shocking. These moments are not just thrown in there for the sake of shock. They have relevance towards character growth and the overall plot. Hopefully, the rest of the season is just as strong.
American Horror Stories streams Thursdays on Hulu.