American Horror Story: Double Feature (Red Tide) – Gaslight (Episode 5) Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
American Horror Story: Red Tide gets back to its present-day story where Harry (Finn Wittrock) and Doris’ (Lily Rabe) baby arrives as their family and Provincetown begins to fall apart.
Tensions within this series’ central couple’s household have reached a breaking point as Harry and Alma’s (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) dirty little secret is no longer a secret. Doris’ homecoming comes with dangerous cravings as Alma hungers for her new baby brother’s pure blood and more attempts from Alma to cut her out of the family entirely. Alma becomes an absolute monster in this episode as her obsession with her talents grows immensely and makes her willingly to destroy others for it – especially her mother. With Ursula (Leslie Grossman), who also goes on a power trip here, on her side, Alma showcases one of the most horrific and cruelest displays of gaslighting I’ve ever seen.
After Doris sees Alma snacking on her newborn brother’s leg, reality is completely blurred for her, and she’s pushed to the brink of insanity. Alma and Ursula slowly break her down by getting in her head about Harry being more talented than her and subtly guilt-tripping her into taking the pill. It’s some of the most psychologically horrifying moments of the entire series and Armstrong gives her strongest performance yet. She really makes Alma such a complex, two-faced character here with how she slyly shifts from being sweet and innocent to conniving and cruel. It’s absolutely insane to watch Alma try to push the pill on Doris and she’s easily one of the cunning and unexpectedly ferocious characters we’ve seen in this series. If it wasn’t clear before, Armstrong makes it clear now that she is the breakout star of Red Tide.
Doris’ journey throughout this episode is a psychological nightmare and leads to an expected but heartbreaking result for her future. After she’s worn down by people telling her that she’s crazy, her designs are atrocious, and that she needs the pill in order to be as successful as Harry, Doris is at her breaking point. It’s really sad to realize where things are going and when Alma finally breaks her to get her to take the pill, your heart breaks for Doris because it’s clear that she’s going to turn pale. Just from things in this series tends to go and Alma being against her so much, it’s obvious that Doris won’t see success like her family and will become a vicious pale person. The transformation is absolutely devastating and the reactions from Alma, Ursula, and Harry are downright despicable.
It’s no surprise that Alma and Ursula knew this was going to happen all along and really only wanted to give her the pill to cut her loose. However, Harry’s turn is a tad surprising, just a tad, simply because he seemed so loving towards her and just wanted to protect her. However, it’s clear that Alma was right about him believing that she wasn’t going to be worthy of the pill and his big speech to her proves what a selfish bastard he really is. It turns out that the hunger for blood isn’t the only cost of obtaining talent from the pill as you’ll also have to sell your soul. Doris receives one of the cruelest fates I’ve seen in the series as she’s sent off by her family to live as a bloodhungry husk roaming around Provincetown and the smiles seen from Alma, Harry, and Ursula are sickening. They’ve really gained that sense of entitlement that makes everyone they view lesser than them disposable and they’ve become the same type of villains that Belle (Frances Conroy) and Austin (Evan Peters) are.
Basically, the only redeemable souls left in Provincetown are that of Mickey (Macaulay Culkin) and Tuberculosis Karen (Sarah Paulson) and that too dwindles in this episode. Mickey is living the high life on his Speed Racer success, which is such an odd but delightful anime for this series to reference, and Karen is incredibly upset that he’s turn into the entitled demons that Belle and Austin are. Although she hasn’t taken the pill, Karen has begun to paint again, but that’s unfortunately ruined by Belle coming around demanding that she steal Doris’ baby. It’s a demand that devastates her since she’s had to do it before and Belle coming around actually adds some important lore surrounding the pale people. Apparently, the pale people won’t feed on other bloodsuckers, pale or not, or people they have around them. Honestly, it’s a little strange that such an important piece of lore is being introduced now, but it makes sense given the impact it has in this episode.
Although Culkin makes Mickey a very likeable character, his forcing of Karen to take the pill against her will by letting the pale people attack her is just plain cruel. However, it doesn’t come without its comeuppance as Karen unexpectedly kills him on the beach and then, even more surprisingly, kills herself by slitting her wrists and happily walking into the ocean. It’s a total shocker to see two characters with the potential to change the power tide in Provincetown go out so suddenly like this. It is fitting though since Mickey had now turned into a monster himself and Karen couldn’t live with herself as a bloodsucker. Now though, there’s this giant hole in who could possibly stop these entitled bloodsuckers, but maybe this episode has already hinted at it. The pale people have had a growing presence in the last few episodes and with a notable character like Doris being one of them now, there could be a pale revolution in the near future.
Red Tide sets up its finale incredibly well with damaging gaslighting that has Doris become a pale person and possibility sets up a revolution that will change the tide in Provincetown for good and create an all-out bloodbath.