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What to Know About American Horror Story ‘Double Feature’

After a two year hiatus, American Horror Story has returned! The tenth season, entitled ‘Double Feature,’ premiered on FX on Wed., Aug. 25th. Much buzz surrounding the new season has risen online due to the return of a number of mainstay actors who had been absent for the past one or two seasons. Notably, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Frances Conroy, and Finn Wittrock have returned to the series, all in significant roles. In typical American Horror Story fashion, there are a number of standout newcomers to the cast, including Macaulay Culkin, and child actress Ryan Kiera Armstrong. In the mere four episodes that have aired since the season premiere, it is clear that the ensemble of characters is what will carry the season.

The subtitle ‘Double Feature’ alludes to the fact that the season will be broken into two halves, each with different plotlines. The first part, ‘Red Tide,’ will comprise the first six episodes, while the second, ‘Death Valley,’ will comprise the final four episodes. There is a significant lack of suspense compared to prior seasons. This can most likely be attributed to the fact that ‘Red Tide’s’ story is portrayed in six episodes as opposed to the usual 10-12 in prior seasons.

‘Red Tide’ stars Finn Wittrock as Harry Gardner, a struggling screenwriter, who moves his pregnant wife (Lily Rabe) and musically-inclined daughter (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) to Provincetown, MA for the winter in order to gain inspiration for a new script. Along the way, Harry becomes acquainted with writers Belle Noir (Frances Conroy) and Austin Sommers (Evan Peters), who are also in Provincetown for the winter writing season. This pair holds a dark secret, which they choose to share with Harry. This sends him on a downward spiral, which cannot be elaborated on without providing spoilers. All I will say is that this particular half of ‘Double Feature’ is quite reminiscent of the aspects of horror that were explored back in season five (‘Hotel’). Things begin to heat up in the first episode; about halfway through, the overall vibe changes, as well as the behaviors of a number of significant characters. In the four episodes that have aired thus far, there has not been a dull moment. However, there are a few aspects of the plot that have yet to connect to the overarching story. Once these loose ends are tied up, things will become far less perplexing. 

As always, Wittrock, Peters, Paulson, Rabe, and Conroy deliver outstanding performances. Adina Porter and Leslie Grossman also return to the cast, in supporting roles, and give fantastic performances. It is the newcomers that I wish to discuss. Macaulay Culkin, known for his childhood portal of Kevin in Home Alone, portrays a strung-out male prostitute who has aspirations of writing Hollywood blockbusters. While Culkin’s character is considered a supporting character thus far, I anticipate that he will play a much bigger role than expected. Culkin brings a compelling energy to the series; his acting is spot-on, but his style is quite different from that of the mainstay actors. His presence really spices up ‘Red Tide,’ because he has this natural way of making audiences feel connected to his character, regardless of how much they want to dislike him. 

Another scene-stealer is 11-year old Ryan Kiera Armstrong. Although a newcomer to the American Horror Story franchise, Armstrong gives a chilling performance of the musical prodigy, Alma Gardner. She manages to conjure up a mysterious aura for her character from the second she appears on screen. Armstrong portrays Alma so minimalistically that it is difficult to believe she is so young; not even some seasoned professionals are able to pull this off in the way that Armstrong does in ‘Red Tide.’ It would be a shame if she is not brought on as a mainstay for future seasons.

‘Death Valley’ is anticipated to provide a bit of clarification for the alien subplot back in season two (‘Asylum’). Much confusion surrounding the aliens in ‘Asylum’ still looms, and fans are anxious to know if this will be cleared up in season ten. ‘Death Valley’ has been announced to revolve around extraterrestrial activity in the 1950s, which is roughly 10 years prior to the events of ‘Asylum.’ Since season four (‘Freak Show’), each season has tied into others in some way, so a connection between ‘Asylum’ and ‘Death Valley’ is not far-fetched. Sarah Paulson and Leslie Grossman will star in ‘Death Valley’ as well, with the addition of Cody Fern, who became a mainstay back in season eight (‘Apocalypse’). 

The first four episodes of American Horror Story can currently be streamed on Hulu. New episodes are available through Hulu on Thursdays, a day after they premiere on cable television.

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