With “Dollhouse,” the first episode of Season 2, American Horror Stories tells viewers that it is still difficult to establish its own entity. Last names that refer to AHS Universe relations (AHSU?) can be amusing, but they’re nothing new. American Horror Storylines, on the other hand, appears to be relying too heavily on its predecessor since it isn’t confident enough in its stories.
Even if it happens at the last minute, “Dollhouse” unfortunately falls into this category. Mr. Van Wilt, played by the inimitable Denis O’Hare, kidnaps Kristine Froseth’s Coby Dellum (who threw those letters together to form a name). By showing us exactly what is happening, when, and why, American Horror Stories undermines the audience’s intelligence in a subtle but notable way. There are no hints to decode because they’re explained to us as soon as they’re introduced.
The fact that Coby needs to be taught these things since she’s the newcomer is understandable. But rather than “fear for our life,” it comes across as more like reading from cue cards. The performance by the “dolls” more than makes up for the awkward screenplay. To be clear, most recent and even classic scare fests insist on providing their characters (who make it out alive) a happily ever after.
That’s wonderful! Unless, of course, it isn’t. These pleasant endings don’t feel deserved at this time, especially with American Horror Story and its spinoff.
To be fair, I am still trying to reconcile seeing a woman so stupid (yet compassionate) as to go back for the murderer’s child. Despite the fact that she is saved by witches from — you guessed it! — Miss Robicheaux’s Academy, it comes with an eye roll because, of course, Coby is saved, and of course, it is by witches. Not that the tale is horrible; after all, American Horror Stories has always been marketed as an offshoot of the main series.
The only way this isn’t just rewriting Coven is if they keep enabling tales to be resolved and events and locations to be surrounded by their previous work. One positive aspect of each of these shows is that it doesn’t rely solely upon pre-existing settings and people for their success. American Horror Stories has ceased to exist as a stand-alone show and has become fully reliant on the original American Horror Story.
It’s a disappointment because while the tie-ins can be entertaining, I’d much rather have seen some new material.