Spoilers ahead for the final of American Horror Story: NYC.
FX’s American Horror Story is a bonafide TV sensation, helping to revolutionize anthology shows for modern television, and featuring stellar casts. The Ryan Murphy series recently wrapped its whopping 11th season on the air, titled AHS: NYC. The season was a return to one long narrative after the duel story of Double Feature, and featured the return of franchise favorites like Star Trek actor Zachary Quinto, Billie Lourd, and Dennis O’Hare. And while I originally enjoyed the season’s contained story and strong performances, the last two episodes were hard for me to even get through. In fact, AHS: NYC’s finale is still bothering me weeks later.
Throughout American Horror Story: NYC we were dealing with a few plot points. One was the serial killer Mr. Whitely played by Jeff Hiller. Then there was the hulking masked figure known as Big Daddy, who seemingly worked for Quinto’s Sam. And finally there was the mysterious disease being investigated by Billie Lourd’s Dr. Hannah Wells. The latter felt like more of an afterthought, until the last two episodes ended up becoming a drama about the AIDS epidemic. Let’s break it all down, and I’ll explain why the latest American Horror Story finale was such a let down for me.
As gripping as the death montage was, the Big Daddy reveal was a let down.
The two-part finale of American Horror Story NYC was titled “Requiem 1981/1987”, and both were released on FX November 16th. The episodes featured a time jump, and killed off the majority of the cast of characters. This includes Billie Lourd’s character, who was not even given the dignity of dying on camera. Although they weren’t murdered by the mysterious Big Daddy… kind of. Mostly because Big Daddy wasn’t actually a real person at all.
In the finale of AHS: NYC it was eventually revealed that the masked killer Big Daddy was actually a metaphor all along. He was the representation of death, rather than another physical murderer. The episode ended with a gorgeous montage which saw countless queer men walk into a grave, while protagonist Gino (Joe Mantello) battles AIDS and avoids Big Daddy for years. While the sequence itself was ambitious and Mantello’s performance was strong, I was let down by this narrative choice. Big Daddy was a mystery that surrounded the entire season, and so to not actually have anyone under the mask felt underwhelming.
The last two AHS: NYC episodes shifting from horror to an AIDS drama was a misstep.
Aside from the Big Daddy of it all, my biggest issue with the finale of American Horror Story: NYC was the way the last two episodes transformed the show from a spooky series to a devastating meditation on the AIDS crisis. While throughout the season we heard about a mysterious virus and even saw skin lesions on characters, I truly thought that AHS was going to flip the script and make it about something other than HIV. I was wrong.
In the end, NYC’s finale didn’t feel like American Horror Story at all, but more like an episode of Pose or a scene from The Normal Heart. While Ryan Murphy has made great strides in representing the truth of the AIDS epidemic, I thought it felt out of place in AHS. The performances were powerful, but I had a hard time even getting through the final two episodes. Mostly because it’s hard for me as an LGBTQ+ man to watch so much gay pain. It’s for this reason that I had to turn off Dahmer, another Ryan Murphy production, after its grueling premiere episode. And while the gruesome content of that series is to be expected, ending American Horror Story: NYC the way it did felt out of place, and almost ruined the entire season for me. It’s definitely not a chapter I’d be down for revisiting, as fans often do with iconic entries like Murder House and Coven.
American Horror Story is expected to return for a 12th season on FX, although those plans are being kept under wraps. In the meantime, check out the 2023 TV premiere list to plan your next binge watch.
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Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.