“Requiem 1981/1987 Part Two” is American Horror Story: NYC’s grand finale and an absolute work of art. It’s probably one of my favorite AHS season conclusions across the board because it not only wraps up questions but also provides amazing symbolism as an answer. The entire montage with Gino is also heart-wrenchingly gorgeous.
The episode opens on another New York crime scene, but this time it’s in an apartment that Adam, played by Charlie Carver (Ratched, Hollywood), knows all too well. It’s Dr. Hannah Wells, and she’s been reported dead. Murdered, in fact. The police claim it was natural causes, but Adam is positive that it could only be the massive leather clad man that would ever do such a thing.
As Adam listens to all of Dr. Wells’ old voice recordings, he breaks down. The grief is so palpable and believable that it’s almost a hard scene to watch – I felt like I was intruding. Adam continues to listen, learning that Hannah specifically asked him to be the sperm donor for her child because she wanted to infect herself with the mysterious virus. She wanted to dedicate her body to science, essentially. Obviously, this comes as a shock to Adam and all those viewing the episode, myself included.
As Hannah said this, I came to the realization that the leather man was never actually a person. His body disappeared when they thought they’d caught him, he never killed any lesbians or women that had never had relations with a gay man. The leather man represents and is (what is later confirmed to be) AIDs. Having a figure that is physically the largest stereotype of homosexuality (a large, buff man clad in leather and chains) represent AIDs is ingenious and incredibly artistic on Ryan Murphy’s part. This entire time, we’ve sat in wait for the murderer reveal, but it turns out it’s simply this monster they’ve created themselves. Perhaps they’ve personified it out of fear – if it’s just human, they can run and hide – with a virus, you cannot.
Following this experience, Adam becomes a staunch advocate for safe sex, but there’s only so much he can do besides spread awareness. All of his friends are dying.
Fast forward to 1987, and it’s finally confirmed that this mysterious virus is, in fact, AIDs. Gino, played by Joe Mantello (The Boys in the Band, Hollywood), aimlessly wanders around NYC. He picks up his meds, he tries to write, and he even participates in protests for AIDs and gay rights. However, as much as he tries to find meaning for his life, he’s utterly alone. Patrick’s reflection follows him, like a ghost, but nothing is the same without him. The leather man lurks in every dark corner where Patrick is not. The majority of the second half of this episode is wordless, just action to music. Some may find it boring, but I found it incredible. The song choice, paired with Gino’s absolute loneliness, even while he’s surrounded by people, gave me a chilling and empty feeling. I assume that was Murphy’s goal.
As the years pass and Gino continues to disassociate and more and more lesions appear on his body, he dies alone in his bed. The episode closes with his funeral. Adam stands in front of the guests, posed to speak. He will continue to be a voice for those who have passed.
After all, what’s more of an American horror story than the AIDs epidemic?