In this episode of American Horror Story, microwave ovens were invented by aliens—along with everything else—John F. Kennedy was assassinated to keep him from revealing the truth about aliens to the American people, and Steve Jobs isn’t dead but is actually with the aliens and the human test subjects they’ve abducted over the years.
It was fun to watch as more information about the aliens unfolded and about just how much power and influence they supposedly had on U.S. technological advancement—hence the commentary made by Kendall’s (Kaia Gerber, American Horror Stories) Luddite cult leader in his college course—though it was especially fun to see the typical comments made by the government and government officials in media when discussing situations such as national security and wars being applied to the aliens.
For example, John F. “Jack” Kennedy (Mike Vogel, The Brave) is shocked that they tried to keep the alien treaty a secret from him, the President, as if the CIA hadn’t lied to Congress about spying on the American people, albeit in the future, and that the government branches don’t hide even more information from the sitting President on a regular basis.
Beyond that, however, are the various rationalizations and justifications which make up the bulk of the 50’s timeline this episode. Even Ike (Neal McDonough, The Flash) himself had argued in favor of the treaty to some extent when pitching it to JFK—whose comment on the alien treaty being a hazing ritual for all presidents was a rather clever idea and should be implemented—and the man later finds himself with his own reservations down the road when it comes to their partnership with the aliens. It was also interesting to see Ike pass down the responsibility of the alien treaty and negotiation to JFK because he didn’t want to be the one to deal with it, as that was the exact process conducted by multiple Presidents when it came to the Vietnam War; none of them wanted to lose, so they just kept sacrificing thousands of lives under the guise of patriotism.
Speaking of: it was disappointing, but not at all a surprise, to hear patriotism, the safety of the American spirit, and other meaningless pro-America platitudes be used to absolve the President and all others of guilt, and justify their informed decision to allow aliens to abduct and experiment on five thousand U.S. citizens a year in exchange for advanced alien technology like the microwave oven.
Despite that, these platitudes and rationalizations were the most interesting part of this timeline’s section—and it also relates to the rationalizations made by the vampires in the first half of the ‘Double Feature.’ Mamie Eisenhower’s (Sarah Paulson, Ratched) delivery of these lines, as well as her entire character, was as interesting and complex as she had been foreshadowed to be when she was first introduced. Although, there was no clear indication as to where Mamie ended and the alien began, though it seemed she was possessed when the aliens first appeared and, by the time JFK was in office, she had been released from her alive captor which, coupled with the existence of the alien treaty, seems to indicate that Ike winds up agreeing. Regardless, she was a great character and hopefully will make more of a fuss before the end of the season.
It was disappointing when Amelia Earhart (Lily Rabe, Tell Me Your Secrets) died, as she could have played a larger role with the alien treaty and general decisions, as, unlike JFK, there weren’t any real dates that needed to be followed to maintain the veil of reality. While Ike was already being given advice from his possessed wife and Richard Nixon (Craig Sheffer, One Tree Hill)—who was, entertainingly enough, as much of a joke in this episode as he was in real life—seeing him turn to Amelia for advice and potentially result in friction amongst the group would have been interesting, though, for the sake of time, it made sense not to linger on her more than what was strictly necessary which, in this case, was the birth of the first alien baby.
The alien baby plot thread tied directly to the modern-day timeline which managed to cram a good amount of plot and exposition into a short amount of time, which deserves acknowledgment given that it was decently done, especially since almost half of it was dedicated only to them driving recklessly and getting ultrasounds of the alien fetuses, which clearly have an accelerated gestation period; this begs the question of whether Amelia Earhart had only just been impregnated when they found her in the previous episode or if the aliens made changes over time, though the timeline in the 50’s so vague that it’s difficult to make sense of when things occur.
Regardless, back in the modern timeline, while it wasn’t a surprise to see the men in black appear to kidnap the group to run tests on them, it was a surprise that they killed the doctor in such a messy way. The alien midwife, Theta (Angelica Ross, Pose), in the white lab chamber was visually interesting, what with the zero-gravity suspension despite the midwife adhering to the typical force of gravity, though the scene would have been more interesting had she spoken with Jamie (Rachel Hilson, Love, Victor).
Kendall had been pretending to be knowledgeable the entire episode, and Jamie seemed to have more connection to the aliens than the others, as well as a different deposition, so her questions and comments could have been more compelling than the typical, “why are you doing this?” and “please, just let us go,” that Kendall gave.
Not only would Jamie have been a more interesting character of the group to interact with the midwife—not to mention the most logical choice, given how the show thus far has set her up as a character seem more in tune with the aliens than the others are—but as the only person of color pregnant with an alien hybrid in the room, it would have been ample opportunity for some kind of alien perspective regarding the people they choose, as all the main characters of the 50’s timeline are white, though there were more people of color in the next scene, but the point still stands.
Even just visually, the midwife’s dark skin already contrasts so greatly with the white room and clothing all the subjects wear, showing the contrast between her and Jamie’s skin against each others’ and the white would have been a sharper, more visually interesting shot.
Then again, she is the token person of color, so no one should be surprised they chose to have the main character of the group be the white girl instead; disappointed, but not surprised.
The final scene by far was the most interesting, and it was a great way to end a rather average episode; other than the very beginning when JFK was introduced and assassinated, it was all rather bland. But Isaac Powell’s (Modern Love) performance when Troy’s hybrid baby was preparing to come out was incredibly strong, and it was a great callback to the aftermath of Amelia’s scene; it hadn’t been readily apparent that the birth was anything other than a natural one, as the blood on her wasn’t out-of-place, but considering the way Troy’s baby seemed to eat and claw its way out his body, Amelia’s baby may have entered the world in a similar way.
But above all, it was another great Alien reference, and that’s what really matters.
Overall, this was a good episode. Other than Isaac Powell’s performance, the highlights were the Alien references and the little tongue-in-cheek jokes, like Richard Nixon, aliens inventing the microwave oven, and the JFK assassination conspiracy theory. With only two more episodes in this part of the ‘Double Feature,’ it will be interesting to see how ‘Death Valley’ wraps up.