One could forgive viewers for missing the return of American Horror Story on FX and Hulu. The series, known for its spoilerphobic minimal marketing, had difficulty competing for attention against larger shows. But the series — which dropped a double-episode premiere on Oct. 19 — is a return to form and an excellent reason to settle back into the AHS fandom. Moreover, the promo for American Horror Story Season 11 promises a double shot next week, with Episodes 3 and 4 arriving back-to-back.
Warning: Spoilers for American Horror Story Season 11, Episodes 1 and 2 follow. American Horror Story’s latest season is AHS: NYC. As an early 1980s-set period piece, it focuses on the dawn of the AIDS crisis, mixed with a fictionalized tale of someone targeting gay men in the community while the authorities do nothing.
The parallels are apparent — as doctors begin documenting cases of Kaposi’s Sarcoma in June 1981, the murderer starts striking. In both cases, those on the ground in the trenches have to fight to get their superiors to take the problem seriously. Those who have gifts of second sight, or any psychic abilities, complain that they feel something terrible is coming, a repeated theme in the first two episodes. In the context of the show, it refers to the murders. Still, in the larger scheme, it references that 337 people will succumb to AIDS-related complications that year in the U.S., the opening bell of an epidemic that will wipe out almost an entire generation.
American Horror Story Season 11’s next two episodes are titled “Smoke Signals” and “Black Out, respectively.” The synopsis for the season’s third episode reads, “Without the NYPD’s help, Gino is forced to get resourceful. A traumatizing event brings dangerous suspects closer than ever.” The synopsis for the fourth installment says, “As darkness consumes the city, evil takes root in the unlikeliest of places...”
Viewers should be aware that although New York City has a history of island-wide blackouts, there was not one that happened in 1981. If Episode 4’s title is literal, it will be a fictionalized event. However, the summer of 1981 was only four years after one of the city’s most famous blackouts, the 1977 “Summer of Sam” blackout.
The 1977 blackout is famous for having coincided with a serial murderer on the loose, not unlike the one AHS is setting up. It was also renowned as the moment that New York City gained its reputation as lawless and out of control. Unlike the other major city-wide blackouts in 1965, 2003, and 2019, 1977’s blackout spawned riots and arson, with images of “looters” broadcast across the U.S. Whether or not AHS plans to incorporate that in the next two episodes remains to be seen.
American Horror Story: NYC continues with new episodes every Wednesday at 10 and 11 p.m. ET on FX and streaming the next day on Hulu.