American Horror Stories took a break from magic and the supernatural on this week’s episode, delivering a much more human story. Returning as the writer for “Drive”, Manny Coto explores the dark and scary underbelly of dating in modern times, where if you aren’t careful you might end up hurt.
Returning to the American Horror Story universe is Nico Greetham as Paul, along with talented Bella Thorne as Marci, and Anthony De La Torre as Chaz in their first appearance in the long-running FX franchise. Together these three create a sensual world full of neon lights and murder, with one too many twists in such a short time.
[Warning: Spoilers from American Horror Stories: Drive are below!]
Girls just want to have fun in American Horror Story: Drive
The episode opens in a nightclub, packed to the brim with gyrating humans in search of validation through a hook-up and too much alcohol. Marci (Thorne) is among those dancing as if their lives depend on it, which ends with her hooking up in her car with some random man. On her way home, after unceremoniously kicking the hook up from her car, she is chased down by someone else in a Jeep. The vehicle is driving erratic, flashing its lights, speeding uncontrollably, and even crashing into the back of Marci’s SUV twice.
Eventually, she is able to lose the Jeep and appears rather freaked from the event. However, it doesn’t seem to stop her from continuing this lifestyle, regardless of people’s warnings. Her husband, Chaz (De La Torre), is worried about her safety, because there is a serial killer on the loose, killing people they pick up from the nightclubs. He’s also over their open arrangement, asking for some separation. Marci’s friend Piper (Billie Bodega) is also worried, pushing for Marci to stop acting in this way. A conversation that happens twice, with Piper quite angry the second time.
Marci is unable to let the Jeep and its driver go, pursuing the mystery even in the face of danger. Finding the driver and his ride one night at the club, she is able to track him down to his place of work. In an intense scene featuring a knife set, Marci comes face to face with Paul (Nice Greetham), who has a sinister air to him during this initial confrontation. He speaks slowly and with such purpose, that the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Marci leaves quickly, but the story and her need to get to the bottom of it is far from over.
The big reveal(s)
Following Paul to his house, Marci sneaks in while he’s in the shower and snoops around. She discovers a classic “murder board” in his room, complete with newspaper clippings and string. Paul and Marci end up face to face once again, however, the audience and Thorne’s character quickly learn that Paul isn’t a killer. Paul tells Marci that he chased her down because he saw a figure in her backseat and was trying to warn her about the impending doom. That twist would have been wild enough, however soon after Paul learns that the body in the back seat of Marci’s car wasn’t a murderer, but a victim.
That’s right, in the second breakneck twist of the show, audiences find out that Marci is the serial killer everyone has been worried about. Marci goes out to clubs, finds people to sleep with, and then eventually kills. A behavior that her husband is incredibly aware of – even helping her to perfect the process. Looking back retroactively, even her friend Piper is mindful of Marci’s actions to some extent. At least it seemed that way during the two character’s confrontation in the parking lot during one of Marci’s hookups.
The good and the bad of American Horror Stories: Drive
For her first entry into the American Horror Story franchise, Bella Thorne was fantastic as Marci. I haven’t seen Thorne in many things, with most of my knowledge of her from Disney Channel’s Shake It Up from my childhood. So when I saw her in this, I haven’t realized just how talented of an actress she is. Thorne brought a lot of fun and a ton of sinister energy to Marci which was a welcome surprise.
I also enjoyed that change of pace from other stories in the American Horror Story universe. A lot of the stories told in this franchise lean into the supernatural or magical aspects of horror. There are not a ton of real-world horror stories, with only a few jumping to my mind. Supernatural horror is fine, but I find a real-world horror story ten times scarier because those could really happen. Demons and witches are still scary, but a murderer who could be anyone is a real threat that exists.
While the episode was good, it seemed like those who made it didn’t know how to finish it. Instead, they kept adding one twist after another in a weird one-up competition with itself. After the initial two twists where we find out that Paul wasn’t the murderer and Marci was, it should have reached its conclusion then. By the time the fourth twist came around, I was over it. It took away from the excellent first part and the twist about Marci.
This episode also wasted the talent of Nico Greetham, who has been in quite a few episodes of AHS. I was impressed with him back when he starred in Power Rangers, then after his appearances last year in season ten of the flagship series I was quite impressed with him. So to have him relegated to a small part just felt like a disservice. However, the parts he was in were great, with weirdly electric energy between him and Thorne.
Overall impressions of American Horror Stories: Drive
“Drive” was a good episode that had an issue finding a conclusion. The acting and story were great, if only it ended about ten minutes earlier. This season so far has really embraced the psychological scary, which has been such a welcome change from the bloody grotesque approach found frequently in the original series. I hope this pattern continues as we reach the middle of the season and start the back half.
American Horror Stories: Drive is currently streaming on Hulu! Have you watched it yet? What did you think? Let us know on Twitter! Also if you haven’t checked it out yet, read my review of American Horror Stories: Aura!