Huluween is presenting fans of AHS a special Halloween treat this year with a four-episode anthology series. As a first-time viewer of the highly regarded universe created by Ryan Murphy, I must say I’m rather disappointed. Of course, there’s no need to compare between shows, but from all the hype around the AHS franchise, it’s only fair to have certain expectations. The first episode titled Bestie comes across in poor taste, making ableist commentary, when the real themes are neglect and the scary world of the internet. The poster clearly tells us that this season may pertain to technophobia, it’s a large spectrum on its own though and I hope the rest of the episodes are better.
What Happens In The Episode?
Shelby (a mini Saoirse Ronan here) and her father are moving homes because her mother has just passed away from Cancer (single parent, grief-ridden child, no better opportunity for Hollywood horror). What’s supposed to be a fresh start and a blank slate quickly turns stale when Shelby is bullied for her large glasses and “dishwater” blonde hair (not sure why someone would name it that colour but okay). In a fit of rage, she throws a book at one of the girls bullying her, causing her to bleed in music class. Her teacher is kind and generous though, admitting that he understands her pain. He too has lost someone dear, a miracle baby, who was stillborn.
At home, Shelby fights with her father because he isn’t mentally available to understand the pain she’s going through. Even if he’s trying really hard to do so. She hides in her bedroom and watches drag queen “Anna Rexhia” whose motto is to face your fears. Anna Rexhia is an anorexic drag queen (hence the name), who talks to her followers about how to deal with the difficult world while doing makeup and talking about dying. She ends her lives with a poem, recommending death. It’s a bleak ending to the “funny” videos that a lot of youngsters like Shelby consume. At the end of the live stream, Shelby and one other person are active. The other person whose username is “BFF4EVA” messages Shelby and asks to video chat. Shelby says she’s been crying, so she looks weird, but BFF4EVA refuses to take no for an answer. They tell Shelby that they look strange too so it’s alright.
When Shelby opens the chat, she’s a little bit surprised by the appearance of her new friend, but she doesn’t let it stop her from talking her mind. Quickly they become really close because they each feel a connection with each other through Anna Rexhia’s message. Immediately they find that both of them are annoyed by their respective fathers, so that’s where their conversations start. BFF4EVA suggests they call each other nicknames, giving herself the name bestie. Every day after school Shelby can’t wait to talk to Bestie. One fine day, Shelby does drag makeup that amazes Bestie. Bestie says to Shelby that this is the perfect opportunity to wear a part of the makeup to school. Just like Anna Rexhia says, “if they face their fears, great things will happen to them”. Hearing the motto enlightens Shelby and she even stands up to her bullies when they comment on her appearance. Overjoyed by the experience Shelby tells Bestie how good it felt.
Bestie pushes Shelby to do something that would hurt her father because she herself stole her own father’s wallet. Shelby reluctantly breaks a cup that belonged to her mother just because she’s angry that he’s never home. This is like a moment of bonding between the two friends as Shelby finally asks Bestie about her appearance. Bestie says that she’s adopted, and her biological mother did drugs before giving birth to her. This led to a lot of complications, hence the appearance. Although Bestie wishes for freedom, she has to be confined to the four walls of her room, so Shelby promises to do anything for Bestie (big mistake girlie).
Now Shelby does everything Bestie asks, even if it means she doesn’t get to do the things she likes. If Shelby is reluctant in any way, Bestie reminds her of the motto. Shelby even poisons the bullies during the school play Macbeth, but the ultimate blow is when she goes to school as a dead baby born again for Halloween, hurting her teacher without any remorse. In anger, her dad locks her up in the basement-looking room of the house where she finds an old computer with a webcam. Again, she calls Bestie and tells her what’s happened. Bestie tells Shelby that she needs to break a bone in order to get freedom. Her dad hears Shelby talking but he’s too late to open the door as she’s already taken the hammer to her hand.
Finally realizing what a big mistake this whole thing has been, Shelby ghosts Bestie and decides to apologize to her teacher. He’s off for the semester though, and she’s left all alone, until River, a classmate, asks to sign her cast. River sends Shelby a cryptic message to meet in the school theater. Turns out he was just messing with her because he wanted to be friends with her. He knew it was her who poisoned her classmates, but they made fun of his own disability too, so he would never tell on Shelby. They become close and soon enough, Shelby is in love with River, so much so that she chooses to go to the same college as him.
Where Does River Take Shelby?
Finally, River asks to take Shelby out for the weekend. He even helps Shelby get rid of Bestie’s constant messages on her laptop, making her “gone from her life forever”. Trusting him fully, Shelby agrees to go out during the weekend. He drives her to an eerie-looking place and immediately she doesn’t like it, asking her boyfriend to take her back home. He tells her there’s something he needs to show her, so she goes with him anyway. As we guessed, it’s where Bestie lives. Shelby looks on in horror when she realizes whose home she’s come to. When she faces Bestie, she runs back to River in fear, but to her terror, he has a knife in her chest in a second. Turns out Bestie has been grooming River too, and he says he’s done everything she’s ever asked of him, so now they can be best friends forever. At the end of the episode, they walk off into the distance and stare into the horizon.
Bestie might’ve been an adult who faced some harsh conditions all her life and chose to hurt other people for unknown reasons. Additionally, Bestie must’ve had River on her side since the beginning, to make sure Shelby never left her. What was freedom to her was all crime and sinister business and she used young naive kids to execute her plans. River and Shelby were good for each other but Bestie ruined both their lives. Shelby’s death would have a devastating effect on her father, and we’re left under the impression that one should be aware of anyone who is kind to them.
The first episode of American Horror Stories season 3 is the same run-of-the-mill story. It’s quite predictable and it’s a shame that ends in the way it did because an upbeat ending may have actually benefited it. There’s something disjointing about the episode which tries to give the message that the outside matches the inside even if it may be the effects of the world around us. It’s not a very well-executed episode for me at least. It’s also an age-old story which has been told in better ways many times before.