Earlier this year, FX’s American Horror Story spin-off ‘American Horror Stories’ returned for a second season. With its first season receiving harsh reviews from critics the fanbase was left anxious for what a second season could turn out like, but luckily, it seems they were not let down.
Season 2 starts strong with a new episode titled ‘Dollhouse’, brought to the table by returning director Denis O’Hare (previously penned episodes for Season 1 as well as the main show’s latest season ‘Double Feature’). The story follows an educated and well-presented young woman named Coby (Kristine Froseth) attending a job interview at Van Wirt’s (Denis O’Hare) dollmaking company. Initially dismissing Coby, Van Wirt has her kidnapped and taken to a house on his property. The house appears to look like a perfect replication of a dollhouse on a life-size scale. In the house, Coby meets four other women, Aurelia (Abby Corrigan), Harlene (Simone Recasner), Faye (Maryssa Menedez) and Bonnie (Emily Morales-Cabrera).
These four women were also kidnapped and dressed like life-size dolls, including porcelain masks that they are forced to wear. Coby learns that Van Wirt is playing a sort of home-making games tournament to select the perfect candidate for the role of a mother to his son Otis (Houston Towe). In each round of the games, Van Wirt tests the girls on homemaking challenges such as table making and laundry folding, eventually eliminating the ‘worst-performing’ girl until few remain.
The story is a simple yet horrifying concept that returns the show to its original roots of unique storytelling and terrifying supernatural situations. It does a great job at exploring the different character tropes in a hostage situation story and manages to build its characters in such a satisfying way that you kind of wish there was more to see of this particular AHS chapter.
As the girls try their best to find a way to escape the horrifying dollhouse, tensions run high between Coby and Aurelia over something that gives Coby an advantage over her fellow hostages – her ability to move objects with her mind. Coby uses her powers to ‘win over Otis in a carefully devised plan ending with her escaping Van Wirt’s dollhouse.
The episode feels like an AHS classic, from the creepy tone down to its’ excellent character-driven plots. Fans of AHS: Coven will also be excited to see a surprise connection at the end of the episode, linking Dollhouse to the same timeline of the third season. It is also revealed that the young character of Otis eventually grows old and becomes the Coven character known as Spalding, a caretaker of Miss Robichaux’s Academy and also played by Denis O’Hare, who appears as Van Wirt in this particular episode.
Overall the episode was a surprising treat following the disappointing first season of American Horror Stories, and if this episode acts as a representative of this series as a whole then I would say fans of the universe are in for a treat!
American Horror Stories: S2 E1 – ‘Dollhouse’ is available to stream now on Disney+, new episodes are released weekly.