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American Horror Story 11: Who is Big Daddy

Well, that was an absolutely harrowing two hours. If you missed it, check here for all of the American Horror Story recaps and reviews. Tonight we figured out who is Big Daddy.

These last two episodes flip back and forth between 1981 and 1987, with episode 9 starting at Theo’s funeral, where Sam passes out, seeing Big Daddy as he loses consciousness. He wakes up in a hospital, where he is met with a very much alive Theo, who gives him a tour through Sam’s own personal hell. He is forced to confront his sins in the form of his previous victims dying from the disease, to which he, too, seems to be succumbing.

Henry reveals that all of Sam’s abusive behaviors go back to his dad. Inflicting pain on others, just as he was forced to endure. He is then transported to a beach and pursued by Big Daddy, who transforms into a person we’ve never seen before, presumably his first love, and they embrace as it switches to Henry pouring out Sam’s ashes on the beach.

We then go to Gino, visiting Patrick in a hospital. It turns out this mysterious disease that resembles AIDS is not a made-up metaphorical illness, but rather literally AIDS. As a result of being infected, Patrick has become blind and is dying.

He meets the ghost of Barbara and is taken down a rabbit hole of traumatic memories. We are shown the first time he meets Gino, him framing a fellow cop for sexually assaulting him to hide that he’s gay, and a scene with Mai Tai where Sam is cutting himself up on a slab and putting himself back together. It all culminates in a childhood memory of his dad bursting his eardrums while they were out shooting because he was too limp-wristed. Yeah, it’s a lot.

The episode ends with Gino holding Patrick as he dies, going full-on David Lynch as we see both Big Daddy and the ghost of Barbara watching their final embrace while Kathy sings a heartbreaking song in the corner. A real gut punch of a way to end an episode there, AHS.

Episode 10 The Heaviness Continues

The finale begins in 1981, with Adam visiting the scene of Hannah’s death. He confirms to the police that, surprisingly, he is the father of her child. After picking up some of her recordings, he visits the morgue, where he learns that Theo died of a fungus-induced case of pneumonia. Soon after, he also learns that Hannah caught AIDS when she impregnated herself with his semen.

Taking it upon himself to spread awareness, Adam visits Kathy’s club to pass out some fliers warning the public about AIDS. She tells him she’s closing up shop for good because she no longer feels safe, but before he leaves, she gives him some words of wisdom we can all borrow from, “You are way too young to be thinking about how not to die. Don’t forget to live.” It then cuts to 1987, with Gino going to Patrick’s funeral.

We are quickly thrown into a trippy music videoesque sequence as a somber song plays during soul-crushing scenes of Gino’s life over the years after Patrick’s death. Along with several sequences involving haunting shots of a line of gay men walking into an open grave until it overflows, we also see Big Daddy murder anyone Gino comes into contact with. The episode, and the season, end with Adam attending his funeral, speechless as he stands at the podium for his eulogy.

Questions Still to Answer

Wow, that was a lot of heaviness to cram into two hours. There are still some questions left unanswered, the biggest of which being where The Sentinel went off to, something that probably should have been addressed. I mean, there was a straight-up Frankenstein monster that was just glossed over. Then there’s the issue of Big Daddy.

The metaphor with him was mixed. It’s clear in the finale that he is supposed to represent AIDS, and while previous episodes lend weight to that, there are times that muddle the metaphor. For instance, when he becomes basically a slasher villain, like on Fire Island. I appreciate the attempt here, but it could have definitely been handled a bit cleaner.

One thing that is worth noting here before we get to the end is the allegory of the hospital. How it was used to represent how the American healthcare system failed gay men is equal parts subtle and outright incendiary. This season has mostly excelled in its symbolism, with the hospital being one of its more impactful efforts.

While we don’t get any real closure, with much left open to interpretation or left hanging, that isn’t completely a bad thing. Closure isn’t always necessary to make a story successful. By denying us a clean finale, it mirrors how the gay community never received closure or apology from the system in regards to the AIDS epidemic. They were abandoned by their government, their own country, and even, at times, their loved ones left to suffer at the hands of a disease that took far more lives than it needed to.

The subject matter of this season is all too real, and to treat it any less seriously would have been a momentous misstep. I applaud Ryan Murphy and the crew for not pulling any punches in these last two episodes. Sometimes the best way to get a message across is to make it hurt, and hurt it did.

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