So last week we talked about the beginnings of my fictional sixth season of American Horror Story: Boarding School. Before we keep talking about the specifics of it, I wanted to take a second to prove to you all that I actually know how to write. And no, this isn’t the part where I tell you about my degree or how many times I’ve been published or whatever, this is where I talk about the mechanics behind the episodes I’m describing:
As we mentioned in the previous article (can you tell that I want you to read it yet?) the theme of this season is desperation and a desire to maintain the status quo. As the episodes continue we as viewers want to see this more and more emphasized. However, our script differs from a standard one because this is the horror genre we’re dealing with. Because we’ve depicted the people working to maintain the status quo as evil we as viewers naturally want to see them fall victim to acts of universal balancing: We want to see Kathy Bates get free and skullfuck Lily Rabe, we want Sarah Paulson’s horrible monster character to turn on Taissa Farmiga and, I dunno, eat her or tear her apart or something.
But this is the horror genre. Especially in the last 30 years the horror genre has been, metaphorically speaking, dominated by the idea of punishment. Consider classic slasher movies: The “good guys” are generally speaking, in broad archetypes, committers of classic Christian sins. This is why The Jock and The Cheerleader are killed in the middle of having freaky sex. It’s the premise on which the entire SAW franchise hangs. This is also why, generally speaking, the last person alive in a slasher movie is the virginal, innocent girl.
So we want to metaphorically punish people who are not adhering to the standards of the universe, and in this case, the rule of the universe is that Change = Bad, Status Quo = Good. This is why Kathy Bates is chained to a pipe (for auditing the school), why Sarah Paulson gets boiled (for fucking with Satan/wanting to leave the school), why Taissa is possessed by a demon (for killing herself), and why you might suspect that bad things are going to happen to Evan Peters. But not yet because we’re quickly running out of characters and they can’t keep dying the episode they’re introduced.
So, when last we left off we were in episode 3 (of 12) and Evan Peters had just arrived at the school looking for Kathy Bates, who’s currently chained to a pole in the basement after getting her shit rocked by Lily Rabe. Awesome. Oh also Sarah Paulson’s been boiled alive and is horrible now and is being fed the flesh of Taissa Farmiga’s enemies. So there’s that.
Let’s add some more characters, shall we? That’s what American Horror Story has done in seasons past around now. So we see Evan Peters arrive and get kind of a recap of where everyone is and then all of a sudden we take a sharp turn left and diverge into something completely different.
Think about creepy locations outside of the basement of a school. Especially when we’re dealing with a location that is so heavily occupation-based it’s easy to categorize people by where they’re going to be at any given time on the grounds. The first two that pop into my head are the dormitory and the library. Given that the dormitory is probably only scary when it’s not populated (like, for example, at night) let’s stick to the library for now.
So we have an old, kinda bitter looking hunched over librarian at the help desk. She’ll be played by Megan Fox in heavy age makeup. If you don’t like it write your own television show. Megan Fox is staring at some pretty female schoolchildren who are sitting at a table studying and talking and shooting the shit and being children. And Megan Fox isn’t really saying anything, but she’s transfixed on these kids and she’s not happy about them. The music starts to crescendo and the camera starts to slowly zoom in on her gaze and then right at the climax: Nothing.
Megan Fox stands up and hobbles away and enters a door behind the help desk and she’s out of frame for a second as the camera takes on a grainy film sort of look and a caption pops up that says “1969.” Into frame walks young, hot Megan Fox (played by young, hot Megan Fox) in a sweater dress or something. Whatever young hot 1969 Megan Fox would wear. This is a storage room, and in film-grainy-flashback land it’s full of brand new books on every subject, and up on a ladder is an attractive young man who’s organizing some stuff on a high shelf. When he hears Megan Fox walk in he practically slides down the ladder and walks over and gives her a warm embrace and a kiss on the cheek, which Megan Fox is pretty happy about.
Young attractive man (Since we’re doing weird casting for this part he’s now played by Daniel Day Lewis. That man would find a way.) says he’s so thrilled that things are finally settling down. The library renovations are about to be complete and pretty soon they’ll be able to get all these fancy new books back on the shelves. Megan Fox asks if it’s only the library that he’s happy about and Daniel Day Lewis chides her and gives her a little kiss. He says that, of course, he’s happy to have a chance to be working alongside her as well. He says that together they’re going to make sure that this place becomes better than it ever has.
Then the film grain fades away and we see the modern storage room. It’s still full of books but they’re dusty and old and the spines are all fucked and the place basically looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in about fifteen years. And old shitty Megan Fox is standing in the middle of the shot with her back to the camera looking at the “devastation,” and she sighs.
We return to Evan Peters, who’s wandering the school grounds and not really getting anywhere. He talks to a couple of schoolkids about if any of them have seen a lady about yea tall with glasses and hair in a messy white bun or whatever. None of them seem to remember the woman in question, mostly because Kathy was, at best, there for about 18 hours and spent the entire time with Lily Rabe. Speaking of which, Lily Rabe is there with Evan. She’s looking cool as a cucumber on the surface but she’s like a duck in water at the moment, watching Evan like a hawk just in case she has to fire extinguisher him in his adorable blonde face. So far though, it seems pretty benign. One kid happens to mention that that description sort of fits the librarian, and while Lily Rabe assures Evan that the librarian isn’t who he’s looking for, Evan notes that checking the library wouldn’t be a terrible idea anyway and off they go.
Next we’re back with Kathy Bates. She’s surrounded by dirty plates and cups and chicken bones and the remnants of food that’s starting to rot and it’s clear that she’s been here for, y’know, a while. At least a week, probably a little longer. She’s just sitting with her back against the wall and her foot still chained to the pipe and she’s basically catatonic. She hasn’t seen the sun this entire time and the only thing that’s keeping the room lit is one of those awful fluorescent rows of bulbs that every school seems to have for some awful reason. And so she’s sitting there and sitting there and we intercut this shot with shots of her tour around the school with Lily Rabe with the shots focusing on Lily. Catatonic Kathy. Lily. Catatonic Kathy. Lily. Kathy. Lily. Meanwhile the entire time this fluorescent bulb is flickering. Flickering. Flickering.
Finally Kathy lets out this roar of impotent rage and flings one of the plates into the air and it shatters against the fluorescent bulb and there’s this rain of glass and ceramics that comes down. A shard of the plate lands next to Kathy and we can see her staring at it through the darkness, still basically resigned to her fate at this point. But she picks up the shard and she starts kind of tapping it against the chain that’s around her foot. Eventually the tapping turns into a bit of a sawing motion. Finally it becomes an honest effort; see, now Kathy has an idea. So she’s sawing at the chain and she figures she’s got all the time in the fucking world because Lily’s obviously not going to kill her (she’s being fed) so just saw at the chain. Something’s got to give eventually.
As she’s sawing the film grain comes back and we see Daniel Day Lewis walking into this basement room. He’s beckoning somebody inside with him. And he’s cheerful and jovial but by the amount of coaxing he’s having to do with his offscreen companion you can tell that the other person doesn’t want to come in.
Finally, the person walks into frame. We see them from the back. She’s brunette, medium height, perky. And Danny goes in and starts making sweet sweet deliciousness all over her neck. The girl’s having none of it though. And as the camera pans around we see that this girl is not Megan Fox. She’s much younger than Megan Fox. Uh oh.
She says she’s not feeling comfortable and refers to Daniel by his last name, like a teacher might do with a student. Ruh roh.
The film grain goes away and we see Kathy now frantically sawing at the chains around her leg. She’s swearing as she does it, and with a final “Goddammit” she lets out a howl of pain and we see a little spout of blood from her ankle. She sets the ceramic down and leans back against the wall again to cry and she does so for a good ten seconds before the light of an idea pops into her eyes. She looks at the ceramic. Looks at her ankle. She tears a sleeve off of her blouse and bites down on it as she picks up the ceramic with a crazy look in her eyes. End episode three.
Man! We only got through one episode this week. Holy balls! Hopefully we’ll be able to speed things up next week or else I’ll be writing this season until Christmas. Who knew writing a TV show was so much hard goddamn work? Tune in next week!
Scott Watmough has many strong opinions about many things that he knows very little about. They're usually about video games.