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Series / American Horror Story: Double Feature

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Double Feature is the tenth season of Ryan Murphy's horror anthology series American Horror Story, airing on FX in 2021.

In a first for the franchise, Double Feature is actually two seasons in one: Red Tide and Death Valley. Each will also have their own distinct stories and casts of actors, with an emphasis on fan-favorite returning cast members to commemorate the series' tenth anniversary.

Part one, Red Tide, follows the Gardner family, who have recently moved to the peaceful Provincetown, MA so that patriarch Harry (Finn Wittrock) can focus on his writing by the suggestion of his wife, Doris (Lily Rabe). After Harry encounters a mysterious group of locals who promise him success and a cure for his Writer's Block, the town is rocked by a series of grisly murders, which his new friends may or may not have a hand in doing. Also appearing in Red Tide are Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Frances Conroy, Leslie Grossman, Billie Lourd, Angelica Ross, Ryan Kierra Armstrong, Denis O'Hare, Adina Porter and Macaulay Culkin.

Part two, Death Valley, involves aliens —previously alluded to in Asylum— and follows characters in two eras: Dwight D. Eisenhower (Neal McDonough) discovering the existence of extraterrestrial life in The '50s, and four college students (Kaia Gerber, Nico Greetham, Rachel Hilson, Isaac Cole Powell) who experience an alien encounter in the present day. The aforementioned Paulson, Rabe, Ross, and Grossman also appear, as well as Cody Fern and Rebecca Dayan.

"Red Tide" trailer, Parts 1 & 2 teaser.

American Horror Story: Double Feature

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    General tropes 
  • Double Feature: The title of the season is meant to evoke a double feature picture show, which often featured horror and science fiction as their offerings.
  • Movie Multipack: Both parts of the season were shot simultaneously and aired as one.

    Part One: Red Tide 
  • Ambition Is Evil: Anyone who is willing to keep taking the Muse for the success that comes with it, regardless of the cost. Also Ursula, who is determined to become a distributor for the pills in order to get rich by proxy via her clients.
  • Armies Are Evil: The Chemist's work on human creativity was originally funded by the U.S. Army. Not to enhance creativity, as she ends up doing, but to repress it and make troops more complient.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Austin and Belle try to justify the murders they enact to fulfill their thirst for blood by targeting junkies and thieves.
    • In "Thirst", Harry's latest victim turns out to be a snuff-film actress who was planning on letting her boyfriend rape Harry to death.
    • As shown in "Blood Buffet", Belle's first victim was her emotionally abusive husband, whose last action was to happily tell her that he was leaving her for another woman he literally just met the night before.
    • In "Gaslight", Karen's first and only kill while on the Muse is Mickey, who not only enabled the initial spread of the pills but forced her into a Sadistic Choice to take one or be killed by Pale Ones.
    • In "Winter Kills", Belle and Austin, who reveled in their killings, are themselves killed by the Pale Ones. Later in the same episode, the Chemist gives the Muse to several racist cops in order to deliberately turn them into Pale Ones.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Invoked by a violist Alma faces, who tells her that if she becomes first chair at her age, all it does is put too much of a spotlight, trapping her into nothing but concerts and when she inevitably grows up, that will fade. "You're the bearded lady."
  • Beach Episode: The season is set in the seaside Provincetown, MA, albeit during the winter.
  • Continuity Nod: The plot of the season is a troubled family moving to a new setting, akin to that of Murder House.
  • Death of a Child: Played straight, with the babies TB Karen delivers to Belle to feed her cravings. Ultimately subverted with Eli, who is one of the few characters to survive the season.
  • Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: After Harry is killed by Alma, Ursula and the Chemist pin the blame for all the Muse-related deaths on him with the excuse of him having snapped from pressure and drugs.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Belle wants Ursula dead, not because she's learned about the Muse, but because she insulted Belle's singing.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: After the birth of Eli, Doris is constantly patronized by her family, her fears and needs are not taken seriously and she rightfully feels hopeless and unable to bond with her son. This hit very close to home for viewers who've had experience with postpartum depression.
  • Downer Ending: Alma kills Harry so that he won't make her stop taking the Muse, then moves to Los Angeles with Ursula and the Chemist, who spread the pills across the city and cause it to fall into chaos as countless people turn into Pale Ones.
  • Eats Babies: Belle does this for fresh blood, paying Karen in drugs to kidnap them for her.
  • Enfant Terrible: Alma becomes this after taking the Muse, eagerly accepting the Horror Hunger that comes with it in exchange for success, and doing whatever it takes to keep this up, even killing the police chief to stop her from arresting Harry, turning her own mother into a Pale One to keep her quiet, and finally killing her father so that he won't make her stop taking the pills.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The creator of the Muse is only ever referred to as the Chemist.
  • Fantastic Drug: The Muse, a black pill that enhances creativity to astonishing levels, at the cost of creating a thirst for blood. And in people who lack natural talent, this causes them to devolve into pale, bald, feral creatures.
  • Gaslighting: Fittingly happens in the episode "Gaslight", where Harry, Alma and Ursula use drugs and lies to keep an increasingly suspicious Doris oblivious to what's really happening.
  • Gayborhood: A twist on the typical Lovecraft Country town. As it turns out, the remote and small-minded Provincetown used to be a major gay hub of the North-East coast, hence the heavy presence of gay characters in the setting. However, to fit with the Dying Town aesthetic, its population and economy suffered greatly from the AIDS epidemic. Now all that keeps the town going is the coming of gay tourists and renters in the summer, and the arrival of the renowned artists in the winter. If either stopped, it would be the end of Provincetown.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: As the Chemist explains, her drug gives the consumer complete clarity about their artistic abilities. As a result, her talented test subjects turn into sociopaths who see other people as mere disposable bloodbags, whereas mediocre artists fall into an Unstoppable Rage over the reality that they'll never become great.
  • Harbinger of Impending Doom: Tuberculosis Karen, an unstable homeless addict who tries to warn Harry about Provincetown's secrets in the most abrasive way possible, leading him to ignore her.
  • Horror Hunger: The main side-effect of the Muse is a craving for human blood. One of the original Pale Ones subjects was a vegan pacifist before the side-effects got to him, but that didn't stop him from succumbing to the cravings.
  • Karma Houdini: The Chemist, who caused this whole mess by creating the Muse, and Ursula, who was willing to profit from all the killings by proxy, both get away with zero consequences (assuming that Ursula didn't die in the Pale One riots she unleashed at the end; only the Chemist and Eli are seen driving to safety).
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: The Chemist orders Austin and Belle to kill Ursula, Mickey, and Harry's family in order to keep any of them from exposing the existence of the Muse. Later, though, she instead works with Ursula to kill Harry, Belle, and Austin and pin all the deaths on them to cover her tracks.
  • Lovecraft Country: Provincetown and its surrounding area were obviously designed to fit this trope. A remote New England seaside town that is on its way to decay. A community that keeps secret strange experiments and bloody murders. A place where decadent and murderous rich artist go for the winter, and whose lower class includes depraved criminals and insane perverts. Sand dunes and dark woods home to inhuman blood-sucking creatures, and a weather that seems to be perpetually cloudy and grey...
  • Monster Lord: The Pale Ones seem to instinctively obey the whims of the talented Muse-takers. Until the Chemist and Ursula give them a modified pill that drives them to attack the talented instead.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Harry is a writer by trade and experiencing a major bout of Writer's Block while working on a television pilot.
  • Murder-Suicide: In "Gaslight", Karen kills Mickey by ripping his throat out, then slits her own wrists and walks into the ocean.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The advertising made it appear that the monstrous creatures plaguing Provincetown are merfolk of some kind. Instead, they're more akin to vampires.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted by Alma Gardner; Asylum previously featured a separate character also named Alma, who was Kit Walker's wife.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Angelica Ross's character is referred to as "the Chemist".
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Those who take the Muse develop a strong craving for blood and flesh, preferably human, as well as an apparent inability to consume anything else. They do have a full set of sharp teeth, which are an artificial modification done by Lark, one of their own. Which type of vampire archetype one falls into depends on whether they have artistic talent or not. Whereas accomplished writers like Austin or Belle present themselves as sophisticated eccentrics, anyone else turns into a Pale One, a feral creature with the classic look of a silent movie vampire.
  • Sadistic Choice: In "Gaslight", Mickey leaves Karen surrounded by Pale Ones who will kill her when he walks away unless she takes the Muse, which she is vehemently against. She takes the pill out of desperation to survive.
  • Scary Teeth: The Pale Ones have these.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Alma turns her mother into a Pale One to get rid of her, and later kills her father so that she can keep taking the Muse.
  • Shoulders of Doom: Almost all of the Pale Ones wear long coats with big shoulder pads, which add to their already inhuman appearance and body language.
  • Slashed Throat: How people on the Muse tend to kill their victims, to most efficiently put them down and get to their blood.
  • Start of Darkness: "Blood Buffet" shows how the Chemist first came to Provincetown and started distributing the Muse, turning Belle and Austin from meek nobodies to the murderous successes they are in the present, and inadvertently creating the Pale Ones as a side effect.
  • Time Skip: The last half of "Winter Kills" jumps ahead three months.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: It's implied that everyone who lives in Provincetown is aware of what people on the Muse get up to, and look the other way as long as no one native to town is targeted. "Winter Kills" confirms that the town council, at least, is completely informed of the situation and not just allow it to happen but cover the extent of things up so that the town can profit from the reputation of being an artists' retreat.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: To Stephen King and H. P. Lovecraft works.
    • This half of the season has a similar setup to that of iconic horror story The Shining, with a work-obsessed writer husband being convinced to move to a more peaceful setting by his wife, and being corrupted by supernatural elements.
    • The fact that the plot focuses on a small New England town that happens to be secretly inhabited by quasi-vampires is clearly taking a nod from 'Salem's Lot.
    • The pill itself works very similarly to the items from the titular store in Needful Things. Like in that story, the pill is essentially a deal with the devil, giving you something you really want but turning you against your neighbors and loved ones in the process.
    • The blood craze that affects those who take the pill is very reminiscent of the hunger curse from Thinner.
    • The seaside Town with a Dark Secret where the locals make a Deal with the Devil for profit that turns some of them into monsters also brings to mind The Shadow Over Innsmouth.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The Chemist and Ursula arrange the deaths of their respective clients so that they can cover their tracks and move to LA to set up a wider pill distribution network.

    Part Two: Death Valley 
  • Against My Religion: Troy is Orthodox Jewish, and thus doesn't use electronics on Shabbat.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: The aliens forced Eisenhower to accept their deal by possessing and threatening to kill his wife.
  • Area 51: "Blue Moon" shows Eisenhower ordering the establishment of this facility to house the aliens' test subjects, as an alternative to using the secret tunnels underneath the White House.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Men can in fact test positive on pregnancy tests without being pregnant. It means they have cancer.
  • Baby Factory: The abducted humans are used to breed half-alien hybrids. Some abductees, like Calico, have given birth to 2-3 hybrids per year for decades.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: By the end of the season, the aliens finally succeed in creating their hybrids, averting their extinction. Unfortunately, it turns out they long ago decided that Earth will be their new home. A home where there are no more humans.
  • Bedroom Adultery Scene: Eisenhower walks in on his wife sleeping with Valiant in their marital bed, causing him to faint.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Henry Kissinger was a member of the Reptilian Conspiracy.
  • Death of a Child: As of the present day, the majority of half-alien babies bred in the secret facility are deemed imperfect and get killed right after birth.
  • Downer Ending: All the sympathetic human characters are killed by the aliens, who stop all attempts to avert their plan to commit genocide thwarted with little effort. Worse, there's really nothing any of the human characters could have done to make things turn out differently from the start, making the whole of Death Valley a Shoot the Shaggy Dog Story.
  • Dying Race: The reason the aliens invoke for trying desperately to create an alien-human hybrid, in order to save their planet and repopulate their world.
  • E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi: All major technological advances since 1954 are the result of technology gifted by the aliens to sweeten their deal.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: In the present day, anyway. Everybody talks nonstop about being sexually active.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: The aliens in this setting have only one goal coming to Earth: creating the perfect human-alien hybrid. To do so they need to regularly abduct humans to make them fall pregnant (and the biological sex of the host does not matter). The pregnancy is very much like a human one (morning sicknesses, strange food cravings, painful chest), however it is abnormally fast (the protagonists of the modern days section looking several months pregnant after a few days or weeks). While the female hosts can deliver the baby through the natural process of birth, male hosts need to have the baby surgically removed. And not only is the birthing delivery quite painful, it is also very dangerous for the life of the host. Let's say there's a reason why the aliens need at least five hundred test subjects PER YEAR.
  • Final Solution: The aliens plan to wipe out humanity once they've perfected the hybridization process, out of a belief that they can't coexist with us openly.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: When Amelia Earhart is recovered from the alien ship in 1954, she thinks it's still 1937, which only feeds her shock over the situation.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Valiant Thor says the reason the aliens never appear to humanity in their actual forms is that humans would be less inclined to cooperate with them.
  • Government Conspiracy:
    • In 1954, the US government was forced to accept a treaty with the aliens that allows the latter to abduct 5000 people a year for experimentation in exchange for technological advances.
    • As an offshoot of the above, the moon landing was faked, because thanks to the technology provided by the aliens, the government knew that actually going to the moon was a waste of time. So they staged it, as both a national morale boost and an excuse to "develop" the new technology and then move it into the public sphere.
  • The Greys: The aliens first seem to fit the picture to a T, being grey, thin and bald beings with no nose, long fingers and big black eyes... However in the first episode, an alien autopsy reveals their body is entirely empty, as if it was a shell, and inside is a tentacled blob-like Face Hugger. Given that tentacles are seen during the modern-day protagonists' abduction, and that alien-human hybrid babies often have tentacles and Face Hugger tendencies, it seems their true shape is Octopoid Aliens.
  • He Knows Too Much:
    • JFK and Marilyn Monroe were killed because they learned about the treaty with the aliens and threatened to expose it.
    • Calico was abducted because she'd discovered that the moon landing was being faked.
  • Historical Domain Character:
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The aliens feel this way, and intend to wipe out humanity once they've perfected the hybridization process.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Kendall went to Harvard, despite showing no signs of being particularly intelligent.
  • Karmic Death: Mamie happily played along with the conspiracy in order to advance her own ambitions, but is ultimately killed by the aliens after learning the true scope of their plans.
  • Lady Macbeth: Mamie Eisenhower, who pushes her husband to work with the aliens in order to advance her own ambitions.
  • Look, a Distraction!: The Vietnam War — and, it's implied, every other conflict since — was engineered by the aliens to distract people from all the abductions.
  • The Men in Black: Naturally show up as enforcers of the Government Conspiracy.
  • Mr. Seahorse: At the end of the first episode, Troy and Cal discover that they are both just as inexplicably pregnant as their female friends Jamie and Kendall. As it turns out, the aliens do not care for the biological sex of the ones they abduct when it comes to creating hybrid babies. Male abductees share most of the symptoms of a female pregnancy (painful chest, morning sickness, strange cravings...), but when it comes to birthing the baby, while the female abductees do so by natural means, the doctors are forced to cut the men's bellies open to remove the babies. It is implied that if they do not do so... "Life finds its way...".
  • Naked on Arrival: Amelia is introduced naked, after being recovered from the alien ship.
  • Reptilian Conspiracy: The finale reveals that a reptilian species is also seeking to colonize Earth in rivalry with the other aliens. Except not — the two species are planning to co-habitate the planet after eliminating humanity.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Valiant Thor, the aliens' liaison, is an android so realistic that he's able to have sex with Mamie Eisenhower and satisfy her enough that she calls it the best she's had.
  • Secretly-Gay Activity: Troy hires his boyfriend Cal to be his Orthodox Jewish family's "Shabbat Goy" so that he can bring him home to his parents without them realizing that he and Cal are a couple.
  • Who Shot JFK?: It's all but outright said that Eisenhower and Nixon had Kennedy killed after they informed him of the deal with the aliens and he threatened to go public about it.
  • Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": After the perfect hybrid is born, the aliens don't even hide the fact that they intend to kill every living human, but dress it up in a lot of coldly delivered, holier-than-thou declarations of humanity's worthlessness and evilness.
  • Your Head A-Splode: The aliens are capable of making people's heads explode.