American Horror Stories “Milkmaids” Is a Chunky and Sour Mess of an Episode (S2E4)

American Horror Stories Episode 4 “Milkmaids” does what American Horror Story does best: creating interesting ideas and doing nothing with them. There is nothing wrong with creating a story that is steeped with commentary, but they just got it so wrong here. On top of the lackluster script and acting, there’s little to no actual horror in this episode. Sure, you can argue the situations are horrific, and I would not want to be put in them, it just felt like they had the message and crafted a sloppy script around it.

Episode 4 “Milkmaids”

Taking a break from modern times, Episode 4 takes a set back into 1757’s New England. We start with the grim knowledge of the death of Rachel Browne, the wife of Thomas Browne (Cody Fern) and the mother of Edward (Ian Sharkey). We quickly cut over to Celeste (Julia Schlaepfer), who is a sex worker, when Pastor Walter (Seth Gabel) pays her a visit. After paying for sex, he sees boils on Celeste’s chest. Understandably, the Pastor is taken aback by this information, as smallpox is going around like wildfire. Celeste tries to calm him down by telling him she is not contagious, rather, she is a healer. This whole idea is super interesting and was more historically accurate (to an extent) than I realized.

Thomas and Pastor Walter stand over Rachel's corpse with a knife held high in order to cut out her heart

The word ‘inoculation’ in this episode isn’t exactly the way we understand it today. Now we know inoculation works best through shots and vaccines, but back then it was quite different. While Celeste uses her pustules to *bleh* feed people her pus, it just so happens the people who feed on her don’t get sick. How inoculations, or as they were actually called variolations, worked back then was to take scabs from people who had smallpox, crush it up into a powder, give a few minor cuts to the skin of the patient, and rub the smallpox scab mélange onto the open wounds. This had a modicum of success, but would soon take the backseat to what we now know of inoculations.

Pastor Walter ends up taking Celeste up on her offer, as she inserts two pus-covered fingers into his mouth. This is really the only bit of gross horror we get, which is unfortunate. There are so many opportunities to use goop and pustules for some rad body horror, but this is less of a horror story and more a moral tale of listening to women (which is fine, but with a lack of good horror the message really falls flat). The next day we arrive at the funeral for Rachel, when Celeste breaks into the funeral. Celeste claims the pastor is ushering in a new era of death, which will be proved right sooner than the congregation would realize. Pastor Walter says Celeste must be hanged, and the congregation quickly turns on her. They throw Celeste out of the church, breaking her forearm clean in half. It’s hard to tell whether the bone break is practical or not because the shot feels like less than a frame, but it’s one of the last actual solid moments of the episode. Thomas tells everyone to settle down—this is his wife’s funeral, after all.

Later in the day Thomas and Pastor Walter have a sit-down, where the pastor tells Thomas he doesn’t like how he intervened in his idea to hang Celeste. Thomas quickly changes the subject, for a reason we’ll find out later, and is incredibly stupid, to something that could possibly help the town. Thomas says he heard a town over had taken control of their smallpox problem by removing and burning the hearts of the recently deceased [of smallpox], because, oh boy, God told them at night the dead rise from the ground to infect the living with smallpox. It seems like a slap in the face to American Horror Story/-ies fans that this is the crap they think is groundbreaking and worthy of our time. Sure, it doesn’t seem far-fetched that in a world where the Salem Witch Trials weren’t too long ago that people would think the dead rise at night, so then why not set up guards outside of the cemetery? If God tells you this is happening, wouldn’t you want to see it for yourself?

The only reasoning the other town gives for this is that they dug up the bodies, for some reason, and they were barely decomposed. This whole point is moot and stupid though, they all know the town is built on shallow groundwater—water that is full of sodium. Now they are not scientists or that bright, but it’s almost as if no thought went into their actions at all. Pastor Walter and Thomas go to Rachel’s body and take her heart out. For some reason, Thomas thinks eating it might be a good idea, so the pastor does so, and tells Thomas to make Edward eat it. That night during the heart dinner Delilah (Addison Timlin), the current milkmaid, brings over milk for them. Edward is a little sh*t towards Delilah because he believes people who live among beasts are devil women (or something as equally terribly written as that).

Thomas sits in church listening to Pastor Walter preach about cannibalism

Delilah finds Celeste in her barn, bloodied and defeated. In an act of kindness, Delilah sets Celeste’s arm and gives her a place to stay. We find out Delilah is very anti-Bible, which is cool, I guess. There always has to be one anti bible person in stories like this, and at least Addison Timlin is a great actor. We get a scene of the pastor who has turned mentally feral at this point, thinking of nothing but eating hearts. My dude even keeps one in his pocket now.

There’s a bit of an interesting conversation between Celeste and Delilah about inoculation, but Celeste claims she is a Daughter of Lazarus and Delilah says she believes in science. Everything in the episode is just way too on the nose. Delilah goes so far as to, almost verbatim, say you can’t believe in God and science. This script really feels like it was churned out in a writer’s room in like an hour—actually, that’s offensive to say towards a writer’s room. The two women find blood in the cow’s milk, and this leads Delilah down a path to thinking she needs to make everyone drink her cow’s milk, while Celeste firmly believes she needs to finger f*ck everyone’s mouths with her pus-covered fingers. I hate to keep saying it over and over, but it’s just like, what? Why? It’s just so unbelievably stupid. It’s hard to articulate just how much of a waste of time this episode feels.

Pastor Walter gives a sermon about cannibalism and basically tells the congregation to grab pick axes so they can start digging up the dead and eating their hearts. Delilah tries to get Edward to drink the milk, but he refuses because he says he’s strong. Even after Delilah says drinking the milk isn’t just for you, it’s for the people who are weak and vulnerable to the disease. Edward says, “If they’re weak they should die.” *sniff sniff* Do you smell that? Smells like COVID commentary! Look, when handled with care and tact, COVID and vaccine commentary can be incredibly effective, but this is just so blatantly blunt and over the top. It’s like if you forced an AI bot to watch every episode of American Horror Story and 200 hours of mid-pandemic CNN.

Pastor Walter gets the congregation of church to go and dig up the bodies of recently deceased

At this point, the episode is nearly over, and we are approaching the American Horror Story nihilistic ending they cannot live without. Basically, we find out Celeste is Edward’s actual mother, which is a ridiculous wrench to throw at us. Pastor Walter stabs Thomas because he tries to protect Celeste when the pastor finds her. The pastor makes his way into the barn and tries to sexually assault her before he gets stabbed by Delilah. Thomas thinks Celeste is cursed, because why not, and tries to kill her but Delilah jumps in front of the blade and gets herself killed in the process. Celeste knocks Thomas out and sets the barn on fire. With cow in tow, Celeste goes to Edward and reveals she’s his mother. Of course, this won’t go well though. Edward stabs Celeste because she’s a [former] milkmaid, and then eats her heart.

Final Thoughts

This episode was truly a slog, and one of the most difficult ones to get through. It’s lackluster on horror, character development, and general points of interest. I can easily say Episode 3 “Drive” ranks much higher than this one. I feel like this would be an easy point to just stop watching the series if I wasn’t covering it, but there were stinkers in Season 1, and it was no shock that there are some in Season 2. At this point, we are halfway through the season, and it would make sense to stuff the middle with the lesser episodes and have the better episodes at the beginning and end of the season. If you’re a die-hard fan then it may be worth a watch, but if you’re a casual AHS viewer, I can safely say skip this episode.


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  1. Totally biased and very bad review,, this is based on an actual true story if you had done your homework you would have realised an English milkmaid claimed to the community that she would not get small pox due to being subjected to cow pox she was right,, this is my second favourite episode, great production and story

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Written by Brendan Jesus

I am an award-winning horror screenwriter, rotting away in New Jersey.

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