If you have been following our coverage of American Horror Stories Season 2, then you’ll know I’ve been pretty harsh on this season. While American Horror Story has been known to try and push the envelope of what is acceptable for television, disregarding the fact Stories is exclusively streaming, it has seemed as if they decided to be more safe and tame with Stories. There hasn’t really been an episode in either season where it feels like they are pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable for mainstream audiences. I’m not here to blame the creators for attempting to make horror accessible in a world where streaming numbers mean more than Nielsen ratings. It’s just when you make something for everyone, you are going to alienate the people who want something raw, real, or just plain different. Season 2 Episode 7 “Necro” proves this show CAN take things too far, in the best way possible.
Episode 7 “Necro”
With a title like “Necro” and an incredibly vague IMDb plot summary, even with the current track record for Season 2, I was delightfully hopeful for something interesting. Hot damn, did they deliver. We start in Machiasport, Maine ’98 in a ransacked kitchen covered in blood, broken glass, and Krunchy Loops strewn about. In the middle of the kitchen, a woman lays still. Our initial thoughts are realized when a young girl walks over to her mother and we see she is dead. Her breast is exposed, which leads to the little girl breastfeeding from her deceased mother. Okay, right off the bat this is absolutely nuts. There have been some pretty gnarly visuals throughout the 85 seasons of American Horror Story, and even though I have only fully completed three of the seasons, that moment may be one of the most intense moments I have seen them attempt.
Cut to present-day Whittier, California with mortician Sam (Madison Iseman) in a montage of her working her mortician magic. Sam’s boss (Jeff Doucette) tells her the family was beyond pleased with the reconstructive work she did, leading to her getting a raise. It’s clear to tell just how great Sam is at her job and how much she truly appreciates the opportunity she has to give these families one last bit of closure. This really plays into the character arc Sam goes through, and Iseman absolutely knocks this role out of the park.
Sam gets home just as her boyfriend Jesse (Spencer Neville) is heading out to court—it doesn’t specifically state it, but it seems like he is a prosecutor. Fresh off the excitement of the raise, Sam tries to get a little fresh with Jesse, though he is hyper-focused on work, presumably, and also goes so far as to say he doesn’t like the formaldehyde stench on her. Jesse tells Sam to use the lavender oil he purchased for her before walking right out of the door. Jesse’s complete turnoff and turndown is a fantastic moment of character development and really gives us an intimate look into their relationship. Sam is trying to love Jesse but is obsessed with her job. We will find out in the next scene where Sam’s friends call her out for lighting up and having passion in her voice when discussing her job, and then flattens out and has little to no emotion when talking about Jesse.
The next day at work, Sam is tasked with giving a body the ability to have an open casket funeral—oh yeah, and there is a hole where this body’s eye is supposed to be. While working on Mr. Glover’s body, a man walks into the room. This is Charlie (Cameron Cowperthwaite), AKA generic brand Caleb Landry Jones…I kid, I kid. Sam tells Charlie this is a restricted area, and he tells her he is the new grave digger and death removal tech. Charlie leaves the room, after whispering something into the ear of the body he rolled into the room. We get a weird sort of edgelord vibe from Charlie, there’s obviously something off and very different about him. Iseman and Cowperthwaite do an excellent job of playing off of each other; the give and take they have for their characters really help round them out.
In the parking lot, Sam asks Charlie what he said to the corpse. He says that he thanked the body. Charlie’s outlook on life and death is shaped by a past trauma he had as a kid, which also leads into the whole statement this episode goes for, which is trauma and what trauma can make someone do. Sam is somewhat caught off-guard by Charlie’s response and even more taken aback when he says it is an honor to be a part of someone’s death journey. Feeling froggy from this interaction, Sam goes home and uses the lavender oil Jesse bought her, hoping it would get him in the mood to get jiggy with it. It works as Sam takes Jesse to pound town but can only think of Charlie the whole time. Crystal Liu’s script does an excellent job of fleshing out the character beats and giving each action an equal reaction.
Over the next few days at work, Sam and Charlie have multiple fragmented existential conversations about life and death. Charlie talks about how he believes in reincarnation, while Sam believes we all just get one chance on this rock. Over their days of conversation, Sam and Charlie become quite close. I ship it. Towards the end of their multiple-day-long conversation, Charlie reveals his family died in a car accident. His mother, father, and sister were killed by a drunk driver, Charlie being the lone survivor. The trauma he received from this incident formed his love, and lack of fear, of death. Sam gets ready to reveal to Charlie what her big trauma is, something she has never talked about with anyone before…not even her boyfriend. Sam and Charlie are moments away from kissing when Jesse calls. She is late for dinner with his parents.
When Sam arrives home, the house is pitch black, and we get a false scare of someone sneaking past her without her noticing. Sam walks towards the kitchen when her foot crunches on something…Krunchy Loops. This leads to an expository flashback of a home intruder breaking into her house in ’98 and her mother being killed. Sam starts freaking out and falls to the ground, and this is when Jesse comforts her showing us that it was his attempt at proposing to her. Spelled out in Krunch Loops on the ground is, “Will you marry me?” Sam finally reveals to Jesse about her tragic past, and that Jesse deserves to be with someone who is normal and not messed up like she is; Sam leaves the house and declines his proposal.
Now it’s unclear if what happens next is the same night or another day, but Sam gets a fresh body at work…it’s Charlie, and the cause of death is apparently an overdose. Sam is beyond distraught, the one person she found who truly understands her is gone from this world. In either a moment of clarity, or psychosis, she curls up next to his body. This whole scene is one of the most transgressive things AHS has put on screen, as she straddles his corpse and starts having sex with it. Charlie’s hand “spasms” and Sam runs from the room. Sam is followed out of the room, and into another, by a beautifully shot handheld cam as she hyperventilates and assess her situation. Upon entering the room again Sam finds Charlie’s body missing. Quite understandably, Sam runs outside and throws up, just to find Charlie…STANDING BEHIND HER!
Charlie tells Sam about how he had a friend do some prosthetics work on him to make the autopsy scars look real, and how he basically pulled a John Kramer in Saw, that is taking a pill to slow down his heart rate immensely. Sam is aghast and runs away. Now there are a few things at play here. Not only is what Charlie did absolutely grotesque and manipulative, but he could have just like, talked to her? It’s obvious they were forming a tight bond and they were even going to kiss already. The actions Charlie took are beyond extreme, but also Sam’s reaction is also fairly gross. In hindsight though she is coming off of declining Jesse’s marriage proposal and the one other person she had truly found common ground with is now out of her life. Having sex with a corpse is not the best action to take in life, but it can be somewhat justified in her case based on her worldview.
Two months later we find out Sam has quit her job at the funeral home and is now working at a makeup store. The juxtaposition here is quite hysterical actually, going from putting makeup on dead people to helping the living find the proper makeup. Sam has gone back to Jesse now, and the marriage is on like Donkey Kong. Sam parties with her bridesmaids, but something is off. Her hair is different, she’s not wearing the unique outfits she used to wear…she is not herself anymore. After being called out by friends for being different now, Sam just says she wants a normal boring life, even though it’s clear how unhappy she is even if Jesse doesn’t see it.
Here comes the bride, and a whole new slew of issues! During the wedding, Sam and Jesse read their custom vows, when Jesse goes off script to play a slideshow of photos of them when they are standing at the altar. But one of these is not like the other! After a few photos a black and white video comes on screen, it is of Sam having sex with Charlie’s “corpse”! Charlie crashes the wedding saying he is the one for Sam, and she needs to realize he is the only one who will ever truly be able to love her for who she is. Jesse storms out, as does Sam.
Cut to some time later, and Sam is interviewing for a maid position. The interviewer tells her how overqualified Sam is for the position, but he is happy to have her on board. All while Sam is being interviewed, a few maids behind her are staring at a phone and trying to get the interviewer’s attention. The interviewer excuses himself for a moment as the other maids show him the video of Sam and Charlie, and she is promptly kicked out and denied the job as they don’t want a “sexual predator” working for them. At this point, Charlie has leaked the video, proving he is a master manipulator. Charlie’s goal at this point seems to be to alienate Sam from every facet of having a normal life so that she will be resigned to defaulting to him as a partner. At this point in life, it seems like the only real option she would have would be to partner up with Charlie and let him make the bread for them.
Resigned to violence, Sam illegally purchases a gun and starts following Charlie around. Sam pulls up to Charlie as he is digging a fresh grave, and she approaches him putting the gun to his lower back. Ready for answers, Sam asks Charlie why he did what he did, and he tells her it’s because she wasn’t truly happy. Sam shoots back, figuratively, saying she was happy and content with her life, but Charlie calls bullsh*t on that. Now we finally get the full story from the opening scene: Sam lay with her dead mother for three days, thinking she would wake up at some point, and constantly breastfeeding her. Charlie says she is “disgusting, beautiful, f*cked up, and amazing.” There is a whole conversation about Charlie saying Sam truly tasted death when she had sex with his corpse, and she agrees. Sam says that having sex with him was the same energy she felt when she was suckling from her dead mother and that tasting death feels like love.
Charlie has an amazing line here saying, “Your weird and my weird belong together.” Sam agrees as they kiss, and she shoots Charlie in the gut. Charlie falls backward into the grave he just dug, as Sam turns the truck on, making the dirt fall into the grave. In a turn of events, though, Sam gets down in the grave with him. The two forlorn lovers start making love as the grave fills in with dirt on them, leading them to truly find their peace.
Episode 7 “Necro” was absolutely bonkers! This has been one of, if not the, most enjoyable and gut-wrenching episodes of the two seasons of Stories. The whole idea of necrophilia hasn’t really been done too much in recent horror, so to take this concept head-on in a highly accessible horror show is quite a task. The screenplay does an excellent job at exploring the facets of the two main characters and shows just how truly great Stories can be when they try and push the envelope to make an actual horror show. Not to toot my own horn, but I called it. I knew they were throwing the filler episodes into the middle of the season, saving the best for the beginning and the end. With just one episode left “Necro” has reinvigorated my excitement for this season, and I cannot wait to see what they plan to do with Episode 8.