American Horror Stories Drowns Their Chance of a Good Season Finale With “Lake” (S2E8)

Wow, these eight weeks went by in a flash—an eight-week-long flash. American Horror Stories Season 2 missed the mark on nearly every shot. “Dollhouse” and “Aura” gave the season great legs to stand on, but the following four episodes, with a small exception to “Bloody Mary,” were just so abhorrently bad. Nearly every episode in Season 2 tries to do something interesting or subversive, but it’s just unfortunate that both seasons don’t really take themselves too seriously and seem half-assed. “Necro” brought us one of the most interesting ideas in any episode of American Horror Stories. Unfortunately, like the strawberries in my fridge, one exceptional episode doesn’t negate the rest of the moldy strawberries. I’m mixing up metaphors, but I think you get the gist. What’s even more of a shame is how boring, lacking in any interesting ideas, and just plain dumb some of these episodes were. Let’s take a look at Episode 8 of American Horror Stories Season 2, and good luck getting a Season 3 after this one.

Episode 8 “Lake”

Forgoing the location title card motif of nearly every other episode, we start on Lake Prescott with a group of friends drinking on a boat. The only two people who matter here are brother and sister Jake (Bobby Hogan) and Finn (Olivia Rouyre). They are drinking and driving as Jake tries desperately to hit on a girl named Hayley by talking about the real reason they are on the lake. See, Jake got a “topo” map, his words, which is what he calls it just so he can mansplain to Hayley what a topographical map is. Jake tells her Lake Prescott is actually a dammed lake, that sits on top of an old town known as Reedsville. Reedsville had a population of 103 residents, which I thought was going to be something, but it is a completely useless point.

Finn dives under the lake with her brother, who gets grabbed by a corpse

There are two points this episode tries to get across, and they are global warming bad, capitalism bad. Which, yeah, you’re not wrong, but they go about it in the bluntest way possible. Jake makes a point to Hayley saying they can finally dive down now to try and find the sunken city because of the drought, and that they would not have been able to do this dive just a couple of years ago. Finn, trying to save Jake from this, “skank,” asserts that she will be doing the dive with him, rather than Hayley. It feels a bit incesty.

Finn and Jake dive under and eventually find a tricycle, an old sign, and other mementos of a city once lively, now sunken into the sand. Out of nowhere, a hand grabs Jake’s ankle, holding him under. Finn surfaces and yells for help, but literally none of their friends come to the rescue. Jake soon gets yanked under the surface, disappearing for good.

Four months later, Finn arrives home with her parents Erin (Alicia Silverstone) and Jeffrey (Teddy Sears). The only good performance in this entire episode comes from Alicia Silverstone, and that’s not saying much. If the Beamer in the driveway wasn’t evidence enough, Jeffrey mentions how much money they have by saying Finn was at the “best [mental health clinic] in the city.” One can wonder if being back home is the best thing for Finn, as her parents aren’t really talking to each other anymore. The whole family vibe is so weird here, Erin acts as if Xanax is her breakfast treat, and Jeffrey seems like a whiskey-guzzling lawyer who thinks his life’s work is way more important than his family. They are truly a broken family.

Finn asks Erin what they ended up burying in Jake’s casket, and Erin says they basically made a time capsule of Jake’s life and put it in the casket. Let’s hope they don’t forget to dig it up in 10 years! Finn’s parents do an overly written job of discrediting Finn’s story, which I am SURE is the best thing for Finn’s mental health…because she didn’t just spend four months in a mental health clinic. Erin goes to take a bath, but after walking back to the tub, the water is like murky lake water. Like anyone would do, Erin leans down towards the bathtub as a hand JUMPS out at her, grabbing her forearm. One scream and the event is over.

The next day Erin does some research on Lake Prescott and if it is haunted, though she is interrupted by Jeffrey. Jeffrey now apologizes for the second time about how he has been isolating himself recently and that he wants to do better. Finn has a few visions of Jake that are recurring. Honestly, it really seemed like this episode was going to hinge around the concept of an overprotective sister dealing with the loss of the brother she was very close with; instead, it deals with the psychological fallout for the mother. There’s nothing inherently wrong with having the mother as the focal point, it’s just from the very beginning of the episode, it is made very clear that this brother and sister are incredibly close. Adding to that, we have spent the first few minutes of the episode growing with Finn—hell we get Jake’s death from her point of view! It’s just an incredibly poor choice to switch up the conduit for the story just like that. If they would have at least given us the POV for the three main characters and divvied them up in 1/3 chunks that would at least make some semblance of sense. Ugh. Moving on.

Erin dives under the murky water to look for her son's corpse

Erin can’t sleep, partly due to the sound of running water. After a thorough search of the house, Erin finds the kitchen faucet running. Erin slaps the handle down and the water stops. But oh no the handle lifts itself up again! Erin slaps the handle down, again. As Erin shuts it back off, the back door swings open with a loud BANG as the disembodied voice of Jake yelling “MOM” is overlaid. This leads Erin out to see the drain on their pool is clogged and overflowing. Now, for an episode that brings up the drought a few times and was most likely filmed in LA, and with the actual drought that is happening there, they sure wasted a lot of water filming this episode! Anyways, Jake’s dead bloated body appears to Erin, asking her to bring him home.

Erin and Jeffrey argue because she says she wants to go to the lake to try and find his body, but he thinks it is a ridiculous idea. We see that Finn is listening to the whole conversation. Finn later tells Erin she heard the whole conversation and wants to join her mother. After leaving a note for Jeffrey to let them know, they are en route to their cottage home. Eventually, Erin and Finn get onto the lake to find Jake(‘s body). Erin ties a length of rope around her waist so Finn can pull her back if anything happens. There are a few failed attempts to find Jake’s body, but eventually, Erin stumbles upon three corpses shackled to a hunk of cement. For some reason, Erin grabs a pendant off of one of the corpses, just as Jake grabs her by the ankle. Jake’s corpse floats up to Erin and the mission is complete.

They end up alerting the authorities after finding the body, which brings up one of the only interesting concepts of the episode. The cop Erin speaks with alludes to how interesting it is that even though the authorities sent dive teams in to sweep the water, Erin and Finn were able to find the body. A better route they could have taken was turning this into a sort of mystery thriller, where they have to try and somehow prove their innocence to the police, with the police thinking they planted the body…or something. The cop tells Erin the pendant she found is the family crest of the Boone family, one of the original families from Reedsville.

Erin and Finn go to the nursing home where the last remaining Boone resides. In a quick force of exposition, Ms. Boone tells them that Wrede Prescott was the businessman who basically killed the people of Reedsville who were against his idea to dam it. It turns out one of the men chained to the cement slab was Ms. Boone’s great-grandfather. Ms. Boone also reveals every year her estate files a petition to get the dam removed, and they always get the number of signatures needed, but the Spengler & Webber law firm holds the Prescott trust and fights the petition every year. This is when Erin and Finn make a big realization…that’s Jeffrey’s firm.

Erin and Finn go back to the cottage to pack up and go home so they can confront Jeffrey, but who shows up at the cottage? Yeah, Jeffrey. They confront Jeffrey about it and he confirms that he is well aware of the Prescott trust and that he runs the trust. Also, they’re related to Wrede Prescott? Erin realizes the lake wants its revenge, so that’s why it took Jake. Like she really says, the lake took Jake so that this exact moment could happen with Jeffrey at the cottage. The corpses of the Reedsville residents emerge from the lake, looking worse than something from Tales From The Crypt, and carry Jeffrey into the lake, submerging him until his death.

Erin fills up a perfectly normal bathtub, but it somehow gets filled with murky lake water

Erin has a final stinger line about the whole world will see just how terrible Wrede Prescott was because the lake will continue to get lower and lower due to the drought.

Final Thoughts

Okay, so even though Jeffrey and his family would regularly go to the cottage, the Reedsville corpses wanted to wait for this exact moment? You’re telling me they wanted to kill an innocent kid, just to get Jeffrey to come back so they could kill him? These ghost residents had hundreds of opportunities before to kill Jeffery but decided the best way to go about it was to kill a kid that literally had no clue what his father was a part of. It makes the protagonists feel more like antagonists, which is fine, but we’re supposed to feel bad for the residents of Reedsville and that right there takes away any care we could have for their plight.

Season 2 of American Horror Stories was a complete drag. I have no doubt FX will greenlight a third season because the amount of money and viewers Falchuck and Murphy bring to their projects is absurd. No matter what I have said about Season 2, though, I will be watching Season 3 whenever it comes out.

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Written by Brendan Jesus

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

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