American Horror Story Season 10: Why Red Tide’s Finale Was Disappointing

Warning: SPOILERS ahead for American Horror Story season 10, episode 6, "Winter Time."

American Horror Story season 10 was heading in the right direction in becoming an unforgettable season with Part 1's Red Tide, but the finale episode fell short, making for a disappointing end to the tale. Expectations were already high for the milestone tenth season, dubbed Double Feature, because of the delayed-release due to the coronavirus pandemic. After waiting nearly two years, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's horror anthology returned with a story set on the coastal beach town of Provincetown, Massachusetts. Most importantly, it featured the return of fan-favorite actors like Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters.

At the center of Red Tide was Finn Wittrock, who played the Gardner family patriarch, Harry. Harry moved his pregnant wife Doris (Lily Rabe) and nine-year-old daughter, Alma (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), to P-town for the winter to get in a different creative mindset. Harry ultimately found success, but it came at the cost of his family and sanity. After agreeing to take the magic black pills that unlock the creativity and potential of the gifted, Harry became a blood-thirsty tourist. Even worse was that his young daughter followed in his footsteps in an attempt to become an expert violinist. While Harry's agent Ursula (Leslie Grossman) realized his newfound success should be the priority, she concocted a plan to get Doris out of the picture by convincing Alma to give her mother a black bill, which led the woman into becoming a Pale Person.

Related: How Macaulay Culkin Became The New American Horror Story Fan Favorite

In the Red Tide finale, titled "Winter Time," the Gardner family's deadly mishaps gathered attention from the Massachusetts police, leading the town council to force Belle Noir (Frances Conroy) and Austin Sommers (Evan Peters) to take care of the trouble. Belle kidnapped Harry's newborn son with the intention of killing the surviving Gardners, but before the P-Town regulars succeeded, Ursula unleashed her own plan by luring the Pale People into the house to kill Belle and Austin. Then Alma finished the plan, killing her own father so she, Ursula, and the Chemist (Angelica Ross) could take control of the pills. Though Red Tide had a plot in place to make for a stellar ending, it missed the mark.

In recent years, American Horror Story has received criticism for losing some of the elements that made some of the early installments so memorable. Even some series actors have openly stated that some seasons didn't work as well as others, such as Sarah Paulson's distaste for Roanoke. Still, avid fans continued to tune in with the hope American Horror Story returned to its roots. Thankfully, Red Tide seemed to do just that.

Rather than introduce an intricate plot that didn't begin to pay off until midway through the season, Red Tide jumped right into the crux of the season. There was a mystery centered on the creepy Pale People and the truth about the black pills. Instead of stretching the pills' effect, American Horror Story quickly introduced the vampiric dynamic with a slew of intriguing characters like Belle and Austin. Of course, there was also a family at the center of the story, which added to the stakes involving Harry's use of the pills. Having Red Tide focused on the confines of Provincetown was also a benefit since broadening the scope with the setting often results in lessening the allure of the problem at hand. In theory, Red Tide had a formula of success before it was squandered in the finale for ditching what it so masterfully set up in previous episodes.

American Horror Story season 10 was already catching attention for Red Tide's reception, but that was heightened with Part 1's penultimate episode. Red Tide's "Gaslight" was full of twists and turns, beginning with Doris' transformation into a Pale Person. Not only did she turn into a vampire-like humanoid, but her husband and daughter weren't heartbroken by the turn of events, reiterating how Harry was a major villain in Red Tide. The episode then jumped into another shocking subplot involving TB Karen (Sarah Paulson) and Mickey (Macaulay Culkin), two characters that viewers couldn't get enough of.

Related: AHS Season 10: Karen's [SPOILER] & Sarah Paulson's Future Explained

Mickey paid the ultimate price for forcing Karen to take a pill before blood-suckers attacked her. Karen, who was against the black pills, killed him for putting her in a situation that led her to become the figures she despised. After painting her masterpiece on the beach, Karen took her own life as she came to terms with her fate on her own accord. "Gaslight" was heart-pounding from start to finish, pushing the expectations even higher for the Red Tide finale. Based on the major events, it was no surprise that viewers figured "Winter Time" would hit the ground running.

One of the most talked-about factors leading to American Horror Story season 10 was the actors involved. Wittrock deserved a lead role after starring as memorable recurring characters like Dandy Mott in Freak Show and Tristan Duffy in Hotel. It also made sense to have him work alongside Rabe, a proven AHS veteran. Paulson, Peters, and Conroy were integral to Red Tide, but the trio didn't get enough of the spotlight in the concluding chapter. While Karen wasn't involved at all, Belle and Austin were thought to be major players in the finale before getting eliminated so quickly, taking the tension right out of the scenario. With Doris gone and Harry killed by the episode's midway mark, the set-up in the previous episode felt pointless.

That's not to say Ursula and the Chemist didn't deserve their respective screentime in the finale, but the characters should have been used differently to tease their ultimate plan. With the action focused on Harry's family drama and the ongoing issues plaguing Provincetown, the focus shift to Ursula and the Chemist was a last-minute story twist. In addition, a few characters like Denis O'Hare's Holden and Billie Lourd's Lark barely had any story to work with. The two figures could have added to the mystique by being bigger players in connection to those pulling the strings.

A few factors led to Red Tide's underwhelming ending, including the decision to take the story out of Provincetown. Too many unanswered questions were left behind by moving the story to California to follow Ursula, Alma, the Chemist, and baby Eli. The group planned to pin the deaths on Harry, but it would have been satisfying how they managed to talk their way out of the involvement, especially with the Massachusetts police involved. It would have also been exciting to see how the area attempted to explain the existence of vampire-like Pale People as the existence of the black pills were covered up by locals. Essentially, it would have been better to keep the core characters in play for a more impactful Provincetown-set confrontation.

Ursula and the Chemist's plan in California was just not interesting enough to serve as the last sequence of the Red Tide finale. It pushed the pacing off course and instantly took viewers out of the tale. It was instantly clear how the women, including Alma, would wreak havoc on the area with the pills, either by using them or distributing them. Ursula claimed she wanted to level the playing field by creating new Pale People, but that could have been clarified without killing the majority of fun characters to push the story to a new setting. Provincetown and the blood-suckers within the town, whether human or otherwise, were the winning elements of Red Tide, but sadly, American Horror Story season 10 didn't realize that when crafting a suitable ending.

More: AHS Season 10 Secretly Hints At How Red Tide & Death Valley Are Linked

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