“Drive” cleverly subverts a well-known urban legend in an episode that proves once and for all that the new season of American Horror Stories is a whole level above the first.
This recap of American Horror Stories season 2, episode 3, “Drive”, contains spoilers.
You can safely say one thing about this season of American Horror Stories – it’s a lot better than the first. This is probably underselling things, frankly, since the first season was mostly rubbish. The first three episodes here – “Dollhouse”, “Aura”, and now “Drive” – haven’t just been better but significantly so, connecting back to Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s parent series in interesting ways and contorting classic horror into modern shapes.
American Horror Stories season 2, episode 3 recap
It’s fitting, then, that “Drive” makes a point of subverting a pretty well-known urban legend. The traditional version, which is actually recounted during the episode at one point by a character named Piper (Billie Bodega), runs thusly: A woman is driving home alone late at night and realizes that a truck is driving behind her, coming dangerously close and flashing its headlights. Frightened, the woman races away, seemingly to safety, only to eventually be killed by the man in the back seat of her car who the truck driver was trying to warn her about.
In this retelling, the lonely female driver is Marci (Bella Thorne), but she’s far from the victim. Initially, “Drive” is deliberately mysterious about where it’s going. Marci is seen to be a very promiscuous party animal in an open marriage to a highly accommodating man named Chaz (Anthony De La Torre), and she seems to be tempting fate on a nightly basis by picking up random men in nightclubs and having sex with them in the back of her SUV. With word of a serial killer on the news, and Chaz so worried that he has taken to following Marci around, there are many different ways in which this story might go.
Pleasantly, it goes in none of them. It takes a while to get there, but eventually what we realize is that the killer in the urban legend is Marci herself. The would-be good Samaritan who was flashing his lights at her was trying to warn her of a man in the back seat who turns out to be the latest of Marci’s victims; the arrogant dude she picked up in the bar earlier in the episode.
This good Samaritan, Paul (Nico Greetham), becomes her next victim, mostly because he saw enough to jeopardize her killing spree. But it’s when Marci takes him away to the dungeon in her wine cellar that we begin to feel the shape of the story coming together. When Marci spoke earlier with Chaz about her endless hunger that she was finding impossible to satiate, we thought she was referring to her sex drive. But she was really referring to her desire to torture and kill the pretty and the popular, something that Chaz helps her with by disposing of the bodies, but as yet hasn’t gotten to take part in himself. Marci’s issues stem from brutal bullying she experienced as a child because of a birthmark on her face, ceaselessly picked on by people like Paul, and all of her previous victims – those whose flaws and imperfections were all internal, not on display for the world.
In some ways, then, “Drive” is a body positivity metaphor, but it’s also a kind of warped love story about beauty being in the eye of the beholder, and true love being acceptance of another despite – and perhaps even because of – what they perceive to be their flaws. It might not be entirely romantic unless you’re really into handsome dudes taking machetes to the head, but what can I say – I’ve seen unhealthier romances.