“Lake” plunges into some buried secrets, but it’s a tropey and mildly unsatisfying end to an otherwise excellent season.
This recap of American Horror Stories season 2, episode 8, “Lake”, contains spoilers.
Call me unreasonable, but I have a long-held belief that we could probably stand to lose anyone — especially teenagers — who spends their time on boats. It’s just asking for trouble, I think. So, “Lake” is perfect for me. It opens with beautiful-looking young people smugly sailing around on a lake, and you just know something awful will happen to them.
Jake (Bobby Hogan), who is trying to make history by being the first male ever to seduce someone with a topographical map, swims to the bottom of the lake with his sister, Finn (Olivia Rouyre), to look at the remains of an old town that the creation of a dam turned into Atlantis. And he never comes up again. Grasping hands burst through the lakebed, grab him, and drag him under. Maps used to say, “There be dragons here.” That old one never mentioned aquatic zombies though.
American Horror Stories season 2, episode 8 recap
Four months later and Finn — yes, we get it — is struggling. She has just returned home from a mental health clinic and her parents, Jeffrey (Teddy Sears) and Erin (Alicia Silverstone), don’t know what to do with her. Their marriage is struggling in the aftermath of Jake’s death and Jeffrey is lamenting how much money he has spent on therapy that doesn’t seem to have worked. Do you see what I mean about people with boats?
It quickly becomes apparent that it might not just be the presumably haunted Lake Prescott that’s the problem, but water in general. Director Tessa Blake finds something terrifying about the rippling surface of an outdoor pool — of course, Jeffrey has a pool — or a bathtub or a tap turned on by itself. But interestingly it’s Erin, not Finn, who experiences these weird spurts of haunting, and who eventually comes face to face with Jake at the poolside, imploring her to come and find him. He’s looking a little worse for wear. Jeffrey thinks she’s imagining things, but Finn overhears and thinks that returning to the lake and bringing Jake home will be good for both of them.
Side note: The age-old battle between the rational and the supernatural is obviously overdone in horror, especially within strained marriages. Jeffrey is intended to represent the rational perspective here, but because we’ve repeatedly seen him be obnoxious and disinterested, he just seems like a d*ck. When are we going to get a loving and attentive husband who still thinks his wife is nuts? That’s surely a much more interesting character dynamic.
Anyway, Erin and Finn sneak off to their lake house — of course, Jeffrey has a lake house — and plunge back into the murky depths. Luckily Erin ties a rope around her waist. Safety first! When she swims to the bottom she eventually finds a concrete block with three people chained to it, as if they had been left to drown, and takes a name tag from one of them. As she tries to swim back to the surface, her ankle is grabbed, much like Jake’s was, but she’s able to wriggle free and come face to face with Jake’s bloated, partially rotten body.
The police are puzzled that Erin managed to do in five minutes what their entire department couldn’t do in months, and there’s no sign of any bodies chained to any concrete blocks, but the cop does provide a clue when Erin shows him the name tag, printed with the name Boone. Apparently, the Boones were a family who used to farm the old land, and they still have a living relative named Millie, so guess where we’re going next?
Millie explains that her great-grandfather, Maynard Nathaniel Boone, was left at the bottom of the lake at the behest of the state’s “favorite son”, Mr. Wrede Prescott, who wanted the dam to be built for financial reasons — are there any other kind? — and made an example of Maynard and two others to do it. Even now, the dam is subject to an annual petition imploring the state to tear it down, but it has survived 90 years thanks to an endowment that entrusted Wrede Prescott’s fortune and secrets to a law firm named Spengler and Webber.
The name of the firm is familiar to Erin and Finn since that’s the name of the firm that Jeffrey works at. He’s in charge of the case to keep the dam operational. But he’s also a Prescott, which explains a lot. Jake had Prescott blood in his veins, so the denizens of the lake wanted revenge on him. And that means Finn is in danger too. As if to counter Jeffrey’s attempts to belittle Erin and Finn’s theory, the lights cut out, the crickets stop chirping, and all the bodies that Wrede’s greed left at the bottom of the lake rise to its surface and begin marching towards the lake house.
The ghouls encircle the family, snatch up Jeffrey, and return with him to the water, which Erin seems understandably okay about. Why don’t they take Finn? No idea, honestly. But either way, with the drought worsening and the water level falling, the truth about Lake Prescott will be revealed soon enough.