REVIEW: American Horror Story – Season 11, Episodes 3 and 4, “Smoke Signals” and “Black Out”


In “Smoke Signals,” Gino’s investigation leads him to a house fire and his kidnapper. Patrick’s interest in leather bars resurfaces as a means to investigate. He has a run-in with Sam after the latter’s prisoner escapes, but it proves a dead end. Hannah searches for a link between the sick deer and her patients’ symptoms. Patrick contracts the rash.

“Black Out” finds Gino where “Smoke Signals” left him, in a morgue cooler. Luckily, Patrick hears and frees him. At home, Gino wakes up with the same mysterious rash that’s been spreading. Gino learns that the fire is being reported as an accident rather than arson and seeks to remedy that. Gino goes to Kathy (Patti LuPone), a local club owner and singer, for a statement. She pushes back at first but acquiesces after threats of being besmirched in the paper. Hans, one of the performers from the bar, turns up dead. Theo confronts Sam but ultimately resists turning him in. Theo leaves Sam and propositions Adam, who invites him inside. After Theo leaves, the power goes out, and Morris calls to invite Adam to a blackout party. The police chief confronts Patrick about sensitive information in Gino’s paper. Patrick outs himself rather than directly answering the charge. Barbara comes to Gino again, this time with a leather mask she found. She tells him to do what she didn’t and ask Patrick what he’s up to. The killer calls Patrick to say he’s going hunting in the dark. Patrick runs into Big Daddy, and Sam tells Adam to leave Theo alone. Gino gives Patrick an ultimatum to tell him everything or leave. Whitley lures two victims into an elevator.

AHS Smoke Signals

Gino has been my favorite character up to this point, and I still like him, but he makes some dumb choices this week. I’m tired of his flip-flopping with Patrick; he keeps calling him on the lies and secrets but always stays. If it bothers you that much, just leave already. But he keeps sleeping with him and has made no effort to move out. What does Gino want out of this relationship, and if he can’t get it, will he be willing to find it with someone else? I also don’t understand why he keeps going straight home after these insanely traumatic run-ins with Whitley. I understand that the cops won’t help him, but dude, at least go to the hospital. When he finally does end up in a hospital bed, it’s because he collapsed, and Patrick took him there. I think the ultimate poor decision comes in “Smoke Signals” when Gino and Patrick split up to search for the culprit among the burn victims. This is what lands Gino in the morgue in the first place! For that matter, why isn’t anyone working in the morgue, or at least locking it up? Why are people (including Whitley, a dangerous killer) allowed to roam freely down there? I will say that I think Joe Mantello and the writers have done a great job establishing Gino’s character up to this point. I felt genuine tension and concern for his well-being throughout “Smoke Signals.” This wouldn’t have worked if he wasn’t so likable and interesting. I just think they’re carrying it a little too far with these close calls and near misses. Eventually, it’s going to feel like Gino has plot armor and can’t be hurt; then, people won’t care what happens to him. Adam is kind of dumb for getting into Sam’s car too. This guy is very jealous of Theo’s affection, and he’s a suspect in the killings. Even though nothing ultimately happens, if I were Sam, I wouldn’t give him the chance.

AHS Smoke Signals

Patrick is a true enigma. I like Russell Tovey in this role, and he generally gets good dialogue, but, like Barbara and Gino, we don’t know much about him. I think this works for now because it’s still (relatively) early in the season. I don’t think he’s the killer (or one of them) anymore, but his reluctance to open up is frustrating. How are you going to live with someone and not even tell them about yourself? How did Barbara and later Gino even get involved with him? It’s also unclear at this point whether Barbara really has bad intentions. She’s done more than enough by telling Gino about the handkerchiefs, but it’s starting to feel like meddling. Girl, get on with your life. Forget about Patrick and live the life you deserve. Patrick doesn’t seem concerned enough about Gino’s well-being after these recent incidents with Whitley. I know he has a lot on his plate with the department and his boss, but this is the person he claims to love. Gino has had two near-death experiences lately and Patrick hasn’t even slowed down to ask how he’s holding up. The final admission that he’s been with other guys is the final nail in the coffin for me. Their relationship is almost as unhealthy as Sam and Theo’s, and they just need to break it off. Patrick needs a lot of therapy, but I can’t imagine someone like him asking for this type of help, especially in the 80s.

AHS Smoke Signals

Clearly, I was onto something about Whitley being creepy. I don’t think he’s the only killer because Sam and Big Daddy are undeniably in on it somehow. But he threatens to kill people, puts Gino in the morgue, and presumably kills the two men in the elevator at the end of “Black Out.” At this point, I don’t think Patrick is involved, but there’s definitely something going on with him. He needs to work through some stuff, like relationships and being his authentic self. But for now, I think Sam, Whitley, and Big Daddy are in cahoots and committing the murders.

Overall, I enjoyed “Smoke Signals” (clever title there) and “Black Out.” The writing isn’t as strong as it was in the 2-part season premiere, but I’m still engaged, and I really like some of the characters. I look forward to seeing what happens next.

American Horror Story Season 11, Episodes 3 and 4, "Smoke Signals" and "Black Out"

Plot - 6
Acting - 9
Progression - 5
Production Design - 10
Horror Elements - 5



Overall, I enjoyed "Smoke Signals" (clever title there) and "Black Out," but I think the writing isn't as strong as it was in the 2-part season premiere.

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