“Mr. Jingles” begins when the lead psychologist from Mr. Jingles’ mental hospital arrives at Camp Redwood. Margaret is unimpressed and tells her she can protect herself and the kids from Mr. Jingles. The psychologist leaves. She’s soon troubled by a flat tire, which proves to be sabotage courtesy of Mr. Jingles, who kills her and takes her ear. Later, Brooke hears about the murder on the news. Margaret comes in and kicks the male counselors out. Brooke and Montana discuss trauma, and Brooke tells her tragic backstory. The previous summer, she was marrying her boyfriend Joey when his jealous nature took over; he killed his best man, her father, and then himself. Montana leans in for a kiss, prompting Brooke to go for a walk. Meanwhile, the boys are gossiping about who has dibs on which girl when the power cuts off. Xavier finds himself pushed into a car with “Daddy,” a porn filmmaker he’s worked for in the past. He protests on the grounds that he’s straight, and offers to find him someone even better. Xavier leads “Daddy” to the shower, where he sees Trevor and his impressive penis. However, before he can recruit Trevor, a knife goes through his head as Xavier flees.
Richard Ramirez shows up and attempts, unsuccessfully, to stab Brooke. She runs away and he runs into the hiker, killing him with his knife. Nurse Rita is approached by Mr. Jingles as Brooke tells a skeptical Montana what happened. The hiker faces Ramirez again, much to the confusion of both. Trevor, Ray, and Chet are shocked to find “Daddy” dead leaning against the shower room. Xavier, Brooke, and Montana all converge on the shower room, equally appalled at the sight. Richard Ramirez comes to Margaret and asks her to tell him all about a counselor from 1970. She first tends to his wounds, then explains that the man Ramirez had just “killed twice” had already been dead since 1970, the original killings. He explains to Margaret that his entire life has been pain; she says that all of these events have made him into the man he is. She also explains that you can use God as an explanation for your worst behavior. She then asks him to make Mr. Jingles leave, but do so without killing anyone. The counselors try to escape, but Xavier veers off-road. It proves to be Nurse Rita that he almost crashed into. Xavier’s van is inoperable; Rita and Trevor need to go back in and get their keys. Everyone splits into two groups to get the keys. Margaret encounters the hiker, a ghost named Jonas, the counselor from 1970. He decides that being stuck in limbo must be his punishment for leaving Margaret to die. Meanwhile, Brooke is the first to go inside to get Rita’s keys. With the other team, Xavier is panicking about how this is all his fault and he’s being punished for his sins. Both teams hear banging on their doors.
“Mr. Jingles” surprised me in that I thought it was going to detail the backstory of the eponymous villain. In fact, Mr. Jingles isn’t in the episode all that much. This didn’t really bother me; just an observation. Mr. Jingles’ scenes in the episode are creepy, uncomfortable and mysterious. I look forward to hopefully learning more about him soon. Margaret’s confrontation with the psychologist was really effective in showing her righteous fury towards Mr. Jingles. I still kind of wonder if there’s something else going on with her, and now I’m thinking she may ultimately kill him. The characters who have flashbacks end up being Brooke and the ghost counselor, and these scenes are very effective. I particularly like the grotesque, surreal feeling of Brooke’s tragic wedding day. The choice to play Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” may seem obvious after the fact, but I think it fits well. I wasn’t surprised when Montana kissed Brooke, but this certainly changes the conversation they had in the locker room in “Camp Redwood.”
The scenes with the boys were less interesting, although the jokes about Trevor’s manhood were funny in the typical American Horror Story fashion. Chet and Ray have been somewhat dull characters so far; Chet is just a pretty generic jerky jock, and Ray has only expressed a vague interest in Brooke. Trevor fares better because he’s really funny; it’s just a shame he didn’t share any big scenes with Montana this time around. He did choose her for his “team” to retrieve the car keys, though. I’ve also liked Xavier a bit thus far, owing both to Cody Fern’s charismatic performance and his mysterious past. His backstory becomes a little clearer in “Mr. Jingles” courtesy of the character ”Daddy.” The troubled life of a young man coerced into adult filmmaking explains Xavier’s cryptic phone call in “Camp Redwood,” and it’s disturbing in a way very characteristic of American Horror Story in general. This show is always provocative, but usually, it’s done in the name of creating interesting plots and characters. I’m almost disappointed that “Daddy” died so soon. I’d have liked to learn even more about Xavier, and while I was dreading Trevor potentially being roped into the industry, his meeting “Daddy” could have led to some good comedy. Nurse Rita really hasn’t had much impact on me yet, and I’m wondering if they’ll explore her in later episodes. I’m also intrigued by the ghost and surprised at his revealed identity. I wonder if there are more souls trapped at Redwood. Margaret’s discussion with Richard Ramirez is a definite highlight of the episode. Light is shone on both her past and beliefs, as well as his, and the dialogue is absolutely on fire.
“Mr. Jingles” looks great and has several scenes that exhibit unique lighting and interesting staging, particularly Brooke’s aforementioned wedding. The costuming and makeup continue to be expertly done as well. “Mr. Jingles” is quite gory, even by AHS standards. There are quite a few shots of gushing blood, which, surprisingly, reminded me of the old Hammer horror movies. I’m not sure if that was intended, as this season is based on 80’s slasher flicks, but it’s what came to mind.
Overall, I don’t like “Mr. Jingles” quite as much as “Camp Redwood,” but it is an effective episode with several high points. The acting is great (as usual), the visuals are stunning, and several interesting plot twists kept me engaged.