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The Ending Of American Horror Story: Death Valley Episode 1 Explained

Last week, we said goodbye to the bloody shores of Provincetown as the first half of "American Horror Story: Double Feature" came to an end. This week's installment, "Take Me To Your Leader," is the first episode of the "Death Valley" portion of the doubleheader and it wasted no time in establishing itself as a pretty significant change of pace for the season.

"Death Valley" opens in the 1950s and quickly introduces viewers to the aliens that were promised in the season's promotional material. Our protagonist in this timeline is President Dwight D. Eisenhower (Neal McDonough), who gets pulled away from a Palm Springs golfing vacation to attend to what quickly reveals itself to be an extremely concerning matter of national security. Not only has an unidentified vessel crash-landed in the desert, but it has also brought with it something disturbing and dangerous.

Flash forward to the present day, where we meet childhood friends Kendall aka Kenny (Kaia Gerber), Cal (Nico Greetham), Troy (Isaac Cole Powell), and Jamie (Rachel Hilson). They are reuniting while on break from their respective colleges and looking to have a summer of fun and frivolity. A technology-free camping trip out in the desert of Southern California sounds like the perfect thing, and it is until an unexplained encounter turns their lives upside down.

Here's how everything went down in the first episode of "Death Valley."

Death Valley kicks things off in the 1950s

Considering the "Death Valley" portion of the "Double Feature" is only slated to be four episodes long, the premiere keeps its cards remarkably close to its chest. It's not that the episode lacks meaty plot developments or important details. Rather, it's the significance they all have to one another that is still a bit opaque.

In the 1950s, we follow President Eisenhower as he responds to reports of a downed alien spacecraft. Other than the crash and the alien that tumbles out of it, there are two significant oddities related to the incident. Eisenhower's men find a nude woman with cryptic symbols etched on her back near the crash site. The president recognizes her immediately: it's pioneering airwoman Amelia Earhart (Lily Rabe) who has been missing and presumed dead for around 20 years. Not only has Earhart seemingly not aged a day since she went missing, but she's also several months pregnant and reports being experimented on by her unidentified kidnappers.

The other important figure is a housewife named Maria (Rebecca Dayan). In the opening scene of the episode, her family is visited by extraterrestrials who turn her into a floating, milky-eyed phantom who has the ability to explode people's heads with a flick of her wrist. She appears again in the final moments of the 1950s portion after an autopsy on the alien recovered from the crash site goes horribly awry.

After blowing apart the heads of several secret service members, Eisenhower tries to reason with Maria, asking her to listen to what he, as President of the United States, can do for her. She responds, "Mr. President: it is you who will listen to us."

Kenny discusses the dangers of technology with her friends

After Maria's cryptic appearance, we're brought to the present-day. The show introduces us to bro-friends Cal and Troy, who recently began dating after realizing their mutual attraction to one another, Jamie, who is upset after a budding relationship fizzled out because she is literally allergic to her potential BF, and Kenny, who has started exploring Luddism, or the rejection of modern technology.

Kenny's interest in turning back the clock began after joining the Harvard Luddite club and becoming better acquainted with a technology skeptic named Adam (Samuel Hunt). During a flashback, we hear him explain a key tenet of the neo-Luddite philosophy: "We've advanced technologically far faster than our brains or our emotions can adapt." Kenny's friends are skeptical of her new philosophical approach to life (as are some fans) but they do let her convince them to go on a technology-free camping trip.

Technology and humanity's relationship to it looks to be one of the central themes of "Death Valley," the same way "Red Tide" had a sharp focus on the cost of artistic success. Kenny's ruminations on Luddism bring technology to the fore, but that theme also has threads in the 1950s setting and Amelia Earhart who was, after all, an aviation pioneer. The danger of encountering a species that is far more technologically advanced than our own is also one of the great existential fears behind the concept of aliens. How all of those threads will be woven together remains a mystery, but in its first episode, "Death Valley" does appear to be setting technology up as the nexus around which the narrative will circle.

The group has an unexplainable encounter in the desert

The most significant development of "Take Me To Your Leader" comes at the end of the episode. When the quartet of friends discovers a field of bisected cattle near their campsite, they attempt to flee the desert but are stopped in the middle of the road by a blinding light that cuts the power to their vehicle. Octopus-like tendrils creep into the car through the windows but before things can get really freaky, they wake up still in the car with little memory of what just happened.

Once they all get home, though, they realize they didn't escape the desert unscathed. When Kenny and Jamie admit that they are experiencing uncontrollable vomiting and nausea, they get together and confirm the horrifying: both of them are pregnant. What's even more unnerving is that Cal and Troy are experiencing the same symptoms. They, too, each end up producing positive pregnancy tests. Kenny and Jamie's pregnancies could be explained by some terrible, but entirely natural, occurrence, but Cal and Troy are both cis-men without the necessary biological faculties to become pregnant. It's clear to them now that something disturbing happened during their lost time incident.

It's, of course, significant that Amelia Earhart was also revealed to be pregnant after her encounter with the aliens. What, exactly, do the aliens hope to gain by impregnating earthlings? The answer no doubt lies in whatever the aliens controlling Maria had to say to President Eisenhower. Something clearly happened in the 1950s that is having reverberations in the present day and based on what we've learned so far, it's clearly something deeply sinister.