American Horror Stories has returned with a third reason: to give us more stories to watch and probably unlock a few more fears. The first episode is titled Bestie, and it describes the relationship between a socially awkward girl (Shelby) and her new online best friend (no name), who never goes out because of her deformity. How their relationship changes the course of Shelby’s life is the story of the episode. We have heard some noise online about it being offensive to disabled people because of their demonization. On the contrary, our opinion is that in such cases of debate, it helps to reverse the roles to check. Had the mysterious girl not been disabled or deformed, how would it have affected the story? It is entirely possible that we are missing some nuance in this theory, but it is a good idea to consider the issue with an open mind. Until then, let us take a look at the recap of American Horror Stories Episode 1.
What Are The Troubles Of Shelby?
After losing her mother to cancer, Shelby and her father move to a new town to start life afresh. Shelby’s father wants this change for his daughter since, in their previous place, each memory of theirs was tied to his wife. That was not allowing them to move on, and he felt that Shelby, especially, needed a new environment where she could be herself. But that is easier said than done. In school, Shelby has trouble making friends, as some of her classmates keep picking on her because of her appearance. It seems like something Shelby is used to, and we are taking a fair guess that even in her previous school, Shelby was not very popular. One of the places Shelby turns to for comfort is an online personality named Anna Rexhia, who is a drag queen and preaches unapologetic bravery to her followers. She talks about how she learned to not let what she was scared of control her, and for someone like Shelby, who was struggling with low self-esteem, these were welcome words.
In the comment section of one of Rexhia’s videos, Shelby meets another girl who goes by ‘BestFriend4eva’. We will refer to her as “Bestie” for the rest of the article since she never gives her name to Shelby. Bestie says that she is confined to her room because of her deformities, and just like Shelby, she is looking for the courage to live her own life through Rexhia’s videos. Shelby and Bestie instantly hit it off, and they bond over their shared troubles with loneliness and dads, who don’t understand them. However, what starts out as innocent teenage banter quickly escalates when Bestie starts asking Shelby to do things that would allow her to live vicariously through Shelby. It starts innocently enough, with Bestie asking Shelby to wear her strong eye makeup to school. That actually helps Shelby stand up to her bullies, and upon seeing how good that made her feel, Shelby decides to take more of Bestie’s advice.
The next thing that Bestie wants Shelby to do is break a cup that her dad held precious. In hindsight, it was Bestie’s way of isolating Shelby from the person closest to her and making her think that Bestie was the only person who cared for Shelby in the whole world. These antics quickly escalate, and Shelby becomes even more unruly. She was constantly fighting with her father, who did not understand how he could rectify the situation, and she was also acting out at school. When Shelby did not get a role in the school play, she retaliated by spoiling the performance of the entire group, which is the scene we saw at the beginning of American Horror Stories season 3, episode 1. That was also a clever callback to the actual American Horror Story season 3, titled Coven, and the current series is a spin-off of it.
So far, everything Shelby has done has been a secret, but now, with Halloween around the corner, Bestie urges her to do something more risky. Shelby probably thought she was dressing up as something edgy, but it was a point where she took it too far. She came dressed as a baby dying, which was how her teacher had lost his child. The teacher’s child was born dead because the cord had gotten tied around her neck. He had told Shelby that when he was talking to her about her mother and asking her to be brave and resilient in the new environment. He had always been nice and kind to Shelby, which is why this hit way too hard. Shelby was dragged back home by her father and locked in, as he simply did not know what else he could do since his daughter seemed to have lost her mind.
How Does Shelby Break Free Of Bestie’s Manipulations?
Shelby certainly did not realize what she had done wrong, and she was furious at her father for locking her in. She finds an old laptop in the stuff down there and immediately contacts Bestie, whose advice for Shelby to get out is that she harm herself in some way. That would force her father to take her out since she would need a doctor. Bestie’s advice is that Shelby break a bone, and when Shelby expresses her fear, Bestie manipulates her by saying that she would do it if she considered them friends. Shelby is desperate to not lose the friendship, and eventually, she ends up breaking her own hand. But unexpectedly, that turns out to be her wake-up call. She realizes that Bestie never meant well for her, and from that moment on, she starts ignoring her and blocking her everywhere, though the messages still keep coming in.
Why Did Bestie Kill Shelby?
After locking Bestie out of her life, Shelby starts picking up the pieces. She goes to therapy for everything she has experienced; she makes up with her father by reworking the broken cup together, and she apologizes to her teacher, who is able to get past his anger. Shelby also finds some new friends when she starts acting more like herself, and eventually, things are going well for her. But throughout this time, Bestie’s messages have not stopped. She threatens Shelby that if she ignores her more, there will be hell to pay. We are not given a clear idea whether Shelby told anybody about Bestie or not. Our guess is that she did not, because if she had, that would have launched a full investigation into the girl and her identity. But since nobody mentioned her even once, we don’t think Shelby confided in anyone about her.
Shelby eventually finds a boyfriend named River. They become friends when he tells her that he knows that she was the one who ruined the stage performance by spiking the performers’ cauldron. But River is on Shelby’s side since the bullies have been making his life hell since elementary school because of his disability. River had something called ectopia cordis, and he was born with his heart outside his body, which led to a few open-heart surgeries at a young age and a permanent deformity right into adulthood. It wasn’t visible on the outside, but for those who knew (school kids), it was a thing to be made fun of, which is why River was happy that Shelby gave them a taste of their own medicine.
From that point on, River and Shelby come closer and eventually start dating. Shelby decides to go to a college further away since she wants to be with River. But little does she know what is going to happen. River chanced upon some of the messages from Bestie, and honestly, even we were offended by the language Shelby used to describe her. It was one thing to not want to give the details, but something else to make disability sound like a ticket to being a loser. Shelby should have spoken better than that, and she should have known better than that. Either way, at the end of American Horror Stories season 3, episode 1, River takes her to an abandoned house, and Shelby is instantly scared of the entire place. She realizes where she is when she sees the set-up that used to be in the background during her calls with Bestie. Shelby is terrified, and all her doubts are confirmed when Bestie walks down the stairs and greets her. A frightened Shelby tries to run, but River stabs and kills her, and she is left questioning why. River did everything because Bestie told him to, and now that Shelby is dead, he wants to be with Bestie for the rest of his life.
Our assumption is that River was approached by Bestie the same way that Shelby was, through Anna Rexhia’s videos, since he was also a fan. But unlike Shelby, he never broke free of her manipulations. Perhaps Bestie had a lot more to manipulate him with since, like her, he had a disability and had been bullied for that specific reason. We can even wonder whether Bestie wanted Shelby to break her hand so that she would also have a disability and join their club. Maybe Bestie asked Shelby to spike the cauldron because she was helping River get back at those people for something. There is a lot to speculate about here, but coming to Bestie herself, she lived in an abandoned, dusty house and spent her days talking to people on the internet. If she were human, we don’t know where she got her money and livelihood from. We simply have to assume that whoever abandoned her also made sure that she could sustain herself. And since Bestie knew that she couldn’t have a normal life, she resorted to manipulation to bring people around her, and that always took a sinister turn. The other theory is that Bestie is not human. That also means that she is probably not a teenager, and her sole purpose is to feed on people’s lives and energy through elaborate mechanisms. If left to us, we believe the first theory is more likely.
This wasn’t a scary episode, and we could see the twist coming from a distance, but nevertheless, it had us tightly wound and tensed up. We would also say that it unfolds like an episode of Goosebumps (the books, not the show), and for what it is worth, it was a decent watch.