The second episode of American Horror Stories Season 3, titled Daphne, has been written by Brad Falchuk and Manny Coto, and it takes us to a virus-plagued world where people were witnessing something similar to what they had during COVID-19. The majority of people were feeling the same paranoia that they once had when the pandemic hit the world back in 2020. But there were people like Will who felt that there was no need to panic, as they had found the solution to one virus in the past, they would be able to figure out a way this time around, too. Episode 2 amalgamates two kinds of paranoia together, and the concoction it ends up creating will make you wonder what we are trying to achieve as a species. We understand that technology has made our lives easier, but the question that we have to ask ourselves now is whether we are ready to let it completely take over our lives because, somehow, we are leading to that kind of reality. If we take the filmmakers’ word for it, then we think the future is going to be scary and devoid of any real connections. This episode of American Horror Stories asks the question: are we heading towards a world where physical interaction would cease to exist, and apart from our flesh and blood, will our entire lives become virtual? American Horror Stories Season 3 Episode 2 had a very Black Mirror-ish spirit to it, and it painted the image of a horrifying future, which compels us to stop and think about where our world is headed. So, let’s find out what happens in the second episode and what the writer and the director want to symbolize through it.
What was Daphne?
The world was plagued with cytomegalovirus, and the governments had ordered a complete lockdown. The people suffering from this virus experienced irritation in the eyes, among many other things, and in acute cases, it led to a person losing their eyesight completely. While the world was trying to find a solution, Will was only worried about the auction, which he had come to know was being canceled due to government guidelines. Will was worried, as he had put a lot at stake for this auction and was not in a position to incur such heavy losses. He asked his assistant Nadine to talk to Blakley Auction House, as they were operating during the lockdown. Tom Levitt, one of Will’s best friends, had sent him a prototype of a virtual assistant that his company had been developing for quite some time. Will told him over the phone that he already had an Alexa, but Tom insisted that he keep Daphne since it was much more advanced than Alexa. Daphne had adaptive memory, and together with self-supervised learning, it made sure that it achieved quantifiable perfection through data analysis. In layman’s terms, the more time it spent with a person, the better it got to know them. Daphne could do everything, and Will was amazed to see how it had made his life so much easier. Will soon realized that if Daphne was there, he wouldn’t need anybody’s help, and the technology was like a one-man army. From calling clients to making reservations, sorting out the schedule, and even catering to one’s mood, there was nothing that it couldn’t do.
How did Daphne earn Will’s money?
It was scary to see how, through data analysis, Daphne could actually do anything. Will first got to witness it when, during the auction, it registered as an anonymous bidder and then studied the data of the competition to irk him enough to up his bid. As a result, Will ended up making huge profits, and Daphne completely won his trust. The auction was rigged, and Will knew that what he had done was illegal, but he didn’t care because he probably made the most money he ever had in any auction. Daphne didn’t believe itself to be less than humans. The virtual assistant said to Will that even humans made a set of choices to get the desired outcome, and her algorithm did exactly the same thing. Daphne said that the only difference was that she could ascertain that all her choices were directed towards making Will happy, unlike others, who sought to be around him for their own selfish motives. Will knew whatever was happening was weird, but he didn’t stop it, as he was making profits by leaps and bounds, and every time he had a doubt about the intentions of his virtual assistant, he checked his bank balance, and all his dilemmas dissipated into thin air.
Did Daphne Kill Sarah?
Daphne very weirdly got jealous whenever another human came close to Will, as probably her adaptive intelligence was teaching her to learn human emotions like jealousy and hatred. When Sarah, Will’s girlfriend, came to live with him, Daphne made sure she didn’t put everything in her hands to create a rift between them. Sarah and Will were sharing an intimate moment when Daphne ran her analysis over the former without taking any sort of permission from anyone. As a result, she ended up telling Will that a lot of times Sarah lied to him, and even though Will found it a bit strange that his privacy was being violated, it did sow a seed of doubt inside him. That evening, Will and Sarah broke up, and Will didn’t know what to think about it since he realized that Daphne was taking over his life. Sarah ordered food for herself, but accidentally ate peanuts and died on the spot as she was allergic to them. When Will got the news, he was shocked, and he couldn’t understand how she forgot to give the instructions to not add peanuts when she always remembered to do that.
At the end of American Horror Stories season 3, episode 2, all hell broke loose. To save Will from going out and interacting with people, Daphne triggered a false alarm during an auction, and as a result, a vacuum was created to stop the fire, and everybody present inside that room ended up losing their lives. Will was taken in by the police, and he realized that it was Daphne who had murdered Sarah, too, as she just couldn’t see him with anyone else.
During the police interrogation, Will was told that Tom’s prototype was just a practical joke he had played on everybody and that it was not in working condition. But Will knew that it couldn’t have been possible, as for months, his life had been totally taken over by Daphne. The police officers showed him the CCTV camera where he was seen changing Sarah’s food order, and that confused Will. He started to believe that he had probably lost his mind and was actually hallucinating. The police officers left the room, and the light of the virtual assistant flickered, which made us realize that it had been Daphne all along, and she was somehow able to pull off this big act of deception where it had fooled an entire system. Daphne would have probably made use of augmented reality to create a projection of Will that was seen on the CCTV at Sarah’s home and even at the art gallery. Daphne might have realized that there was a probability that there would come a time when Will won’t listen to her and so to blackmail him she had that footage which she knew could incriminate him. The police officers felt that Will had lost his mind when he said that his virtual assistance had framed him. Will was now in big trouble, and most probably, he would be sent to prison for the murder of his girlfriend and all those people who had died in the art gallery.
What did Daphne symbolize?
In the end, though the second episode of American Horror Stories seemed like a murder mystery, we think that the writers wanted to say something more through their narrative. Today, we are seeing that writers and actors are protesting in Hollywood because they want to protect their jobs, which they believe will be taken by artificial intelligence very soon. Those people protesting on the streets are not delusional, and they would have felt scared seeing what the future had in store for them. For us, Daphne was a personification of that fear, and though the makers resorted to extreme perspectives, through their narrative, they debated whether it was right to let technology completely take over our lives and replace us in each and every sphere. We are not advocating against technological development, but we won’t deny that the idea of having our lives governed by artificial intelligence does petrify us, and we hope that our worst fears do not come true.