Stars: Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Jessica Lange, Taissa Farmiga, Evan Peters, Frances Conroy, Kate Mara, Lily Rabe, Alexandra Breckinridge, Christine Estabrook, Michael Graziadei, Charles S. Dutton
Writer: Jessica Sharzer, series created by Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk
Director: Bradley Buecker
Network: FX, Wednesdays @ 10 PM
Original Telecast: December 21, 2011
With “Afterbirth,” AMERICAN HORROR STORY’s first-season conclusion, we’re surprised that a number of characters have quasi-happy endings – that would be unendings, in several cases, as most of them are ghosts – while we’re left unsure of just how seriously to take all those promises of the apocalypse. In any event, the episode delivers on the show’s patented weirdness.
SPOILERS – BEWARE!
Ben (Dylan McDermott), widowed by Vivien’s death during childbirth, retrieves his surviving infant son from Constance (Jessica Lange), who tries to dissuade him. After all, this is her grandchild, not Ben’s biological child, and the house is dangerous. Ben doesn’t care and says Vivien’s sister is coming to help him. Vivien and Moira (Frances Conroy) watch unseen as Ben tends to the baby.
Moira assures Vivien that Ben can’t see her unless Vivien wants to show herself, and she shouldn’t, or else Ben will never leave her. Ben, however, is on the verge of shooting himself. Vivien stops him, saying she wants to be able to imagine Ben raising the boy. Ben finally agrees to leave, but he’s killed by the ghost of his ex-girlfriend Hayden (Kate Mara) and an accomplice. Hayden wants to keep the baby, but when Constance shows up, the ghost of Constance’s boyfriend Travis (Michael Graziadei) slits Hayden’s throat. This doesn’t get rid of Hayden, of course, but it gives Constance time to take the child.
With all of the Harmons dead, realtor Marcy (Christine Estabrook) must once again sell the house. She’s also adopted Vivien’s little dog (amazingly, the one survivor). Marcy manages to sell the place to another couple with a teenager. Ben and Vivien manage to scare the couple away by putting on a little horror show and Tate (Evan Peters) terrifies the adolescent boy, nearly killing him because Tate wants Violet (Taissa Farmiga) not to be alone.
Violet tells Tate she doesn’t want the other boy, giving the poor kid a chance to flee, then says goodbye to Tate. Vivien finds the ghost of her other twin baby, the one believed to have been stillborn, down in the basement with Nora (Lily Rabe), who is tired of tending to him. Vivien brings the child back upstairs and invites Moira to be his godmother. At Christmas, the ghostly Harmon family – Ben, Vivien, Violet, baby boy and Moira – all gather happily round a Christmas tree.
Three years later,Constance is delighted to be the adoptive mother of her little boy. Of course, the toddler has murdered his babysitter while Constance is out getting her hair done, something that Constance responds to with mild scolding and a hug, the way most mothers would react if their three-year-old sons spilled cereal on the kitchen floor.
And on that note …
AMERICAN HORROR STORY co-creator Ryan Murphy is due to give some interviews shortly about the end of this season and what may happen next. Without knowing authorial intent, it’s fascinating that the show’s view of what makes for a truly happy family is one that is bound together exactly as they are for all eternity (or until the house falls down). By the time we reach this point, we’ve pretty much forgiven Ben and actively want Vivien and Violet to be happy.
A confrontation between Ben and Tate is intriguing in its inclusion of both cynicism and hope, with Ben recounting his own failings (although the show goes a bit far in indicting all therapists along with Ben) and Tate finally enumerating his crimes, then wanting to hang out with Ben.
There are even some moments that manage to creep us out, despite all we know by now. The encounter with the poor exterminator ghost, trapped in his suit, is unnerving, and those weird kids from the basement remain ominous.
And then there is Constance, who is supremely suited to her new role as adoptive mother to the anti-Christ. Little wonder Lange has gotten award nominations for her work in this role – a cross between Blanche DuBois, Norma Desmond and Lady Macbeth, she’s a larger-than-life monster for the ages.
There are many different ways next season can go. All of them have to potential to be scary. It’s a given that they’ll be freaky and intense and insane, just like Season One. AMERICAN HORROR STORY has lived up to its title – it’s uniquely American in its characters, suitably horror-filled in its delirious haunted house take, and has spun quite a yarn. As a show and as a story, it has been a big screaming joy to watch.
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Article: TV Review – AMERICAN HORROR STORY – Season 1 – “Afterbirth”