Stars: Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Jessica Lange, Taissa Farmiga, Evan Peters, Denis O’Hare, Frances Conroy, Eric Stonestreet, Morris Chestnut, Sarah Paulson, Alessandra Torresani
Writer: Jessica Sharzer, series created by Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk
Director: Michael Uppendahl
Network: FX, Wednesdays @ 10 PM
Original Telecast: November 9, 2011
AMERICAN HORROR STORY continues to provide a mixture of supernatural scares, naturalistic tragedy, surprising moments of humanity and dark humor in “Piggy, Piggy.” The episode also has a dramatic guest turn from Eric Stonestreet (MODERN FAMILY) as a man who goes to psychiatrist Ben (Dylan McDermott) for help conquering his fears of urban legends. Since Ben is still using an office in the house to see patients, you can imagine how that goes. Or maybe you can’t.
“Piggy, Piggy” begins with an effectively horrifying and entirely realistic depiction of Tate’s (Evan Peters) shooting rampage at his high school in 1994. We empathize tremendously with his terrified victims. Then we learn that, at the time of the shootings, Tate and his mother Constance (Jessica Lange) were living in the house. This is one more piece of evidence that the place tends to utterly corrupt and/or kill its inhabitants.
Violet (Taissa Farmiga) is appalled when she researches Tate’s actions on the Internet, partly because of the crime and partly because she’s coming to the reluctant conclusion that Tate is a ghost.Constance has brought over a medium (Sarah Paulson), who explains to Violet that sometimes the dead don’t know that they’re no longer living, as is the case with Tate. Violet runs from the room. Later,Constance uses the medium to communicate with her recently deceased daughter Addie.Constance apologizes for not having demonstrated enough love for Addie in life. The medium tells Constance that Addie knows Constance loved her, that Addie is happy where she is in the afterlife – and that she’s glad Constance didn’t succeed in dragging the dying Addie to the lawn at the “old house,” because Addie didn’t want to be there with Tate. She’s afraid of Tate now that she knows what he did.
Vivien (Connie Britton) flirts with security man Luke (Morris Chestnut). Ben picks up on the vibe and isn’t pleased, but he’s hardly in a position to say anything. Vivien tries to track down the hospital nurse who fainted during Vivien’s ultrasound. The nurse has left the hospital, but agrees to meet Vivien in a church. The nurse tells Vivien that the ultrasound shows Vivien is carrying something “unclean,” with hooves. Vivien dismisses the nurse as a religious fanatic and decides to accept the hospital’s explanation that the ultrasound machine malfunctioned. Vivien also finds she’s partial to the raw meat that’s being delivered to her as a delicacy by neighbor Constance.
Ben is treating an unfortunate soul, played by Stonestreet, who has become so afraid of folklore that he can’t bring himself to shave in a mirror. He’s particularly scared of the Pigman myth (he appears to kill and skin anyone who calls “Piggy, piggy” in a mirror several times). Ben convinces his patient to try this at the bathroom in the house. Of course, the poor guy sees a bloody ghost, albeit not the Pigman. The patient puts this down to his own mental deterioration. He tries it again at home – and is shot dead by a burglar who’s hiding behind the bathtub curtain and takes offense at being called “piggy.”
Violet sees “I love you” written in her room, presumably by Tate. She then visits the basement, where she is subjected to a whole horde of the house’s ghosts. Violet flees, but is so distraught that she tries to commit suicide with pills. Tate drags her to the bathtub and revives her. Tate tearfully tells Violet that he loves her but will leave her alone if that’s what she wants. Violet instead holds Tate on her bed.
The opening sequence in the school is heartrending and even suspenseful, though we know how it will end. We learn that Tate later committed “suicide by cop,” going for his gun in front of a SWAT team. We start to feel a measure of sympathy for Constance, who really has been through the wringer, which may explain some of her awful current behavior. We feel even greater sympathy for Tate, who seems to have been so overwhelmed by the house that he has no memory of either killing or being killed. Violet is laudable for letting her compassion trump her fear.
It’s also handy to know the little bit of mythology that if someone dies in the house or on the grounds, they seem to be stuck there, whereas if they die elsewhere, they seem free to leave. (Tate’s victims are bound to this world by understandable rage.) It’s unclear what’s going on with Vivien, Constance and the meat, as well as whether Vivien may be consuming human remains (one dish certainly looks like a primate rather than porcine brain).
Ben takes a bit of a backseat in this episode, but McDermott gets to show his character’s professional side her, and Stonestreet is excellent as his unhappy patient. The punchline – that the house can succeed in killing people without any ghostly help – is a good pitch-dark joke.
AMERICAN HORROR STORY continues to deliver on every level that it seeks to inhabit.
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Article: TV Review – AMERICAN HORROR STORY – Season 1 – “Piggy Piggy”