Birth! Death! Lamaze, as performed by Dylan McDermott! This penultimate episode of American Horror Story is quite contained, building internal pressure that will hopefully explode in next week’s extended finale, where we find out The House is actually the Winchester mansion aboard the Mary Celeste as it passes through the Bermuda Triangle on Friday the 13th during the Mayan Apocalypse of 2012. At least if tonight’s bizarrely useless “Ghost Colony of Roanoke Island” story, shared by similarly useless psychic Billie Dean Howard, is any indication. CROATOAN! CROATOAN!
Something I love and hate about AHS is the minimal time spent on characters reacting to information and situations. When Violet disappears from the car Ben forced her into, it’s incredibly stupid for Ben not to stop and look around, perhaps driving back home to check on her. But I’m glad we didn’t have to sit through that. Conversely, Violet and Tate’s “break-up” was far too casual a reaction to finding out her ghost boyfriend, beyond still killing people at will, was the one who raped Vivien. I visualized the Interview With the Vampire scene when new-vamp Louie attacks Lestat , flying around without getting hurt. Her cutting scenes, and death in general, implied she’d rather hurt herself than others, but the lack of rage, instead of an apologetic denial of forgiveness, was disappointing. It must be emotionally straining being jilted by a lover while keeping your suicide a secret from your parents.
Really, it’s laughable to seriously quantify reactions in a show involving a medical team of murdered spirits home-delivering prematurely-birthed multi-fathered twins, where one is Evil Incarnate. Admittedly, laughter gives way to perplexed curiosity as this sequence hits every visual, dramatic and emotional note that so many other scenes are lacking.
Before all that, let’s round up all parties interested in getting their grubby mitts on these twins. There’s Nora, who’s moaned and groaned for nearly a century after losing only child Thaddeus (soon resurrected as boob-chomping basement ghoul Infantata) to a murderous kidnapper. There’s vengeful Hayden, killed while pregnant with Ben’s baby. There’s Constance, whose own children were/are defected either mentally or physically. Finally, Patrick and Chad, whose adoption plans were thwarted by infidelity and eventual death. The writers understand the pseudo-couple is saner than the others, as they alone prepare for a child’s physical presence by setting up a nursery. Oh wait, except Chad says they want to suffocate the twins early on, so they can stay cute forever. There it is; there’s the crazy.
Ben and Vivien’s plans to have the babies in Florida are squashed when she starts having labor pains in the car just before leaving. (At least they didn’t leave the oven on.) You see, Demon Baby is still growing too fast, weakening the more normal twin, and Vivien was warned a C-section may be necessary. That is, unless the doctor giving house calls is an abortionist from the 1920s. Constance takes Vivien back inside The House, where something completely unpredictable happens.
Ben finally gets a clue!!!
My fingers fought against that sentence, as Ben’s rampant obliviousness to everything happening around him is as core a show factor as anything else. Pretending the previous ten episodes of in-his-face haunting hadn’t happened, this is the succession of events that led to his sub-breakthrough. His daughter stands before him and claims she’s dead. The phones (house, not cell) and electricity suddenly stop working. Two gashed and bloody redhead twins vandalize his car with baseball bats. Candles are inexplicably burning everywhere, leading him to a makeshift delivery room set up by Dr. Charles and his Netherworld Nurses. Ben then slips into a half-trance state as he begins this acceptance.
The actual births in “Birth” live up to most of my expectations. The repeated shifts between this and Violet’s delivery completely juxtapose everything from setting (house vs. hospital) to situation (displeasingly unexpected vs. happily welcomed), and drive home how little we know of the Harmons as a loving couple. The weaker, first child is stillborn and quickly passed off to Nora, who holds it a little too dearly for it to be truly dead. The second baby arrives without anyone reacting to horns and hooves, and Constance takes the child away to wash it off. Meanwhile, Doc Charles unsurprisingly can’t stop Vivien’s bleeding, having no medical training since the Great Depression. Ben, er, passionately urges her to fight for life, while Violet calmly tells her to relax and free herself from the pains of life. And Vivien Harmon dies, as Ben holds her, realizing they’re now all alone in the room. Also, there were lots of quick shots of Ben screaming in the corner of the room. Audible textures, people.
The final shot is one of the most affecting. Violet cries, having made Tate whimper and disappear with the old break-up line, “It’s not you, it’s that my mother just died giving birth to the child you impregnated her with, and I can’t forgive you. Now GO AWAY!” The camera turns 360 and Vivien is now there holding her, telling her “I didn’t lose my baby.” It didn’t cause my heartstrings to come out of hibernation, but was surprisingly effective nonetheless. Main characters rarely die so quietly, and never on this show.
What didn’t work for me, besides Roanoke, was the 1984 opening, where Tate wishes Nora were his real mother, rather than the increasingly broke and alcoholic Constance, after she saves him from a very eerily revealed Thaddeus. She tells him that all he has to do is concentrate and say, “Go away,” to make The House’s ghosts, well, go away. It’s sad that this is the winning option, opposed by Billie Dean’s claims that burning an unwanted ghost’s personal belongings, while screaming “Croatoan,” will vanquish them. I guess Occam’s Razor was invoked here. Watching Violet attempt the latter against Chad and Patrick was amusing, but altogether excessive, serving only so Chad can tell Violet Tate’s hidden secrets. I also didn’t like Violet and Tate’s ensuing conversation, because Tate gets vaginal really quickly, admitting he knew he died when shot by police, while still denying any memory of the school shooting. What’s the point in still bringing this up? Does this single forgotten instance justify everything he did afterward? Do his human motives for his actions matter? I really don’t need these questions answered.
Ryan Murphy and Co. have one more episode to set Internet message boards ablaze with whatever left-field ball of confusion conclusion they throw at us. I expect it to be the dooziest of doozies, and will suffer severe winter depression if I don’t get to see Ben savagely beaten and killed somewhere far, far away from The House. It’s not an expectation so much as numbers one through ten on my TV Bucket List. Number eleven, incidentally, was seeing someone eat raw brain. Score!
From the Basement
Yes, I understand the Roanoke story also proved that manmade superstitions have no effect on The House, but I think we already knew that.
If Vivien was so mad that Violet didn’t visit, why didn’t she try calling her? Oh yeah, because no one gives a phone to someone who can’t stop screaming about being raped by a rubber man.
I love that Constance was passed out drunk during The Bob Newhart Show, which is about a capable psychologist. At least Ben wasn’t the one watching, taking notes.
In case you thought differently, Patrick totally remembers that Tate put a fire poker up his ass. Maybe he can give Tate memory lessons.
Constance would call the Roanoke scene a “red-faced herring,” because it had Native Americans in it.
I wish Violet’s drama mama friend Leah would come back for the finale to truly tell us what all this Devil shit is really about.
“You pathetic homos couldn’t steal the shit out of your own ass.” Damn, Chad. I thought Larry and his family got the worst burn.
Speaking of, I was waiting on Ben to get a phone call from Larry, asking for a thousand dollars in bail money.
I seriously don’t understand Thaddeus. He was dead and then brought back to life by Doc Charles. Did he then grow up to be a hideous creature, dying at some point along the way so that he’s able to live eternally in the basement? Or is he 80+ years old?
If Billie Dean can see dead things, can she see Sarah Paulson’s performance?
Teenage ghosts don’t have to worry about lung cancer or emphysema. Is there a cigarette machine in The House somewhere?
I felt like I was watching something completely different when Lange and Quinto were onscreen. It’s too bad Connie Britton’s acting subtlety has no place in this show’s wacky universe.
Tate (told that Vivien is dead): “I know you were close. “
Violet: “Yeah, we were.“
No, you weren’t.
Violet: “Why did you rape my mother?”
Tate: “I’m sorry. I was different then.”
No, you weren’t.
Connie Britton had some interesting things to say about last night's episode and what's ahead for the finale. Read about it here.