This week on American Horror Story: Ben, distraught at the loss of his wife and daughter, considers suicide; Hayden has her final revenge against Ben; Constance steals the Harmons’ surviving twin with the help of Travis; Vivien claims her stillborn child from Nora; the Harmons–along with Moira, Lorraine Harvey, Beau, and other ghosts–work to scare away the Murder House’s new owners; Ben and Tate have one last confrontation.

I have to admit that after “Birth” (see what I did there?), I was stumped as to where Murphy and Falchuk would take the Harmons’ saga next. In hindsight, killing Ben was an obvious move, although it’s not one I could have guessed at the time. Of course, in true American Horror Story style, Vivien and Violet prevent Ben from doing himself in…only to have Hayden step in and murder him, staging the scene to look like suicide. That’s delicious irony #1.

Delicious irony #2 is now that he’s dead, he’s closer to his wife and daughter than he’s ever been this season. With Vivien having tricked Nora into giving up her stillborn daughter, they’re a family again, given new purpose by the duty of Amityville Horror-ing successive owners away from the Murder House. (This is also great sweet revenge on Marcy, who will be saddled with this gothic lemon of a house for years to come.) This is, again, entirely in keeping with the themes we’ve seen the show work with. Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean your story’s over, and the series has seen the ghosts’ characters develop as well as those of the living. Usually, this isn’t to the good, with Nora’s sanity breaking down over the years (demonstrated in the “Birth” flashback) and Hayden shifting from Woman Scorned to full-on rabbit-boiling obsession. Even Chad and Patrick, who never were all that likable to begin with, seemed to become meaner and more bitter since being murdered.

But what about happiness? Is that possible? American Horror Story seems to suggest so, as the Harmons are finally turn the house into the home that’s eluded them since they left Boston…with a little help from Moira, who’s finally out from under Constance’s thumb. The scene where Vivien asks Moira to call her by her first name is particularly touching. (If there’s one complaint that I have, it’s this: no disrespect meant to Frances Conroy, but–as we saw so many episodes ago–Alexandra Breckinridge should be the real Moira. Unfortunately, Breckinridge only gets a cameo, dressed in her standard Sexy French Maid cosplay outfit.)

The road ahead’s going to be fraught with challenges, of course: it’s hard to think the Harmons are ever going to be completely happy when they’re stuck living under the same roof as Hayden, Nora and Chad. And then there’s Tate, whose love for Violet endures. But now that she understands the full extent of his psychosis, she can’t reciprocate. She sympathizes with him to an extent, and certainly believes he’s capable of redemption–but she can’t be part of it. On the other hand, after being rebuffed by Violet he finds himself falling in with Hayden, so I don’t think there’s a chance of him turning from darkness anytime soon.

There’s a brief coda wrapping up (sorta) the final remaining subplot: the surviving Harmon twin–the one fathered by Tate, the one predestined (according to Billie Dean) to bring so much suffering to the world. But that sequence is almost an afterthought, and the real story ends with the Harmon ghosts around the Christmas tree. It’s a positive note to end the story with, to be sure, but it’s also perfectly in keeping with the themes of the first season. Love will tear us apart, as a poet once said, but maybe death will bring us together.

And maybe, just maybe, happy endings really are possible.

Until the Antichrist shows up.

MVP: One last time, let’s give it to Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters.

My rating: 8 of 10.

My rating for the entire season: 7 of 10.

Season 1 episode ranking

  1. “Smoldering Children” (ep. 10)
  2. “Piggy Piggy” (ep. 6)
  3. “Murder House” (ep. 3)
  4. “Afterbirth” (ep. 12)
  5. “Home Invasion” (ep. 2)
  6. “Rubber Man” (ep. 8)
  7. “Birth” (ep. 11)
  8. “Spooky Little Girl” (ep. 9)
  9. “Halloween, part 1” (ep. 4)
  10. “Pilot” (ep. 1)
  11. “Open House” (ep. 7)
  12. “Halloween, part 2” (ep. 5)

3 thoughts on “Television review: American Horror Story, “Afterbirth”

  1. I DID see what you did there. 😉 But more importantly, this was one of the most pleasantly readable of all of your reviews thus far, in my humble (yet SHAMELESSLY FRANK) opinion. 😀 Glad you seemed to appreciate the first season as much as I did. Can’t wait to read about your thoughts on the second season!

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