Leave it to American Horror Story to remind us that even in a bad economy and a time of social unrest, we can take comfort in the fact that we don’t live in a house with countless numbers of homicidal ghosts. American Horror Story’s fourth episode is Halloween inspired, but unlike many of the other shows aiming for a holiday theme, it’s story remains relevant to the main plot line. No matter what, this show is always going to be twisted and creepy, but last night’s episode had a slight added playfulness to it. There were even a few jokes peppered into all of that gloom. To add to the fun, Zachary Quinto makes a guest appearance as Chad, one of the men that lived in the house before the Harmons. We are finally given some background on these characters, whom had previously only been briefly mentioned in past episodes.
The show opens with a domestic dispute between this couple. Their background has an eerie similarity to Vivian and Ben’s. Patrick is a cheater who feels like his relationship has more or less gone down the toilet, and that the intimacy in his relationship is gone. Chad is sitting back silently and trying to hold the family together. All of their assets are in the house, and because of the economy, they are stuck there. It’s always interesting seeing gay couples being portrayed on TV because for a lot of writing staffs, they are something of an anomaly. Gay characters are “hip” these days, but actually seeing a couple in a domestic setting that doesn’t scream “Modern Family” is refreshing; even if they aren’t in a happy relationship. Once the fight is over, Chad sits down to relax, when he is interrupted and murdered by by “The Gimp”. It had been assumed by the Harmons that the gimp costume had been owned by by this couple, but judging by Chad’s reaction, it’s obvious that he has never seen it before. Most of the other characters and objects in the house seem to be slowly getting their own back story, so it’s likely that we will be seeing him sometime in the future.
In the present, Dan and Vivian speak to their realtor Mercy about their lack of success in selling the house. In a move to bypass the house’s image, they all agree to bring in “fluffers”. People who will decorate the house and make it appear more welcoming. Mercy also inquires about the house being egged the night before; prompting a flashback sequence that shows the two bratty redheaded boys from episode one as the perps. Later that day, Ben answers the door with resident creep and shovel murderer Larry waiting on the other side. He is looking for hush money about the murderer that the two had covered up, and he is ready to collect. When Ben throws him out, Larry tells him that he is willing to be patient, but he isn’t going to be waiting forever.
Ben retreats back to his study, where Tate is waiting for him. He explains that he is grateful that Tate saved their lives, but he still can’t see him as inside his home, and he wants to know what he was doing in their home the night of the invasion. Tate tells Ben that he was outside Violet’s window, and when she did not respond to him, he walked into the house.
Especially in episode one, Tate gave off an incredibly menacing vibe, but his discussions with Ben seem desperate and sad, like he genuinely wants to be treated. There is something special in Ben that Tate responds to, at least according to him. There has been a lot of exploration of the other “ghosts” so far, but Tate remains a bit of a mystery across the board. Who he is, whether he is alive or not, and what his true personality is like is a bit of blur. He does however, seem more well meaning than the others, however misplaced his feelings might be.
Vivian is greeted by what she assumes are Mercy’s “fluffers”, when in reality, they are in fact the gay couple that was murdered by The Gimp. Chad and Patrick can’t seem to work out the kinks in their relationship even in death, and aren’t at all shy about flushing out their issues in front of Vivian and Ben. Chad continues to be a stickler for style and design, while Patrick seems to both scoff at his passions and look for pleasure anywhere else he can. While he and Ben are upstairs, Chad and Vivian have a bit of a heart to heart, and it soon becomes apparent that they have been through the same things with their respective partners. Chad informs Vivian that he caught Patrick cheating through cell phone records, and the idea appears to intrigue her.
Upstairs, Violet gives Addy a makeover, fulfilling her dream of being “a pretty girl” for Halloween, despite her mother’s wishes. Constance seems to have a desire to keep positive attention away from Addy as much as possible, and tell the girl that she can “be Snoopy again” or nothing at all. When she sees what Violet did, she is furious, and the two have a fight that results in ugly words thrown around at the expense of Addy. There is this bizarre dance between Addy and Constance that seems to blur the line between codependent love and deep hatred and shame. Later, Constance comes back to her room apologetically, and gives her a “pretty girl” mask so she won’t have to worry about makeup. Addy is overjoyed. The two share a strangely heartwarming moment, accompanied of course, by Constance’s snark.
Once Violet finishes her makeover, she meets up with Tate in the basement, who jumps out at her in the gimp costume and kisses her. Their plan for the night is to play with a ouiji board, which Violent claims she doesn’t believe in. After everything she has been through and what she has seen, apparently ghosts are out of the realm of possibility for her. Tate says that they are going to connect with Charles, the mad scientist who built the house. He begins to tell Violet the story of Charles, which varies a bit from the one heard by Vivian.
We are flashed back to the early 1900′s, where Charles is working on performing a back ally abortion organized by his money grubbing wife Nora. These abortions were meant to be a secret, but one girl told her boyfriend, who stole their child and eventually murdered him. When the body is returned to them, the doctor takes it down to their lab and chops it up, creating a monster of his own design that Tate claimed remained in the basement, even today. Violet is unamused by the story, and cuts their seance short so that they can plan a real “date” that doesn’t involve her family’s creepy basement.
Halloween night finally comes around, and as they say, the veil between the living and the dead is at it’s most thin. Vivian approaches Ben about his ex lover Hayen, and in a perfectly timed stroke of luck, she calls. She is dead of course, but Vivian does not know this. This leaves Ben confused and uncomfortable, and Vivian more suspicious of him than ever before. To add to the tension. Chad is slowly unwinding and nit picking about the decor, which finally breaks down Vivian completely. The outburst upsets her pregnancy, and she and Ben rush to the hospital, leaving Violet alone. At the hospital, Vivian’s doctor examines the baby inside of her and questions her about the time line, stating that it is much larger than it should be. The nurse then passes out. The two rush home after a call from Violet, who had heard Larry knocking on the door and became frightened. When they get home, she is nowhere to be found, but a very dead Hayden is, and she isn’t happy with Ben.
If everything I have written so far feels like an incoherent mess, that’s because it is. There is A LOT going on this episode and It’s all happening in short, fragmented pieces with little detail. The episode is focused on picking up the character relationships that have taken a backseat to the mystery angle of the show in the first three episodes. As a result, it makes an attempt to cram in a lot of substance in a 40 something minute production. Highly emotional moments are only given mere minutes or seconds of time in order to flip to the next scene, where the story progresses at an even faster rate. by the end, the story is in jumbles, shooting off multiple cliffhangers, and leaving several high tension scenes completely unresolved.
To be fair, I still think the most impressive thing about this show is it’s willingness to make sure that all of our questions either get answered or followed up. A lot of shows with a mystery element tend to give u a lot of questions and only a few answers. This is also true with the horror genre as a whole. You get a lot of extra bits of creep factor or a vague background story, and you are left to piece things together for yourself. I feel like every episode of American Horror Story makes an attempt to clarify and add onto this complicated web that the writers have weaved. Each ghost has a back story that is being developed at a respectable pace, and even items and objects in the house are explained in flashbacks or dialogue.
This episode played these strengths while also succumbing to what makes the series weak: it’s complete inability to focus. American Horror Story is like a brilliant child with severe ADD, telling a fantastic and strong story with interesting characters, but making the mistake of trying to take on too much at one time. Overall, the episode was highly entertaining, but it would have been much stronger had it been a bit less content heavy.
What were your thoughts on this week’s American Horror Story? What do you think are The Gimp’s origins? Is he Tate? What is Tate’s connection to Charles and Nora, if there is any? Does Ben have more skeletons in his closet that are less recent..and what do these ghosts all want anyway?