Since the pilot, we have slowly watched as “American Horror Story” dulls it’s teeth and settled into it’s position as a creepy, character based supernatural drama rather than a thrills and chills one trick pony. The last few episodes particularly have settled some of the shows more pressing mysteries, leaving some time for character and character relationship development.
The plot surrounding Addy’s death has been spent humanizing Constance, using her love of Tate and Addy as a way to sort of whitewash her unsettling, creepy, and downright unappealing behavior in the beginning of the series. It was becoming easier to have a strange sense of sympathy for the women, who seemed to realize the flaws in her parenting after the deaths of her two children. But remember folks, Constance had several children. After meeting the third child tonight, the little;e humanity that Constance had earned mourning over Addy and trying to protect Tate has officially been nullified.
In 1994, a younger Constance is discussing that child with Larry, the burn victim that has been harassing Ben. . He has been found by child services, and she has been changed with criminal neglect. Constance fears that he will be taken away from her, so she orders Larry to make sure that this doesn’t happen. Larry proceeds to the attic, where they are holding what appears to be a deformed boy in his late teens/adult years. The boy is chained up and dirty, with shaggy, unkept hair and old clothing. His name is Bo, and he is clearly not only physically, but mentally challenged. This is the real deal as far as parental abuse goes. In hindsight, it shouldn’t be shocking knowing what we know about Constance, but good grief.
The scene ends with Larry smothering Bo with a pillow. How heartwarming. In the present, Vivian is going in to check the progress of the pregnancy. The baby doesn’t have hooves and isn’t a demon, and isn’t just one baby. She is having twins. To add to the “good” news, she is starting to see an upturn in potential buyers for the house, and it is looking more and more like her troubles are over. Moira is being extra helpful, as she deeply wants to motivate somebody to get rid of the gazebo keeping her bones hostage. The seductive young Moira is able to manipulate one of these buyers with her charm and “good looks”, securing the deal.
At dinner, Vivian and Ben manage to be quite civil with each other, and Vivian shares the news of the potential buyers. It’s pretty easy for Ben to put two and two together that one of them is Larry, who seems to be coming around and interacting with Vivian just to spite him. Ben tracks him down (the how isn’t important, ignore the plot holes! Ignore them!) and Larry shares his story, as well as why he needs the house back. It turns out that he did not kill his wife and child, but instead found them burning alive. After telling his wife that he was leaving her for Constance, she torched her children along with herself, unwilling to allow Larry to happily abandon her. Larry seems to be under the impression that the only way to get Constance back is to move into the house once again.
Ben leaves, and Larry meets up with Constance to tell her that the Harmons plan on selling the house to somebody who wants to tear it down. Constance obviously loves her son very much, and seems to be somewhat concerned for the other dwellers that are trapped there as well. Though she is cold and cruel, she has a certain personal duty to protect the spirits of her children, so hearing the news that somebody is planning on destroying their dwelling puts her in a direct conflict with Moira and the Harmon family.
Vivian takes Marcy on the murder house tour to give her a taste of just how messed up the home she is selling is. Vivian tells the tour guide she is ready to hear the rest of the story. Remember how back in the earlier days of the house, Nora’s baby got kidnapped and dismembered? Remember how she then walked in on her husband sewing him back together with other body parts? Well, it turns out good old Charley managed to revive the child from death, at a price of course. Instead of a human baby, the child turned out to be a violent monster. Seeing her new frankenstein baby and getting maimed by it really didn’t work out too well emotionally for Nora. After she was able to really see what her husband was capable of, she shot him, and then killed herself.
Back at the house, Violet hears a rumbling in the attic, and upon investigating, she gets a glimpse of Bo. His excitement and physical appearance scare her, but Tate appears to “save her”. One thing I noticed is that Tate seems to have no immediate recollection of Bo, meaning he was either a secret that Constance kept from him, or it was just another side effect of Tate’s after-death amnesia. He is however, aware that Bo is a spirit, and explains to Violet that the spirits of the dead are all appearing to her now, but she has some ability to control their coming and going.
He then takes Violet to show her a hidden compartment that he found containing some of Nora and Charles’s old belongings, including photographs, silver, and adorable dead fetuses in jars. Violet is able to test run the extent of her abilities and finds that she can indeed manage to take come control over the ghosts intruding on her.
Later that day, Tate is finishing a session with Ben and tells him that things are going much better for him. He then runs into Constance. While she clearly has a lot of deep feelings for him, there is a rift between them. Tate is unable to forgive her for something that isn’t mentioned between them, though it seems like a typical trait of Constance’s to only be truly good to her children after death. It is always entirely possible that he was treated just as poorly as Addy was, and it wasn’t until he was killed that Constance realized how precious he was to her. She then visits her other son in the attic, and is equally sweet to him. It would be a really heartwarming moment if you know, it wasn’t painfully obvious that in life, the boy was chained up in an attic and left to rot.
Once she finishes her rounds, Constance meets Moira on the way out and tell her the truth about what the buyer is planning on doing to the house. Though the two face years of hatred and contempt, they finally decides that the they need to team up if they want to have any hope of getting what they want. Constance for her family, and Moria for her soul. Moira invites the man over for a quickie and lures him into the basement. There, she, Constance, and Larry murder him.
You’d think that for as many times as Constance has broken into the Harmon house, she would have triggered their state of the art alarm system or something. Curious.
Vivian comes to Violet to let her know about the possible outcomes of selling the house, when Violet shares the old pictures she has found. Vivian recognizes Nora, and for the first time since she entered the house, it all hits her that there at at least one ghost living there.
There is a growing sense of a lack of hostility in the home, and this episode especially seems to present the notion that the vast majority of these ghosts are not dangerous and can be controlled to some extent. As the series moves forward, it is becoming a little more more of a drama series, in which the dead are given sympathetic backstories and being painted as victims rather than this driving force of violence and murder. Because of the amount of time allowed for a TV show to develop itself, it’s usually an inevitability with genre shows such as this, though on a personal level, I actually prefer it. There is still a strong tone of insanity floating around, but the further onward we travel down the road to “murder house”, the more sense that crazy starts to make. This fragmented reality becomes relatable on an emotional level, and you can’t help but root for this colorful cast of ghostly anti villains despite yourself.
Since the first few choppy episodes, “American Horror Story” has done a beautiful job evolving it’s pacing, developing it’s characters, and becoming one of the most addictive and fun shows of the year. This was one of the most “toned down” episodes that the show has done since it’s 8 episode run, and it’s proven to still be an interesting series without the aggressive horror angle. The weakest points of the show, or at least the least interesting, will always be TV’s most clueless parents, Vivian and Ben. As Violet slowly begins to adapt to the world around her, Vivian and Ben remain a little bit more vanilla and naive. Their screen time is usually the least desired given that it more or less tends to revolve around their baby drama, or their marital problems. The shock value is still there, particularly in the hard on that Ryan Murphy seems get get from making every other character in the show a deformed monster, but it doesn’t need it anymore. It is beginning to define itself outside of it’s genre and through the crafting of it’s morally ambiguous characters.