In part one of the two part season finale of “American Horror Story”, all of the shit hits the fan. The super climactic birth. The ghost boyfriend drama. The baby fever. All of the tension and build up finally explodes in an unsettling mess of drama and gore. It is exactly what you’d expect from a series based around a house of ghosts trying to get their hands on an evil demon baby- which is to say that it is both extremely entertaining and incredibly stupid.
That is “American Horror Story” in a nutshell, really.
Keep in mind that each season of the show focuses on a new group of people in a new situation, so once season one concludes, we will have seen the end of the group of ghosts . In some respects, this is really a series finale in terms on saying goodbye to the familiar and moving on to something new. It’s 1984, and a much younger and visibly sane Tate Langdon is alone in the basement when he is attacked by one of the lost actors from Troll 2. The creature, which we have been acquainted with since the very beginning, is then revealed to be the creature created from the body parts of Nora’s son Thaddeus. Nora saves the young Tate, and promises to protect him. Why has Tate been so intent on pleasing Nora? It wasn’t just a matter of mommy issues, but deep seated loyalty. In the present, Tate’s priorities have become complicated as his relationship with Violet has grown, and he no longer believes that it’s right to give Nora the child she’s always wanted. He tells her this, and puts the two of them at odds with each other. “Birth” is an episode that is really all about odds. As the emergence of Vivian’s twins draws near, the ghosts in the houses are preparing for the moment when they will come out victorious and claim the child as their own. With only Violet and Tate certified on team Vivian, the Harmons face a plethora of foes all ready to get their hands on the twins.
Knowing that they are outnumbered, Violet contacts Constance to help take care of Chad and Patrick. Constance confronts Patrick about stealing the baby, and the two get into a social justice argument about homosexuality. In the middle of all of this chaos, you’d think that Ryan Murphy might stick to keeping things serious. Evidently, being the second last chapter in “American Horror Story”‘s first arc isn’t enough to stop him from adding at least 5 minutes of nonsensical “Murphy morality” dialogue. Is it necessary to do several mindless monologues about the validity of gay adoption in the middle of what is supposed to be the final chapter in a horror TV show? Yes, Chad presents some fantastic points, but it’s pretty hard to take them seriously when they are slopped between the plot and are coming out of the mouth of a crazy person.
In any case, Constance ends up not being quite as helpful as Violet had hoped. Instead of supporting Vivian’s right to keep her children, she tries to cut a deal with Chad, telling him that he can only have Ben’s baby but not her grandchild. There is a bit of inconsistency with Constance here: she was horrified when she originally found out that the baby was the anti-Christ. Now she is possessive over it?
Constance invites Billie to the house to get rid of Chad and Patrick. Billie’s sensitivities to the house surge as she observes the energy there. It is her belief that the evil from the house is trying to break free and unleash itself on the world, possibly through Tate and Vivian’s baby. Billie then tells the story of the last known banishing of spirits, which happened when the entire colony of Roanoke died and became spirits. The colony haunted the surrounding area until the tribals in the area banished them. Billie explains that to cast the spell, an item must be used that belonged to the ghost.
Tate takes it upon himself to get that item… one of the wedding rings worn by the men. Using Patrick’s resentment towards Chad, Tate gets him to loudly confess that he was planning on leaving before he was killed. While Patrick is in his blind rage, Tate steals the ring and then leaves him at the mercy of his hurt and confused partner.
Vivian and Ben return to the house to take Violet away, when Violet finally tells her father the truth about her death. Their moment is interrupted when Vivian starts having contractions and is forced back into the house to have her child. The phone lines and lights are cut, and Vivian is forced to deliver. Outside, the twins smash the car, rendering the Harmon’s last method of escape useless. As Ben falls into a fog, the ghosts in the house all help Vivian deliver, and it becomes inexplicably clear to Ben that his daughter was telling the truth about the ghosts of the house. The six months premature fetus is the first to come out, and it is dead on arrival. Nora takes the child and vanishes. The second baby emerges, and as Constance and Moira clean it up, Hayden comes looking for it.
Violet attempts the Roanoke curse on Chad, only to find out that it was a fake. Chad tells Violet that he has given up on fatherhood, but not all of the ghosts in the house are done with baby fever. He then reveals all of Tate’s secrets to her; including his role in the murders of the house, and her mother’s rape. The news destroys Violet, but doesn’t stop her from going by her mother’s side as she lies hemorrhaging on the floor, dying. Vivian passes away, leaving Ben alone with his entire family dead.
Violet confronts Tate upstairs about everything he has done, and tells him that while she loves him, she won’t forgive him. She sends him away for good. It was a subversion of so many scenarios in TV history where the girl lets “love conquer all”. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a proud parent smile on my face when Violet finally took a stand for herself. It was so necessary.
This might be a good time to address what might be the biggest mistake that the writers have made in the show so far, and that is Tate. The first half of the series presents this very different arc for him, one in which he is a lost, messed up kid grappling with what the forces of the house made him do. He is unable to remember what he did, and once his memory was jogged, he was visibly shaken by his actions. The characterization of Tate leaned on sympathetic, and provided a build-up which may have eventually resulted in his coming to terms with what he did and making up for his actions.
Then came the Rubber Man reveal, and it was as if that entire plot line was kicked out the window. The school shooting and the boy who was disgusted in himself for his actions became irrelevant, and in the process, his character became a mess. Is he a sociopath or does he have regrets? Is he a victim of the house’s insanity or is he a monster? The use of Tate seemed to jump to whatever story felt most convenient to use on him, making him responsible for everyone’s misfortune while chopping apart his personality as an individual in the process. From the moment of the Rubber man reveal to now, it’s entirely clear that Tate has since ceased to be a character and instead, become a plot device. As the story evolves, he is bent to fit the narrative. His own story and motivations have been nullified since the reveal.
That is my biggest problem with what is otherwise a very fun show. This intense and exciting story is derailed constantly by inconsistent bullshit for the sake of inconsistent bullshit. But look, to be fair, if it was an atrocity of a program, would I still be watching? There is an allure to the mess that is “American Horror Story” despite its laundry list of faults that you just can’t shake. It’s like eating McDonalds with a heart condition. It’s disgustingly intoxicating.