Friday, April 18, 2014

American Horror Story- Murder House- Episode 9- Spooky Little Girl

**This review contains spoilers**

Synopsis: In 1947, Dr. David Curan owns the Murder House. Dr. Curan treats his patients in the Murder House to provide a more convenient location for his surrounding neighbors. One day, an aspiring actress named Elizabeth Short (Mena Suvari) visits Dr. Curan. Elizabeth is obsessed with fame and the bright lights, and she needs dental work, but she’s low on cash, so Elizabeth offers sexual favors as a form of payment. A reluctant Dr. Curan sedates Elizabeth, and Dr. Curan rapes an unconscious Elizabeth.

But Elizabeth dies after an accidental overdose of nitrous oxide. Dr. Curan tries to dispose of Elizabeth’s body, but he’s having a lot of trouble alone, so the ghost of Dr. Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross) shows up to help. Charles uses a set of demented skills to dismember Elizabeth’s corpse, and Charles carves a permanent smile on Elizabeth’s face to end the procedure. After the discovery of Elizabeth’s mutilated body, Elizabeth receives “The Black Dahlia” as a nickname, and the story of Elizabeth’s unsolved murder dominates headlines throughout the US.   

In the modern world, Constance (Jessica Lange) and her young boyfriend, Travis Wanderley (Michael Graziadei) are stuck in a miserable relationship. Constance is still grieving over Addie’s (Jaime Brewer) death, but Travis is worried about his failing acting career.

A furious Constance scolds Travis for a lack of compassion, but Travis finds solace in Hayden (Kate Mara) during a late night walk with his dog. Travis starts a secret physical relationship with Hayden, but Constance suspects something fishy. Unbeknownst to Travis, Hayden is using him as an experiment. The experiment? Hayden is dead, but Hayden wants sexual intercourse with a living man. After a few nights with Travis, Hayden’s experiment is a success.

Ben (Dylan McDermott) moves into the house again, but Moira (Alexandra Breckenridge) is determined to ruin Ben’s life. A relentless Moira seduces Ben, and Ben runs into another problem with a new patient. Elizabeth Short shows up for therapy. Ben refuses Elizabeth as a patient at first, but Ben succumbs to Elizabeth’s needs for treatment.

To add to his growing list of problems, the doctor crushes Ben’s spirit with a shocking phone call about Vivien’s pregnancy. Ben is not the father of both twins, and after a persuasive chat with Hayden, Ben immediately suspects Luke (Morris Chestnut) as the second father.

Hayden’s sister, Marla surprises Ben with a detective, because Ben is the primary suspect in Hayden’s missing persons case. Hayden appears at the Murder House to kill any suspicions, but Hayden wants a relationship with Ben. With Vivien (Connie Britton) out of the way, Hayden believes in the chances for a happy life with Ben, and Ben lowers his guard to confide in Hayden after the doctor’s phone call.

Meanwhile, Constance visits Vivien in the sanatorium with some words of encouragement, and Constance believes Vivien’s story about the Rubber Man’s rape. At the house, Constance wants a one on one confrontation with Violet (Taissa Farmiga), because Constance suspects Violet as Travis’ lover, but Moira (Frances Conroy) denies Constance’s accusations.

Constance confronts Tate (Evan Peters) about the rumors of sexual intercourse with Vivien. Tate tells Constance the truth: Tate is the father of Vivien’s second twin. Constance unleashes her anger on Tate with a quick beating, and Constance learns the shocking truth from Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson) about the consequences of Tate’s actions………

Review: Travis? I’ll admit, I dismissed Travis as a one night stand after Home Invasion, but he popped up again on Halloween Part I, and Murder House takes more time to explore Constance’s relationship with Travis here. Basically, Travis is this lazy (“I work two hours a day reading scripts!”) bum, and he’s holding on to this pipe dream of being a famous actor, and it’s hard to ignore the age difference between Constance and Travis (if I’m taking a wild guess, Travis is in his early or mid twenties).

Constance and Travis have a weird love-hate relationship. One minute, Constance rips Travis’ head off, but Constance asks Travis to be a father (i.e. stealing one of Vivien’s twins) after another big argument? Of course, Travis rejects Constance’s offer, because he’s not ready yet, and Travis wants to focus on his acting career. As usual, Constance belittles Travis again, and Travis shares another intimate moment with Hayden to blow off some steam.

But Travis runs into a big problem after another quick fix session with Hayden. Hayden is upset, because Ben kicked her to the curb (more on that later). Hayden is desperately seeking companionship, but Travis’ feelings for Hayden are limited to viewing Hayden as a sex object or a sense of temporary relief. Naturally, Travis’ “Okay, I’m done. See ya later!” attitude upsets Hayden, so Hayden murders Travis.

As a ghost, Travis returns (remember, if you die at the Murder House, you‘re trapped on the property forever as a ghost) to the Murder House, and Hayden is stuck in a troubling dilemma, because she’s clinging to a slim chance of starting a life with Ben. But if the police find Travis’ body, Ben will go to jail, or he’ll move away to escape the heat. Oddly enough, Charles shows up to cut Travis’ body into pieces, and Charles uses The Black Dahlia blueprint to dismember Travis’ corpse. Still, Hayden needs to move the body, but the ghosts can’t leave the property.

Enter Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare) to solve the problem. Remember, Larry owes Hayden a favor, because you know, Larry is the one, who murdered Hayden. So Larry dumps Travis’ corpse in an open field (again, all of this is similar to what happened with Elizabeth) next to a basketball court.

Hayden and the younger version of Moira attack Ben with a full-court press in this episode. Moira pulls out all the stops to seduce Ben, but a resilient Ben stands his ground, and Ben fights his urges to succumb to Moira’s advances. Moira uses Elizabeth to lure Ben into her world of seduction, but Ben vehemently refuses Moira’s offer. To end Moira’s attacks, Ben fires Moira, and he asks Elizabeth to leave, and Ben drops Elizabeth from his list of patients. Moira’s threats for a lawsuit, if Ben fires her? Ben doesn’t care anymore, and he’d rather take his chances in court, because he’s sick and tired of Moira bullying him.

And there’s a twist to the end of the Moira VS Ben saga. As Moira leaves the house, the young Moira transforms in to the older version of Moira (Frances Conroy).  You have to assume Ben finally passed all of Moira’s tests, so she revealed her true form. Also, Moira knew any chances of Ben cracking under the pressure flew out the window. Ben was focused on Vivien 100%, so Moira threw in the towel for her mission to seduce Ben, and the look of shock on McDermott’s face for seeing the older Moira is perfect.

There’s a sense of calming closure to the end of Ben and Moira’s relationship, because Ben endured Moira’s advances without any mishaps, and Moira appreciated Ben’s honesty. The end to the Hayden/Ben saga? That’s another story. The timing is right, and the stage is perfect for Hayden to swoop in and steal Ben. Vivien is in the hospital, Violet resents Ben, and Ben shares a few beers with Hayden, because Ben needs someone to talk to. Hayden tells Ben the relationship and the affair was “written in the stars,” but Ben refuses Hayden’s final push to capture his heart. Instead, Ben fires back, and he tells Hayden he doesn’t love her, and Ben “used” Hayden as a temporary fix during a rough setback (the miscarriage) in his marriage with Vivien.

Hayden is a psychopath. You’ll see Hayden’s dark side in full force here (i.e. murdering Travis), and Hayden is the one, who devised the “We need to trap Vivien in the asylum, so I can have Ben all to myself” plan, but I have to admit, I could feel a little bit of sympathy for Hayden here. Why? Because she’s this lonely person, who’s more than willing to pour her heart and soul into someone else, but Hayden’s partners never reciprocate her feelings. Instead, they use her (i.e. Travis), and when they’re done, the users throw Hayden in the dumpster like a piece of trash. Hell, Ben openly admitted to using Hayden. And kudos to Kate Mara for selling the moment with a believable look of devastation, and a few tears.

Hayden’s sister Marla? Eh, I can’t say too much about her. Marla makes one appearance during the scene with the missing persons detective at the house. You can tell there’s some bad blood between Hayden and Marla, because Hayden is tired of loaning Marla money, and that’s about it.

What about Vivien? Well, Ben knows the truth about the twins now, so Ben visits Vivien in the asylum, but it’s not a peaceful visit. Ben rips Vivien a new one, with accusations of hypocrisy and Ben scolds Vivien for a holier than thou attitude. I alluded to this in my review for Halloween Part 2, and Ben doesn’t know about Vivien’s affair with a married man. Anyway, Ben leaves the asylum, because he’s disgusted with Vivien, but Ben changes his tune, when he returns to the house.

Ben intentionally triggers a false alarm for a “man to man” talk with Luke, because Ben suspects (with some help from Hayden) Luke as the second father for the twins. But there’s one big problem with Ben’s theory: Luke is sterile. After the confrontation with Luke, Ben finds the Rubber Man’s mask (keep in mind, Ben doesn’t know Tate is the Rubber Man), and Ben believes in the possibility of Vivien’s rape. Ben is stuck in a state of shock, because he believes someone raped Vivien, and he knows he made a crucial mistake.

Constance visits Vivien in the asylum, and Constance offers her support as a friend. Vivien tells Constance the truth about the rape, and Constance promises secrecy after Vivien’s admission. So if Vivien is telling the truth, why is she determined to keep everything a secret with Constance? Because Vivien wants to leave the asylum, so she needs the doctors to believe Tate’s attack was nothing more than a bad dream.

Towards the end, Billie Dean Howard paints a disastrous picture for Tate’s actions. According to a prophecy reserved for The Pope’s eyes, if a baby from a living human (Vivien) and a ghost (Tate) is born into the world, the child is the Antichrist, and his arrival is the first sign of the apocalypse.

It’s an uneasy and eerie cliffhanger. After Billie Dean’s foreboding words, they pull the plug. No cut scenes, no reaction from Constance, no shots of Vivien in the asylum. Nothing. What’s the solution? Can they stop the impending reign of terror? How does Vivien feel about all of this? Keep in mind Vivien doesn’t know about the prophecy or the Antichrist. So many tantalizing unanswered questions for the next episode, and the prophecy is another monumental hurdle for Ben and Vivien.

Murder House offers another conspiracy theory for The Black Dahlia murder mystery, and Murder House mirrors the events for the real life discovery of Elizabeth‘s body. Mena Suvari brings a nostalgic presence to the Elizabeth character, and the sight of Short’s dismembered corpse is genuinely horrifying. The sub-plot for Elizabeth is low on the totem pole for prominent storylines in this episode, but Elizabeth’s story is one of the more memorable flashbacks during American Horror Story’s first season.

Spooky Little Girl is another satisfying episode, and you can feel the build towards the finale here. They closed Ben’s chapters with Hayden and Moira, because it’s all about the twins, the prophecy, and Vivien giving birth now. Will Ben and Vivien fight back against the evil forces at the house? Do they stand a chance in a seemingly unwinnable fight? Spooky Little Girl is better than a run-of-the-mill episode, and I’ll give this one an extra bump for a pair of stand out performances from Kate Mara and Dylan McDermott, and another superb cliffhanger.

Rating: 9/10

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