Saturday, May 10, 2014

American Horror Story- Murder House- Episode 12- Afterbirth

**This review contains spoilers**

Synopsis: The countdown for the big move begins in Boston with nine months to go, and Ben (Dylan McDermott) finds the perfect house in Los Angeles. Ben praises the Murder House as a symbol of “hope” for a new beginning, but Vivien (Connie Brittion) is still reluctant to trust Ben after the affair with Hayden (Kate Mara). Vivien has plans to move to Florida with Violet (Taissa Farmiga) before the new school year starts, and Vivien is planning a new life without Ben. Eventually, Vivien lowers her guard to accept Ben’s request to fly to Los Angeles to inspect and evaluate the Murder House.

In the present, Vivien is dead, and Ben is alone in the house. Vivien tries to adjust to the afterlife with some help and guidance from Moira (Frances Conroy). As a ghost, Vivien makes the tough choice to stay in the shadows and hide from Ben, because she wants Ben to leave the house with the baby. If Ben sees Vivien or Violet, Ben’s grief will take control, and Ben will stay in the Murder House, risking his life and the baby’s life.

One day, Ben visits Constance (Jessica Lange) to pick up the twin. Constance takes on the role of a babysitter, but Constance stalls Ben because she’s trying to protect the baby. A forceful Ben takes the baby, and before his return to the Murder House, Ben spots a picture of Tate (Evan Peters) and Addie (Jaime Brewer) on Constance’s kitchen counter. Ben puts the pieces of the puzzle together, and Ben immediately suspects Constance as an accomplice in Tate’s scheme, and Ben blames Constance and Tate for Vivien’s death. Constance warns Ben about the dangers of returning to the Murder House, but an angry Ben ignores Constance’s warnings.

At the Murder House, a lonely and depressed Ben prepares an exit strategy for the baby with paper work, and instructions for Vivien’s sister, Jo. In his mind, Ben accepts the idea of a new life for the twin in Florida with Jo, and Ben prepares to commit suicide with alcohol and cigarettes to ease the pain.

Ben  tries to pull the trigger on his handgun, but Vivien appears at the last second to stop him. Violet appears, and together, Vivien and Violet convince Ben to leave the Murder House to protect the baby from the evil forces. Ben grabs the baby, but a vindictive Hayden blocks Ben’s path to the front door on the staircase……….

Review: Why? Why would you go back into the house after EVERYTHING that happened there??? The break-in, Ben witnessed young Moria’s transformation, a group of ghost delivered his children, and his wife died in the house.

And guess what happens, when Ben runs into Hayden? At first, Ben tries to ignore Hayden, but a group of evil ghosts (under Hayden’s orders) attack Ben from behind. The evil ghosts strangle Ben with a rope, and they use the rope to hang Ben from the chandelier. Ben’s death looks like a suicide, and Hayden takes the baby.

Ben’s mind-numbingly stupid choice to return to the house brought a facepalm out of me. Constance is not an angel, but as a former resident with years of history tied to the house, she knows about the dangers and the consequences for a return.

Ben (as a ghost) reunites with Vivien and Violet, but Hayden is sitting in a rocking chair with the evil twin. Keep in mind, Ben, Vivien, and Violet don’t know about the details surrounding the prophecy, and they don’t know Tate’s child is the Antichrist.

Anyway, Constance confronts Hayden about the baby. As the only living person in the Harmon’s circle, Constance is an ideal candidate for a mother/guardian, but Hayden won’t let go without a fight. Luckily, Travis (Michael Graziadei) pops up out of nowhere to slit Hayden’s throat wide open. Travis takes advantage of an incapacitated Hayden (remember, she’s already dead, so she can’t die again), and Travis snatches the baby. Travis hands the baby to Constance, and a happy Constance leaves the Murder House with her new grandson.

Is Constance is a sneaky liar with a hidden agenda? Yep. But when you consider all the limited options, Constance is the best choice for a mother. Vivien is dead, Ben is dead, and Violet is dead. And you can’t raise a child in a house full of ghosts. Whether you like her or not, you can’t deny Constance’s dedication. She is willing to pour all of her love and care into her grandson, and Constance will do anything to protect him. Oh, and to keep the secret safe from the outside world, Constance hides the baby in a closet.

Constance’s cover story? Well, Detective Granger (Charles S. Dutton) and Detective Barrios (Malaya Rivera Drew) return to ask Constance more questions about Ben’s “suicide,” and they want to know what happened to the baby and Violet (remember, Tate hid her body in a crawlspace). Constance tells Granger and Barrios Violet ran away with the baby after Ben’s suicide to start a new life. It’s a perfect cover, because Ben staged everything at the house (papers, keys to all the doors, instructions for Vivien’s sister, etc.) for the aftermath of a suicide, so Constance’s story/lie works as a logical conclusion for Violet’s whereabouts.

So what’s next for The Harmon Family as ghosts? Together, Vivien, Ben, Violet, and Moira join forces to put a stop to the murders and never ending violence at the house. The good spirits at the house (Moira, Elizabeth, etc.) are tired of all the deaths of innocent families, who unknowingly walk into a murder trap. But the evil spirits (Hayden, Nora, etc.) are filled with rage and bitterness, and they will unleash their wrath on the new tenants.

The Harmon Family’s first test as a team? The Ramos Family. After Marcy’s (Christine Estabrook) fabricated sales pitch, Miguel Ramos (Anthony Ruivivar), his wife, Stacy (Lisa Vidal), and their son, Gabriel (Brennan Mejia) move into the Murder House. After a series of bizarre incidents and an appearance from Violet, Gabriel (or “Gabe”) suspects something fishy, but Miguel and Stacy are overjoyed at the thought of a fresh start in the new house (sounds familiar, huh?). And Miguel and Stacy are planning to have another baby to fill Gabe’s void after he graduates from high school.

One night, with some help from Elizabeth (Mena Suvari), Beau, and the exterminator from “Smoldering Children,” Vivien, Ben (as the Rubber Man), and Moira (using her old form, and her seductive, younger form) launch an all out assault to scare Stacy and Miguel out of the house. The showcase for a real life haunted house works……but there’s a problem upstairs with Gabe and Tate.

Tate is still heartbroken over losing Violet, and Tate noticed a connection between Gabe and Violet during Violet’s visit to his room. Tate’s solution to help Violet? He’s going to kill Gabe, so Violet can have another companion. Luckily, Violet shows up to say good-bye to Tate with one last kiss, and Gabe uses the distraction to escape the Murder House with his parents. After the kiss, Violet disappears again, leaving Tate alone.

Remember Nora (Lily Rabe) and the stillborn twin? Well, Charles (Matt Ross) made a mistake, because the baby took one breath before his death. But Nora can’t handle the responsibilities for being a mother. Enter Vivien. Vivien is the biological mother, but Nora uses her deal with Tate as an excuse to keep the baby.

Still, Nora can’t handle the child. She scolds Vivien (oddly enough, a delusional Nora mistook Vivien for one of her servants), and she calls the baby a “weakling.” Vivien remains calm, and Nora agrees to a deal with Vivien: Vivien will give an exhausted Nora a temporary break to take care of her child. After Vivien’s talk with Nora, Vivien asks Moira (old Moira) to be the godmother for the baby, and Moira gladly accepts.

After the fiasco with The Ramos Family, Tate approaches Ben for advice. Naturally, Ben is disgusted with Tate, and he diagnoses Tate as a psychopath. Tate apologizes for raping Vivien, murdering Chad and Patrick, hurting Violet, murdering the kids at Westfield High School, and burning Larry alive. Ben reminds Tate he’s not a priest, so Tate’s confession is worthless to him. But Ben offers a Tate a solution for his problems: Tate needs to apologize to the innocent victims directly. They need to forgive him first. Then, the healing process can begin.

The story jumps to Christmas night, and the house is empty again. Together, Vivien, Ben, Violet, Moira (old Moira), and the baby celebrate Christmas together after they decorate the tree as a team. Tate is stuck outside with Hayden. Hayden pushes Tate to forget about Violet and move on, but Tate is still in love with Violet, and he’ll wait “forever” for Violet’s forgiveness. The Harmon’s story concludes with the entire family (and Moira) standing around the Christmas tree to celebrate a peaceful and happy future at the Murder House.

The Harmon Family accepts and embraces their roles as protectors, but Ben had the PERFECT chance to escape with the baby. Although, you could say Ben’s death is a better option for him. Let’s face it, Ben was DEVASTATED and depressed without Vivien and Violet. Do you really think he’s the best choice to raise a child? Oh, and there’s the Antichrist problem, because you know, Ben is raising a child, who’s full of pure evil.

Instead, Ben is with his wife and his daughter for all eternity, and you can see the happiness in Ben’s eyes after the Christmas celebration. Also, to give an extra tidbit on Marcy’s life after Ben, Vivien, and Violet, Marcy adopted Hallie, the dog. And Marcy is stuck with the Murder House after The Ramos Family‘s sudden departure. She’s forced to sell at another reduced price, and the tour guide for famous homes in LA hurts Marcy chances with the story of Vivien and Ben’s deaths, and Violet’s “disappearance.”

Nora? Well, Moira was right, when she said Nora didn’t have one “motherly bone” in her body. It’s strange, because I wanted to feel some sympathy for Nora, as this broken woman, who made too many mistakes in her past. But Nora showed her true colors again in the basement with Vivien. The nasty, hateful, snobbish, and condescending Nora resurfaced, and it’s hard to feel any sympathy for Nora’s dark side.

And kudos to Ben for giving Tate some advice for his problems. Ben could’ve ignored Tate, and turned his back on him, but Ben offered some advice for someone, who needs A LOT of help. I said this before, but I have a hard time believing in Tate as this malicious person. He’s someone, who makes a lot of stupid mistakes, and yes, he needs to serve some form of punishment for his crimes. But Tate needs some guidance and proper direction, because his childhood was a  mess.

What happened to Constance and the baby? The timeline jumps three years into the future. Constance visits her hairdresser, Helen, and she uses another cover story for the baby. Constance accepted the role of a mother/guardian for Michael (the Antichrist), the son of distant cousins on her mother’s side. The parents died in a tragic highway accident, and Constance rescued Michael from a childhood in an orphanage.

After the tragedies (Addie’s death, Beau, Tate’s death, etc.) and all the suffering (Hugo’s affair with Moira) in her life, Constance finally understands her role in the world: Everything was a test to prepare Constance for raising the Antichrist (or Michael). Constance is a survivor, and she has what it takes to guide and take care of Michael.

But there’s a big problem at home. Constance returns to her home to find a trail of blood leading to Michael’s room. In Michael’s room, Constance finds the babysitter’s mutilated dead body. Michael has spots of blood on his face, and he’s sitting in a rocking chair with this big smile on his face. Constance kneels to Michael, and she says “now what am I gonna do with you?” Constance takes some time to comfort Michael, and the screen cuts to black to end the first season of American Horror Story.

Constance’s speech about her duties as a mother for Michael is something to admire, and Jessica Lange nailed the delivery as always. You can feel all the emotions pouring out of Constance. The sadness, the heartbreak, the happiness, and the relief. After so many years of searching, Constance found her purpose in life, and she embraced her role as Michael’s mother.

It’s hard to (or almost impossible) top Birth’s emotional roller coaster after Vivien’s death, but Afterbirth is a satisfying season finale, and they give you everything a fan could ask for in a season finale. Afterbirth provides more than enough closure, a few happy endings, and they tie up all the loose ends here. And there’s a diabolical cliffhanger with a sinister Michael smiling after the babysitter’s murder. Constance as Michael’s mother is a debatable choice for a number of reasons, but when you stop and think about it, Constance is the ideal choice to raise Michael, and she’s the only one, who can handle him.

I alluded to this earlier, but there’s a hole in logic with Michael. Again, Vivien, Ben, and Violet never heard Billie Dean’s explanation for the prophecy, so they don’t know about Michael’s future as the Antichrist. To add to that, Constance never told Vivien and Ben the truth about Michael. Is there a chance Constance was afraid of retaliation from Vivien and Ben? Vivien, Ben, and Violet working together to stop the Antichrist at all costs is not out of the realm of realistic possibilities, but I’ll look the other way for one simple reason: Constance will do ANYTHING to protect (remember, Constance offered the twin fathered by Ben to Chad and Patrick, but she gave explicit “off limits” instructions for Tate’s twin) her grandson.

The nine months intro is very eerie with hindsight. Ben wanted to believe in the Murder House as a symbol of hope, but the Murder House was a symbol of pain and misery for his family. The Murder House destroyed Ben’s family in the living world, but there’s a tricky catch 22 dilemma here. The Harmons suffered brutal deaths in the Murder House, but they have a second (or third?) chance at happiness together in the afterlife…..and it’s happening at the Murder House. When it’s all said and done, he should’ve been more careful, and Ben learned a hard lesson about buying a cheap haunted house.

Rating: 9/10

Well, that's a wrap for the first season of American Horror Story! Barring any unforeseen setbacks or hurdles, I'll post my final thoughts on the season tomorrow. The day is clear for the most part, so I'll keep my fingers crossed! lol.

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