Friday, May 9, 2014

American Horror Story- Murder House- Episode 11- Birth

**This review contains spoilers**

Synopsis: In 1984, a young Tate Langdon follows his toy truck into the basement at the Murder House. During Tate’s expedition in the basement, Tate’s mother, Constance (Jessica Lange) sleeps on the couch with a stack of past due bills on the table.

In the basement, Thaddeus (or The Infantata) scares and attacks Tate, but Nora (Lily Rabe) appears to protect him. Nora stops Thaddeus’ attack, and Nora teaches Tate a trick to fight the malevolent spirits at Murder House. If a ghost appears for an attack, Tate needs to shout “GO AWAY!”, and the ghosts will disappear. After the close call encounter with Thaddeus, Nora comforts a frightened Tate in the basement.

In the present, Tate (Evan Peters) changes his mind about the deal with Nora. Tate is trying to protect one of Violet’s brothers, because he doesn’t want to take a chance of ruining his relationship with Violet. But Nora won’t take no for an answer. A determined Nora wants to be a mother again, and she will take one of Vivien’s twins, with or without Tate’s help.

Violet (Taissa Farmiga) is running out of time and options to explain the complications and hurdles for her suicide, as Ben (Dylan McDermott) prepares for the trip to Florida. Violet is dead, and she can’t leave the house, but Ben forces Violet into the car for the trip to pick up Vivien (Connie Britton) at the hospital. Unbeknownst to Ben, Violet reappears in the house after Ben passes the stop sign on the streets.

At the hospital, the doctor explains a complicated and deadly dilemma for Vivien’s pregnancy. The dominant twin (or the “Alpha,” Tate’s twin) is draining all of the resources and nutrients from the weaker fetus. In time, the dominant twin’s needs will lead to the death of Vivien’s weaker twin. The doctor urges Ben to postpone or cancel the trip to Florida, but Vivien refuses.

Violet awaits Ben and Vivien’s arrival at the house, but Chad (Zachary Quinto) and Patrick (Teddy Sears) have other plans for the twins. After Chad and Patrick renovate the nursery with their own special touch, Chad announces his plans for the twins: Chad and Patrick will steal the twins from Vivien. After the first birthday, Chad and Patrick will smother the twins with pillows, because Chad wants “cute” babies “forever.” To add to the problem, Nora is anxious to steal Vivien’s twins, and Hayden (Kate Mara) is lurking in the shadows, waiting for the perfect chance to sabotage Vivien and Ben’s plans for a happy and peaceful second chance.

Violet turns to Constance and Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson) for help. Billie Dean offers a solution to stop the evil spirits at the Murder House with an ancient Roanoke spell, but Violet needs personal possessions from the spirits to make the spell work. With Tate’s help, Violet needs to secure Patrick’s ring and Chad’s expensive watch, and to complete the spell, Violet will burn the watch and the ring, and shout “Croatoan” to banish Chad and Patrick from the house forever.

Violet tries to explain the consequences for a death at the Murder House to a confused Ben, but Ben and Violet run into a bigger problem with Vivien. In the car, Vivien experiences uncontrollable labor pains, and Constance shows up to help Vivien into the house.

Time is running out, and Vivien is stuck in a tight spot, because she can’t refuse the Murder House‘s helping hands. Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross) returns to deliver the baby with some help from Nurse Maria (Rosa Salazar) and Nurse Gladys (Celia Finklestein), and Constance gives Ben a last minute pep talk about helping Vivien. Ben and Vivien cling to a shred of hope for escaping the Murder House with the twins to start a new life in Florida, and Chad crushes Violet with a devastating secret……….

Review: Poor Vivien. She pushed and pushed, but resiliency wasn’t enough to save her here. Vivien and Ben lose the weaker twin (the twin fathered by Ben) to a stillbirth. After the death of the first twin, Charles quietly presents the deceased infant to Nora, and Nora takes the child without hesitation.

Vivien is weak and exhausted, and the arrival of the second twin (the evil twin, or the Antichrist fathered by Tate) takes a disastrous turn for the worst. The evil twin enters the world as a healthy baby, but Vivien’s body suffered too much damage during birth. Charles tries to save Vivien, but he can’t stop the bleeding. An apologetic  Ben pushes Violet to hold on and fight, but Violet appears to steer Vivien in a different direction. Violet urges Vivien to let go, but Vivien doesn’t have a choice. The birth of the evil twin caused severe hemorrhaging, and Vivien dies after Ben’s desperate pleas.

I know I’ve been hard on Vivien throughout the season (Vivien hiding an affair with a married man from her past), but Vivien’s death is an easy pick for a memorable and sorrowful moment in Birth. Think about everything Vivien endured this season. The miscarriage, catching Ben in the act during his affair with Hayden, the break-in (“Home Invasion”), Tate’s rape, Ben committed Vivien, and on top of that, she’s carrying the Antichrist. Whether you love her or hate her, you have to admit Vivien suffered until the very end.

It’s an emotional send-off for Vivien. During the birth of the first twin, there’s a sequence, where they jump back and forth between the past and the present with flashback footage of Violet’s birth. You’ll see another heartfelt moment during the “Will she stay or die?” tug of war between Ben and Violet, and it’s easy to understand both POVs. On one hand, Ben wants Vivien to stay in the living world. He wants to prove himself to Vivien. He wants to prove he can change, and Ben desperately wants a second shot at a happy life with Vivien. Violet is lonely in the afterlife at Murder House, she misses her mother, and Violet is hoping for a second chance to apologize to Vivien for all the years of rebellion and disrespect.

Connie Britton did a good of expressing Vivien’s fatigue and strong sense of defeat towards the end. Vivien was battered physically and emotionally, and she finally reached a point, where she had to let go, and Vivien joins Violet in the afterlife at Murder House. And kudos to Dylan McDermott for selling Ben’s heartbreak over Vivien’s death with an unnerving look of shock, and a few tears.

The Roanoke spell? Yeah, it’s bogus nonsense. Violet followed Billie Dean’s instructions step by step. She burned Chad’s watch in the fireplace, and Violet shouted “Croatoan!” over and again. At first, Chad flinched and convulsed…..but Chad was humoring Violet with an over the top performance.

Violet is out of options to stop Chad, Patrick, and the rest of the evil spirits at the house, and Chad rips Violet’s heart into pieces, when he reveals the truth about Vivien’s second twin and Tate’s rape. A furious and heartbroken Violet confronts Tate about the rape. Tate tries to apologize, and Violet professes her love for Tate, but she rejects the apology. Tate begs for a second chance, but Violet uses the “GO AWAY!” trick to silence Tate, and Tate disappears. Vivien shows up to ease  a sobbing Violet’s pain, she admires Violet’s bravery, and Vivien reassures Violet as a support system and a shoulder to lean on in her time of need.

Violet‘s “go away” decision with Tate was a tough one, because she found her soul mate in Tate, but Tate crossed the line and a point of no return with Vivien and the second twin. Is Tate remorseful about about his crimes? Well, Tate whimpers and his face quivers with welded tears during the confrontation, and you can feel the sadness in Tate. After all, Violet is on a short, short list of people, who took the time to bond with Tate, and Violet wanted to help him.

Still, Tate had to answer for his crimes at some point. We’re talking about a guy, who murdered a group of innoncet high school kids, he murdered an innoncet Chad and Patrick, he burned Larry Harvey, and he raped Vivien. Maybe he’s oblivious, maybe Tate has a few screws loose, or there’s a good chance Tate is a good person with a big heart, but he makes one too many catastrophic mistakes as a klutz. BUT Tate needs to serve some form of punishment for his crimes. You can only ask for so many free passes or mulligans, and Tate exhausted his supply of second chances a long time ago.

It’s all about Vivien’s birth and the fight to protect the twins from the evil forces at Murder House here. Birth packs a powerful emotional gut punch with the shock of Vivien’s death, and Violet’s decision to banish Tate from her life at the Murder House. Violet had to punish Tate, and Violet is the only person in the world, who loves Tate, so she made the tough choice to cut ties with him forever.

It’s a strong show before the finale, and you’ll see a handful of top notch performances from Taissa Farmiga, Connie Britton, Jessica Lange, Dylan McDermott, and Lily Rabe. And a big thumbs up for Zachary Quinto. It’s easy to forget about him in American Horror Story’s first season for a few reasons. Chad and Patrick are limited to sporadic appearances, this season’s cast is loaded with talent, and Jessica Lange steals the show 90% of the time.

Quinto brings a consistent A game with his performances as Chad. Chad is this vindictive and sassy nuisance with a nasty mean streak, and he’s hell bent on destroying happy lives, because Chad loves to play the role of a spoiler. Chad is the one, who told Violet the truth about Tate, and in Halloween Part 1, Chad is the one, who made the subliminal suggestion for Vivien to check Ben’s phone bill for calls from Hayden.

The tension for “who’s going to steal the twins?” throughout this episode is unreal, because EVERYONE is a suspect (including Constance). Oh, and Moira (Frances Conroy) has a brief cameo here. She sheds a few tears at the sight of the new baby, but her screen time is too short for a significant impact on this episode.

If you’re looking for lots of blood and gore in this episode, you’ll be disappointed. Birth takes a restrained approach to the extreme stuff. It’s a wistful and touching show, and the final scene is a good example for Birth’s somber tone. After Violet banishes Tate, a dead Vivien appears to console Violet with a hug. Violet is full of tears, and Violet tells Vivien she’s “sorry” Vivien lost the baby (the first twin). Vivien’s response? “But I didn’t lose my baby.”

Also, Birth takes some time to explore the relationship between Nora and Tate with the intro. Nora is the one, who taught Tate the “go away” trick, and as a child, Tate confided in Nora as his real mother. But Tate chose Violet over Nora in the end, and she eventually turned her back on him, but Tate tried to help Violet in her mission to protect Vivien.

And it doesn't last long, so if you blink, there's a good chance you'll miss it, but they show a brief glimpse of Thaddeus as The Infantata during the 1984 flashback. Thaddeus' pale and ghoulish complexion is genuinely creepy, but it's hard to feel any feelings of shock for The Infantata's debut first look, because The Infantata takes a backseat to a stack of prominent storylines (the birth of the twins, Violet working with Tate to stop Chad and others, the end of Violet and Tate's relationship, etc.) and Vivien's death.

There’s only one episode to go, and we have a lot of unanswered questions. What’s going to happen with Ben? Violet and Vivien are dead, and Hayden is determined to ruin his life, so Ben is all alone now. Will Ben raise the evil child with no help? Or will Ben leave the Murder House to start a new life by himself? What’s going to happen with the evil twin, who survived birth? Constance took the baby from Vivien and Ben to clean him off in the kitchen…but she never returned. Will Vivien confront Nora about the stillborn twin in the afterlife at Murder House? Deal or no deal,  that’s Vivien’s child, and you have to believe she’ll put up a fight for him.

Constance wants a grandchild, and you can’t forget about Hayden. She wants Vivien’s baby, but she’ll have to fight Constance for control, and Ben is the X factor, because Ben is the only reliable and logical choice for a parent. And you can’t ignore the elephant in the room with the Antichrist problem. For now, he’s a seemingly harmless baby, but what’s going to happen, when the second twin grows and develops?

Rating: 10/10

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