American Horror Story: Afterbirth

Posted on December 22, 2011

Well you can’t claim they didn’t wrap things up. As we said in last week’s recap, on American Horror Story, shit goes down.

But shit doesn’t necessarily go down in a manner that makes much sense or has much narrative flow to it. It took most of last episode for Vivian to die, but Ben was dispensed with in the first 10 minutes, leaving us wondering what the hell the rest of the show was supposed to be. Even after the Hispanic Harmons got driven out of the house after living there for 5 minutes, we were still completely confused. “But there’s another 25 minutes left!” we screamed at the TV. When the “Three Years Later” title card popped up with only minutes left to the episode, we threw up our hands. The show never once managed traditional plot structure or narrative flow; we don’t know why we were expecting otherwise at the end.

But was it an entertaining hour-plus? Sometimes, when you’re reviewing a show, you have to separate your post-show reaction from what you were feeling as the show unfolded. We were excited, certainly; engrossed, even. We suppose you could say we were on the edge of our seats, but that’s only because we were extremely curious about how the whole thing would end, not because the material itself was so engrossing. There was nothing particularly scary or mysterious about this episode; it was all plot wrapup. Although we admit it was kind of fun to see a haunting strictly from the ghosts’ point of view as the Harmons mended their marriage by eviscerating and shooting each other. “HAHA! Honey, guess what? I re-enacted your rape to scare that other bitch! I love you!”

There was a point to be made here and we think the show failed at it. The family who moved in after the Harmons couldn’t have been more different from them. The Harmons moved in as family dying on its feet; pulled apart by infidelity, miscarriage, and teenage depression. The Hispanic Harmons (sorry; that’s reductive, but we couldn’t remember their names and the big -haired beautiful wife, hot husband, and moody teenager were a bit too obviously meant to draw parallels) on the other hand, were full of love. This time, the moody teenager is just a moody teenager and not a severely depressed, suicidal one. We thought  the show rather heavy handedly made the point that death brought the Harmons together as a family. Seriously, that “Little Drummer Boy” scene may be the most bizarre thing we’ve seen on television all year and it consisted solely of a family trimming a Christmas tree.

Anyway, we thought, since the Harmons were so fucked up and the Hispanic Harmons were so comparatively healthy, that some point was going to be made about how the house amplifies a person’s worst traits or something. In other words, we thought the point was that the Harmons essentially killed themselves with all their dysfunction and that this new family was going to do a better job of resisting the house. But no, apparently the house works on the mentally healthy just as well as it does on the mentally vulnerable.

Although really, we think the creators were having another go at the old “white people in horror films are so stupid” meme.

So what exactly was the point here? We guess you could say that the story was one of the Harmon family coming together and the extreme lengths they had to go to to heal themselves. It’s kind of a fucked up way of looking at things, but we’d never have it any other way with this show. We have to admit, we were a bit surprised how easily the Harmons cast off their problems post-death. After all, from Nora to Hayden to Tate to the gays, none of the ghosts in the house seem capable of closure. Instead, all of their flaws in life seem amplified in death. So what made the Harmons so special?

And what happens now? Once again: WHO KNOWS? We got, for good or for ill, a complete story this season, from beginning to end. Very few shows manage to do that, especially in their inaugural season. For all the ragging the TV critics did when this show was announced, in the end, it gave them something that almost all TV critics ask for from their TV shows: a fully realized story. Even better, we got that story, while at the same time leaving just enough hanging to have us wondering what the hell they’re going to do next. Remember: the title of the show isn’t “American Ghost Story.” There’s no reason to even remain in the house for story-telling purposes. The real story is the Anti-Christ growing up in Constance’s house. So will next season be Constance and her satanic grandchild going on adventures or will it still be set in the house, which is fairly bursting at the seams with dead people? We’re hoping it’s the former, because watching another family move into that house would be pretty boring and repetitive, as this episode went out of its way to show. No, we think we might be moving on from the house next season. We’re hoping Constance and little Damian (or whatever) get an RV and travel the country, evading the cops and the pope (who will go into Battle Action Mode when he gets news of the Anti-Christ in Southern California) and picking up hitch hikers so the little nipper will have something to chew on while Grandma drives.

You know you’d tune in to watch that. Hell, we’d tune in just to watch Jessica Lange drive for 42 minutes. We’re pretty sure she could make the act engrossing.

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  • I loved when Dead Moira politely but firmly refused to make tea for Dead Vivian.

    • Terence Ng

      That was pretty balls out awesome. It makes sense and I like that Vivien didn’t skip a beat in accepting it. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    This episode (and really, the whole season) was such a mess, but it was such a crazy mess that I sat there laughing the whole time at the insanity of it.  The scenes of the good ghosts trying to scare away the Ramos family (I think that was their name) was the most bizarrely funny thing I’ve seen all year. Definitely entertaining.

  • Sobaika Mirza

    I thought episode was so… uneven. And the Christmas scene was ridiculous. Wasn’t a great finale, but I’m excited for evil baby Damien.

  • muzan-e

    It’s hard to even comment on an excellent write-up on the show without resorting to slightly disconnected point-form. Good god.  *g*

    I’m pretty sure that the Harmons aren’t special at all. It’s Christmas. They’re all freshly dead.  They’re all terribly aware that they’ll be stuck in this house for centuries, along with a bunch of people who rate as Strangers, Acquaintances and Hostiles. It’s Christmas.  No, it didn’t surprise me at all that they reached for each other. But I don’t think for one moment that it’ll last: Ben re-enacting the rape scene was about as fucked in the head as it gets, and that scene by the tree – the happy family, straight out of a Thomas Kinkade picture – or worse, straight out of any point in modern history; you could rewind that picture a century, put Violet in petticoats and little boots and it would all look just as classic an image – 

    That scene was terrifying with its wrongness. 

    Something else that delighted me: I never really got ghost stories until recently, not least because of exactly what they’re addressing. I never could understand how one planet could accommodate countless trillions of ghosts! *g*   And here it’s happening on a television screen: one house, acquiring more and more ghosts every year until different sorts of problems start cropping up. Crowding problems. Living in close quarters with people you can’t stand problems. Even Hell is an eternity spent in a room with your friends problems. *g*

    They’re forming alliances a little more aggressively than they used to be, it seems. Developing definite factions.

    That’s interesting. *g*

    • That assumes that all dead people become ghosts, though.  (Granted in this case, it’s accurate, but not in most ghost-stories)

  • crazy dead white people.

  • I’d love to see the real estate lady get killed and stuck in the house. All the recent ghosts could blame her for their deaths, and she’d  say “Do you know how I had to bite my tongue and listen to you idiots? The multiple commissions were NOT worth it!”

  • Anonymous

    Uhh that last scene with Constance finding Michael (it was Michael, right?) just rocking there and showing her his bloody hands was scary as hell.

  • Anonymous

    I enjoyed it once I switched off my brain completely and watched it purely for a series of bonkers scenes strung loosely together. More Jessica Lange please.

    • Anonymous

      This.  The scene at the beauty shop had me glued to the set.  Engrossing, over-the-top emoting without tiptoeing over the line into Faye Dunaway-type histrionics.

      • Anonymous

        Yea that was a great littloe monologue, but the whole time I was just thinking, “Show the kid! Show the kid! Is he destroying the whole neighborhood yet?!”

        • Anonymous


        • Terence Ng

          I thought it was brilliant to finally see Constance’s inner thoughts. For a while, she’s had these monologues, but they’re mostly about others or how she appears to others and you get the sense that she straddles that line between batshit insanity and being the most sane person in the room. But once we got to that mirror and her perception of herself opening up and her long forgotten dreams, you really realize that she is completely insane.

  • It was as whacked as whacked can be. I think they should have ended at the creepy Christmas tableau. The thing with the demon child was over the top. Wait, what am I saying? I forgot what I was critiquing for a second there. I’m curious what happens next. I hope they still work the ginger twins in; they’re scary as hell.

  • Anonymous

    After all the classic horror stories they’ve done homage to (The Shining, Amityville Horror, Rosemary’s Baby, The Changeling, etc…) – the one they save for last is Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead?  Huh. 

    • r0ckmypants

      Huh? Did I miss dead Violet getting a job in the fashion industry to support her stillborn younger sibling while Viv goes to Australia?

  • Anonymous

    I was surprised by how passive the “bad” ghosts were, as the “good” ghosts teamed up to scare the Ramoses away.  (Every time the realtor said RAY-mose I wanted to throttle her.)   It just seemed way too easy — Nora’s reaction to the reality of a (ghost!) baby was funny in its way, but after obsessing over the idea of a baby for decades, would she really give him up so easily? 

    Now that I’m thinking about it, the only really malevolent ghosts in the house are Tate and Hayden — but I guess Tate really does love Violet, in his messed up way, and wouldn’t let Hayden cause any more mischief.   Everyone else — even the obnoxious twins — was a victim, which begs the question, who was Tate’s daddy?  Was Tate the anti-Christ version 1.0?

    I can’t see us back in the house next season, so we’ll probably never find out.

    • I imagine if there’s anything interesting to find out there, Murphy will make sure we return to it at least occasionally.  Even if they move on with the demon kid, there are still plenty of ways to go back to the house.

    • Tate’s dad was in the house. Which is confusing because when Tate talks to Constance he seems to believe that his dad ran away, when in reality Constance killed him and he’s haunting the house (we saw him having sex with Hayden). So why doesn’t Tate ever interact with his dad and realize his mom killed him? 

      No idea. 

      • Terence Ng

        Hugo hasn’t really been explored much further than his lechery, and as a ghost, he only appears as one wanting to get tail before his wife comes home. If ghosts don’t interact with one another if they don’t want to, it could be that Tate isn’t really thinking about his dad enough to seek him out and Hugo probably isn’t thinking about much of anything except for sex, let alone his son, to want to appear to him.

        • But Tate constantly made a huge issue out of the fact that his father left him because his mother was so horrible. That’s why he seemed to want a close relationship with Ben. It’s why we got stupid dialogue like “I wish I had a dad like yours!” over and over again. But even if Hugo didn’t want Tate to see him (but…why not?) it seems like the other ghosts, or at least Hayden, would be like “yeah, Tate, I slept with your dad last night and stabbed him, it was whatever.” 

          Or at some point Moira would’ve been like “how did I die? Your mom shot me and your dad.” It’s just bad storytelling that they never really developed Hugo in anyway, but made such an issue out of his abandonment for Tate. 

          • Terence Ng


    • Terence Ng

      I think Larry’s wife was also revealed to be malevolent. She is the reason why Ben was possessed with the desire to light things on fire and burn himself. I thought that was a pretty cool reveal/tie up. I also liked that Beaux is one of the good ghosts. 🙂

    • Mary McClelland

      Are we ever going to learn who Constance’s fourth child is?

    • Scott Hester-Johnson

      Yes, her pronunciation of the name is what irked you, but not the whole “Spanish Mexicans are superior to Mexican Mexicans” rap?

      • Anonymous

        The mispronunciation was just one trigger. The realtor is among the more loathsome characters on AHS, which is saying something because AFAIK, she never killed anyone… directly.  I can’t define the problem with her as simple racism because that leaves out her blatant homophobia and classism.  Worst of all, she’s a pimp for the Murder House, serving up fresh victims with each new commission check.

  • Anonymous

    Why does Moira look differently than she did when she died?  Have we ever figured that out?

    • Sobaika Mirza

      She mentioned this once, her old looks are her ‘soul’ and it’s what people see when they are seeing clearly.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I’m glad the show didn’t end with some moralizing about how the Harmon’s problems were used by the house.  Sure, being in a haunted house and the stress of that is always going to magnify whatever problems people have but I never saw that as the point of the evil behind the house.  

    I thought the scaring of the Ramos’s was a hoot.  Of course, they were scared in a way that was over-the-top.  Not subtle as was done to the Harmon’s.  And they reacted the way most of us would assume normal people would react.  They got the hell out.  Of course, if they do that every single new family the house will never be occupied.  And that wouldn’t be interesting unless they do move the action more to Constance’s.  All Jessica Lange, all the time, would be OK because she’s awesome, but I am too curious to see what continues to happen with Tate to leave everybody in the house behind.  I am very curious to see what happens next season.  It’s creepy, whacky, fun, and not worth over-analyzing.  Just enjoy the ride.

  • Anonymous

    Last night, I didn’t know if I was coming or going with all the insanity that prevailed.  It’s not “Murder House Horror Story” so it can be set anywhere, as long as Miss Jessica Lange is on board.  I like her back and forth with old Moira, so I’d like her to hang around the neighborhood to keep that relationship going.  Since the house does seem to allow some of the ghosts to age (i.e Moira, Frankenbaby), I think Grandma Constance’s little devil will go down to the basement and meet his twin.  And then the good vs. evil story line will be played out.

  • Anonymous

    The point you brought up about the Christmas Tree scene epitomizes my reaction to this entire episode. With the exception of the final scene, there was nothing “horror” about this episode it was simply deliciously bizarre and “surreal” (I hate it when people use that adjective but it is the only word I can think of here). Seeing the “haunting” of the Spanish family from the ghost’s perspective completely neutralized it – it became theater, like a “haunted house” at the fair. Furthermore, a lot of the conversations and motivations that happened were so thoroughly and transparently strange (Moira, who we haven’t seen in weeks helping Viv transition, Ben’s therapy session with Tate, Nora and Viv talking about raising the dead baby) and a lot of it made me sort of nervously chuckle. The only thing from the body of the episode that was a little frightening was Ben’s death but it was also so ironic because he was about to kill himself, was convinced otherwise, and then Hayden and her crew did it for him anyway. I thought that having this string of earnest yet strange, humorous and impossible conversations was a really good way to end the season – yes things were wrapped up neatly, but I think the more important wrapping up was the tone – for the Harmons it has changed from horror to dark comedy. 

    The tag, however (Constance and the demon child), took us right back into horror which really makes me think that it will be her house that will be the focus for season 2, now that it has a murder (and a murderer) in it. 

    • Anonymous

      According to, “None of the characters from season one will be
      regular characters in season two, nor will it take place in the same
      house, nor will it take place in the same state. It won’t take place in California.”

  • Anonymous

    I was really hoping that Chad would make an appearance and when the Ramos kid was skateboarding all over the hardwood floors. He would never have allowed such a crime against his house to have gone unpunished. It was pretty creepy to have the evil red-headed twins show up again, but I sure would’ve rather had more of Chad. 

  • Anonymous

    Hopefully the real estate agent will be back next season with her cracks about the house.  One of my favorite characters.  Can’t wait to see the crazy next season with Constance and baby.  This show is so entertaining and different from anything on TV.

  • Anonymous

    I too believe (and deeply hope) that we will be moving on from the house next season. 

    AHS in not the best show in TV, but, now that the first season is over I find myself wanting to see it all over again. Which is rare.
    Of course it could just be Jessica Lange. Like someone commented before, her scene in the beauty shop was sublime. 
    Thank you for the recaps, guys. 

    And since this is Tom & Lorenzo, after all…can we talk about Nora’s GORGEOUS red dress?

  • Sobaika Mirza

    There was a lot of humor in this episode – especially with Tate and the Ramos kid. I was laughing when the he started praying and Tate looked so disturbed and asked him to stop. And especially “What do you mean freaky?”

  • I’m sad that next season will take place with all new characters, and it will be odd seeing actors from this year playing all new people.  Though I get why they are going the Dark Shadows route of same actors/new roles.  Just can’t believe that Constance, Violet, and everyone won’t be back next season.

    • I’m actually really happy they are going this way.  I got everything from this story that I really needed.  The last thing I want is to see Tate become the latest Logan Echolls–the woobified “bad boy,” whom I just consider to be psychotic asshole.

      The Dark Shadows mention is also right-on.  Since I loved DS, that doesn’t bother me one bit.

  • Anonymous

    You gotta love a show that throws in a heart warming scene of a dead family celebrating Christmas in a Hell House!  And of the many homages they’ve thrown in the mix, I found Beetlejuice to be the most unexpected and best one so far.

    Oh Gawd I am really going to miss this fucked up show!

    • Anonymous

      I haven’t seen Beetlejuice in 14 years (yikes). What was the reference?

      • Anonymous

        The ghosts pulling out all the stops in an attempt to scare the living from the house was done in Beetlejuice although it wasn’t as successful.  It was played in a similar grotesque/comic manner as they did here.

        • Anonymous

          Wow. Duh! I feel stupid. Thank you!

  • r0ckmypants

    Surprisingly, I liked this episode; if it were a season premiere rather than a season finale, I would’ve liked it even more. But as of now Ryan Murphy plans on ditching the entire concept of this season: ghosts, Murder House, Constance, the Harmons, everything. They’re starting from scratch from season two… so I’m not really sure why they set-up so many continuing storylines with the war between the ghosts, the continued sale of the house, and Constance’s little demon.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t get attached to that house or the characters…they’ve already said that each season of the show will be an entirely different plot with different characters, though some of the actors might be back in different roles. And, they’ve ruled out doing a vampire story apparently, which is good since there’s so damn many of them anyway.

    Then again, this is Ryan Murphy and he’s not known for consistency…the big success of this season might mean he changes his mind and does the exact thing again. Dude is flaky.

  • I just read that next season will be a whole new family and a new house and a whole new theme for the show. You can read about it here.

    I’m not sure how I feel about this….

  • Anonymous

    Ryan Murphy has confrimed that next season will involve completely different location/storylines. But, some of the actors from this season will be returning, His quote is below:

    “Next year on the show — every season of the show — will be a different haunting,” series creator and executive producer Ryan Murphy said, speaking to press Thursday about the finale. It will also bring a different home (or building) to haunt. A new set of characters, too. And, just as the debut demonstrated, each subsequent season will have a beginning, middle and end.
    But if you’ve grown particularly attached to Constance’s Southern charm or Dylan McDermott’s bare body parts, there is a small glimmer of hope.
    “Some of them will come back,” Murphy said. “I’m in talks with several of them. There will be familiar faces … but they will be playing completely different characters and creatures and monsters.”

  • We watched the episode tonight after having read that next season will feature new characters in a new place, and it made this episode fell very, very satisfying as a conclusion of this narrative arc.

    If this show continues, will we see Michael in 2014?  And who else burst out laughing when you heard he was named Michael (the archangel)?

  • I guess you should know Ryan Murphy said next season will be a completely different story, different cast different place, just a whole new plot from scratch

    actors from season 1 may re-appear but playing different roles, so you can expect more Jessica Lange

    • Actually, Jessica Lange hasn’t signed on yet. I’m hoping he goes with another actress from the same era as Lange.  I’d love to see Piper Laurie or Ellen Burstyn.  Actually, I’m hoping to see Sissy Spacek play someone absolutely evil, the opposite of Carrie White.

      • actually, I didn’t say she would be back for sure, I said “actors from season 1 may re-appear”

        • Ah, got it. Thanks.

          I’m still hoping he will go the route of getting other great actresses from Lange’s peers.  Ellen Burstyn, Piper Laurie, Rita Moreno, Cicely Tyson, Sissy Spacek.  Lots of potential to center each season around such a character.

      • Murphy has said he’s in talks with Lange and would really like to see her come back.

      • Piper Laurie and Ellen Burstyn aren’t from the same era as Lange. They were born in 1932, she in 1949. I know all old people start to look alike, but c’mon, don’t push her into the retirement home yet!She was just pretending to be from the 1960s as Constance.

        • Well, I wasn’t really thinking age as much as from the same era of when they won their Oscars and did the performances that got all the notice, and they all did that within the same general ten-year period.  I think any of them would be great.

          • I agree they’re all great, but Ellen was playing moms while Jessica was dating King Kong, and Piper had been a star since the 1950s. Carrie was a comeback, not the beginning, for her. As for actual Lange peers: you’re right about Sissy, so why not add: Tuesday Weld, Catherine Deneuve, Mia Farrow,  Bonnie Bedelia, Brooke Adams, Blaire Brown ….

  • Anonymous

    Did they ever explain the bloody hedge trimmers in the opening sequence?  I know they said all would be revealed, but I don’t remember the explanation for those.

  • Its not really fair to compare the new family to the Harmons. If the Harmons had experienced the same balls-out haunting that they did, they would’ve ran out too.

  • Anonymous

    Fully. Realized. You cannot have typed that with a straight face.

  • Anonymous

    I am actually glad they are doing it that way, starting with a new haunting, that is. I seem to remember them saying something about that a long time ago, then commenting that how attached everyone got to the characters made it harder, but maybe I am imagining it. I think keeping it in the same house would get old, now that we know a lot of the cast of characters inside. Can’t wait to see where it goes next. 

  • Anonymous

    I found T Lo’s recap far more entertaining than the actual episode. My mind wandered a lot and I kept having to remind myself to pay attention. First time that’s happened to me during the entire season. The one scene I did find mesmerizing was Constance at the beauty shop. LOVED THAT. Her last scene with little Damian was pretty good too and I also appreciated the interactions with Moira and Vivien. The story with Hispanic Harmons was dull (not that they weren’t likeable) but at least they were smart (normal) enough to get the hell out of there. 

    All that to say I really enjoyed this crazy ride and I’m hoping season 2 will be as good.

  • shanna bowie

    I think the Harmons manage to not have their bad qualities amplified because they were trying to find their way back together and they found that in death. Everyone else wanted to find something that was taken from them by death or they want something outside of the house they can’t get. 

  • Anonymous

    Now that I have learned that AHS will be set in an entirely different locale next season, with the ensemble of actors playing different parts, I’m actually looking forward to that. It’s a new concept for television, and sounds interesting.

    This season certainly wrapped up enough of the story line to satisfy me, and it presented a scenario that, like Real Life, Death also has its unfinished business, unknown outcomes and boring repetitiveness. I can imagine that things will go on and on and on in the Murder House, similar to what has gone on before, granted, a rather unsettling proposition, for an eternity of afterlife. I can also imagine that it’s possible Murphy/Falchek have a plan to revisit this locale in 2014, and pick up the story once more from there, since Constance has now learned the true nature of her angel/demon child.

    In the meantime, for 2012 and 2013, the story can go anywhere it likes; based on true American history, there are plenty more horror stories to visit, twist, rewrite and reimagine to fit this format. If they can find clever enough writers, it is also possible that there may be an intertwining of stories from season to season, not on a large scale, but smartly done, so that clever watchers, like us 😉 will enjoy tracing and unravelling the threads. Then again, perhaps this is wishful thinking on my part, that this show could exhibit the complexity and nuance of a very different show like Doctor Who. Which I must be thinking of because I just realized I missed the Christmas episode 🙁

    • I’m looking forward to it, as well.  It’s not an entirely new concept (e.g. the original Dark Shadows), but it is extremely rare. Frankly, I’d get bored if they stayed in the Murder House and just chased these same ghosts or Constance.  They’ve made the best possible decision.

  • What made the Harmons so special? For all their flaws, they were the nicest people ever killed in the house. Violet couldn’t love a mass murderer, once she found out. Vivian could raise a ghost child, once she found out. Ben actually wasn’t as bad a therapist as he claimed to be. The house divied itself up into good and bad ghosts in Afterbirth, and Nora may even have finally moved on. So was the house keeping them there, or were they all trapping themselves, as Billie Dean suggested?