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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