By far the wildest show on television, ‘American Horror Story’ drew its (I would call it brilliant overall) first season to a close last week. I’m not sure what I was expecting from the finale episode, but it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t have ever guessed this. Honestly, I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad. (Spoilers to follow.)
I don’t want to say that I’m disappointed with the episode, called ‘Afterbirth’. However, it’s very tonally different from the rest of the season, to the point where it almost feels like a whole new crew came in to shoot this one. Stylistically, it’s been photographed with a lot of weird mist filters and deliberate focus errors that are really overdone and grow annoying quickly. The plot also feels more like a season premiere episode, designed to establish a direction for the second season, than a finale. I think that the previous week’s episode ended in a good place that would have made a more fitting finale.
In any case, we have a definitive answer to my speculation about what would happen to Ben. He’s dead now too. After moping around a bit and threatening to kill himself to be with his family, the ghosts of Vivien and Violet appear and beg him to get out of the house with the new baby. On his way out the door, he’s ambushed by Hayden and the intruder psychos, who string him up and hang him from the chandelier, staging it to look like a suicide. So, officially, the entire main cast of characters has been killed off in the first season. What kind of show does that?
At this point, a whole new family moves in: Stacy and Miguel Ramos, and their teenage son Gabe. (If Stacy looks familiar, actress Lisa Vidal recently played the First Lady in ‘The Event‘. Yeah, remember that one?) Realtor Marcy pushes the house on them hard by playing off the Harmons’ deaths as a tragic love story. (Incidentally, it appears that Vivien’s dog is alive after all, since Marcy is taking care of him.) Son Gabe says that he doesn’t believe in ghosts. That’s about to change.
Lest we think that Season 2 will be all about the Ramoses getting haunted by the Harmons, Ben and Vivien team up with some of the more sympathetic ghosts in the house (Moira, Beau and Larry’s wife among them) to stage a ‘Beetlejuice’-style bio-exorcism. Ben puts on the Rubber Man suit and chases the couple down to the basement, where he and Viv stab and shoot one another, then cackle in demented glee as the Ramoses freak the hell out. Meanwhile, upstairs, and apparently unrelated to these plans, Tate threatens to kill Gabe out of some misguided belief that it would make Violet happy to have a new boyfriend, or something. Violet stops him and the kid gets away. All of the Ramoses run screaming from the house, and that’s the last we’re likely to see of them. Vivien comments that another family will just move in eventually, and Ben responds that they’ll know what to do about it next time.
Vivien later finds Nora trying to play mommy to Viv’s dead baby. (She explains that it breathed a single breath and then died in the house.) The kid’s a screamer, and it turns out that Nora has no motherly instinct after all. Her name for the child is Noisy Little Monster. She’s exhausted, and seems relieved when Vivien takes the baby away. The baby promptly stops crying in Vivien’s hands.
Vivien asks Moira to be the child’s godmother. Ben sets up a Christmas tree, and at long last the Harmon family is one happy cohesive unit. Death has really brought them together. Hayden and Tate watch through the windows, biding their time to mess things up again.
As for the baby that lived, that one changes hands a few times. First, Ben (while still alive) takes it away from Constance. Then Hayden steals it when she murders Ben. Constance promptly steals it back with Travis’ help, and raises the boy as her own across the street, beyond the ghosts’ reach (except on Halloween, one would assume). When the police detectives come around investigating, Constance hides the child in a closet (remember Addy’s time-out room?) and cooks up a story that Violet must have run off with the baby when she found her father dead.
In an epilogue, we jump forward three years. Constance visits her hairdresser, positively glowing with joy. She brags all about her new son (an orphan of dead cousins, she pretends), and beams with pride at every mention of him. “Tragedy was preparing me for something greater,” she says.
Constance has named the boy Michael, but might well have called him Damien. Upon returning home, she finds that the 3-year-old has murdered his nanny. He sits in a rocking chair and laughs over the corpse. “Now what am I going to do with you?” Constance asks rhetorically.
I take it that next season will be a mixture of the Harmons scaring off potential new residents while the antichrist grows up across the street. Depending on how that’s pulled off, I suppose it could work. I do still fear for the show, though. As I said when I first started watching, all TV series produced by Ryan Murphy eventually fall to pieces. It’s not a question of “if,” but “when.” I don’t think that I’m ready to proclaim this episode a jump-the-shark moment yet, but something about it feels decidedly off. The first few episodes of next season may well determine this show’s fate. All things considered, I’m just glad to have gotten one good season out of it.