The third episode of ‘American Horror Story’ starts with a bang. Admittedly, it slows down a bit in the middle, but then it builds back up to some whacked-out craziness at the end. Oh yeah, I’m still loving this show.
At the beginning of ‘Murder House’, we learn that crazy neighbor Constance (Jessica Lange) used to live in the house. This isn’t necessarily a surprise, but it’s nice to put the puzzle pieces in place. In 1983 (love those shoulder pads!), she walked in on her husband attempting to rape their maid, young Moira. Believing this to somehow be the girl’s fault, Constance shot Moira dead in the eye (Ewww…) and then killed her husband as well. Moira, apparently, is now forever doomed to haunt the house, seducing men in her young form, while women see her as an old lady with a bad eye.
The episode also has a second flashback storyline. In the 1920s, a mad doctor (Matt Ross from ‘Big Love’) conducts crazy Frankenstein-like experiments on dead animals while huffing laudanum in the basement. From a conversation with his wife, we learn that he’s the one who built the house. In order to pay their spiraling debts, the wife forces him to offer illicit abortions to young girls in trouble. A lot of unborn babies died in the house, and presumably a lot of pregnant girls as well.
In the present day, Vivien is determined to sell the house and move the hell away, but the forces of the universe seem to be conspiring against her. The couple’s money manager ran off with their savings, leaving them in such bad financial shape that they can’t afford to move unless they can sell the house for as much as they paid for it. Vivien’s doctor also tells her that the stress of moving will be bad for the pregnancy. On top of that, daughter Violet doesn’t want to move either. Despite the ordeal they went through with the intruders, she likes the house and says that it “has soul.” What she may not realize is that it has many.
Unexpectedly, Ben’s mistress Hayden (Kate Mara) shows up at the house. She tells him that she didn’t go through with the abortion, and has crazy plans about coming clean to Vivien so that she and Ben can run off together. Ben is flabbergasted. Desperate just to get her out of the house before Vivien gets home, he offers to take her to a restaurant to talk about this some more. As they step out the door, burn victim Larry runs up from out of nowhere and smashes Hayden in the face with a shovel, killing her instantly! What the what?!
Ben panics. Larry expects him to be grateful to him for taking care of the problem. He talks Ben out of calling the police, and offers to bury the body in the yard, in the process of which he finds another corpse already buried that we soon realize is Moira’s. Ben cements over the spot and starts to build a gazebo there (good for the property value, he tells Viv). Moira looks on from the house and cries. Constance comments sarcastically, “Poor girl, you’re stuck here forever.”
Despite a slow middle section (a storyline involving Ben’s newest patient who goes missing isn’t as interesting as the other parts), this was still a pretty good episode overall. And then that last act goes from Zero to Batshit in a blink, which really puts it over the top. We already knew that Ben was an asshole, but now he’s a fully-fledged participant in the house’s madness.
I like that the show is attempting to address the nagging question of why the family would stay in the house after what’s happened to them. The house obviously doesn’t want them to leave, and now undoubtedly Ben will work against Vivien to keep them there as well.