TV Review: AMERICAN HORROR STORY Finale “Afterbirth”

Season One of AMERICAN HORROR STORY sure did end with a spectacularly pointless whimper!

Wait, first! Read this absolutely crucial ghost primer on the first season of AHS by Sam Strange. I’ll wait.

Are you back? Okay, let’s get to it.

What a bizarrely drama-free finale episode of American Horror Story! Sure, everyone’s dead and ghostly, and I guess that could be considered notable on any other show—on any other show where everyone else is not already dead and ghostly. Seriously, the entire Harmon family dying and haunting the Murder House together is literally the least exciting or surprising thing that could happen on this finale. And why does Ben get to happy? WHY DOES BEN GET TO BE HAPPY, YOU GUYS? Tate and Hayden are banished to the outside of the warm holiday special while Ben gets to place the angel on top of the tree and bask in the glow of Vivien’s saintly forgiveness for the rest of eternity.

I don’t understand the Murder House’s—or American Horror Story’s—rules for redemption. Okay, so I guess I get that Tate should have “no chance of mercy” while Ben does, because Tate’s a rapist and mass murderer and Ben’s just a dickwad. But why is Hayden banished to the darkness instead of Ben? Hayden didn’t kill or rape anybody. (Well, she orchestrated Ben's death, but he deserved it.) She's a tramp and kind of crazy, but Ben is a man-tramp and pretty man-crazy. Hayden didn’t break any vows—Ben’s the villain in that story. But Hayden’s a lady, and the only ladies on American Horror Story who are allowed to be happy are saintly mothers, angsty teens, wonderfully melodramatic Southern gothic vamps or inexplicably old dead housekeepers.

I’m very glad Vivien and Violet are happy and that Vivien gets to soothe a colicky baby until the end of time (congratulations?), and I honestly did love the scenes between Vivien and Moira. I’ve always felt for Moira, and it’s quite nice to see her as part of the family and godmother to the little dead beta fetus. Of course, I still don’t put it past Ben to bone her, even now that she appears to him as her inexplicably elderly visage.

Connie Britton was stellar from the first moment of the opening scene, battling insurmountable rage and grief at the looming end of her marriage. And peaceful, impeccably coiffed, dead Connie Britton is a delight to behold. Violet didn’t have too much to do this week, but I was pleasantly surprised by Dylan McDermot-Mulroney’s performance as an anguished widower at the beginning of the episode.

Jessica Lange kicked this episode/season/show’s entire ass from top to bottom, and her final episode was typically chill-inducing. Her mirror monologue was absolutely spellbinding. I watched it four times to get the hilariously overwrought lines down:

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I was destined for great things. I was going to be somebody. A person of significance. A star of the silver screen, I once thought. But my dreams became nightmares. Instead of laurels, funeral wreaths. Instead of glory, bitter disappointment, cruel afflictions. But now I understand. Tragedy was preparing me for something greater. Every loss that came before was a lesson. I was being prepared. And now I know for what. This child, a remarkable boy! Destined for greatness! In need of a remarkable mother, someone forged in the fires of adversity, who can guide him. With wisdom. With firmness. With love.

Well hot damn, Jessica Lange! This show certainly doesn’t shy away from serving you a heaping helping of histrionics, knowing you will deliver it all with utmost brio. And then she returns home and feasts her eyes upon the nanny carnage of her antichristish alpha toddler. “What am I going to do with you?” she asks with equal parts satisfaction and horror. I don’t know, but it’s possible that we’re not going to get to witness it (more on that in a bit), and that is unacceptable to me.

A new family moves into the Murder House, and the Harmons work together to Beetlejuice them out of it before the parents can conceive in the vicinity of a passel of baby-hungry ghosts. Of course, it might make more financial sense for the new family if they’d been Beetlejuiced out before they closed on the house, but I appreciate the sentiment. I didn’t particularly care for the Ramos clan—the teen is one of those damn kids today with their skateboards and the parents are the very specific breed of television/movie parents who have sex in the kitchen with their children awake upstairs—but they still don’t deserve to endure the trials inherent in moving into the Murder House. So the idea that the Harmons will be cozily dead together, Beetlejuicing out all prospective tenants is kind of fun—except what did you say, Ryan Murphy? The Beetlejuice reference was unintentional? You, sir, are a goddamn liar!

What else did we learn in that interview? Oh, Ryan Murphy evidently always had a plan. I pretty much do not believe that. He certainly had more of a plan than I gave him credit for when I first started watching this show, but so much of that shit was entirely haphazard. The finale felt tacked on and rather pointless. And here he says the precise opposite of what we were told was the original plan for the show: that season two will consist of a new house and few if any of the old ghosts will be back. SURELY, surely Jessica Lange will be back. Right? If she isn’t, this show will sink down into the drab depths of mediocrity to which the writing aspires.

So what would I like to see out of season two? More Jessica Lange, clearly. More gore—that gutty, Glascow grinned flash of the Black Dahlia corpse in the finale was thrilling. Fewer ghosts—far fewer. A manageable number that we can keep straight and about whom we might care a little. Yes, we cared about Tate, Moira and Chad, but there were dozens more ghosts crammed up in there, and it all became a bit tedious.  Some damned cloven hooves already, because we’ve been promised hooves, and I got my hopes up only to have them tragically dashed. I'd like to see the exact same amount of tawdry batshittiness and equally high-caliber quality of cast performances, because that’s what brought me back every Wednesday despite the weak writing. Well, that and the fact that it’s my job to watch this show. So thanks for watching it with me!

What did you guys think of the season? How do you feel about the announced plan for season two?

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