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American Horror Story: Halloween, Part 2

"You seriously want ten cop cars outside 'Murder House' on Halloween night?"

For all their outward ghoulishness, there's a great sadness to every one of the ghosts depicted so far. Personally, it's a little surprising for me. In his most recent work, Ryan Murphy has specialized in giving his characters the most basic of personality traits, whether it's the obnoxious entitlement of Elizabeth Gilbert, the smugness of Will Schuester, or the illogical cruelty of Christian Troy. While certainly Glee and Nip/Tuck started out exploring the inner conscience of its characters, both shows eventually settled on making each member of their respective ensembles a certain 'type', forgoing any real depth. American Horror Story's ghostly antagonists (and even 'antagonist' seems wrong now) could so easily be one-dimensional and campy, and for a short time it appeared that that was entirely the case. But gradually as this show unfolds, said characters are becoming so complicated and fascinating, suggesting that Murphy and his collection of writers aren't so eager this time to fall back on one-note protagonists.

The theme that really resonated with me after this episode wrapped was the idea that these ghosts aren't entirely in control of things. I guess it comes from being so used to 'haunted house' stories, where it's the terrified family being victimized by the all-seeing, all-knowing home they're residing in. Halloween Part 2 showcased how trapped all these people are, both literally and figuratively. There's Moira confined to the house, Chad trapped in a loveless marriage to a sex addict, Hayden coming unglued after being used for sex and casually tossed aside, Tate's victims stuck in some eternal hell where their only thoughts are about the lives they should have had and goddamn deserved to have had. Even Constance sees the world itself as the real villain in this story, sadly used to the unnecessary cruelty we all witness every day.

A lot happened this week, but Tim Minear's gorgeous script shared equal time to each of the stories currently spinning. Vivien spent most of the episode running around in terror with Hayden lurking behind every corner, running both from the unbalanced girl who wants to tear the unborn fetus from her belly, as well as from the truth about Ben. I thought it was an appropriate metaphor for the storyline. Hayden could be dismissed as a crazy ex-fling along the lines of Fatal Attraction, but Kate Mara sold the sadness of this character as she attempted to piece together her own self-worth following Ben's actions. The writers lifted from that, making the story far more important than it could have been and using it as both a means to illuminate the state of Ben and Vivien's marriage, and (potentially) allowing Vivien justification for her own flirtations with Officer Morris Chestnut.

Elsewhere, the seemingly one-note Tate was granted some wonderful characterization with his date with Violet being repeatedly interrupted by the Ghosts of Breakfast Club Past, a motley crew of high school stereotypes with a serious grudge against him. It was clear from the get-go who the kids were, but I loved how human they all became. I think it was that one girl's cry about where she should be right now, instead of supernaturally pursuing her murderer, that got me a little choked up. Then there's the one guy asking why he was targeted, when he was just as avant-garde and unpopular as Tate was, not like he was captain of the football team or whatever. It was an interesting approach, these semi-teenagers in eternally teenage bodies, but with the bitterness and sense of loss that comes from knowing you'll never hit adulthood.

Halloween Part 2 was my favorite episode so far, an hour that featured so many different levels of emotion and an absorbing theme that flowed through almost all the stories, while at the same time maintaining the batshit awesomeness that just radiates from this show. Am I the only one who thinks American Horror Story is suddenly becoming pretty damn spectacular?


- This is probably crazy, but is the dog a ghost now? Or was the whole 'microwave explosion' really an elaborate trick of Hayden's?

- Constance's scene with Violet was so haunting, especially with the clips of her putting make-up on Addy's face at the morgue. Dang it, Jessica Lange is fabulous.

- Ghost Report: So Tate opened fire at his high school around 1993/1994 (making him 33/34 in ghost years today), and is Constance's son. Meanwhile, Nora appears to be looking out for Ben and sees something of a survivor in him. Hmm.

- It was announced on October 31 (appropriate) that FX was renewing American Horror Story for a second season. While it has been a runaway hit for them, I was a little surprised. What kind of format do you think the show will take next season? I can see Jessica Lange and the ghosts sticking around, but I really don't think the Harmons could still be in this freak house for a second year. Then again, any rational person would have quit the joint months ago, so...


Constance: They say when a parent dies, a child feels his own mortality. But when a child dies, it's immortality that a parent loses.

Vivien: You know what I really regret when I walked in on you screwing my husband? That I didn't just rip your smug little face off!

Hayden: A gazebo, Ben? Not even a decent headstone? A gazebo?!

Chad: I'm sorry Vivien, I really am. But you have ruined my Halloween and now you have to pay.

Chad: All I wanted was one night with my guy. Some Halloween fun, some crafting... in a house that I love and have lived for and you ruined it. And he left and he's out at the bars, and he's probably on his fourth unprotected blow job!

Previously posted at Unwelcome Commentary.


  1. Max: Am I the only one who thinks American Horror Story is suddenly becoming pretty damn spectacular?

    You most certainly are not! I've loved it since episode one, but this week's episode blew my socks off. It's the only show currently airing that I really look forward to seeing -- a lot! I've only seen Glee, but I was a little worried, too, that the characterisation would be weedy and shallow. But Murphy and Co. have pleasantly surprised me. This is my favourite new show of the season, with Once Upon a Time coming in close second, and Grimm trailing a pitiful last.

    Great review!

  2. I've loved this show from episode #1 too.

    It's so crazy and so over the top, but it's also terrifying. So much of it just gets right to the primal core of some of my fears and I literally get dizzy when I watch this show from how deep it affects me.

    It's a llooonnnnggggg shot, but I think Luke (Morris Chestnut) is the phantom in the rubber suit.

    I assume the hand under the bed that tried to grab Violet was Hayden. But it could have been a ghost that we haven't been shown yet – there's 3 decades (at least) of unexplored backstory for "Murder House."

    I love that Constance finally revealed that Tate was her son.

    Tate’s victims coming after him was creepy, but the kid without a jaw didn’t work for me.

    Constance putting the make-up on Addie in the morgue was heartbreakingly beautiful. I wonder if Constance was trying to poison Violet again?

    I don't think the puppy was killed. Hayden was berzerk, but I can't see her snuffing the puppy. Hayden seemed to have nice little a post-mortem sense of humor.

    (As an aside, to post my comment, the word for my "word verification" was "herpe." What the H?)

  3. I really am into this show now. Great episode, I know because I can't decide which was my favorite part.

    I agree the ghosts don't too omnipotent, they all have their own motives. The only ones who still seem truly menacing are The Rubber Man and Larry. Speaking of which, I don't think they made it clear, but was Larry killed by Chad? Hope not. I must say again, Larry scaring kids was too much.

    Don't know if Hayden is gonna come back and continue to make things worse for the Harmons. She was already pretty deranged when she was alive, and she's still in love with Ben.

    The Dead Breakfast Club was handled very well, it freaked me out. A very ironic, unsettling, and sad scenario. Wonder why Tate doesn't remember, or why he doesn't age? Does he remember killing that copycat killer with an axe?

    Guess I was wrong about Nora being the bad guy. She seems to want no more misery to take place in the house.

    Not sure what Ben will do. Or the Harmons in general. I mean, Ben has left, and I think Vivien still wants to move. The only one who has any real connection is Violet with Tate.

    Lastly: Jessica Lange is brilliant; Kyle McDermott is intense to the point of hilarity, which is fitting for this show; hope nothing bad happens to nice guy Morris Chestnut; the moment when all the ghosts returned was kinda breathtaking.

    I'm looking forward to whatever is next.


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