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American Horror Story: Afterbirth

"That's all very touching, but where the hell's the baby?"

This was a curious finale. Though I guess the episode title hinted that this was more about the calm after the storm than anything too apocalyptic. I understand that "Afterbirth" was thrown together under a tight schedule, the producers cutting a planned thirteenth episode and instead making this one a ninety-minute show, and it did sort of look like it. The script had an odd structure, bouncing from flashback sequences to the sudden demise of a major character, straight into Beetlejuice hijinks and a flash-forward to three years later. There were some wonderful moments, of course, but certain stories fell a little flat after a year of so much intense foreboding.

Marcy mentioned at one point that the death of the Harmon family was a "great romantic tragedy", and I'm inclined to agree. While I had various problems with the three of them over the course of the season, I found myself really affected by their respective demises, the idea of this very fractured family all being consumed and spat out by this cursed house. The opening scenes of this episode really pushed that, too, with the interweaving sequences of Ben convincing Vivien to move away, followed by scenes of bloody destruction.

In the end, though, the afterlife actually created a second chance for them. I guess the specter of an eternity together would convince you to drop old tensions, so it shouldn't have been surprising that the Harmon's seemed to find that happiness that had eluded them for so long. They were like a perfect family again, all happy and content, a feeling cemented by how weird it was to see Violet actually smile for once.

Moira, too, found herself accepted, gaining the family she'd always wanted. It seems like the house itself doesn't have as much power as it once seemed, since every ghost character appears to exhibit the same control they had in their actual lives. Vivien, Ben and Violet pitch a Christmas tree and celebrate like a real family, while Hayden and Tate are still kept in the shadows where they arguably belong.

"Afterbirth", for me, was only a little disappointing because of my own expectations. And you have to ask yourself whether that's the fault of the show, or entirely my fault for expecting more rampant absurdity. Maybe I would have been more satisfied if they had cut out the whole thing with the Ramos family, something I felt really dragged the episode's mid-point downhill. I loved the voyeurism of Ben and Vivien watching what are essentially new versions of themselves, this new family completely unaware of their probable fate. But the elaborate haunting scenes that followed just weren't interesting.

Generally, however, I was entertained by what was served up. It still feels like the show has become progressively more restrained after opening with so much hokey nuttiness (which isn't at all in keeping with any of Ryan Murphy's other series), something that's just as much a blessing as it is a curse. Reaching that middle ground is tough, but the show should definitely keep trying.

So what now for American Horror Story? I felt like the strongest scene in the episode was that chilling coda sequence, Constance coming home to discover the surprisingly non-scaly demon child had indulged in a little housekeeper homicide while she was out getting her hair did. Constance's reaction (a mix of fear and... I don't know... excitement?) was interesting, and if any show can pull off the 'evil three year-old' trope, it's probably American Horror Story. What I really hope we don't see next year are more prospective buyers getting terrorized. As long as they avoid that, season two should be pretty absorbing.


- Loved Hayden's "aww shit" retort when she got her throat cut. Girl's sure one-note, but I've enjoyed watching her lazy shrewishness this season.

- So Nora fell apart. I like that, somebody whose given so much of their time to dreaming of having a child, only for the reality to not be as warm and cuddly as she had always thought it would have been.

- Can we assume that all of Billie Dean's end-of-the-world prophecies were melodramatic kabluey? Damn you, fraudulent psychic lady for getting me so amped for this finale!

- Morris Chestnut joins actors like Portia de Rossi and Molly Shannon in the long list of name guest stars who ended up being insanely underused on Ryan Murphy shows. Did Officer Luke serve any purpose at all? He could have been lifted straight out of this season with little consequence.

- There's a handy 'ghost roll-call' over at Vulture that should probably be checked out. Or you can try and guess the twenty-four (!) ghosts currently inhabiting Murder House, not including Ben, before you click the link.

- That's my first season wrapped up for Billie Doux. Thanks to everybody whose read and commented over the last couple of months.


Miguel: Actually, my family's from Spain.
Marcy: All the better. I find European Hispanics vastly superior.

Moira: I would have been a good mother. If I hadn't been such a little tramp.

Gabriel: Who are you?
Violet: A ghost of my former self.

Previously posted at Unwelcome Commentary.


  1. Congratulations on finishing your first season of reviews for us, Max! The first of many, I hope. AHS was definitely an unexpected dark horse this fall, wasn't it? Who knew it would be a breakout hit?

  2. Thank you for reviewing AHS, Max! I've loved your reviews.

    Is there going to be a second season? If so, I really hope there is more of Hayden. She seems to be a Ryan Murphy darling.

  3. R u sure there is a second season? I just dont see how they could possibly make one... this ended pretty completely.. what else coul they do with the story?

  4. Yeah, there's definitely going to be a second season of at least 12 episodes. Which makes me wonder how many episodes Jessica Lange will be in next year. She only agreed to do the show because it had a comparatively short run. If they extend beyond the promised twelve, I'm not sure she'll be very pleased.

    I really enjoyed the finale. I think it's safe to say that virtually all of it was unexpected. It seemed to follow a structure completely unfamiliar to normal TV. I can't see Ben, Vivien and Violet being in the show next year. Their roles would be so reduced, I'm not sure any of the actors would take them on. I hope they do, though.

  5. I loved this episode! I love this show!!!

    I was shocked when Ben was killed. I didn't expect it.

    I was hoping we'd find out why Murder House is....well....a murder house and why spirits are trapped there.

    I was also hoping we'd meet the fourth child of Constance. Lange better be returning for the next season, even if it's only for an episode or two.

    Second Season news:


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