It's as though American Horror Story is slowly becoming an actual show! After last week's episode introduced the concept of "story," this week the writers pushed the envelope a bit further by having the story "make sense." Mostly! Wednesday's episode, entitled "Murder House," was another strong entry in what is slowly proving to be a mythology with legs to sustain itself. While not as frightening as the first two installments, this episode served up even more impossibly crazy backstory and started putting into place several obstacles that should keep the Harmon family in this awful home for at least a little while longer.
We began with a shocking and slightly hilarious flashback apparently ghost-written by Tennessee Williams and featuring special effects provided by Industrial Light & Magic? (Jessica Lange's CGI face!!) Anyway, at least one of our suspicions was verified: Constance and her family used to live in the Murder House! And we we finally got to see the circumstances of Moira's murder: Back in 1983 Constance's husband was a hard-drinking louse of a guy who got sort of rapey with the younger version of Moira. That is, until Constance walked in and shot them both to death! This explained Moira's present-day "ghost eye": that was where the bullet entered her skull. Not going to lie, the timeline was kind of confusing. So Constance and her family lived in the house in 1983? But what about in 1978 when the twin boys got killed and Adelaide was playing in the front yard of the seemingly condemned building? Ah, nevermind, forget I asked.
Then we flashed forward to present day where Vivien was yelling at Ben about betrayal and it was like, Whoops! She found out about his mistress visit! But it turned out he'd merely lied about their empty bank account instead. Wow, Ben's even more awful than we thought! It was also super charming when, during the course of this conversation, he implied that Vivien was crazy for wanting to move out of the house where she was almost murdered during a home invasion. Ben was truly the worst, and that was BEFORE he fell asleep during a session with Tara's mom from True Blood and woke up in the yard with blood on his hands and Moira wouldn't tell him whether he'd murdered someone or not. (Oh, Moira.) But still, Ben's got a skull full of bad news.
In what would become a recurring theme of the episode, everybody was threatening everybody! Vivien threatened to sue the realtor, Violet threatened to run away from home, Vivien threatened to divorce Ben, Moira threatened to sue for wrongful termination, Ben's ex-mistress threatened to rat him out to Vivien... This was just a house full of jerks, basically. Luckily the Burned-face man needed $1,000 for new headshots (don't ask) and voluntarily murdered Ben's pregnant girlfriend with a shovel. Ben seemed kinda bummed at first, but seeing as he'd already dug a grave for her I don't think it was fair of him to be too mad at Burned-face.
For no real reason Violet decided she wanted to stay in the house and threatened to run away from home if Vivien tried to move everyone into an apartment. Clearly the Being-The-Worst gene is a dominant one, because Violet's taking after her father in that department. But it turned out Vivien may HAVE to stay in the house anyway, as when she finally ventured outside she began bleeding in the crotch area and feared she'd miscarried. Her consulting physician banned her from moving, citing the dangerous stress levels, but you and I know that the house has some kind of nurturing effect on Vivien's health. That house wants a baby and it wants one NOW.
After a brief chat with police detectives, it was discovered that Ben HADN'T murdered Tara's mom; she'd merely slit her wrists and run out the door, which is a thing that often happens after someone's first psychiatrist visit. You've done it, I've done it. It happens. To his credit, Ben seemed relieved that he wasn't a murderer, but this fugue-state problem persisted, leading us to wonder whether he'd start sleep murderin' someday. It seems likely! We also learned that Ben is incredible at building gazebos, which he did over the grave of his ex-girlfriend. (Her body had been laid beside the bones of Moira, which she observed from the window while sobbing.) So you know what that means: Bury bones in the yard, stay haunted by that ghost. Which is too bad because that girlfriend was turbo annoying. Oh well, see you soon, lady!
Oh and it wasn't super important to the plot but so much screentime was devoted to it, it'll probably mean something later: We met the house's original owners! They were 1920s society folks, one a haughty, scheming wife and the other, a mad scientist who sewed together animals and performed the occasional abortion for spare change (a real hard-working, Horatio Alger type, basically). Anyway, that was a weird scene, but then later on in present day the same wife CAME to Vivien's door and TOURED the house like she was going to buy it. For the record she did NOT like the modern kitchen and especially not the microwave. That is just a ghost's prerogative though. Either way, Vivien failed to notice that the back of the lady's skull was missing. She also didn't notice later that night when the ghost lady was chilling on the bed while they slept. Who would?
1. Young Jessica Lange!
2. Two-Headed Pig Bat
3. The Sal Mineo Murder Re-Enactment For Some Reason?
4. Tara's Mom
5. Violet's Hat
6. Ghost Lady's Bad Hair Day
All in all, this episode was equal parts crazy and coherent! As much as I'd be watching this thing either way, it IS sort of nice to think that the writers have intentions behind their on-camera brainstorming sessions. Sure, there may be sustainability issues over, say, seven seasons, but I have a feeling we're getting at least a really special first season here and I'm excited to see where things go.
... Where has the gimp ghost been?
... Why did Tate ignore Constance's wave?
... How embarrassed would you be if you could only learn more about your house by taking a Murder Tour? Just Bing it!
... Is Constance an eBay Power Seller? What's her feedback rating?