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 batsh*t awesomeness that just radiates from this show. Am I the only one who thinks American Horror Story is suddenly becoming pretty damn spectacular? A+
Read more at Unwelcome Commentary.