AMERICAN HORROR STORY Recap: ‘Halloween, Part 2’
November 3, 2011 by Ben Phelps
We’re now five episodes into AMERICAN HORROR STORY (which just got picked up for a second season), and things finally seem to be headed somewhere. In the first few episodes, some groundwork was laid for both the characters and the mythology, but it got swallowed up by body parts in glass jars, off-putting camera angles, and Dylan McDermott’s yelling. Those elements are all still very much present, but they now feel like part of the show’s fabric, rather than Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk simply trying to make a classic horror pastiche to prove they’ve watched ROSEMARY’S BABY. The result? An increasingly entertaining and captivating series that could actually pass the “it’s so bad it’s good” bar some time in the near future.
“Halloween, Part 2,” which picked up right where last week’s installment left off, was another step in that direction. The cliffhanger surrounding Violet’s fate was quickly resolved in the most benign way possible (she just went on her date with Tate), but that didn’t take the drive out of the narrative, as there was plenty of other crazy stuff to keep everyone occupied for the full hour.
Violet and Tate took advantage of his one night of freedom to venture to the beach, but their romantic sojourn was soon interrupted by a bunch of high schoolers who, to Violet, just had really good costume make-up and were threatening her boyfriend. However, it is later revealed (first through hints in the dialogue, then in direct statements with accompanying flashbacks – this show is not subtle) that Tate had killed them years earlier in a school shooting. That he was responsible for a teenage massacre isn’t too surprising, but it’s strange that Tate truly didn’t seem to remember anything they were talking about. Since the sunrise cut their confrontation short, and Violet wasn’t there to hear any of it, I’m sure this story will continue down the line. For now, though, it was nice to get a better understanding of Tate, even if it posed more new questions than it answered.
The bulk of the episode focused on Ben and Vivien dealing with their various marital problems (and they certainly have a lot of them), including the biggest one of them all: Hayden, back from the dead, and now destined to keep torturing them forever. Vivien receives another call from her husband’s ex-mistress, and when Hayden’s directions to ask Ben about Boston are accompanied by “ASK HIM” written on the bathroom mirror, Vivien is rightfully terrified and grabs the nearest golf club. To her, it’s an awful situation, but it’s no more than a sign that Hayden is out of her mind.
What does the situation look like to Ben, though? He watched Larry kill Hayden with a shovel, and then buried her deep in the backyard and built a gazebo over the grave. Yet, when she shows up at his door, and proceeds to cough up bloody flesh, he just looks at her like he’s mad she’s bothering him again. The house is clearly taking its toll on Ben, turning him into the world’s most ironic psychiatrist, but if he doesn’t get himself under control soon, he’s going to be left all alone, since the biggest mystery at this point is why Vivien hasn’t left him yet. She now knows he got Hayden pregnant (which means he also kept seeing her after promising they were done), and he continues to be the most patronizing husband imaginable. It’s no surprise Vivien wanted to discuss his moving out.
The insanity of the Hayden/Ben/Vivien love triangle and the fleshing-out of Tate’s backstory were balanced out by an interaction between Constance and Addy that was simultaneously one of the creepiest and sweetest things the show has done. It turns out Constance was too late in dragging Addy back to the lawn, and that her daughter did indeed die from the hit and run. During her trip to the morgue, Constance finally makes Addy the “pretty girl” she always wanted to be by applying make-up to her face one last time. It was cringe-worthy to watch, but Jessica Lange sold the emotion of the scene and really made it seem like she cared about her daughter, no matter how insensitive she was in the past.
“Halloween, Part 2” certainly wasn’t a perfect episode of television. There are still a lot of ambiguities regarding the rules of the house (although we know for certain, thanks to some more unsubtle dialogue from Moira, that those who were killed there are stuck for all eternity), and I think we’re supposed to be invested in the Harmon marriage a lot more than I actually am (can Ben not yell?). But the pieces are starting to add up, and the supporting characters, at the very least, are a lot of fun. So if GLEE is going to continue its decline, we might as well get something good out of it, right?
A few other thoughts:
- This episode was written by Tim Minear, who is best known for his work on Joss Wheadon shows (ANGEL, FIREFLY, DOLLHOUSE) and other one-season (or less)-wonders (WONDERFALLS, DRIVE, TERRIERS). It looks like this could be a mutually-beneficial relationship, though, since it means Minear gets to work on a hit that is already guaranteed a second season, and AMERICAN HORROR STORY gets a writer who actually understands character development and smart plotting.
- A carry-over from last week: Why would Ben and Vivien leave Violet alone in the house in the first place? ON HALLOWEEN??
- (Unintentional?) laugh of the week #1: Vivien’s reply to Ben when grabs a knife to take care of the pumpkin smashers. “So your plan is to kill them?”
- (Unintentional?) laugh of the week #2: Ben’s yelling at Larry in the backyard, combined with the shaky POV camera.
What did you think of “Halloween, Part 2”? Did you like learning more about Tate’s history? What role is Larry supposed to play in all of this? And who/what was trying to grab Violet’s ankle from under the bed?
Filed under American Horror Story
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