AMERICAN HORROR STORY Finale Recap: ‘Afterbirth’
December 22, 2011 by Ben Phelps
The roller coaster ride that was AMERICAN HORROR STORY’s first season has come to an end, but it’s more like last week’s “Birth” was the final exciting loop, while “Afterbirth” was the bumpy but ultimately straight ride back to the platform. Most of the season had been chock-full of crazy plots, characters, visuals, etc., and even if they weren’t necessarily good, they were at least engaging. “Afterbirth,” on the other hand, was just pretty dull.
The opening flashback brought us back to Boston, with Vivien about to leave Ben and go to live with her sister in Florida. But Ben had found the perfect house in LA – “For the first time, I feel like there’s hope,” he tells her – and he tries to convince her to stay with him by showing her the pictures on his iPad while essentially saying “c’mon” over and over. It must be Dylan McDermott’s overwhelming charm, because that strategy won Vivien over, and the rest is history.
Picking up where “Birth” left off, Ben is grieving the death of his family and is about to kill himself (after making arrangements for the baby, of course), when Vivien and Violet intervene. In a scene full of weird angles and covered by a soft glow, they tell Ben he needs to get out of the house so he can raise the child away from all the craziness (and, thankfully, Violet also reminds her dad that she “saved him a shitload of money” on college, which he seemed to be sincerely happy about. So there’s that). The revolver in his hand quickly gets traded for a baby seat, but before he can even make it downstairs, Hayden and some other ghosts tie a noose around his neck and throw him off the balcony.
Ryan Murphy told EW that was “the most shocking scene we’ve ever done,” but after revealing the deaths of Violet and Vivien in recent weeks, much more shocking would have been letting Ben actually get out of the house alive. But there’s Murphy’s idea of tragically romantic for you.
If the placement of Ben’s death 20 minutes into the supersized episode was the most shocking thing about it, then the rest of the finale wasn’t much more than filler. Marcy works her realty magic on the Ramos family, and when the couple starts talking about having another baby, Vivien, Ben, and Moira team up to send them packing and spare themselves the probable horror/danger/madness. Ben shooting Vivien in the head, after she sliced his stomach open, was a cathartic moment for both of them, but other than some incredibly nonchalant kitchen sex (considering their son was upstairs), this whole subplot didn’t have much else to offer…
Except a jealousy-fueled Tate! His trying to kill the Ramos kid so Violet would have someone to be with was ‘shipper fodder if I’ve ever seen it (and, indeed, this Tumblr is already filled with screencaps from that sequence). Evan Peters can certainly cry convincingly, and Tate’s goodbye with Violet was effective payoff to their relationship, but I found it hard to care for some reason. I guess the “go away” from earlier couldn’t have been their last interaction, but for someone who wasn’t all that invested in their courtship (so much tragic romance on this show!), it wasn’t really worth the allotted time.
At least the Ramos plotline had a plot, though, even if it wasn’t all that interesting. The last part of “Afterbirth” basically just consisted of a bunch of random scenes, including a) Tate telling Ben he just wanted to hang out sometime, b) Vivien intensely playing the cello, c) Vivien finding her assumed-stillborn in the basement with Nora, and then making Moira the godmother, and d) a warm family gathering around a Christmas tree, while Hayden and Tate watch from outside. And then it cuts to three years later, Jessica Lange gets a long monologue at the hairdresser’s, she returns home to find her demon grandson grinning in his rocking chair, overlooking the body of the babysitter he just killed.
That paragraph sums up AMERICAN HORROR STORY pretty well, actually. There were a lot of disparate elements thrown together haphazardly – sometimes they coalesced into something entertaining and intriguing, while more often they just seemed wildly out of sync and made you wonder why you were still watching. In any case, it was one of the most unique shows on television this year, even if that doesn’t mean it was one of the best. And at the very least, it was always good for your weekly dose of Dylan McDermott jokes.
A few other thoughts:
• I don’t understand what the writers are going for with Marcy. She’s a raging racist, but is that the joke? Or is it that she’s so tone-deaf about her comments that they’re supposed to become funny?
• The Harmons’ dog was the only member of the family to survive the house!
• (Unintentional) laugh of the week: There were a bunch, but Vivien’s cello playing takes the cake.
• I’ve had a great time recapping the show for GMMR all season. Thanks for reading!
What did you think of “Afterlife”? Was it a fitting finale, or do you wish they’d ended it differently? What were your thoughts on the season as a whole? And what are you hoping for next year?