Friday, December 23, 2011

The Murder of American Horror Story

And there it is.  The end of the Harmons, the Langdons and the Murder House.  Goodbye Moira, so long Hayden, hasta la vista Chad and Patrick.  We will never see you again.  At least that's what Ryan Murphy says.  And he's a man who is true to his word.

Here's the thing.  I initially intended on doing two blog posts on American Horror Story this on the finale and one of the season as a whole.  But now having watched it a few times over, having seen all of the press on the future of the show, having intense questions about how the finale affects the entirety of the series I realize that it is impossible to address one without talking about another.  So instead, this will be one mega post on all things AHS.  There's a lot to talk about here people.  So let's begin.

The finale itself began with the Harmon's decision to move from Boston to LA before flashing to lone survivor Ben on a quest to take the baby back from Constance.  He realizes that Tate is her son and that he's dead where I guess is where it all finally clicks for Ben that yes, they are in fact not in Kansas anymore.  With Viv and Violet unwilling to appear to him, Ben decides that the baby will be raised by his aunt and while he goes to snack on some bullets.  His family appears to him and forces him to chose life. Hayden, however, has other plans and with the help of the house intruders from episode two kills Ben by hanging him to the chandelier.  The final Harmon bites the dust.  This all happens within the first fifteen minutes.

For the rest of the episode, we see the Harmons playing house as a newly re-bonded if not a little bit dead family.  When a new brood moves in our old family realizes that if they don't do something there is a good chance that the current living residents will suffer the same fate that they did.  The round up all the good ghosts in the house and do their best scary movie impressions, promptly sending the family heading for the hills.  Then Vivien finds Nora with Ben's baby in the basement, which she gets custody of when Nora realizes that this kid kick she's been on for almost a century was just a passing phase.  She asks Moira to be the boy's godmother and they all live happily ever after.  Forever.

Meanwhile, things aren't as peaches and cream for the Langdons.  Tate tries to kill the new boy who moved into the house so Violet could have a plaything because she's just not a flowers and chocolate kind of gal.  She shows up and gets up to back off, but not before finally telling him goodbye.  And she means it.  Lonely Tate shows up to try to chill with Ben, who points out that the kid's a psychopath, therapy doesn't work and he'll never be redeemed of the many sins he finally starts to recount.  Tate is forced to watch A Murder House Christmas out in the cold with Hayden, intent on just waiting a literal eternity for Violet to come around.

Constance discovers Ben's body and goes to fetch her grandson from Hayden and is helped in getting him away from her by DeadTravis, who distracts the adulteress by slicing her throat.  Connie hides the child away for years, finally deciding that raising the little monster (not the Gaga kind) is her mission in life.  At the end, she returns home to find that three year old Michael has murdered his nanny and is all giggly about it.  End credits.  Nothing more to see here.

My initial problem with the episode was pacing.  We have spent 11 hours with these people and they are the ones I care about.  And the big question of the season...would they all die, was answered almost immediately.  The show somehow effectively turned Ben, who I found to be one of the biggest assholes ever on television into a sympathetic character deserving of an arc and more importantly, of redemption.  I wish that he had been killed around the 40 minute mark and in a more dramatic fashion.  Where was his family to defend him against his assailants?  Since the episode was originally supposed to be two hours, then one and a half and was ultimately 52 minutes I suppose it is possible that they had planned on a longer stretch of life for Ben and it is what suffered with the time cuts.  If I watched this episode as a one off, it might have been fine, but I cared too much to have the death treated with so little weight.

When I finished watching it for the first time, I ultimately decided that while it wasn't on par with the show that I have come to know and love, I was fine because it was fun and cathartic and provided a really nice set up in a lot of ways for season two.  I then dragged by sick butt into bed, took a nap and woke up to find out that there in fact is no Santa Claus. Murphy told the press that this was the end of this Murder House and that none of the characters would be seen again.  At best, perhaps some of the actors would return but the world that we have spent all this time is now ceases to exist.  Say your goodbyes fans.  We ain't coming back.

Over the next few hours, I went through my stages of grief and got stuck on acceptance.  I should begin by saying that I like the idea of an anthology series.  I think it could be fun.  I also love the idea of having a group of actors, almost like a theater repertory group, in different parts each time.  What I do take issue with is that A) this would have been an easier pill to swallow if they just let us all know that this was in fact the case and not tried to toy with the fans and B) This story is not over.  There are just too many questions unanswered, too many set ups that go nowhere.  And I'm heartbroken that they will forever stay that way.

The biggest thing, of course, is Michael.  Clearly boy is hella evil, but is that just because of who his daddy is or is he in fact the Anti Christ?  That's kind of a big deal and we don't know what it means.  Then there are all the questions that NEED answers.  What is the Infantata?  I still don't know if it is dead or alive, if it has aged or if it means to do harm/is just a victim.  Why does Moira look older than she is?  If scaring out new owners is so easy, why haven't the ghosts ever done it before?  Why did Moira do Constance's bidding?  What is so special about this house that ghosts get stuck there?  What killed the twins in the pilot?  Why do some ghosts have wounds and others don't?  Why can some remember their deaths when others can't?  Is Bilie Dean for real?  Who is Constance's fourth child?   And then...there's Tate.

Tate is bar none the most complicated character in the AHS universe and people have had a lot of fun figuring him out.  Does he know he's dead? (Yes, all along)  Does he remember what he did? (Finally we learned that yes, he does)  Is he simply pure evil or are his acts a product of abuse/the house/possession/an evil twin?  According to Ben on this one, Tate is simply psychotic and a lying liar who lies.  Fine.  The problem that I have is that the scene between Tate and Ben (the best in the finale, in my opinion) we never got an admission that Ben was right.  So as a theorist for weeks, its hard to believe it is that simple without being directly told by the character in question that it is.  Especially when we have another scene where the known killer, around no one to need to manipulate, has trouble killing someone.  I just can't buy the "He's A psycho, the end" BS that Ben was trying to sell.  With Tate playing the part of the lonely boy in search of another until the end and it seemed that a redemption arc for him may have been possible.  Now we'll never know.  We'll also never know when/why he got those scratches on his face between burning Larry and shooting up the school or if he was abused.  Young Tate seemed far more innocent that Young Michael (understatement of the year).  Was this monster born or made?  And if it was the latter, how did it happen?  I still don't know and I hate that I don't know.  Unsolved plot is one thing, but unresolved character issues are unsettling and leave you wondering why you spent so much time with someone in the first place.

In addition to all that we don't know, there is also all that we didn't get to see.  I would have loved to have seen a scene between Vivien and Tate (an eternity and she is never going to confront her rapist, who she lives with?).  I wanted to view Tate meeting Hugo and realize that his mother killed him.  I want to witness Hayden being shut out by the Harmons, as I refuse to believe that she would just go quietly into the night.  I wanted a conversation between DeadTravis and Constance where he adorably said something stupid about stardom while sweetly making his feelings for her clear.  I want to see what's next for Chad and Patrick.  I want Moira to stand up to Constance.  I want Larry to get one over on his former lover.  I want Tate to meet his kid.  I saw none of these things.  And I felt cheated.

The big question is how do these disappointments...these longings and questions, affect the show as a whole?  As someone who liked the Lost finale, I hated when people who didn't said that it ruined the entire series.  But now I get it a little bit.  It's hard to go back and know that all of the questions are never answered, that the theories are all for naught.  Was it all just a waste of my time?  I'd say yes, but its hard to forget how much fun I've had watching it.  The great affect of the Violet's dead reveal, the biting humor of realtor Marcy, the uncomfortable brilliance of Addy's "pretty girl" mask.  And the characters.  the fact that I thought that the Harmons sucked and ended up caring about them, the fun learning about Moira and Larry and the very real notion that Constance and Tate are some of the best TV characters I have ever seen,  I looked forward to seeing what happened to these people (and ghosts) every week.  That can't be taken away by one show runner interview.

Finally it has become clear to me that American Horror Story wasn't bad.  It was simply, like so many of its inhabitants, murdered.  It was promising and loved and would have gone on to do great things if it wasn't forcibly being taken before it's time.  I think I'd still recommend it to people, perhaps with a warning before viewing so everyone knows exactly what they are getting into.  And because I'm a glutton for punishment, there is a pretty strong chance that I'm tuning in for season two.  But really?  My fingers are crossed that this is some Ryan Murphy conspiracy and that at the end of next season, our new characters will end up at the Murder House on a dark and dreary night. 

I know.  But I'm daring to dream.  Because I refuse to let the murdered be forgotten.  

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