December 22, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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WARNING:  Scaaaarrrry Spoilers Within
You have to give AMERICAN HORROR STORY the credit of its crazy, crazy convictions.  Ryan Murphy and his gang of producers followed through on where the last few episodes appeared to be going, and the result will be a second season presumably very different from its first.

It didn’t take long for the picturesquely titled season finale “Afterbirth,” written by Supervising Producer Jessica Sharzer and directed by house helmer/Co-EP Bradley Buecker, to eliminate the last living adult member of the Harmon clan, as Dylan McDermott’s paterfamilias Ben was hung from the second-story landing in a fake suicide engineered by dead and ever-more-bitter ex-girlfriend Hayden.  (Incidentally, given Kate Mara in this series and her sister Rooney in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a helpful piece of advice would be to avoid pissing off any of the Mara girls.)  
The systematic deaths of the show’s protagonists, however, was not the bleak conclusion one might have expected it to be.  On the contrary, the episode then segued into a deranged variation on Beetlejuice, as the “good ghosts,” led by the Harmons, helped out the new owners by scaring them out of the house before they could suffer any lasting damage.  Since no one was actually getting hurt, this was all quite funny, especially when Ben and Vivien both slaughtered each other, practically winking as they said–quite honestly–“You can’t imagine how long I’ve wanted to do this.”  (I hate to ask a question that might require something to make sense, but just where the hell did dead Vivien get that cello?  Surely the Harmons’ belongings were cleared out of the house before the new family moved in?  Never mind.)
And the bizarre tone didn’t end there, because American Horror Story somehow managed to arrive at something very like a happy ending.  It turned out that Vivien’s first baby, who seemed to be stillborn in last week’s episode, had actually let out a cry before dying, which qualified him for ghost-hood.  This meant that Vivien could be his eternal mom, and the entire reunited dead family, Ben, Viv, Violet and baby, plus newly-appointed godmother Moira, all decorated a Christmas tree together as “The Little Drummer Boy” played on the soundtrack.  Yes.  Really. 
Next season, this Happy Household Of the Living Dead will apparently be combined with more than a little helping of The Omen, because Vivien’s other baby, the half-demon one that was the result of Tate’s ghost-rape, turns out to be quite the handful.  Constance managed to grab possession of the babe after Ben’s untimely demise (since no one knew Violet was dead, she said the teen had run away with her baby brother), and she’d been proudly raising little Michael next door.  In the “3 Years Later” flashforward that ended the season, however, she discovered that Mikey had committed his (first?) bloodthirsty murder, joyfully slashing his babysitter’s throat. 
And… scene.  Say this for American Horror Story:  it packs more story, unhinged and illogical as it may be, into a single episode than The Walking Dead manages in a season.  Who knows what will be added to the mix next year:  Superheroes?  Gargoyles?  CG talking animals?  A spectral Napoleon Bonaparte?  Guest appearances from the cast of Glee?  One feels like anything is possible, and while that’s not a recipe for coherence or basic sense, it’s certainly been consistently watchable so far.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."