Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Here we go with a recap of American Horror Story episode #10, entitled "Birth." There's little doubt where this one is headed, and it seems equally clear that my AHS viewing pal Simon Abrams is headed for some serious distraction vis-a-vis this series as well as being more than relieved that the end is nigh. Simon?


Hi-diddly ho, Dennisirino.

We're now down to the wire with our American Horror Story recaps as we tackle "Birth," season one's penultimate episode. And while I would gladly tackle season two with you (heck, I'd recap most shows recap ashow with ya), I gotta say, I really need a break from this show before I go anywhere near it again. There's some things I like about "Birth" but I'm starting to think that Falchuk and Murphy are relying on a crazy last-minute Hail Mary punt to score big points. I'm sure there's going to be an explanation for some of the gaping, man-eating chasm-sized plot holes that still plague the show. For example, something's gotta give with Ben's cluelessness. It's just gotta! Once again, I find myself exasperated by AHS's writers' need to gracelessly stack plot points upon plot points. The show is now a crazy Jenga tower of moronically inter-related plot points. These individual plot points necessarily support each other, but for no good reason other than that they were made to be stacked onto each other. I don't really think this needs saying but: this is not a good organizing principle, Dennis. It's just...it's just not!

Ok, let's get things rolling: "Birth" starts in 1984. Nora Montgomery tells a young Tate, who accidentally wanders into the Murder House's basement, that she'll protect him whenever he needs help. This is after the Infantata attacks Tate, dragging him under some piece of furniture obscured by the shadows that apparently no DP was encouraged to capably illuminate. It's spooky, ooh, you're not supposed to be able to see anything, oooh, ooooh. Nora offers to protect Tate thusly: "If Thaddeus [ie: the Infantata] comes to see you again, just shut your eyes and say: [in funny voice] 'Go away!' [end funny voice] You understand,Tate? He'll mind you. Because I'm going to protect you." Sounds like a plan! So shit gets real, time marches on, Tate grows up and he remembers something Nora says to him: "Life's too short for so much sorrow." But now, in the present, when Tate repeats Nora that line, she doesn't remember it. This is like that one Modest Mouse song that goes: "I never thought that the words you said to me meant more to me than they ever did you!" Nora tries to get Tate to help divest Vivien of her unborn children. Tate says he can't, trying to keep it so that Violet doesn't know that he, uh, raped her mom.

Then, we move on! Violet is dragged into the family car by Ben, who understandably wants his manically depressed teenage daughter to visit her manically depressed mother in the hospital. Violet feels ill and stomps her feet and says she can't go. We know why: she can't leave the premises of the Murder House. Violet's hoarding this little nugget of information to herself because like Tate, she wants to spare her loved ones the pain of knowing the truth: she's a ghost. So enter another giant fuckin' plot hole: car pulls away, Violet's ghost re-emerges, as an ostentatious crane shot shows us, looking out from a bay window or some shit. She's trapped, Dennis, she can't get out. But why doesn't Ben notice this? Better yet, why don't the show's writers expect us to notice this? Once, twice, maybe three times we can ignore Ben's forgetfulness. But if you (meaning the show's writers) take great care to remind us that this is just one of the show's loose-goosey ghost rules, but then don't even give us a tentative explanation for Ben's latest bout of selective amnesia, you're just fucking with me. Because at that point, you're relying on the fact that there's so many plot points and subplots and criss-crossing narratives and tangential anecdotes that the main ones don't even need to matter anymore because shut up, that's why, this is American Horror Story.

So Ben doesn't notice Violet's gone. Meanwhile! Violet talks to Tate, who tells her that she eventually needs to spill her undead beans to poppa Ben. "You can't control it forever, Violet. I mean, it is what it is." See, Dennis, it is what it is, so just do it, like Nike. Violet then panics some more, angstily talking about how scared she is of staying in the Murder House for-ev-er. She explains this in typically mawkish dialogue: "We'll be like all the others here: prisoners in a windowless cell. Who's going to show me the new ways of the world? Nobody here's happy, Tate." Tate replies, "Yeah, but they're not like us. They're all lonely. We have each other." Ah, young undead romance, blech, ptooey.

Then: Chad and Patrick return. Violet stumbles upon them as they gussy up a crib and decorate the room for Vivien's babies. You see, like Nora, they want Vivien's babies. This tidbit of information is of course only important now that the show has played its ludicrous Antichrist baby hand (superior to a Royal Flush but inferior to most other hands) last episode with its bizarre Vatican anecdote. Never before was it apparently important to know that Chad, Patrick, Nora, whoever-the-fuck, wanted Vivien's babies or had planned to do something to Vivien or the twins. All we, the audience, need to know is that somebody raped her and that's spooky, ooh, mystery rape. Yes, I know how petulant I must sound right now but damn it, I like it like that, and it suits the show, and raspberries to you! 

Back to my recap: Chad and Patrick razz Vivien that they're gay and they're ghosts and they will steal her mom's baby...sorry, babies. Violet tries to make a deal with Constance to get her to get Billy Dee to come back so that she can get rid of Chad and Patrick. Constance meanwhile makes a deal with Chad and Patrick: they can keep Ben's kid, just let Constance have Tate's kid. Why exactly Constance is going to them to do this and not Tate is unclear. Presumably, it's because Tate got mad at her in "Smoldering Children" and now there can be no alliance between ghost son and psycho-biddy momma. Anyway, Chad and Patrick plan on smothering the babies with "hypo-allergenic pillows" at about 1-1.5 years old so that they can be cute forever. This scheme is simply diabolical, especially after the show flaunts how jaded it expects its viewers are by teasing us with Constance's insouciant gay-bashing taunts ("What you're doing is unnatural!" "So is deodorant!")...I honestly have no idea how we're meant to be shocked on this show when we're never seriously given half a chance.

Anyway, Billy Dee arrives, says that she can't just banish that kind of negative energy easily, says it's "pure physics," and does some dancing around the Laws of Energy Conservation. She says some mumbo jumbo like, "Like the way a battery restores energy," and "Negative energy feeds on trauma and pain," as in asylums and prisons. And hey, did you know season two is set in an asylum? What a ka-winky-dink. Billy Dee then says one way to get rid of ghosts is, uh, well, she's got a story. It's the story of the lost American colony of Roanoke, here recast as a stupid ghost story. As if it weren't fucking spooky enough that a WHOLE GROUP OF PEOPLE DISAPPEAR WITHOUT A TRACE AND ALL THAT'S LEFT IS THE WORD CROATOAN. THIS IS APPARENTLY NOT SCARY ENOUGH. NO, WE HAVE TO...sorry, the show's writers have to trivialize this true story by suggesting that a seance was held and that the Pilgrims were banished by Native Americans who destroyed the personal belongings of the Roanokens after uttering a magic word: "Croatoan." This gives Violet an idea. Good, somebody oughta be thinking around here...

But first, Ben visits the hospital. He makes no comment about Violet not being there, not even a, "Damn that girl, she appears to have escaped out of the car while I was not looking or something!" Before he can say, "Continuity Editor," the next canned shock is open him: Vivien probably needs an emergency C-section. Dr. Markazy says, "Don't go on that trip, pregnant lady, stay here, you could hurt yourself." I'm paraphrasing, sue me. Emotionally unbalanced Violet says, "Nah, let me out, please." Sweaty but poorly-defined Ben says, "Yeah, yeah, wait, maybe this one time I should at least pretend to give a shit and slow down and ask what Dr. Markazy means, an emergency C-section, golly!" And Markazy's all like, "Uh? Look one baby, the Alpha, is taking all the nutrients and stuff that the other, now-sickly baby needs. That's bad."

After that, Violet and Tate try to get "talismans" that belong to Chad and Patrick so that they can burn them, then say, "Croatoan," thereby banishing the show's gay wannabe baby-napping ghouls. Tate works on this by trying to seduce Chad or at least get close enough to him so that he can steal something of his. Because this show's narrative is determined more by convenience than functional logic, Tate's seduction of Patrick ends with Chad wailing on and then at Tate about how he doomed Patrick to a fate of living with Patrick forever but only when Patrick is standing riiiiight behind Chad. But whatever, apparently we need to be reminded YET AGAIN by Chad and Patrick's story that they can't change. Get it, Dennis, there will be a quiz: sometimes we can't forgive each other, and sometimes we can't allow each other to turn over a new leaf. Cynicism wins, Dennis. Can't change, won't change. Make a note.

Then Violet gets a tchotchke too, this one belonging to Patrick. But then Ben comes home with Vivien and they try to leave but just as he's dragging Violet out, Constance is trying to drag Vivien into the Murder House. Ben at least remembers to ask, "Hey, Violet, where were you and stuff?" And Violet sputters out how she killed herself. But woops, hang on, Vivien's giving birth, all the ghosts come out and try to help. So since the story's events are speeding up here, I'm going to do the same. Okay, here's the short-short version: Vivien gives birth with the aid of the ghosts, including Dr. Montgomery. She flashes back to when everything was hunky dory with Ben as he blows on her tortured face (it's soothing, I guess). She likes him now, she never wanted to lose him, aaaand she's pooped out Thing #1. Then there's more vaseline-covered, bottom-of-the-beer-bottle-goggles flashbacks and Thing #2--the Alpha!--comes out. We don't see the Alpha. Nobody reacts to the Alpha's appearance. Constance absconds with that baby but is stopped at the 10 yard line by Hayden, who also apparently wants this kid. Meanwhile, Vivien dies. Yeah, sad, huh, and not at all predicta--oh, excuse me, sorry, yawning--predictable.

But before that happens, Violet tries to banish Patrick with fire and by saying, "Croatoan!" But it predictably does not work. Why they had poor Zachary Quinto even attempt a fake-out and spazz out before laughing mockingly at Violet and saying, "That does not work, baby puppy," is anyone's guess. We're so jaded, Dennis, laugh harder, jaded guy. I mean, one minute the audience is assumed to be as jaded as the day is long, the next as naive as Pollyanna. What gives? Feh. Look: Patrick tells Violet about Tate's raping Vivien, then Violet confronts Tate. Tate bawls at her, says he doesn't know why he'd do that, he really doesn't, no, no. For some reason, Violet believes him. I personally don't believe this, but hey, it's convenient, and there's only so much time in the episode so again, shut up, why don't you? And so there's a lover's quarrel as only American Horror Story can do it, complete with abysmal dialogue like:

Violet: Mimimimi, at first I thought, "That you were attracted to the darkness. Tate: you are the darkness."
Tate: "You're the only light I've ever known. You've changed me Violet."
Violet: "I believe that. I love you, Tate. But I can't forgive you. You have to pay for what you caused, all the pain and the sorrow."

Talk about your overheated crap. In case you can't tell, I'm kinda P.O.ed with the AHS guys right now. Me and them, we don't really see eye-to-eye on what is and isn't playing fair with your viewer (ie. me). I don't like the tonal flip-flopping that has characterized this show thus far, and while I do like the tender moment between Vivien and Violet that ends the episode, I continue to wonder what the point of thinking critically about this show is given how mindless and incoherent it is. Does it get better?

Catch up on the American Horror Story conversation between Simon and me by clicking on the following links:


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