American Horror Story 1.11: Birth

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(This program airs Wednesday nights at 10:00 PM on FX)

(This post is going to be a little different–not a line-by-line recap, but more of a review with recappish tendencies. Next week will be back to normal, though!)

OH GOODNESS ME, THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE. How how how how how how how are they going to end this season? I need to know immediately. There is literally not enough time left to answer all of the questions I have.

A lot happened in this episode, but also not a lot, if that makes any sense? It doesn’t, don’t worry about it.

Most important things that happened:

1. The babies were born, one a stillbirth and the other alive and kicking and unseen

2. Violet revealed to Ben that she was dead, which elicited the exact reaction I expected from Ben (I.e. no significant reaction at all)

3. Violet learned that Tate raped Vivien

4. Tate learned that he’s horrible

5. Vivien died

6. Constance stole baby Antichristobal (okay, his name isn’t Antichristobal. But it should be)

That seems like a lot of stuff, and it technically is, but we’re so used to mile-a-minute reveals (and non-reveals) on this show that it doesn’t add up to a whole lot, and didn’t advance our knowledge of anything mythology-wise at all. Which is kind of a bummer when there’s only one episode left. Double bummer when it becomes apparent that the rumors about next season are true, that Ryan Murphy plans to have each season follow a different family.

But anyway! Taken on its own merits, this episode was solid. Nothing especially creepy happened, but the general aura of frantic unease overtook the series’ general slow-burn creepiness quite nicely. We started with a flashback to Tate being frightened by the Infantata as a young child, with Nora sweetly coming to his rescue–telling him that all he had to do was close his eyes and tell Thaddeus to leave if he ever bothered Tate again. She also promised to protect Tate, prompting him to tell her he wanted her to be his mommy. That probably would have worked out well if they hadn’t both gone completely batshit in the next couple of decades, what with Tate killing all those people and Nora convincing him to try and steal babies all the time.

Some of the episode’s weaker scenes are Ben and Violet interacting, him trying to get her out of the house and her trying to remain inside it. Even when she finally tells him what’s up, he completely falls down on anything resembling fatherly concern/basic human decency. I understand that his wife’s in the process of giving birth, but damn. Pay attention to your dead kid! Don’t accuse her of being on drugs when she’s dead! Parenting 101, duh.

Billie makes an appearance to exposit about the Roanoke Colony, one of history’s greatest unsolved mysterIT WAS ALIENSies, and turn it into something strange and racist (? I can’t even tell anymore, this show has burned out all of my Inappropriate Bullshit receptors) involving the colonists’ ghosts and a magical Native American banishing spell invoking the word Croatoan. Which is stupid, because in real life the word was carved on the tree as a misspelling of Croatan, which is the tribe the colonists probably integrated with argh. If you’re going to make up crazy nonsense, at least do a tiiiiiny bit of reading. I don’t know if I’m yelling at the writers or at Billie and I hate that.

Anyway, Violet decides to do the spell and get rid of all the ghosts in the house, most especially Chad, who is just hellbent on stealing Vivien’s babies. His plan is to smother them when they’re a year or so old, so they’ll be cute forever. Pat is still not super into anything about Chad, but he’s making a go of it. He seems pretty sincere about it, too, up to a point. That point is Violet’s enlisting Tate in her plan to get Chad and Pat’s personal effects to use in the spell. Tate, in what has to be the most hilawkward seduction scene between two scumbags ever filmed, tries to get Pat to bang him. Pat looks about ready to do it (and, let’s face it–as shitty of a person as Tate is, he still looks like the sweetest little angel babyface schnookums sweetie pie cupcake ever yay), but then he HEADBUTTS TATE AND STARTS BEATING THE SHIT OUT OF HIM while Tate goads him on, stealing Pat’s ring and allowing Pat to put the lurking Chad’s tender heart in a blender in the process.

Later, when Violet has all that she needs, Chad lets her think her spell’s worked for .03 seconds before laughing at her and telling us that all the rituals and spells that we do to keep ghosts away are utterly useless, and only for our own benefit. I like that idea. Graveyards are for the living and all that, plus it adds a creepy little sliver of realism–like, how many little rituals do you do, to ward off evil or ghosts, or even just for luck? I’m a firm atheist and I still kiss the back of my hand when I drive through a yellow light. I don’t know why or when I started doing that, but I feel weird if I don’t do it. And I don’t look into mirrors unless there’s a light on in the room. Anyway, seems important to remember that the whole “Shut your eyes and tell the ghost to go away” thing could also count as a ritual, but this isn’t addressed in this episode. Chad also reveals to Violet that Tate raped Vivien, which goes over about as well as you’d expect.

While all of this is happening, Vivien’s been released from the mental hospital and told that she needs a c-section, because one baby is taking everything from the other baby and that shit ain’t kosher. The Harmons stop off at home to collect Violet before going to the hospital, but Vivien immediately starts having pains, and is ushered into the house by Constance.

It’s at this point that shit gets extremely real. Vivien spends twenty minutes screaming, and all of the ghosts swoop in to get this baby born–Dr. Montgomery and the nurses deliver the first baby–stillborn–and Vivien spends another twenty minutes screaming even louder as Antichristobal tears his way out of her, with assistance from Montgomery, who appears to be literally cutting her birth canal open with scissors at one point. And yet, it’s still not as gross as anything Stephenie Meyer has written.

Vivien, having lost four people’s worth of blood during the birth, doesn’t get to meet her baby before Constance whisks it away to wash it and coo over it with Moira. We very obviously don’t get to see what the kid looks like. I’m guessing there’s a clown nose on over the infant-sized rubber gimp gear, or it’s an iguana, or something. Hayden makes a quick appearance to ask if Constance is finished “wiping the slime off my baby.” Hayden, I love you.

Vivien speaks to Violet as she slowly expires. Violet cries and apologizes for not seeing her in the hospital, pointedly invisible to Ben. She dies a sad and quiet death, alone with her worthless husband in this horrible house, covered in blood.

Fortunately, she’s there to pick up the pieces after Violet tells Tate he’s a mass-murdering psychopath who raped her mother and GO AWAYs him. She cries more, telling Vivien she’s sorry that Vivien died and lost her baby. Vivien, serene, smooths down Violet’s hair and says “But I didn’t lose my baby.”

GEE THESE SMALL LOCALIZED THUNDERSTORMS ON MY CHEEKS ARE SOOOOOOOOOO INCONVENIENT but seriously, it was a great scene. Finally, Vivien could throw off all this bullshit that’s been shackling her the whole season–Ben, the house, the babies, the ghosts, and just be with and be there for her daughter, and vice-versa for Violet. There’s something beautiful in that, and a lot of tragedy in the fact that they both had to die to be together this way. I truly hope they can move on from the house, but we’ll see the new and exciting directions in which that hope can be crushed in the season finale next Wednesday.