In possibly one of the best episodes of the series, viewers return to where it all began to watch the devil’s history unfold.
I am a sucker for an unexpected buddy-pairing. So having Behold and Madison return to American Horror Story ground zero, Murder House? A gift. Making Behold wear khakis to sell his marriage to Madison to a suspicious real estate agent? A gift when it isn’t even your birthday.
Murder House, for those who have slept since we first fell in freakish love with this series, is that fun little place where people end up dead (and unable to leave). Thirty-six people, according to the real estate agent. They promise to burn some sage, though, in fact, they cast a spell to reveal the spirits trapped within the house. In no time at all, we have spirits frolicking like super spooky bunnies.
Dr. Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) and Tate Langdon (Evan Peters) are still undergoing therapy, mostly because Violet (Taissa Farmiga) is still not talking to her ex-boyfriend. Girl can hold a grudge, but I mean, he did knock up her mother with the anti-Christ. Hallmark doesn’t make a card for that. Tate, however, is equally as evasive when asked to talk about his son. Typical deadbeat dad. Thankfully, they don’t waste any time getting to the episode’s main attraction: the return of Jessica Lange as Constance Langdon. In perfect Constance fashion, she’s bouffanted and smoking, and reminding people that it is her “******* house.” This is a bigger statement. Much of this series has hinged on her performances, so it is her house. The other characters just live in it.
She’s even still tormenting maid Moira (Frances Conroy). All that has changed? Constance has passed to the other side. She and Billie Dean (Sarah Paulson, who also directed this episode) don’t want to talk about Michael. However, Constance agrees to consider it, if the witches can figure out how to rid the house of Moira forever. This is a bittersweet moment because, for Moira, it isn’t a punishment, it’s a release to have her bones moved from the house to be buried with her mother. The pair is reunited in a surprisingly touching moment that reflects the complicated nature of grief, forgiveness, and letting go.
Wish fulfilled, Constance recaps basically all of Season 1 in ten seconds. Then she expands into what we all anticipated based on the bloody end of that first season–Michael was a killer from an early age, beginning with small things and escalating. She buried each one under roses until she was ready to sponsor the Rose Bowl Parade. Despite all that, she thought he was just a regular serial killer (thanks to the Discovery Channel), only to realize he was something much more shocking when he aged ten years overnight (and tried to kill her). And then killed a priest. So yeah, you were raising the devil, Constance. That’s rough. As an English teacher, though, props to you for correcting his grammar. The devil needs exemplary speaking skills. All this proved too much, so Constance took her own life in Murder House to be reunited with her children. It’s fitting that only Constance could destroy Constance. Suck on that, Michael.
Michael did have some remorse, according to Ben, as he shares his encounters with the twin that wasn’t his. Like his father, Michael went through therapy and it seems that Ben even attempted to parent him. Tate, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with his son. That, along with living in a house full of ghosts and sadists, probably didn’t help matters. When new owners moved into the house, Michael took up his father’s mantle, literally, murdering them in the Rubber Man suit. But he didn’t stop there. He rocked his devil powers to destroy their souls as well. Maybe I’m being quick to judge, but I don’t think Ben Harmon is that great at the therapy thing.
Just as the witches are about to leave, Vivien (Connie Britton) returns, willing to talk to Ben once again. Those Harmon women do not let things go. She gives the missing piece that we all know, quoting the book of Revelations–Michael isn’t just a bad egg with some cool powers, he’s the beast, the anti-Christ, the devil. More evil signs appeared around the house until one day, caped and reverent, the Black Pope and his cardinals, including Miriam, came calling to empower their new saviour. At first, Vivian didn’t take the worshipers seriously. One little human sacrifice for Black Mass and her tune had changed. I’m not that squeamish, but Michael biting into the heart with the demon shadow emerging behind him made me glad I already had dinner.
When Vivian’s attempt to kill Michael has him setting her on fire, Tate rescues her and Michael escapes. She notes that neither Ben nor Tate are actually Michael’s father–he was fathered by the evil in the house. He must be stopped, she warns, before he ends the world. The idea that Tate isn’t actually Michael’s father is something Madison decides to share with Violet, along with his rescue of her mother. And so our return to Murder House ends with the reunion of Violet and Tate, a lovely moment in a truly dark episode.
Behold and Madison return to share their findings with the Coven. If nothing else, this episode shows why you should background check, even with warlock school.
I have to pause my fangirl geek out to consider how this episode progresses if you are not a long time viewer. There are so many quick trick appearances and references, it is a great deal to process. At times, I was almost distracted by the cameos (Hi, Mena Suvari! I wish I liked American Woman more). That being said, it plays into the narrative of the season and presents enough backstory to make sense to newbies and enough wink-wink to send groupies reeling. Sarah Paulson’s love of this world is evident in her attention to detail. This week I was counting down the hours until show time. Next week, I am sure to do the same thing.
Need a viewing buddy? I livetweet the show each week: @akellylady.
Amber is a doctoral candidate in Language, Diversity, and Literacy at Texas Tech. She holds an MA in Literature and History and a BFA in Theatre. A Texas-based mother of two, she is an Associate Professor of English and History at Howard College.