American Horror Story Season 1, a Muse
Certainly not a show for the easily squeamish American Horror Story concluded its first season on FX at the end of last year. I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed with the show. I started watching about 5 episodes in as I thought I’d like it but wasn’t sure I could commit weekly. I’m glad I recorded all episodes on my DVR and didn’t set it to erase when space was needed. I’m not the only one who was impressed, it’s already been renewed for a second season apparently with numerous changes (which will probably w0rk). Read that here. This post isn’t about season two though, it’s all about what transpired on season one.
The Ryan Murphy co-created show (he also created Nip/Tuck and Glee) did not disappoint. The pilot started out strong and quite frankly I was a little bit disturbed. Not disturbed like I was watching Human Centipede, a much more mild disturbing. Kids died in the opening scene, there was a scary looking rubber man, a creepy neighbor and enough horror to go around. I’m glad I didn’t stop though. The show went on to tell great (less creepy) stories week in and week out. The character development, both living and not living, was top notch.
The story followed the Harmon family as they moved from Boston the Los Angeles after a family tragedy. The mom Vivien, played by Connie Britton of Friday Night Lights fame, had suffered a miscarriage of her second child and after being unable to cope her husband Ben, played by Dylan McDermott, cheated on his wife with a student and their already broken home was destroyed even further. They moved with their teenage daughter Violet, played brilliantly by Taissa Farmiga, into what they would find out is the most famous of Los Angeles murder houses (there’s a tour that stops by a couple times). They have a creepy neighbor who has an all to familiar past with the house played by Jessica Lange. Then there’s a whole cast of characters that occupy the house as spirits, some we didn’t even realize were spirits until late in the season. Some of these spirits are benevolent while others are quite vengeful but they’re all trapped there. In my opinion the house itself was a character.
The house may have been my favorite character. I know, it’s inanimate, but what it represented and the way it was portrayed through the spirits was so wonderfully done. If you didn’t already know, the premise is that if you die in the house your spirit is trapped there. There was an energy to the house that would just control someone. The house was so powerful (or the energy within) that the spirits could physically manifest themselves. That’s what made it so great. If a character died it’s right back there to participate in the storyline. You may think that may be difficult, e.g. how do you really kill someone off, but the writers made it work. I never once questioned why they killed someone in the house.
The season continued to follow the family as they work out there problems. They dealt with Ben’s infidelity, trust issues and then they followed a pregnancy thread. Not just any pregnancy thread though, an “evil one.” (Maniacal laugh) They brought in Ben’s college aged mistress (played by Kate Mara) and had many former (dead and alive) residents of the house show up to support the stories. They did a really great job weaving in the past murder stories with the present day.
There were certainly a number of great moments in the show and here are just a few. I apologize in advance for any spoilers that follow. My favorite episodes were the halloween two parter, the penultimate episode and the season finale. The halloween two parter was a nice mix of scary and good storytelling. They used the fact that it was halloween to bring in more dead characters because on that day the barrier between living and dead worlds was the most thin. I also liked how some of the hauntings took place outside of the house and that (we learned later) the dead were scaring the already dead.
With the penultimate episode I loved how the house really took a role in trying to save Vivien’s babies. All of the (benevolent) spirits marshaled to help her and Ben and the house just took over. It seemed to come around now that Ben and the family had gotten over a lot of the drama they were working out. It was just nice.
Before I discuss my final favorite episode I need to intersperse it with the biggest OMG moment of the season. I had no idea Violet was dead. I really thought Tate had saved her that night she tried to commit suicide. I just didn’t see it coming. They made it out to seem that Tate was just scaring her when she couldn’t leave the house. When they panned over her decaying body I actually gasped and said OMG out loud. That’s when I knew that keeping the spirits alive in the house was a good thing from a creativity standpoint. She had no idea she was dead. It made me wonder as to what type of memory spirits have but that question deserves its own post. Just wow though.
So Vivien actually died in the penultimate episode and I sort of saw that coming so it wasn’t a favorite moment. A little piece of me wanted her to live especially after the house helped her. There were three pieces to the episode that made it my favorite episode. First, the killing of Ben by the vengeful spirit of Hayden. For a moment I thought he would make it out of the house alive. It ended up being nice because they became one big happy (dead) family in the end. Second, when everything came full circle with their protection of the new family. The Harmon’s became sort of human protectors but they did it in a scary way that made the whole show go full circle to the first few episodes. They scared them straight out of the house, literally. Finally the teaser at the end of the show with the evil 3 year old. It’s something to look forward to but I thought they were going to overlook it.
I say go watch it if you can, this season was great. There are currently five episodes available for streaming on Hulu and four on FXNetworks.com. Don’t get too attached to the characters though. If you read the article link above there are big changes in store for season two. A new house, a new deep story line although there will be a few recurring characters from season one showing up (not sure how though). I guess we’ll have to wait until fall next year. What did you think?Tags: american horror story, FX