After the events of last week—you know, almost dying at the hands of crazed home invaders—Vivien (Connie Britton) is ready to get the hell out of dodge, and understandably so. It's a good sign that series creator Ryan Murphy chose to make his characters smarter than the typical family stuck in a haunted house. Save for Violet (Taissa Farmiga), who thinks the house has "soul," the Harmons are very much aware that this is not the right place for their fresh start. But we have ten episodes to go in American Horror Story's debut season, so the Harmons aren't going anywhere. Episode Three, "Murder House" is all about making the case to the Harmons, and the audience, about why they just don't dip the hell out already. Let's see if those reasons held up.
Vivien Takes The Tour Of Eternal Darkness
Reason No. 1 Why The Harmons Aren't Headed Anywhere Any Time Soon: They can't afford to.
As one might expect, buying the house in the first place has depleted the family' nest egg a little bit. Bottom line, they can't just up and move, they need to flip the house first, and that's not going to be easy. Viv can thug the realtor all she wants (and that really was very G of her), but the house's history is too notorious for any realtors to easily sell the place. Remember that tour Ben's (Dylan McDermott) patient-turned-home-invader was hyping up last week? Viv knows about it and morbid curiosity compels her to take a ride.
On the tour, she learns that the house's original owners were Charles (Matt Ross), a crazy, drugged-out Dr. Frankenstein wannabe, and his wife, Nora. Fed up with Charles' squandering of their money on pointless experiments (we have him to thank for the creepy animal fetuses in jars in the basement), Nora sets up a basement abortion gig for naive teens. They performed over a dozen abortions until something soured and led to their murders (of each other?). So the Fang Baby resides in the same area of the house where fetuses were routinely killed. Coincidence? We think not.
Later, Nora shows up at the house under the pretenses of a potential buyer, but she freaks out at all the modern appliances. There's also a huge hole in her skull which leads us to believe she met her end by nagging Charles until he finally got fed up and drilled a circle into her skull (or used some other kind of murder weapon). But why is she still creeping on Vivien while she sleeps? For those keeping count, that's yet another ghost we can add to this house's slate. What do Nora, the twins and the nurses do when they're not messing with the Harmons? Hold support groups in the basement?
The History Between Constance and Moira Gets Revealed
In 1983, Moira (Frances Conroy/Alex Breckenridge), the sultry young maid, made the mistake of sleeping with her boss. It must've been great because in the episode's opening flashback he's thirsting for more and tries to force himself on her. That's when his wife walks in and shoots him and Moira dead, the latter straight through the eye (hence older Moira's glass eye).
And who is the homicidal wife: Constance! Moira's spirit is tethered to the house and she's condemned to an eternity of servitude. And, unlike the rest of the house's ghouls and goblins, she's not enjoying any of it. Sure, she can have some fun with Ben, tempting him into the same situation that got her into this situation, but, really, she just wants to move on, and Constance (Jessica Lange) is loving every minute of it.
Turns out Moira has more in mind for Ben than just a for-his-eyes-only peep show. Ben's patient this week (hey, it's Tara's mom from True Blood!) is a tragically sad woman who bores everyone, even driving her husband to request a divorce. She's so boring that Ben zones out...and then he blacks out. When he wakes up, he's in a random part of the backyard, the patient is gone, so is his recorder, and hot Moira is scrubbing blood out of his office floor.
Ben blacks again later, while at the doctor's office with Viv. A blood test reveals that there's a high and heavy level of opiates in his system, and it's not hard to guess who the culrpit is; after all, Moira makes the coffee every morning. Too bad she's got Viv defending her against Ben in any plot to fire her. But it turns out the patient is OK (relatively, she tried to commit suicide after taking Ben's head trip personally), so what was Moira's end-game? It has something to do with that spot in the yard, which is about to fill up...
Larry Catches A Body For Ben
Don't hype Larry the Burn Guy (Denis O'Hare) up or you just might make him catch a body for you, whether you want him to or not. Dude's already got three to his name, and impending death by tumor, so what does he care? Larry solves a very huge problem for Ben when Hayden (Kate Mara) shows up inexplicably in Los Angeles. As we guessed, she didn't go through with the abortion, and she's done a full 360 and now wants to both tell Vivien and stay in L.A. and raise the baby on Ben's dime. If you're going to cheat, man, do it with someone sane.
Luckily, Larry is there with a perfectly timed shovel-to-the-face blow. Ben can act horrified but the truth is he just got a huge save and he's not all that broken up about it. They dump the body in his mysterious backyard spot and he starts building a gazebo to cover the tracks, cement and all. Which sucks for Moira, who is quickly becoming the most sympathetic, tragic character on the show. Her bones are buried there, too, and we've watched enough Supernatural to make an educated guess that her remains needed to be burned or at least moved before her spirit can finally move on from the house. As Constance so cruelly taunts, she's stuck there now.
Things Are still a bit too over the top
Just imagine if Hayden were a fully built-up character and not a lazy caricature that we only met for like five scenes between the last two weeks. That moment where Larry put her down would've felt just as cathartic and yet horrifying as it did for Ben. Instead, everything about that plot-line feels lazy and a bit rushed; the only thing respectable about her death was what it could mean going forward and how it tied into Moira's plot.
There's a lot of intentional overwriting, overacting, and overdirecting on American Horror Story that's keeping it from achieving the degree of genre excellence that it could. On the one hand, you have Larry, who's such a clown but O'Hare is so fully committed and enjoying himself that we can't help but enjoy him too. Then you have McDermott, who just cannot find the balance between embracing the spectacle yet delivering a solid performance that his co-stars O'Hare, Lange and the wonderful Britton can. The music cues are still too much, as well. Yes, we understand the real horror here is infidelity and such, but do we really need the ramped-up horror music in a moment like Ben and Viv's discussion about their finances? Or pointless flashback inserts like the one between the gay dudes in the alley?
-How about this: Tate (Evan Peters) is Constance's son. He's probably a ghost, too, as the realtor couldn't see him in the window as Constance smiled in his direction.
-Could the Fang Baby be the original infant of the house, the doctor's kid seen during the flashback dinner table scene?
-Reason #107 Why The Harmons Will Be Compelled To Stay: Viv will continue to experience pregnancy scares like her spotting incident unless they stay.