If you asked us a few weeks ago how we pictured the debut season of American Horror Story concluding, we certainly wouldn't have predicted it closing with several decidedly quiet conversations, a wacky but well-intentioned frightfest caper, a cheerful family Christmas tree trimming, and Constance (Jessica Lange) at the hairdresser. Was it a satisfying end to this wild, frenetic ride of a season? Well, yes and no.
R.I.P. Harmon Family
We'd love to know how Ben Harmon's (Dylan McDermott) mind works. After countless weeks of blatant, right-in-his-face evidence that something is off about his house (to say the least), he finally joined the land of the enlightened last week. In the time between last week's episode, "Birth," and the season finale, titled "Afterbirth," of course, Constance has been taking care of her grandson, the Antichrist (apparently this little detail doesn't bother her one bit), but when we open, Ben shows up to claim the little not-his-child and take him back to the house. But, come on, who would ever do that, knowing what he knows now? Later we learn that Ben had plans to pass the newborn off to Vivien's (Connie Britton) oft-mentioned sister in Florida so that he could end his misery with a .38 special, but did the baby really need to come back into the same house that claimed his wife and daughter for that to happen?
Before Ben can pull the trigger, though, newly forgiving Ghost Vivien appears to him; together with Violet (Taissa Farmiga), Vivien convinces Ben to keep on trucking. Unfortunately, Ben's fate was sealed as soon as he walked back into the house with the baby. Hayden (Kate Mara) and the home invader squad show up (this woman really can marshal any ghost to her cause; pays to be sexy as hell, we suppose) and hang Ben off the upstairs balcony with ease. The Murder House has now claimed the entire Harmon clan.
Marcy's Realtor Hustle Is Doomed
Don't cry for the Harmons, however, because death healed all of their problems! Apparently infidelity is easily absolved in the eternal afterlife. More so than when they were breathing, the Harmons, as ghosts, are at peace and actually functional, complete with Vivien raising her equally dead baby (that would be the one that Ben is the father of) and Moira (Frances Conroy/Alex Breckenridge) appointed as the doting godmother. Before, they used to argue, bicker and hole up in different wings of the mansion, and now there's tree trimmings! Family gatherings on the porch! (This was probably the closest all three Harmons have been together in the same frame since the pilot.)
Most importantly, they have a new purpose, nay, responsiblity as enlightened residents of Murder House: warding off innocents dumb enough to move into the place. In a sequence that was as fun as it was overly cheeky, Marcy the greasy realtor (Christine Estabrook) sells a new Latino family (while firing off her usual racial jabs) on the haunted crib, so it's up to Ben and Viv to make sure they don't stay there a single night longer than they should, with the help of fellow "friendly" ghosts Beauregard, Moira, Black Dhalia (Mena Suvari), Larry's wife, and the nurses.
Elsewhere, there are real stakes at hand as Tate (Evan Peters), the seriously unhinged simp, is fearful that Violet is feeling the new kid in her old room. In keeping with his actions post-death, Tate tries to justify his plan to murder the dude with altruistic intentions: He wants to give Violet someone who's not a homicidal psychopath to spend eternity with, since she won't have him. Violet is able to talk him out of it, distracting him long enough so that the family can make a break for it and never look back. Good for them, but we wonder how the Harmons will treat future families that are a little more dysfunctional. After all, living in Murder House ultimately did wonders for their family dynamic, right?
We're just thankful that all of the ghostly cheerfulness didn't prevent Ben from going in on Tate, which is about a tenth of what that creep deserves. His hope that he and Ben can "hang sometimes" is a clear indicator of just how fucked dude is in the head. The final shot of him and Hayden jealously watching the Harmons and Moira was appropriately unsettling. Both were driven to do wildly reprehensible shit out of some wacked sense of love and loyalty. We're sure sharing a roof with those two nutjobs isn't always going to go so smoothly.
Constance Raises Another Murderer
We learn that Constance acted quickly after Hayden murdered Ben and got her grandchild out of there before Hayden got around to smothering him, with some help from her dead boy-toy Travis (Michael Graziadei). She spun a nice story to get the two worst cops ever detectives from the "Travis Dhalia" case off of her scent, and for three years secretly raises her grandson without incident. Then, one day, after a lenghty visit to the beauty parlor, she returns home to find a bloody trail leading back to the little guy's room. He's murdered the nanny, but all Constance can do is smile affectionately, as if he left her a cute finger painting instead of a mutilated corpse. She must've told psychic Billie Dean (Sarah Paulson) to take her pope's box and go stick it somewhere unpleasant—she's raising her grandchild, Antichrist or not. Maybe Ben actually got the better deal by dying instead of leaving with that kid.
In its first season, American Horror Story was a very strange, often frustrating show, and it went out on an appropriately strange note. We're happy the Harmons found peace, but we'd be lying if we said we were completely satisified by this ending. Feeling incredibly rushed, last night's season finale wasn't the conclusion the show seemed to be moving toward. Still, there were some very nice character moments throughout, and what's more impressive is that almost every ghost got a conclusion of some sort.
Overall, American Horror Story is still unlike anything else currently on TV, and we're very much looking forward to its return next fall. But just as we said last week, we've seen enough of both the Harmons and the Murder House. Take advantage of the all-inclusive title and give us a whole new story next year, otherwise the gas tank is going to hit E very soon.
Season Grade: B
Excessive Nudity: Ben Harmon
Goon of the Year: Larry the Burn Guy
Most Dynamic Ghost: Hayden
Most Underused: Fang Baby Thaddeus
Most Overused: Rubber Suit (seriously, that thing became something akin to a hokey supervillain costume)
Worst Mother Ever: Tie, between Constance and Larry's wife (Runner-up: Vivien)
Coolest Gimmick: Old Moira/Slutty Moira
Most Pointless Ghost: Black Dhalia
Lamest Gag: The Piggy Man
Biggest Simp: Tie, between Tate and Larry