For all of American Horror Story's potential, we figured that we were past the point of it delivering a 100% satisfying episode again, but last night's "Birth" did just that; no coincidence that it was written by Tim Minear, who also wrote the excellent "Halloween Pt. 2". Everything that was promised back in the pilot—namely an engaging family drama against a horrific supernatural backdrop—was delivered, and what's more, we didn't roll our eyes once throughout the hour for the first time in a long time.
Babies 'R' Us
Everyone, dead or alive, wants Vivien's (Connie Britton) babies. The show's most fiendish characters have been saying this for weeks, but now that little ones are actually due, things can finally start happening. This week, Hayden (Kate Mara) takes a break and passes the torch of ghostly antagonism back to Pat (Teddy Sears) and Chad (Zachary Quinto), who've seemingly worked through their marital troubles and plan to use the twins as a fresh start. More specifically, they plan to let them age about a year before they smother them so that they can have eternally cute ghost babies. Makes sense.
Violet (Taissa Farmiga) springs into action once she learns of their sinister plan, enlisting Tate (Evan Peters), Constance (Jessica Lange), and psychic Billie Dean (Sarah Paulson) to help her vanquish the gay spirits from the house. Billie Dean refurbishes the infamous Roanoke into one about a 500-year-old banishment curse, but it turns out to be a load of crap. Fortunately, Chad and Pat are still eliminated as a threat, because in the process of righteously kicking Tate's ass, Pat rants that, by killing him, Tate took away his chance to get away from Chad forever; there's officially no saving their relationship. Violet's newborn brother is still not safe, though, as Hayden makes quite clear in her one, hilarious appearance in the episode.
Viv Finally Delivers; Ben Finally Gets It
A standing ovation for Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott), please. After 11 episodes (and in the show's time frame, about six months) of self-deceptively explaining away what should be unexplainable, he finally understands just how much of a mad house his family is stuck in; it's just too bad that his daughter died, and that his wife is about to, as well. Too little, too late, man. How unintentionally hilarious was that montage scene of Ben flashing back on all of the "duh" moments and putting two and two together?
Ben and Vivien don't technically do much in this streamlined episode, as their six-month late plan to get the hell out of dodge is interrupted when the Antichrist festering inside her womb starts getting antsy and wants out, conveniently right when they pull into Murder House driveway. The scene where Ben knows he's surrounded by dead people but still puts on a calming veneer for his wife during labor was probably the character's best moment on the series to date.
R.I.P. Vivien. You were the tragic victim of rape by the ghost of a very, very disturbed young man and the unwilling vessel of a womb-killing demon child. You didn't do much from episode to episode, except yell shrilly at Ben, flirt with Morris Chestnut, and humiliate Marcy the realtor, but you didn't deserve this.
Tate's True Colors Shine Through
The most satisfying thing about this episode was that it brought an end to Twilight-y, impressionable Violet, and featured the return of the intelligent, deductive, strong-willed girl we were eager to get to know more about back in the pilot. And now that the honeymoon phase is over, she finally sees her ghost boyfriend for what he really is: a raping, homicidal sociopath.
In the series' most illuminating flashback to date, we see a young Tate's first encounter with Thaddeus The Fang Baby, which explains why he would be so compelled to make Nora (Lily Rabe) happy; in short, she's a better mother to him than Constance Maybe if Nora's spirit had been around more often to offer some TLC, he wouldn't have grown up so fucked up. Whether he's lying about remembering the circumstances of his death or not, one thing is clear: Tate's monstrousness is innate. Violet gets some clues from Billie Dean's reaction to him, but Chad really hits it home. No, literally, he lays out every bad thing Tate's done, post death, to a speechless Violet, specifically how Tate raped her mother.
The final scene with Violet renouncing Tate was fantastic, as was the concluding moment between mother and daughter. It's the first time we've seen the core family members on this show behave like a real, well, family, in a long time.
-- All hail writer TimMinear. There were so many great lines tonight (mostly courtesy of Zachary Quinto) that we don't have the space to list them all. Murphy, give this man the highest promotion available for next season. Or better yet, step aside and let him run the show, because he knows a thing or two about working on a supernatural series.
-- With Violet and now Vivien dead, and the recent news that the real-life house is up for sale, we can only hope this means that Season Two will feature both a new setting and a new cast. The house is beautiful, the cast has some bright spots, but they've run their course. The only way this show stays fresh and entertaining is to give us a brand new American horror story. Get it?
-- If we may be allowed one complaint: Based on the glimpses we got last night, the Antichrist baby sure looks normal. What happened to the hooves? What happened to the image that was so inhuman and unsightly that it knocked a nurse right off of her feet? Do those grow in later, along with teeth?