For much of its first half, "Smoldering Children" suffered from the same inertia that plagued last week's American Horror Story. Vivien's still stuck in the loony bin, her twins -- including that apocalypse in fetal form -- are still in utero, Ben's still moping about the Murder House and the house's ghostly occupants are still trying to find ways to kill the endless amounts of time they now have on their hands. But then writer James Wong went and enlivened the proceedings considerably by pulling a Sixth Sense-style twist that revealed...
Violet's dead! And has been since she inhaled all those pills a few weeks back. "I tried to save you," Tate said, as they both stood weeping over Violet's fly-covered corpse, which he had dragged into a crawl space beneath the floorboards. "I tried to make you throw them up. You threw up some... not enough." (That'll certainly be a convenient excuse the next time the truant officer comes calling. "Sorry, I haven't been to school in 16 days. I'm dead, you see.") Meanwhile, her oblivious parents still have no clue that their little back-talking angel has shuffled off this mortal coil, caught up, as they are, in their own private dramas. And one house over, Constance takes out her anger over Travis' murder and subsequent transformation into the "Boy Dahlia" on Burn Victim Larry, who ends up confessing to the crime that the cops (including guest star Charles S. Dutton, always a welcome presence in any show) hoped to pin on his ex-lover. Of course, none of that stuff is going to matter when the Infant Antichrist is born in a few weeks. That will give this increasingly plodding show a much-needed shot of excitement.
Freaky: Burning Man
Okay, three episodes from the end of the season and we finally have the explanation for how Larry became Burn Victim Larry. Although he had previously led Ben (and us) to believe that he acquired those scars in the same fire that killed his family, it turns out that psycho Tate paid him a visit at his office right before that whole school-shooting incident, dousing him with gasoline and then lighting a match. (And that's why you should always ask the receptionist to announce visitors first!)
Funny: Constance Makes a House Call
After being fingered as the culprit behind Travis' murder, Constance pays a visit to Larry's dilapidated abode to pump him for information, first playing the sweet and vulnerable damsel in distress (even caressing his burned face... and then hilariously wiping her hand off the second she turns her back) and then putting a knife to his throat. Informed that her boytoy was offed in the Murder House, Constance runs out to visit his ghost, but Larry tries to stop her. "He's dead and I'm here. I'm alive and I still love you!" he pleads. "That's your problem," she cruelly shoots back. Larry, give it up dude. She's just not that into you.
Freaky: Lord of the Flies
Having broken out of his perpetual state of brooding self-absorption long enough to notice that the Murder House is suddenly full of flies (small wonder, with all the people that have died there over the decades), Ben calls up Phil, the self-proclaimed "best exterminator on the market" to investigate the situation. Suiting up in his yellow rubber "Verminator" outfit, Phil ventures into the crawl space where he's confronted by Tate, who literally makes the poor exterminator swallow his own poison. See, now there are just going to be more flies hanging around the place! Way to exacerbate rather than solve the problem Tate, you numbskull.
Funny: Death Becomes Him
Most of the ghosts that inhabit the Murder House seem kind of pissed off about their (after)lives. Travis, on the other hand, is positively gleeful about the situation. Not only has he bonded with Burn Victim Larry's little girls, but in the outside world, he's gained a level of fame the he never could have achieved when he was alive. Hearing him eagerly ask for press clippings couldn't help but bring a smile to Larry's face... and ours.
Freaky: No Way Out
Kudos to Wong and episode director Michael Lehmann for revealing Violet's death in a very clever, very spooky way. While trying to escape from an increasingly irate Tate, the teen ran outside and screamed for help to passersby, who completely ignored her. Opening the front gate, she runs through it... and ends up back in the kitchen. Then, tearing through the front door, she winds up re-entering the house via the door above the basement stairs. At that point, everyone in the audience (at least, everyone who hadn't already guessed that this twist was coming after Violet inhaled those pills) understands what's going on. All that's left is for her to see her own dead body.
Funny: Dialogue Like This
"Dear God, thank you for the salty pig meat we're about to eat along with the rest of indigestible swill."
"I've been a lousy father lately."
"Even dead, even a boy, he's twice the man you are." "Well, he is now."
"Those Koreans, they're so suspicious -- you know, ever since Hiroshima."
"Once I discovered that he had cheated, Hugo meant no more to me than dog shit."
"Say man, you think maybe you could snag me some clippings? You know, news articles about me? Just thinking about starting a little scrapbook."
"Hi, I'm Tate. I'm dead. Wanna hook up?"
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