We'll say this for American Horror Story's Season 1 finale -- we were never certain exactly where it was going to go. And here's another thing: after a freshman year filled with freakish thrills and funny laughs (both of the intentional and unintentional variety), the last thing we expected from "Afterbirth" was that it would be so... well, sweet.
After all, this was an episode that killed off the one surviving member of the Harmon clan, terrible psychiatrist and general failure of a human being Ben, within the first fifteen minutes. Initially, he planned to do the deed himself via a bullet to the head, but was talked out of pulling the trigger by the ghost of his wife, Vivien, who appears infinitely happier ever since she joined the ranks of the walking, spectral dead. She wanted him to leave the house with their surviving child (well, technically, hers and Tate's child) in tow, but Hayden intercepted him on his way out the door to present him with a parting gift in the shape of a noose. With that, the Harmon family exits this world and, funnily enough, they're more functional now than they ever were when they were alive. (There's nothing like realizing you're stuck with someone for all eternity to encourage you to kiss and make up.)
Their first ghost family activity: banding together to scare the Murder House's newest human residents -- the pleasant-seeming Ramos brood, which includes mom Stacy, dad Miguel and teen son Gabriel -- out of the place their first night there (here's hoping they get their down payment back). The Harmons are then rewarded for that good deed by welcoming a new bundle of joy: the stillborn baby that Dr. Charles handed over to his wife last week. (As she tells us, he wasn't completely dead at that point -- he had time to make "one little tiny cry and then passed on.") Because Nora isn't exactly the mothering type, she gladly lets Vivien take her baby back and heads off into the dark basement for a nice long rest. (Gotta say, having two kids myself, they are adorable as newborns, but I wouldn't want infancy to go on literally forever.) The last we see of the Harmons, they're standing in front of a decorated Christmas tree in an empty Murder House, serene smiles on their faces -- a scene of perfect domesticity. So good luck finding storylines for Season 2, y'all! Well, we suppose there is the matter of the little demon that Constance is raising next door... [Note: On second thought, forget about all that. As Ryan Murphy informed the world, this is the last we've seen of the Murder House, the Harmons, Constance and her bloodthirsty grandchild. Season 2 will tell an all-new story with all-new characters. That's one way out of having to explain any plot holes. -- Ethan]
Freaky: Those Title Credits
We haven't given it a shout-out yet this season, but kudos to Kyle Cooper and the good folks at the filmmaking collective Prologue for designing American Horror Story's terrific opening credits sequence, scored to a great piece of music by former Nine Inch Nails band member Charlie Clouser and sound designer Cesar Davila-Irizarry. It's been a highlight of the show since the pilot -- an effectively creepy mood-setter for the chills and chuckles that follow.
Funny: How To Be a Ghost 101
Despite what you might think, it ain't all that easy being dead. You've got to watch your surviving loved ones go through various stages of grief, while also avoiding apparating in front of them by accident. Good thing Vivien has veteran phantom Moira around to help her adjust to her new state of being. And the maid takes their mentor/student roles seriously, gently chiding Vivien for "hovering" around Ben while he putters around the kitchen. And when Viv requests a cup of tea, Moira turns her down flat, saying "I don't take orders from ghosts." That's telling 'em, Moira. Whoever heard of a ghost drinking tea anyway?
Freaky: Hanging Out
Though we suspected it was coming, Ben's murder was still pretty shocking in its swiftness and brutality. Hayden confronted him on the stairwell, keeping his eyes on her while her ghostly accomplices snuck up behind him and wrapped a rope around his neck, then attaching the other end to the chandelier and pushing the not-so-good doctor over the banister, while Tate and Vivien's son wails in his carrier. What a way to go.
Funny: Violet Harmon, Music Critic
Apparently, nothing's a bigger turn-off to Violet than a poor taste in music. Thumbing through Gabriel's record collection, Vi incredulously asks the kid why on Earth he'd willingly listen to the Butthole Surfers over the Ramones. We have to agree with the snobby goth ghost here.
Freaky: The House Is Alive With the Sound of Ghosts
In order to convince the Murder House's new residents that they need to live somewhere, anywhere, else, the Harmons rally their fellow spirits to freak the living crap out of this poor family. While Ben dons the Rubber Man garb and assaults Stacy, Vivien and Moira show Miguel the house's other horrors and Tate holds Gabriel at knifepoint (although he's acting as more of a free agent than an official member of the Harmon Spook Squad). Even Beau, the freak in the attic, gets into the act, dropping down the fold-out ladder screaming, "Why! Why!" After enduring that waking nightmare, it's no wonder that the Ramos clan flees screaming into the night.
Funny: War of the Harmons
Our favorite part of the horror show the Harmons staged for Miguel and Stacy came when Vivien and Ben confronted each other in the basement and played a bloody game of good ghost/bad ghost. After Viv accused Ben of feeling up the new woman in the house, she slices him open with a knife and happily says "You have no idea how long I've been wanting to do that." Ben responds by pulling out a gun and shooting his wife point-blank in her noggin. "You have no idea how long I've wanted to that," he gurgles, before turning the gun on Mr. and Mrs. Ramos. After they run away in terror, the Harmons share a relieved laugh. Nothing like a little physical violence to bring a husband and wife closer together.
Freaky: Like Father, Like Son
Looks like Tate's offspring already has a taste for blood. In the three-years-later epilogue that closed out the finale, Constance returns from her salon appointment to discover that the adorable youngster has ripped his caretaker to shreds. "Now what am I gonna do with you?" Constance asks her smiling, blonde-haired grandson. Guess we'll find out next fall. [Edit: No we won't. -- Ethan]
Funny: Dialogue Like This
"It's nice, right? I dunno, maybe it's haunted or something."
"Perhaps he's dreaming of all the women he could have relations with. Forgive me, I suppose that was unkind."
"I saved you a shitload of money." "Yeah, you did."
"Get out of my way Hayden, I don't have time for your bullshit."
"Well, that's all very touching. But where the hell is the baby?"
"You sick, perverted bastard. They've barely moved in and you're already preying on the new meat?"
"Can you just hang out with me sometimes?"
"What do you call him?" "Little noisy monster."
"The amount of money those people throw away on a 13-year-old."
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