Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review: American Horror Story "Piggy, Piggy"

Non Spoiler Review:
After a breathless two-parter, the focus narrows on Tate to expand upon what happened at Westfield High. Violet begins to uncover the truth about him, and the ramifications of what it all means for her family living in the house. Ben continues to see patients there, too, and his latest has a weird phobia. Vivien tries to get to the bottom of her ultrasound.

Piggy, Piggy was pretty disturbing given the main plot centering on the school shooting. I'm not sure what we're to take from it yet regarding Tate. Evan Peters and Taissa Farmiga really get a chance to shine here. Very often in horror movies characters easily accept the craziness going on around them, but Farmiga convincingly conveys her confusion, terror and shock at coming to terms with the assault of information she's been getting over the last few weeks.

Given the intense subject matter of the shooting, it's Vivien's situation that is so outrageously bad it provides a lot of much-needed humour. I'm really wondering how far the writers are going to take this pregnancy (I've read their inspiration is Rosemary's Baby). Ben's storyline with his client wasn't as strong, and I'm not sure what it was there for, though it provided a scare (albeit a needless one given everything else going on). Nevertheless Piggy, Piggy remained a strong episode that continues to rearrange the status quo.

Spoilers Now!
1994. Connie answers the door to a S.W.A.T. team looking for Tate. Flashing back to the school, the teens from last week are in the library with a teacher when one comes running in to say Tate's shooting up the school. They barricade themselves, but he gets in, shooting the teacher in the spine, and then proceeding to find each hiding student and kill them. Back at the house, Tate waits as the officers storm his room and train every weapon on him. He defiantly makes a move for a gun in his bed and is killed in a hail of bullets.

Following Halloween's traumatizing events, Violet investigates the school massacre online and learns of Tate's involvement. She comes running downstairs to find Connie having a cigarette (her mother is at the store) and conveniently ready to answer all her questions. Connie explains the house will make her a believer, as they were living there, too, when Tate lost his way. She thinks the house drove him to it. She wants Violet to meet Billy Dean Howard, her medium.

Billy helped Connie out with her own problems, and feels she can aid Violet. Connie seems to think she's the real thing, but Violet's pretty skeptical. Billy believes that Tate doesn't know he's dead, so Connie wanted him to see Ben so that he might achieve some clarity on his own and help him cross over. Then Billy mentions a woman named Mary who wants to talk to Violet and she flashes back to an old woman who tells her they never will understand her. Violet runs out. Connie asks if she can trust Violet. Billy isn't sure.

Vivien is sitting in the bedroom looking extremely pregnant and massaging her stomach. A three-fingered hand presses up against her skin. She screams and wakes up from her nightmare, then casually pushes her panic button so Luke shows up. She explains she was hearing things, but Luke is more than happy to pay a visit and check things out for her. She tells him about Ben moving out. As it happened, his wife had an affair on him too!

Ben comes in to see a client, so Luke lets him know about Hayden's disappearance, and to be on guard in case she returns. Vivien isn't happy with him coming back, but he doesn't have the money to rent an office. He promises to leave after his last patient. She tells him she really hates him, but she'll let him see their daughter because he's a good father, if nothing else.

Ben's patient is a man afraid of urban legends, one of which is Piggy Man—a butcher who would wear a pig mask when he killed his hogs. One day he slipped and fell into the pen, and was eaten by them. If you stand in front of a mirror and say here, piggy pig, he'll return. Ben suggests they get to the root of his problem. He manages to convince him to look in the bathroom mirror alone, but all he sees is one of the dead nurses who haunt the house, which doesn't help his condition at all.

Violet is not having a good day. After trying to cut herself, she runs into her father, bursts into tears and apologizes for everything. She claims the darkness has her.

Vivien is attempting to track the nurse from the ultrasound and learns she quit. Connie shows up with a dish and tells her it will help with her violent morning sickness. It's raw pork, and she orders Moira to cook it up (who graciously complies), though she recommends eating it raw. Connie asks about Violet and explains she was such a comfort when Addie died. As she prepares the meat, Moira comments that Ben cheating on his pregnant wife is an unconscionable act and he'll do it again if he has the chance. 

Violet hangs with dark depressing Rita again, and tells her she totally believes her about the house now.  Rita goes on about the Book of Revelations (which she's been catching up on) and the dragon that makes war on mankind. She takes pills to sleep, so Violet asks for one (and gets a bunch). Next she goes to the school and reads the memorial plaque to the dead students, and meets the paralyzed teacher. But he can't give her any answers why Tate did what he did.

At the hospital, Vivien gets an amnio to put her mind at ease. Ben shows up late, but together they learn everything is okay from their new doctor. Vivien comes home and has to let Moira know they can't afford her anymore. Moira is shaken and assures her she'll work for free until they sell the house and hopefully the new owners will hire her. She won't leave an expecting mother in her time of need. She abruptly changes the subject and brings her more meat—a raw brain which Vivien finds pretty tasty.

Violet goes down into the basement looking for Tate, but finds the ginger twins as well as the nurses and the recently dead home invaders, plus Charles asking if she's there for the procedure. She runs upstairs where music is blaring in her room. She sees I love you written on her blackboard. That's pretty much all she can take, so she has a huge fit, downs all her pills and goes to sleep. 

Tate appears and drags her to the bathtub screaming don't you die, and tries to wake her up, forcing her to throw up the pills. They're both a mess.

Ben gets tough with his patient and tells him he can overcome his fear if he just puts his mind to it. That seems to convince him, so he goes home and says his here, piggy pig in the mirror...and gets shot and killed by a robber hiding in the shower (?)

Vivien meets Angela the nurse at a church. The hospital staff had explained the machine malfunctioned, but Angela says she saw the unclean thing in her womb—the plague of nations. The beast. Little hooves! Vivien is so not impressed. Angela pretty much shouts that she's the Whore of Babylon as Vivien walks out.

Connie has coffee with Billy again, who tells her Addie is mad at her. Connie wants to talk to her, so tells Addie that she's sorry for never saying how proud she was of her daughter. Billy reassures her that she's a pretty girl at last where she is now, and Addie thanks her mother for not getting her to the lawn—because she knows what Tate did now, and is scared of him.

In her room, Violet peruses a library book, and sees Tate's name on the library card. Tate shows up and tells her he loves her. But something has changed in her towards him and he doesn't know what he's done. They cuddle on the bed.

The Verdict:
After all the investigation, no one knows why Tate did what he did yet. I guess if the house is responsible, he can't really be held to account. But Larry is also a victim of the house, and he doesn't seem to be that balanced at all, so it remains to be seen if Tate can be redeemed. Then again, having Connie for a mother probably didn't do him any good either.

I stand by my statement that American Horror Story is pretty much a horror version of Six Feet Under. Everyone delivers a stellar performance each week—Tate and Violet really sold this episode, and like I said in my initial comments, I really felt Violet's struggle trying to sort out the craziness in the house.

I don't exactly get the point of the Piggy Man and the random death of Ben's client. It was really the only element that didn't work this week, and the first in a long time that felt tacked on to the story for no reason. Sure the pig mask is scary, but was that all it was for? Or is it there to show that all Ben's clients end up dead and this is just the latest? Is there a reason the house might be killing his clients? Or can it even exert that kind of influence beyond the confines of its property?

But...I love love love Vivien's devil baby! Is the rubber man a demon? It and the creature in the basement don't appear to be ghosts like the others, but I have a feeling my high expectations of his identity are going to be a letdown given how much this baby is being hyped. Also curious is how keen Moira is for the new baby too, so much that she has no problem carrying out Connie's orders to keep Vivien well-fed. She wants to be freed of the house, so is the baby going to somehow help her achieve that?

Probably the worst news this week is that Addie is dead dead. She didn't make it to the lawn in time, so we're left to wonder if she's gone for good. I'd thought it was her under the bed last week, but I guess not. Unless Billy the medium is a big liar, but somehow I don't think so. That's really unfortunate, as Addie was a great character and a loss for the series.

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