Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review: American Horror Story "Birth"

Non Spoiler Review:
Madness! So much happened this week my head was spinning. As usual, American Horror Story never lets up, and Birth lived up to all the expected hype.

Remember the twins Vivien is carrying, one of whom is the Antichrist, and the plague of nations? Well, it's time for them to be born. How does Violet deal with being dead and keeping it from her family? How long before Tate's actions catch up to him? All of that, plus another obscure historical tie-in, and an awesome exchange between Zachary Quinto and Jessica Lange.

The ending is suitably climactic with many characters coming to a crossroads. The momentum delivers a somewhat inevitable conclusion, which leaves questions to what the finale will deal with (and who will be left). But it will leave you breathless.

Spoilers Now!
1984. As a drunk Connie is passed out among her overdue bills, little Tate explores the basement of the murder house. As he goes to grab his truck, he's snatched by Thaddeus. But Nora rescues him, sending Thaddeus off, and instructs Tate to just tell him to go away next time. But from now on she'll protect him. He wishes she was his mommy (but it's questionable whether Nora could do better than Connie).

In the present, Tate finds his rusted old truck, and hears Nora crying. She doesn't recognize who he is, though, and laments their lives as an eternity of sorrow. And where's her baby? Tate tells her that he can't give her the baby anymore, given he's in love with Violet. Oh, but Nora can, and will.

Ben is on a mission to get Violet out of the house given he doesn't trust her or Tate. He believes everything Vivien's been saying now (a little too late, if you ask me), and they're going to her aunt's in Florida to give birth. Violet is in a panic given she can't leave the grounds. He virtually drags her into the car, so she lies down in the back and Ben drives off. As he leaves the driveway Violet stares out from her bedroom window.

Violet tries to figure out how to keep her secret, given they'll go crazy if they find out she killed herself. Tate says they'll have each other, though they'll never have kids.

Speaking of kids, Chad and Patrick are decorating the baby room. They're totally adorable. Tate and Violet walk in and wonder who the hell asked them to decorate. Chad informs her they're having twins, and her mother is the surrogate. Violet clarifies that the Harmons are leaving as soon as her parents get back. Chad then makes reference to the rubber suit that gets Tate agitated and threatening, but what can Tate do now, murder him?

Violet summons Connie for help getting rid of troublesome Chad and Patrick, so she wants to talk to Billy Dean. Connie says she'll take care of it, and goes to find Chad. In the nursery, Chad has painted a white crib and a rather sinister looking red crib. Connie goes off on an anti-gay parenting diatribe and lets slip that she won't let him put his hands on her grandchild. She suggests he can take the one fathered by Ben, but not Tate's. He clarifies that they won't raise them, but wait until they reach the perfect age and smother them so they'll be cute forever.

Billy Dean suggests targeting a particular spirit will be difficult, given the house is so damn crowded (well, duh!). She can detect that Violet is dead and sends her a sympathetic look. The evil is a force like any other, created by events, she explains. Negative energy feeds on trauma and pain. The force in the house has a need to break through and move out into the world, using those trapped as conduits. But she might have a way to get rid of the gays. Then Tate appears, and Billy Dean gets agitated and tells Connie he can't be there. She sends him away. Violet wonders what that was all about, but Connie brushes off her questions.

At the hospital, Vivien asks why Violet didn't come, but Ben says she was having a rough time (he's assuming she snuck out of the car). The doctor is recommending bed rest, but she assures him they'll get a wheel chair and she'll rest all the way to Florida. Doctor recommends an immediate C-section, but she doesn't want to hear it. However, Ben asks for clarification. The one baby is developing at a rapid rate while the other is getting weaker. The alpha is devouring all the nutrients. Ben is angry with Vivien she didn't tell him (well, that didn't last).

Billy Dean explains that a successful banishment was completed 500 years before. In 1590, the inhabitants of the Roanoke colony died inexplicably. Their spirits remained and haunted the native tribes in the area. The elder cast a banishment curse by collecting all their belongings and burning them, then finished it by uttering a single word that was found in the colony—croatoan.

Violet needs to get Patrick's ring to use in the banishment, so Tate tries to make nice. Given he killed him, Patrick really isn't in the mood, but when Tate starts flirting with him it appeals to Patrick's wandering eye. Or so he thought, as Patrick proceeds to beat him up to make him suffer. Patrick declares he had fallen in love and would have been out of the house if Tate hadn't killed him, and now he's stuck here with him (Chad). Unfortunately Chad overhears that and runs off. Tate's managed to grab Patrick's ring in the meantime.

Ben and Vivien get home. She waits in the car while Ben goes in to get Violet, but she starts getting labor pains. She struggles to get out of the car as Connie runs up, escorting her into the house.

Violet has Chad's watch, too, but Ben knocks on her door demanding to know why she disappeared. She tells him just to trust her and to go far away, but she's not coming. Ben thinks she's high. Violet confesses she couldn't leave the house. He wants to know what drugs she's on. Then she comes clean that she's dead and she doesn't get to leave the house. He forces her to come downstairs as Violet tells him she took pills and didn't mean to kill herself.

Vivien arrives inside, and Ben can't get any cell phone service to call for help. Connie tells Violet to make the place safe and sends her away. As Ben goes outside, he finds the ginger kids bashing in their car (and this time he sees them as the bloodied corpses they are). All the power goes off in the house. Connie advises him it's time.

Ben walks in on a fire lit scene where Charles Montgomery (!) and the two dead nurses (!) are tending to Vivien. At that moment Ben seems to have his breakdown/epiphany. Connie slaps him and tells him the house is trying to help and he needs to be there for her.

Vivien wants to know who all the people are, but some ether knocks her out. Ben appears to be dissociating and momentarily flashes back to Violet's happy birth. Then Charles brings him back to reality and tells him that the baby is stillborn, but there's another one coming. Charles gives the dead baby to Nora.

Meanwhile, Chad and Violet are in the furnace room and she tosses the watch and ring into the fire. She utters croatoan and Chad begins to freak, but he's just joking. All those fairy tales don't work, he explains. It just makes regular people feel better to think they can control things. He breaks the crib up and throws it into the fire given there won't be a nursery. Vivien's babies are safe from them, at least.

Then he adds that it could be worse. Tate may always love her, but he'll always be a monster. Violet says he's changed. Oh really, Chad says...when he murdered him and his boyfriend, or when he raped her mother? 

Vivien is having a rough go with the last baby. It emerges, but Vivien has massive bleeding. Connie takes the child to get him washed up. Moira's getting all sentimental over it and says he's the most beautiful baby she's ever seen (no hooves, apparently). Hayden appears and asks if they got all the slime off her baby.

Vivien is bleeding profusely and Charles can't stop it. Violet shows up and apologizes for not seeing her at the hospital. Ben tries to tell her they can be happy, but Violet advises her if she's in pain to let go. Vivien doesn't think she has a choice and dies (!). Everyone disappears, and Ben is suddenly alone in the room with her body.

Violet runs upstairs and looks in on Tate who's lying on the bed. She lets him know her mother is dead. She is p.i.s.s.e.d. She wants to know why he started seeing Ben in the first place given he already knew he was dead, then goads him on about why he died, and forces him to hear that he murdered kids. And the guys who lived there before. And raped her mother. Tate is devastated and stunned, but apologizes. She says she loves him, but can't forgive him, and he has to pay for everything he's done. He is the darkness in the house. She orders him to go away. When she opens her eyes he's gone.

As she breaks down into her familiar messy Violet cry, Vivien shows up and embraces her, telling her she was very brave.

The Verdict:
Birth offered a lot of great exchanges, including the classic Quinto/Lange scene. But we also got Violet giving Tate a much deserved tongue lashing, and some crazy Ben moments as he finally realizes the house is as messed up as he is. The final shot of mother and daughter was a bittersweet one.

The birth of the Antichrist was sufficiently gory, and it made sense that no mother would be able to survive that. Now Nora has her baby, too. Does that mean we get a little eternal spirit baby in the house now?

The banishment story was interesting in presenting a possible solution to some of the ghost problems, but if Chad is to be believed, it won't help at all. Is there any way to free the spirits in the house if Billy Dean's Roanoke story proved to be a fiction?

I was never sure if they would go so far as to kill Vivien, but here we are, and it's really the only viable way of keeping her in Ben's life as they would likely not have ever gotten back together. But really, now Ben and Connie are the only major characters who are actually alive. My earlier crazy predictions that they all might die in the house doesn't seem so crazy anymore. But it will certainly make for an interesting and drastically different second season. This season has been an unexpected wild ride, so I'm sad to see it end next week.

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