FX’s American Horror Story
Season 8, Episode 6: “Return to Murder House”
Directed by Sarah Paulson
Written by Crystal Liu
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Boy Wonder” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Traitor” – click here
Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) and Behold Chablis (Billy Porter) are back at Murder House, pretending to be a couple – “the worst possible versions of Heidi Klum and Seal” – so they can have a look at the place closer. The realtor tells them about some of the house’s history— “All thirty–six” of the murders included. Then, he gives them the keys. This witch and warlock are in for an interest stay. It’s also amazing that this return to Season 1’s stomping grounds is directed by none other than Ms. Paulson herself.
The house looks pristine, like it was never not lived in, and Chablis feels the “psychic energy” of the souls trapped inside those walls. It isn’t long until doors are shutting on their own and the house begins showing its true face. The warlock and witch begin a ritual in a circle to try drawing out the spirits. Once the ritual commences the ghosts come out.
They see burning children on the staircase landing and one of the dead nurses walking the halls. Then we see Tate Langdon (Evan Peters) talking to Dr. Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) about his daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga). They’re all trapped in that “Amityville reject” together, as ghosts for eternity. Violet won’t speak to Tate anymore after all his murdering and rapey impregnation. The therapy session’s interrupted by Chablis and Madison. The ghosts are surprised because they’re the ones who reveal themselves usually. Madison asks about Michael Langdon (Cody Fern), which seems to spook the ghosts.
Ah, the old homage to The Changeling— a red ball bounces down from the darkness upstairs. Soon, Beau (Sam Kinsey) tackles Madison. But he isn’t angry, just playing. “Medium to the stars” Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson) arrives to break things up, already aware of the warlock and witch. Guess who else is home? Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange). THE QUEEN HATH ARRIVED!
“What the fuck happened in this house?”
While the warlock and witch are smug, they’re clearly not prepared for all Murder House has to offer. Constance is busy still being a real bitch, particularly towards Moira O’Hara (Frances Conroy). The two of them dead together in one house is a pretty rough Hell in which to exist. Madison starts asking about Michael, getting Billie riled up. Constance is willing to “spill a drop of tea” for a price: get Moira out of there for good.
Under the gazebo, Chablis and Madison start digging. It’s tough to find the right bones, considering there are “more bodies buried [there] than the catacombs in Rome.” The warlock and witch go to Moira to talk about her eternal enemy and the deal Constance wants to make. They’ve brought Moira her bones. They help bury her next to her mother at the cemetery, allowing her closure after so long.
Madison and Chablis are ready to hear the truth of Antichrist Langdon from his surrogate mother Constance. She explains the death of his mother Vivien (Connie Britton) after the birth. She also talks of her son Tate fathering the child, and how she learned from mistakes raising him that would hopefully help with Michael. As the boy got older, he committed increasingly “unspeakable acts.” She saw the “Bundy” and “Dahmer” in him early with his penchant for murdering animals.
“… I was put on Earth to raise the monsters.”
We return to that final scene from Murder House, where Constance found a bloody little Michael in his room— this is when the boy murdered one of his babysitters. Suddenly, her little boy grew up overnight, turning into a man. It wasn’t as easy as planting rose bushes over murdered critters anymore for Constance, not when she’d wake in the night to her grandson strangling her.
Yet the deep love she had to give was immutable in the face of evil. This doesn’t mean she wasn’t worried. She tried bringing a priest over, only for Michael to murder him, too. Eventually she had to come to terms with her days of mothering coming to an end. This is when she killed herself, to remain in that house forever, because it’s where her memories were laid to rest, where all the people she cared about existed.
Madison and Chablis go to see Ben, offering to help him stop crying and jerking off in front of the window. The psychiatrist talks about when Constance killed herself, which was the first day he met his “not really“-son Michael. The Antichrist found his grandmother dead on the couch, horrified by the sight. Ben did his doc routine with Michael, trying to help the young man as he once did with Tate. We get more of that eerie Patience and Prudence song over a montage of the two, as Ben took on Michael as a surrogate son, talking, playing catch and chess.
Eventually, Tate ran into his son, and even he was repulsed by Michael. Everything in Murder House only pushed Michael further towards evil. He started doing grisly experiments on poor Elizabeth Short (Mena Suvari), the Black Dahlia, and things were getting worse. At one point, a couple of women moved into the house, only bringing out worse behaviour. Michael dressed up like his dad in the Rubber Man suit and started killing. Like father, like son, no? And it only further added to Murder House’s literal skeletons on the closet, until Michael burned the women’s souls to ash, baring that pale, demonic face we’ve seen before.
Vivien comes out to say her piece, paraphrasing Revelation 13:1 to explain how Michael is the Antichrist. One day, Anton LaVey (Carlo Rota) and his disciples from the Church of Satan came to visit, subverted versions of the Three Wise Men following a “dark star.” They were looking for their master who’d usher in the “Great Day of Wrath.” Along with LaVey came Miriam Mead (Kathy Bates). The Black Pope faked his death years before, so he could be prepared to receive the Antichrist. This allowed Michael to truly emerge, and only got more horrifying when LaVey conducted a “black mass.” The ceremony invoked a line from The Omen (spoken by American Horror Story alumni, Naomi Grossman) – “It‘s all for you” – as the Satanists stab into their sacrifice, offering up a life and death for the Antichrist, whose true form came to life while he consumed a human heart.
After the ceremony, huge hailstones rained, as did blood – just like in Revelation 16:21 – and Vivien decided it was time to kill Michael. More homage to The Omen, with the 666 behind Michael’s ear. Vivien was nearly burned alive before Tate saved her. Then, Michael was gone. Vivien realised neither Ben nor Tate was the father of the Antichrist, it was the evil of that house— Satan himself.
Armed with all this information, Chablis and Madison have to head back to the school and let Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) and the rest know what they’ve discovered. Before they go, Madison finds Violet crying by herself. The witch helps Violet see the truth, how the house is what turned Tate, and her family, into a horrorshow. Another little sliver of closure for some of the house’s tortured ghosts.
Perfect cherry on top? “Spirits in the Material World” by the Police plays as the episode finishes.
Fucking amazing! What an episode. This paid fan service to those who were dying to see all the Murder House characters come back. Not only did we get Ms. Lange, we received so much other stuff to chew into, and it was utterly incredible. Plus, there’s a further extension to Season 1, as we’re discovering new things via Michael.
“Traitor” is next time.