Crozier is taken back to Hickey's mutineer camp, where he must try to save himself and as many of his remaining men as possible.
Slaney and Hearn face each other for the last time in Mexico
At the end of their rope in Mexico, the various members of the Clark-Manawa family look to the grim future.
CBS’ American Gothic
Episode 13: “Whistler’s Mother”
Directed by Greg Beeman
Written by Corinne Brinkerhoff & Aaron Fullerton
* For a review of Episode 12, “Madame X” – click here
The finale is here – “Whistler’s Mother” you may remember is the informal name given to Arrangements in Grey and Black, which is the first episode of this mini-series. Why that painting, you wonder? This last episode in particular and yet so much of these episode has consisted of a focus on who?
Everybody’s out voting for Mayor of Boston. Madeline (Virginia Madsen) is worrying about the “crazed dollmaker” after her family. So she has private security watching the house, and her paranoia is high. Tess (Megan Ketch) and Cam (Justin Chatwin), along with Jack (Gabriel Bateman), are down at the Alison Hawthorne (Juliet Rylance) campaign HQ. Even Garrett (Antony Starr) turns up to support his sister.
But nobody’s seen Alison. Where could she be?
Over at the station, Detectives Linda Cutter (Deirdre Lovejoy) and Brady Ross (Elliot Knight) lay the whole case with the new evidence out for everybody. Then Brady gets a call from his wife, worrying about her sister. Now, they’re worried the accomplice is very, very close to the campaign.
We all know from last episode it’s Naomi.
Or is it? That secret she had was all about union workers, supposedly. A background check proves Naomi has always been Naomi. A dead end. Ahhh, tricky. Only problem is the cops are still at square one. And who could be the accomplice?
Sophie (Stephanie Leonidas) ends up at the Hawthorne door. She wants a few pictures before heading off for good. At the campaign HQ, Jack is starting to feel the effects of not having his mother around; he reads too much. Simultaneously, Christina (Catalina Sandino Moreno) has turned up to reconcile with Garrett. She’s planning to move to San Francisco and hopes he’ll go. Although he doesn’t want to leave his family, not after everything.
The detectives go to the grave of SBK’s wife, to see if maybe someone comes to visit. He has an epiphany about the cherry blossoms on Sophie’s neck. Just like the ones at the graveyard. And all alone in the mansion with Madeline, we find Stephanie revealing herself a bit more. Most of all after she plants a needle in her former mother-in-law’s neck. Jesus. I honestly never saw any of this coming.
Where do we go from here? Well, Madeline gets tied up for the time being. Sophie talks more about her life, her mother, her father and his ‘art’ of sorts. Seems SBK got his kill list, for him and his daughter, from the donors at the hospital. She tells us that the bells were there to symbolise the one thing that could save their victim stays “just out of reach.” When Cam turns up things get tricky. She reveals their love stayed her want for revenge, but of course things went sour.
Everyone’s closing in now. Will they make it to the mansion in time? Or will Sophie enact the last breaths of her plan for revenge? Looks like she managed to at least strangle Madeline.
Cam manages to get a gun and point it at Sophie. But Garrett doesn’t want him to kill anyone, not like he did, and to have to live with those memories the rest of his life. He prevents Cam from making a terrible decision. Yet Sophie makes off into the night once more.
In other news, Alison wins her bid for Mayor of Boston. What good is that when your family’s being hunted? Small victories, I suppose.
The Hawthorne family is devastated. For all her faults, it’s still not nice to have your mother murdered. And to have been infiltrated so deeply by SBK’s daughter, his accomplice. Just, staggering. Brady kicks himself for not seeing it sooner, though Cutter tries to assure him he couldn’t have known, and at least now they DO know. They came around to becoming better friends and partners throughout the entire ordeal.
Skip to a year later. Everyone is doing well, Tess and Brady have their child, Cam and his lady friend are getting closer finally. The family is okay after all. Somehow. There’s still creepy Jack. Who knows how they’ll eventually end up. Naomi and Alison are together, happy. Then Garrett and Christina show up with their own little family.
With his little bear still holding his mom’s recorded voice, Jack stands alone listening to it, wondering when she’ll come back to take him. Because a normal life is not what he wants. He’s got that nasty gene somewhere deep down.
We discover more of the secrets hiding amongst the Hawthornes. Alison knew a long while ago that Sophie was the accomplice. She revealed it to her former sister-in-law. Hmm. She even kept one of those bells instead of tossing them all. Thing is, Alison made a deal: don’t kill anybody else, just mom. Holy. Shit. Kills her mother, essentially, and creepily she’s JUST LIKE HER MOTHER. What a twisting, turning, strange little end.
With these last words, Alison ends her interview and the mini-series: “You can be a victim of your circumstances, or you can summon the strength to push through; no matter what. Today our family is thriving. I think my mother would be proud.”
The end personally surprised me, from the opening of this episode to the finish. Far as I know this is only meant to be a mini-series. I dig it that way. Leaves you not with questions, but with a deeper idea of the corrupted roots of the Hawthorne family. What was done cannot be undone. It begets more of its own violence, the secrets of their family. Lots of fun, weird stuff that happened, too. Throughout the whole series. I had a blast, honestly. Didn’t expect to get so into it. Yet here I am. Hope some of you reading have enjoyed as much as I have. A stellar finish, way better than anticipated!
Season 1, Episode 10: “Ave Satani”
Directed by Nick Copus
Written by Glen Mazzara
* For a review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “The Devil You Know” – click here
Disclaimer: I was invited to the Damien Season 1 finale screening in L.A. tonight, which includes a lunch, plus Q&A with Executive Producer Glen Mazzara and star Bradley James. Unfortunately travel/time constraints would not permit me being there. However, the people at FOX were kind enough to send me a personal screener. Something for which I was very grateful.
SO… if you’ve not yet seen this finale, DO NOT KEEP READING! You will be spoiled. Otherwise, if you want to be spoiled, dive on in.
Here we are – the finale of Damien‘s first season. It’s been a great ride, getting better with each chapter. “Ave Satani” is upon us, and with the end of last episode, Damien Thorn (Bradley James) may finally have slipped into full-on Antichrist mode!
We start as Damien leads Simone (Megalyn E.K.) out from the woods. They run up on some big military-style vehicles, men with red dotted sights freeze them in their tracks. Ah, it’s Lyons (Scott Wilson). Of course. Now he’s revealing more of Armitage’s involvement with his supposed future. “You‘ll rule for a long, long time,” he tells Damien. But the young Antichrist is not happy with any of the explanations and the bullshit.
When Lyons orders Simone shot, then Damien taken in, the power of the Antichrist emerges, as he turns the men and their guns on themselves. While Damien and Simone make off, you can see Lyons is very pleased with how things are going. God damn psychotic. This opener assures us, though – Mazzara and the crew have readied us a properly horrific finale.
Ann (Barbara Hershey) and Amani (Omid Abtahi) take the now dead Veronica back. But Amani makes it clear, mother is to blame. While that’s obvious she clearly doesn’t want to hear that. And downstairs, Amani gets ziptied to a chair. Things are definitely breaking down. Lyons arrives and starts to convince Ann they need to begin action. For her part, she seems ready. Because Ann is one hell of a bad ass lady, no matter if she’s a bit evil and freaky.
Poor Sister Greta (Robin Weigert) finds herself in the hands of Lyons and Armitage. No telling what her fate will be. They’ll keep her around, a while. Then, who knows. The rest of her crew meet a terrible end on their knees in the forest.
Ann (to Lyons): “Blood will spill. Hers, yours, mine.”
Meanwhile we’re privy to the terrible creepiness of Damien’s Antichrist presence and how it affects others. When Simone and Damien track down a car, the woman inside confesses her love for him – “It‘s all for you, Damien!” – then tries to kill herself before Simone intervenes. This was honestly one of the most unsettling scenes for me in the whole first season. Just how quickly the sentiment overcame her. Chilling.
Ann comes face to face with Sister Greta, after the awful death of her daughter. She promises the nun a similar end.
Cut to Vatican City – the remaining daggers of Megiddo are packed up and carried off. All sorts of blades and weaponry are likewise packed, and a gang of holy men are off on a mission. Yowzahs! Love this brief moment, really had dark energy. Then there’s Bear McCreary’s eerie score, which only serves to consistently make the atmosphere of this series creepier and creepier.
Out in the woods again at the old trailer where he and Powell used to meet, Damien brings Simone to lay low. Plus, he washes off all that nasty earth and blood from his resurrection the night previous. He even sees a little flash of the old woman from Damascus. All the evil of his life is crowding around him. And that adds more weight to the woman in the car who tried committing suicide, immediately pledging her life to him: it’s as if all those old evils he’d previously experienced, unknowingly the coming of his place as the Antichrist, are coming back around again, now that his eyes are wide open.
The debate about who’s worse rages between Sister Greta and Ann. They’re each hard, tough women. Although, I can’t help but believe they’re equally as stubborn. If in their world both God and the Devil/Antichrist exist, then the label of “cruel Lord” that Ann gives the former is perhaps most relevant. God has been responsible for quite a bit of pain and suffering, under the guise of his supposed plan. At least the Devil revels in what he does. Even after Greta pleads her case passionately, there’s no selling that old chestnut to Ms. Rutledge: “Satan is God,” proclaims Ann, “Long may he reign.”
Now Lyons is interrogating Amani about Damien’s whereabouts. This doesn’t end the best after Amani gets violent, but as Lyons puts things for him there’s no loyalty left that can save Damien. He is becoming something else now.
Doing her best, Simone sticks around with Damien, who insists she go. But she stays, readily admitting she is part of what’s happening. Then Damien says that he killed her sister Kelly, and that the same will only happen to her, as well. Likely true. Still doesn’t make her love, though. She is one tough character. At first I wasn’t a fan of Simone, but over the course of this first season she has truly grown on me. Now she’s really getting good in this finale.
Sister Greta is shown the rest of her people, shot in the head, thrown in a mass grave. Nasty. She and Amani are given the real, brutal view. Lyons tells Amani he must put Greta in the grave, or else – in a roundabout way – he says they’ll kill his mother. HOLY FUCK. That is some hardcore madness right there.
What does the nun have to say? “God‘s will be done,” she sweetly, calmly tells Amani. What follows is a dark, emotionally disturbing moment. That includes Lyons putting Amani down there, too. We finally see how deceptive Lyons is, having completely fooled Amani to the end. Watching the two of them start getting dirt rained down on them is so sad, so brief, it stings.
The Antichrist side of Damien is really breaking through. He is gradually accepting his darkness and his vicious power. Further than that the danger to Simone is getting greater almost by the second. And not far outside lurks the woman from Damascus, coming closer to Damien all the time.
There’s a possible rift between Ann and Lyons now, after he effectively executed Amani. She didn’t want him to die. Most of all Lyons wants to get Damien under his control. He saw a fraction of what could be, and can’t wait to use that terrible power inside the Antichrist to bend the world to the will of Armitage.
AND YES, YES, YES! A hand emerges from the mass grave after it’s all covered up. Not all hope is lost.
Poor Detective Shay (David Meunier) is having a worse time of it, too. He thinks he see his boy on the road, then believes he runs him down. Only to discover it’s the powers of the Antichrist out in the world, the evil, sucking him into the downward spiral. On a side note, Meunier is killing it in this role. Very happy with his performance over this season and I keep wondering what will happen next in his story.
Back to the Vatican City assassins. They’re now in the same city as the Antichrist himself. What will come of this? A wild showdown is coming. Especially considering most everybody is heading for Damien, including Shay, Rutledge, Lyons, all of them, and they’re all converging on that old trailer in the woods.
Then Damien reveals he is headed to Megiddo. He figures all the answers are there, the apparent location of Armageddon. But before he can do anything, all forces rain down on the nearby field, just as Dt. Shay creeps up.
An intense little sequence here before Damien and Simone ends up confronted with Ann and Lyons. “I will kill all of you,” the Antichrist rages at them. He then finds out what Lyons did to his best friend, as Ann lays bare the truth. And of course Lyons finds himself being chased down by a pack of Rotties. Nom nom. All the while, Simone pleads him to stop, and Ann gets aroused.
Then a shocker: trying to shoot Damien, the detective puts a bullet right through Simone’s head. Wow. And just as was saying her character got more interesting to me. MAZZARA, WHY DON’T YOU LET ME HAVE NICE THINGS?
Well this is really setting Damien off. You can feel his heart breaking more. Then the woman from Damascus arrives, Damien pleads to be taken. He speaks in a language we’ve never heard of him, to his ‘father’ and then the forces of evil really start to take hold. Blood from the 666 in his head starts seeping out. It drops onto Simone and breathes life into her again. Whoa. Not only can the Antichrist take life, he can give it, too. Shay watches on and sees the power.
And from the darkness come Damien’s legions, the Antichrist’s followers, his fan club. They’re all there. For him. Kneeling, along with Ann. Even Shay. Towards us, the audience, Damien turns with a knowing, devilish smile subtly across his face.
The Antichrist has risen!This was an exceptional finale. I’m hoping A&E realizes the potential for it to grow, as there are already a dedicated base of fans, particularly online that always seem to be watching, tweeting along with Glen Mazzara and the others live. Personally, I wasn’t sold immediately. The pilot was decent, but I didn’t like the large amount of clips from the original Omen. Then after the second and third episode, I was sold. The whole thing progressed magically, so dark and exciting throughout its first season. And the finale spoke volumes to how wonderfully devious this show can get.
Give Mazzara and Damien another season, A&E! The ratings will get better alongside the quality. Hopefully the finale will pump some decent numbers up. Stick with me and we’ll try to make sure the network knows how much we, the fans, enjoyed this show in its initial season. Here’s to hoping for more Antichrist badness!
SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 6: “Eskimos”
Directed by Jim Mickle
Written by Jim Mickle
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “War” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, “Mucho Mojo” – click here
The finale has arrived, and after Trudy (Christina Hendricks) abandoned Hap and Leonard (James Purefoy/Michael K. Williams), they were left with the vengeful Soldier (Jimmi Simpson) who still mourns his dead lover, Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh).
In the aftermath, Leonard’s place is covered in police tape, and Hap laments to the dog: “I miss him, too.”
We flash back to their precarious situation at the end of the previous episode. Outside, Jimmi is killing the dogs, taunting Hap and Leonard inside. The episode flashes to after it all again, as Hap starts to take down all the boards over the windows, trying to put everything back in its place. He’s sporting injuries from the shootout. Obviously, Hap is now safe from Soldier. But what exactly’s happened in the meantime?
At a literal and figurative crossroads, Trudy sits in the van. Over at the house Soldier keeps on taunting, especially about Trudy, mocking Hap for having trusted her too many times. The title of the episode, “Eskimos”, comes from a conversation about how Eskimos supposedly share women, so on. A nice anecdote. Then, from nowhere, Angel reappears. Not dead at all. In fact, she proceeds to kick the absolute shit out of Hap and Leonard. At least until the latter snaps her neck. Well now, Soldier’s really upset.
Hap: “Guns, huh? Who needs guns?” (Soldier shoots him in the arm)
Amazingly enough, Trudy does come back. She drives right through the side of Leonard’s house, crashing into Soldier, saving the two pals. At least for the moment.
In an impressive scene, Hap holds a gun on Soldier but refuses to pull the trigger. He is thoroughly a non-violent man, only when pushed to the brink. And still, Trudy pulls the trigger herself. So there’s a juxtaposition between the two lovers, as Hap is tough but doesn’t always take the hard road out, whereas Trudy usually takes the hard road everywhere.
In the bloody moments following the showdown, Trudy reveals to Hap she drowned the bird in the sink. It reminded her of their relationship, her failures. She says “I love you“, only both Hap and Leonard are passed out in the backseat. Ah, their love is always complicated by something new. Meanwhile, Trudy passes out behind the wheel and they casually roll into a ditch coming to a full stop.
In hospital, Hap wakes to a vision of Trudy, who bids goodbye. She walks down the hall with the old Hap, the long haired hippy Hap, the one with too much optimism, before having to go to jail and figure out the harshest bits of lie. A sign that the old Hap is definitely dead. And Trudy, too.
Cut back to that rainy night when little Hap and his father stopped in the rain to help the black man and his boy. Here, we see the unifying moment between young Hap and young Leonard. That night their fathers were both killed, after a car crashed into them on the wet road.
Back to their present day, Leonard wakes up to Hap sitting by him at the hospital. They’d been out several days. The two of them ruminate on their relationship, Leonard talks of the war. However, things feel fractured, and it’s possible this has forever altered their relationship. Also, Hap ends up being questioned by FBI and local law enforcement. They want to know about the job Howard and Trudy enlisted him for, as well as Leonard, and all about the car in the river, so forth. Turns out Angel and Soldier were on the radar awhile. But as for Hap Collins, he’s in the clear currently.
Hap sets out to find the hidden goods himself. Mostly, he finds old sentimentality, and a little bit of dog shit. Leading him to a ton of money jammed into the dog food. Stacks of bills inside; lots chewed, some no worse for the wear.
What I love about this series is the emotional aspect. Joe R. Lansdale writes great crime fiction, but writes even better characters within that framework. He gets into Southern Gothic at times, even a bit of a take on the hardboiled detective genre. Above all else, he is a crafty writer whose characters, particularly those of Hap and Leonard, leap off the page. Here, they are adapted incredibly well, and especially Hap is a touching, complex character. Purefoy gives a wonderful performance, nuanced, and brings out the best in Hap. So watching him cobble together all the cash, for Leonard, for the Children’s Trust Fund, it is a real class act type sequence. Because we really recognize the goodness in Hap here, despite him getting wrapped up in ridiculous schemes such as the one Howard and Trudy had going.
More than that, we see another scene of young Hap, who witnesses the police covering up the drunk driving deaths, blaming it on young Leonard’s father being a “coon” and all. So not only is there a bond between the two boys, there’s further evidence as to why Hap became the man he is now. A beautiful and sad scene all at once.
Three months down the road. Hap’s back to working in the rose field, drinking Silver Spurs by the handful at night, smoking his pipe. Then up turns Leonard, healthy, if not a little banged up. He’s got to attend the funeral of his uncle. Regardless of the rift between them, Leonard cares for the man, seemingly always did. And good ole Hap accompanies his friend to the burial. Whatever had come between them before, the wildness of the things in which they got involved, it’s now lightening, but that’s always been clear – these two are friends for life, and even if something gets in their way briefly it would have to be a life altering event for them to completely split apart.
Hap remarks how life is not like Leave It to Beaver, there isn’t always closure and things don’t always cauterize at the end of an episode, to provide relief, so it all can start fresh next time. Ironically, this is the case. For the moment, anyways. Because after Hap turns out the light stating “No more drama for a while,” below Uncle Chester’s house, buried under the floorboards, is the skeleton of a small child. What sort of misadventure will this bring in Season 2? This opens the setup for Lansdale’s novel Mucho Mojo from the Hap and Leonard series, a dark bit of subject matter, too.
Let’s root hard that SundanceTV does the right thing and gives this a renewal. Lansdale deserves it, as do Hap and Leonard because there’s so much more to explore with them – their relationship, their world and its landscape – and many stories to be told! A great, fun, and at times wild season.
Season 1, Episode 10: “Morton’s Fork”
Directed by Matt Shakman
Written by Noah Hawley
* For a review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage” – click here
* For reviews of Fargo Season 2 starting with “Waiting for Dutch” – click here
The finale of Fargo‘s amazing first season has come. Aw, geez.
“Morton’s Fork” commences where we last left Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), whose wide eyes and open mouth gape at Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) having just killed his new wife Linda (Susan Park) at the insurance office.
Now, we start to glimpse into the newly criminal mind of Lester. He’s become a ruthless, terrible man. Especially when compared to the meek and mild person he was at the beginning in “The Crocodile’s Dilemma”. Beginning to piece together an alibi in his head, Lester crafts things out of nothing. First, he places the car keys in Linda’s dead hand. Secondly, he goes over to the diner where Lou Solverson (Keith Carradine) receives him with a warm smile. He orders, for both himself and Linda, then rushes out to the bathroom, supposedly, making a call from a phone booth to report the shots fired. Slick? We’ll see.
Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) is relaxing at home with her stepdaughter Greta (Joey King) and husband Gus (Colin Hanks). Then she gets a call about the murder: “The other one now?” asks Molly.
Meeting Chief Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk) at the crime scene, Molly goes over things as he keeps back, for fear of vomiting at the sight of more blood. Then Lester shows up, his grief coming through in “aw geez” over and over. Putting on a show for the officers, he pretends to start crying, wobbling and almost falling over. But sneaking one last moment with his wife’s body, Lester attempts to grab the airline tickets in her pocket. No such luck, buddy boy.
Gus: “What‘s that now?”
Molly: “Someone killed the second Mrs. Nygaard.”
At a cabin in the woods, listening to his police scanner, Malvo cooks up a little food on the stove, as well as grabs hold of a few key materials: gun, jimmy stick to steal cars.
Meanwhile, FBI Agents Pepper and Budge (Keegan Michael Key & Jordan Peele) are waiting at the Bemidji Police Department. They’re getting ready to question Lester. However, Lou appears so he can tell Molly about the strange man he’d met at the diner – though he can’t be sure, the security footage picture she shows him looks like it could be Lorne. When Molly asks her father to check up on the family at home, he replies: “Screw that. Goin‘ home and gettin‘ my gun is what I‘m doing. Sit on the front porch. Make sure my granddaughter‘s safe.” Love, love, love Keith Carradine as Lou Solverson. Amazing.
Outside the P.D., Malvo shows up and takes a little black notebook from the car which Pepper and Budge drive. Off he goes, as Lester is being questioned by Molly, Bill, and the two agents. Budge and Pepper want to know more about the wandering evil that is Lorne Malvo. Trying to gain more favour from Bill, Lester gets shut down; no more help from the bumbling chief. Once Nygaard lawyers up things shut down, but Molly warns him: “He‘s not gonna stop. Y‘know that right? A man like that… maybe not even a man.”
Bill (to Molly): “I used to have positive opinions about the world, you know, about people. Used to think the best. Now I‘m looking over my shoulder. An unquiet mind, that‘s what the wife calls it. The job has got me staring into the fireplace, drinking. I never wanted to be the type to think big thoughts about the nature of things and… all I ever wanted was a stack of pancakes and a V8.”
Out on his own, Gus is determined to try and do right. Or at least prevent Molly from having to wade into the river of blood which Malvo always brings with him. Gus heads over to the cabin in the woods where he’d seen the red car parked – the one in which he was sure he’d seen Malvo. Then, from out the door comes the man himself. Lorne drives away with Gus sneaking around quietly.
Malvo is starting to put another plan into motion. He’s calling into the Bemidji P.D. to get the names of the FBI Agents Budge and Pepper. Then to the FBI Operations, cancelling any back-up and claiming things there are a “dead end“. What’s about to happen next? Well, Lorne goes to a car dealership and finds the exact same Ford model as the undercover FBI vehicles. He asks to test drive it, taking the owner with him.
When Agents Pepper and Budge pull out of the station, Lester in tow (being released though still watched), Malvo isn’t far behind in his identical car. Back at his place, Lester is sweating it out in nervousness, awaiting his own next move.
Lou: “What are you plannin‘ on doin‘ with that?”
Greta: “If he comes, I‘ll put his eye out. You can finish him off.”
Lou: “That‘s my girl”
At the Nygaard place, Agents Pepper and Budge sit waiting, watching. Out of nowhere, up pulls another car just like the one in which they’re sat. They’re not sure whether it’s backup or not. Guns drawn, they ask the driver to exit their vehicle. To no response. Coming up next to the window, realizing the man inside – the car dealer – is duct taped to the wheel, Budge and Pepper are both shot to death by Malvo, emerging from the snowy forest behind them.
Rifling through his suitcase and tossing things everywhere, Lester is trying to determine the next step. Just out the front door he spies trails of blood, an open empty FBI car. Panic sets in.
Malvo pushes his way into the house. In the bathroom upstairs he can hear a frantic Lester calling for help on the phone. A few more steps and – BAM – Lorne steps right into the bear trap Lester set on the floor, covered with all those clothes he tossed out of his luggage. What I love most? Lorne throws the Salesman of the Year award and breaks Lester’s nose; giving him an injury to match the one he had in the first episode, bringing things full circle. Except when the dust settles, Lorne is gone, having escaped from the trap in a bloody mess. The car outside is nowhere to be found. As Lester closes his front door, a look crosses his face, an almost grin, as if believing he’s finally run the wolf off his trail.
The episode’s final 15 minutes see Lorne heading back to the cabin in the woods. His leg is brutal, bleeding everywhere. He manages to pop some drugs via needle into his system, then sets the bone very craftily with a small length of rope. But when he begins to start tending to his wound, Lorne finds himself surprised by none other than Gus Grimly pointing a gun his way. Gus says he’s figured out the “shades of green” riddle. Then, when an angry Malvo insists on hearing what the answer is, Gus only fires on him, blowing a few holes through his chest. A couple more shots and then the wandering evil of Malvo has come to an end. A fitting finish for Lorne, but even more so Gus, whose earlier mistakes are finally cauterized by the shooting. He’s proved himself and made right what once went wrong. You betcha.
A great finish to the season includes Lester being finally caught, chased out onto the ice where he falls through into the dead cold waters, as well as the Solverson-Grimly family sitting together, watching television and letting their lives go back to normal.
This, along with Season 2, is some of the best television ever made. Some of my favourite, up there with The Shield, The Knick, and a handful of others.
Please, if you haven’t, check out my reviews for Season 2 and let me know your thoughts on all the episodes. And until 2017 brings us Season 3 of Noah Hawley’s intense, funny, and consistently fascinating series – enjoy.
Will, Hannibal, and the Great Red Dragon come face to face.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 1, Episode 12: “Afterbirth”
Directed by Bradley Buecker (Glee, The New Normal)
Written by Jessica Sharzer
* For a review of the previous episode, “Birth” – click here
We start off this finale, “Afterbirth”, with a flashback to a time when there seemed to be hope for Ben and Vivien Harmon (Dylan McDermott/Connie Britton). They’re trying somehow to make it work, obviously after he has pissed all over their marriage vows. Ben shows her the house – dear ole Murder House – saying they ought to give it a chance, it might be the way to find their groove again. He says he could see it like a movie, they were all there, around the fire, together once more as a true family. It’s one of those excellent scenes done in hindsight; we’re able to look back at all the horrible, terrifying events of Season 1 and say “Yeah okay Ben” when he says that it feels as if there is hope for them in the house. Tragically funny.
With the baby around now, Vivien dead, Ben Harmon is left to himself. He’s trying to take care of the baby, but clearly Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) does not want the child to go back into the wretched Murder House. While I don’t necessarily think the baby is going to turn out all right no matter where it goes – being a child of Tate (Evan Peters) after all – there’s part of Constance which does care for the child. Things went so awfully wrong with Tate, she only wants another child, another chance, in order to not raise a monster; ultimately, it’s all about how she feels her child and his actions reflect on her, not how much she cares about Tate. She is a selfish woman. Many of her intentions are spot on and righteous, however, the way she goes about putting them into action leave a lot to be desired.
At the same time, Ben now becomes aware of Tate being Constance’s son. Further and further his reality is beginning to slip away and become something of a memory. All around him are the ghosts of the house, which now include his own wife and daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga).
I love the smeared lens style look so many shots have, as the ghosts are around Ben and he’s sort of wandering through their garden, so to speak. This really makes things look surreal and the atmosphere takes on an eerie feel simply from the perspective itself. We feel disoriented watching all of this, but it’s meant in an effective way to produce a required feeling; not meant to make us turn away or feel uncomfortable, it’s disorienting in the way we’re drawn into that surreal world. This technique is a classic by now in the universe of American Horror Story, one of those staples of the series, so I think that’s something which works incredibly well. So many psychological horrors will use that style, yet it isn’t overplayed or anything. Used correctly, it puts us into that shaky emotional space where psychologically strange scenes often need to play out.
There is a ton of tragedy in “Afterbirth”. While Vivien and Violet make their own amends with Ben, and decides not to kill himself to be with his family as originally planned, Hayden (Kate Mara) has other plans. Along with Dallas (Kyle Davis) and Fiona (Azura Skye) – the serial killer enthusiasts from “Home Invasion” – she strings Ben up via noose and hangs him until dead from the chandelier.
Just as everything seemed to be going right for Ben, maybe a turning point in his life somehow, there come the ghosts to keep him stuck within the walls.
It’s funny because I’d honestly thought after “Birth”, the season could’ve ended with a bit more time; maybe add another 15 minutes to that penultimate episode and there was the season finale.
But then in “Afterbirth”, we get a really great episode. A new family comes to move in as Marcy (Christine Estabrook), the sly real estate agent she is, doesn’t disclose the ENTIRE history of Murder House; only the recent tragedy of the Harmons. This gives us an interesting chapter for the season’s close.
Super cool aspect to this finale is how we’re seeing the crowded ghosts bumping up against one another. While Violet meets the new teenage boy in the house, Gabriel Ramos (Brennan Mejia), in the background we see Tate – jealous and hateful as ever – watching her with him, no doubt probably plotting whatever his next murderous move might be in the depths of Murder House.
Then there’s a chilling moment where Miguel and Stacy Ramos (Anthony Ruivivar/Lisa Vidal) say they may want a baby, to make the place less lonely after their teenage son moves off to college. Ben and Vivien watch on, unnoticed by the living, and realize this nice couple ought not to have a child in that place. AMAZING SCENE! So visually excellent, as the Ramos couple begins to heavy pet and makeout, almost near sex, and Moira (Frances Conroy) stands over them in the kitchen to tell the Harmons they’ll need some help in getting the Ramos family out of there; other ghosts are vengeful, hateful entities.
Before, the house was trying hard to get a baby, now that the Harmons are newly ghosted on the property they’re more concerned with trying to help another family get away from Murder House.
The spirits are all trying to drive this new family out. Even Tate – he’s no longer concerned with impregnating the wife of the house, he wants to get the teenage boy out so Violet won’t stray away. Although Violet wants nothing to do with Tate, he is constantly misguided in the afterlife.
Even Beau (Sam Kinsey) gets in on the action, scaring Mrs. Ramos in the hallway, as Ben Harmon suits up in the Rubber Man outfit and tries to crawl on top of her in the bedroom. Incredibly well executed sequence, as almost every one of the Murder House ghosts appears to the Ramos family in an attempt to scare them away forever. Elizabeth Short (Mena Suvari) also materializes, Glasgow Smile and all, cut in half and bleeding all over the place. Macabre bunch of nastiness! Phil Critter (W. Earl Brown) bumps into the Ramos husband in the hallway. In the basement, Vivien tears Ben’s guts out in front of the Ramos family, before Ben shoots his deceased wife in the forehead, each exclaiming “You don‘t know how long I‘ve been waiting to do that.”
Another thing about the finale that hit me right in the excellent horror nerve is how they circled back to the Pilot, using that initial song the saucy twins were prancing around to at the beginning. I always love those circular motions in films and television shows. Especially with a series, because we’re harkening back a good ways to revisit things that sometimes we might even forget. Such is the case with the scene where the Ramos family speedily runs out of the house, not worried about their belongings, and the Harmons stand on the porch, lamenting that another family will only move on in eventually; the whole we’re listening to that strange, eerily unsettling song from the Pilot directed by Ryan Murphy, it’s called “Tonight, You Belong To Me” by Patience and Prudence. Effective moment that always gets me when I watch it.
Still, above all else in this episode, I think the best moment of “Afterbirth” is the very finish. Obviously nobody thought the baby – Michael – was going to turn out all right in the end, but what we’re able to see is how as he grows up he becomes more and more like his evil father Tate.
When Constance goes to check on Michael in the final scene, the boy is now slightly older. We’ve flashed forward three years. He is also now starting to grow into his skin, as the true son of his father. The bloody handprints on the rocking chair, Constance’s face as she sees the dead woman on the bedroom floor – it’s so creepy and shocking at once. Really nice horror movie reveal and it works incredibly for the last thing we see in Season 1.
So much of what happened in the house boils down to Constance and Tate, and so I find it’s only fitting she is the last character we see before the season closes. A great way to show how the violence and madness and depravity of Murder House will never fade, as long as there is a child or offspring of some sort related to the house still breathing and living. Bernard Herrmann’s Twisted Nerve score, previously played as Tate massacred his high school classmates, comes in eerily just as the scene comes to a close and it’s like echoes of Michael’s father are literally in our ears. Beautifully macabre piece to finish.