FX’s American Horror Story
Season 1, Episode 6: “Piggy Piggy”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl (Shameless, Ray Donovan, The Walking Dead)
Written by Jessica Sharzer
* For a review of the previous episode, “Halloween: Part II” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Open House” – click here
The opening sequence of “Piggy Piggy” fittingly goes further into the story of Tate Langdon (Evan Peters) by examining the horrifying act which took him into the afterlife, as we were pretty much all but explicitly told in the last episodes “Halloween: Part I” & “Halloween: Part II.”
Harkening back to now sadly commonplace shootings like the infamous Columbine High School shooting, we watch the high school kids – the dead ones – from last episode, but here they are alive. Then the gunshots ring out. Eventually, a boy in a long trench coat approaches, his facepaint faded no doubt from working up a sweat killing his classmates. He walks around the library, as the others hide, and one by one he blows them away.
This is absolutely chilling stuff. In 2011 we can look back at this stuff, even though it’s not actually that far in the past yet – not at all – and now we can examine it, through literature, film, television. Back in late 1999 after the real Columbine and even a few years down the road, nobody would have been willing to put this kind of stuff into a television show. At least not that I can remember, anyways. But I guess that’s been one of the greatest parts about networks like HBO, AMC, FX, Showtime (and so on) picking up steam and leading the charge in one hour dramas. We’re getting to see stuff with more depth than all the normal bullshit regular networks spew out by the dozens upon dozens each year.After our flashback we come to present day, as Violet Harmon (Taissa Farmiga) is beginning to comprehend exactly who Tate is, and perhaps everything else that’s going on in dear ole Murde House.
Luckily, even while she’s freaking out, Violet has Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) to lean on. Of course, Constance wants to help her son. In comes Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson), a self-styled psychic who is friends with Constance. She helps explain Tate doesn’t realize he’s dead, either, so they need to help him crossover to the other side. This is a welcomed and interesting addition to the season.
Creepy little scene as Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton) has a dream of herself, big pregnant stomach, and a strange claw-like stroke or two against the flesh. She screams, waking herself. Awesome stuff! Almost felt Rosemary’s Baby-ish.
More of the family dynamic is being stressed to the max. Luke (Morris Chestnut) seems to be getting friendly with Vivien, not in a weird way but still there is a slight tension of sorts between the two. Husband Ben (Dylan McDermott) is living elsewhere for the time being, only coming back to conduct his patients’ sessions. This obviously causes friction, then naturally the presence of Luke sets Ben on edge; cheaters are always the most jealous types.
This episode is fun because Eric Stonestreet guest stars as Derek, a name patient of Ben’s whose fear of urban legends near paralyzes him completely socially. Worst of all is the latest – Piggy Man. The supposed legend of a hog butcher in 1893, during the World Fair; he slaughtered pigs wearing a pig mask made from one of the dead pigs, he would snort at them, killing. One day he slipped, the pigs supposedly ate every bit of him. However, later on customers of his began disappearing. It’s a Bloody Mary type legend, if repeated in the mirror three times – “Here Piggy Pig Pig” – the Piggy Man will turn up and slaughter YOU!
I love it because urban legends are so fun. They’re a blast because so many of them take realistic forms; you imagine, why not – why couldn’t that happen? But also Stonestreet does an awesome job with his character, so scared and socially disturbed all due to his own mind, warping these urban legends into palpable, real life events that could happen to him, only him. He’s only in a single episode, yet I really enjoy his performance. I’ve honestly never ever seen/noticed him in anything else. Here, he does well.
And unfortunately for patient Derek, when Ben has him go into the bathroom at Murder House and try the Piggy Man game, one of the house’s many ghosts (this time it’s one of the nurses who was murdered in 1968) shows up and frightens the life out of him. It’s almost funny, in a darkly comic way, yet I feel so badly for the guy. He even tells Ben: “I’m broken!” He picked the wrong house to go to for a psychiatrist.
More devilish stuff happening, as Constance brings by thymus glands and a pancreas for Vivien to eat. Y’know – for the unborn baby. A bit of offal will do the trick. Moira (Frances Conroy) happily fries the sweetbreads up for Mrs. Harmon and also gives a bit of womanly advice. Great, as well as weird scene. There’s a genuine tense atmosphere here, then we watch Vivien consume the meaty delights, now fried into little nuggets. Except the pancreas – Moira left that uncooked.
Can you sense where this is going? Can you tell why these meats ought to be fed to the baby? Especially raw pancreas.. hmmm. The little growing baby might have a taste for raw stuff. Perhaps it might even need… human stuff. Who knows. Because after all, it might not be Ben who got Vivien pregnant. Mr. Rubber Man had a little something, possibly, to do with that.
And as Constance says they NEED a baby. Better yet, the house needs one.
Poor Violet is having the hardest time coming to terms with everything around her, from the pain her mother is going through with a cheating father, to coming to terms with Tate and his awful history of murder. Seeing such a tender side to Tate in the afterlife, Violet has a difficult time understand how someone like him could’ve killed all those kids at school. There’s a great and depressing scene with Violet and one of the teachers who was shot by Tate – now in a wheelchair. Awesome scene, but it is definitely sad.
Now she’s seeing all the ghosts of the house, she is becoming more aware of everything going on around her. However, Violet takes a ton of pills in order to kill herself. Tate finds her and tries to save her, hauling her into a cold shower, sticking fingers down her throat. It’s tough because Tate obviously doesn’t realize he is dead, so he fights and fights to keep Violet alive. There’s this great irony in all of that situation.
Vivien ends up meeting the ultrasound technician who fainted while reading her sonogram. This part was incredible because it turns out she saw “the hooves” and it was “the beast“, “plague of nations“. Obviously Vivien believes nothing the woman says, thinking her crazy, and leaves the church (of all places) where they met. The scene works so well and further makes you wonder why Constance and Moira insist on feeding her internal organs; that baby ain’t quite right.
I’m also conflicted about how to feel concerning Constance. While I think part of her is truthful, she seems a bit of an actress in the end; we know she wanted to be one. But the show she puts on, as if she loved Addie (Jamie Brewer), I don’t know how honest it truly is when it comes down to brass tacks. Because we saw the cruelty and even awkward, misguided jealousy Constance threw on Addie while alive. She locked her in the closet, accused her of trying to steal her boyfriends. I mean, are we really supposed to believe Constance loved her? Perhaps it’s all just after the fact, she realizes how wonderful Addie was and what a treasure of a daughter she had. Either way, I love Jessica Lange and her performance – Constance is the type of character you hate to love, and love to hate at separate times.
Though Tate is a mass murderer, I do feel bad for his ghostly self. He has no idea that he’s in the afterlife, stuck wandering the house but with no clue as to why, or even that it’s happening. He’s in love with Violet, he confesses it straight up. Also, though, he understands she’s changed in some way towards him. She doesn’t say anything, but we know that Violet knows about him; everything from the shooting to the fact he’s dead, a spirit left stuck in the middle somewhere.
Great episode. Moved things along nicely in terms of plot, as well as character development.
Next episode up is “Open House” directed by Tim Hunter – an accomplished television director, whose work also includes the dark modern classic River’s Edge starring a young Keanu Reeves and Crispin Glover, Dennis Hopper, along with other well-known faces.
Stay tuned for another review, horror fans!