Entertainment Magazine

Review #3107: American Ghost Story 1.5: “Halloween: Part II”

Posted on the 04 November 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

It may be November for us viewers, but Halloween night isn’t over for the Harmons just yet. I was skeptical that this episode could successfully follow-up the first part, but it does succeed, surprisingly well. Rather than attempt to top the insanity of the previous episode, the episode shifts its focus to the threat posed by Hayden, and explores a central mystery of the show through Tate and Violet’s experiences.

Review #3107: American Ghost Story 1.5: “Halloween: Part II”

It’s no wonder Ben wasn’t surprised to see Hayden. Apparently, he’d just immediately assumed that Larry and Hayden had tried to pull some sort of scam on him. Recent events have been particularly hard on Ben, and tonight he seems to go even further over the edge than before, coming pretty close to beating Larry to death. Later, he viciously yanks a kitchen knife from the holder, giving Vivien reason to doubt his sanity. Everything that’s happening to the Harmons has happened to everyone else who ever lived in this house (with Ben being set to become the next Larry). It may be that the house is just plain “bad”, but I think it might be amusing if “American Horror Story” borrowed the old “Indian burial ground” trope.

Hayden was unbalanced enough when she was alive, so having her running around the house, still angry over being murdered, is enough to create some of the show’s best suspense material so far. I may not care about Vivien that much, but the prospect of seeing her unborn child forcefully cut out of her with a piece of glass is enough to create some tension. It was interesting to see the abortionist’s wife coming to Ben’s rescue. The house seemingly wanted Vivien’s baby to die, but the abortionist’s wife doesn’t want this to happen again. Thus, Ben is able to talk Hayden down by confessing the complete truth to Vivien. He’d gone back to see Hayden after the discovery of the affair, which resulted in Hayden becoming pregnant.

“American Horror Story” is a tough show to review, because it isn’t always very clear why the show works. It’s tempting to say that “it just does”, and leave it at that. But I don’t really think that the show is completely beyond analysis. Like most people, I love a good mystery, and “American Horror Story” has that in spades. I like seeing that a showrunner (or showrunners in this case) has actually put some extensive thought into the inner workings of his/her/their show and know how to skillfully dole out the information in an entertaining format.

“American Horror Story” is fun to watch, because it knows how to pace itself and toss out new bits of information at just the right time. This episode shed a lot of light on Tate, revealing that he went on a violent shooting spree at a high school back in the 70s (which means that he’s dead?). The nature of Halloween night seems to allow for his old victims to come back to haunt him. Oddly, Tate doesn’t remember any of this (though he does seem to get a few brief flashes of the experience, suggesting that it’s buried in his mind somewhere). This does, of course, explain the dream Tate related to Ben in the pilot episode.

What’s strange is that Tate seems to have undergone something of a character transformation over the last few episodes. He started out as this obviously psychotic genius who seemed more demonic than human, but more recently he’s started to become somewhat normalized, and even a bit sympathetic. Could this be a result of the drugs and therapy Ben has been treating Tate with? The episode suggests that Violet has some sort of connection with the supernatural (like what Addie had), which is apparently one of the reasons Tate is so attracted to her. And there’s also the reveal that Tate is Constance’s son. Constance did reference a son who “turned out just right” in an earlier episode.

I’m really glad that I’ve stuck with this show, because it’s starting to reward my patience in satisfying way. It’s not an enormously cerebral show, but it is a show that expects a certain degree of intelligence from its audience. I like that the show doesn’t seem to care whether its audience “gets it” or not, but boldly goes about its offbeat approach. Each episode has its flaws, but I can’t really describe any one of them as filler, so far. I don’t know how many episodes this season will have, but it would make sense for the show to stick with a smaller number. Now it’s all a matter of whether they can maintain this level of consistency for the rest of the season.

Rating: 8/10

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