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Review #3198: American Horror Story 1.12: “Afterbirth”

Posted on the 23 December 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

(Note: This review was written prior to the announcement from the producers that the second season would feature a completely new cast, story, etc.)

It could be said that the appropriately titled finale, “Afterbirth”, struggles a bit to compete with the previous episode, considering that “Birth” was the real climax of the season, while “Afterbirth” functions a bit more like an epilogue and a bridge into the next season. I expected Ben to die in the finale, but his death came at a much earlier point than anticipated, and occurred with surprisingly little dramatic fanfare. I thought that the buildup to Ben’s death and the conflict over the Antichrist infant would comprise the bulk of the episode, but “Afterbirth” has a grander scope in mind.

Review #3198: American Horror Story 1.12: “Afterbirth”

I think a lot of fans predicted that the second season might revolve around a new family that’s moved into the murder house, but now I’m not sure what to expect from the second season. I’m actually rather glad that the finale took so little time to deal with the issue of a new family in the home, with the Harmons and all their ghost allies mounting a very effective plan to scare the new family off. We’re led to believe that the Harmons, and the others, will continue doing this for as long as is necessary. I’m not terribly interested in seeing yet another family go through the same exact thing all over again. I think the idea is interesting, but not interesting enough to be stretched out over a whole season.

Once Ben is dead, the episode is all about transitioning into a new status quo for the second season. It’s a pretty open-ended finish, all things considered. I think any number of predictions could be made as to where the show will go from here. At the very least, it seems clear that Constance and the Antichrist child will play a significant role in the second season. That final scene leave little doubt of the boy’s true nature. The three year time jump makes sense. For this season it was “Rosemary’s Baby”, and for the second season I suspect that “The Omen” will be an even bigger influence.

I’ve said in the past that I’m not as interested in the parts of the show that borrow too heavily from existing horror works, and I think that the Antichrist element is the most egregious example of this. But the show has generally done an impressive job of putting its own unique spin on these existing tropes of the horror genre, so my hope is that they’ll find a way to do the same for the Antichrist story-line. What I really want out of the second season is for the show to continue expanding its mythology. It seems likely that the murder house is only a small part of a much bigger picture that will slowly be revealed to us over subsequent seasons.

It seems unlikely, though, that the murder house and the ghosts living within it will be completely removed from the picture. There’s still a lot of mystery left around the house itself. For instance, we still don’t know exactly why the house seems to trap souls and prevent them from fully passing on (I’m still gunning for the “Native American burial ground” theory). Constance still seems to be living next door (and now has to deal with yet another dead body). And it’s made pretty clear that Tate isn’t going to let Violet go any time soon. I suspect that the house (probably including the Harmons), Constance, and the Antichrist will all play a significant role in the second season, but that’s all I could reasonably predict.

Apparently, the finale was originally planned to be a half hour longer, but filming logistics forced series creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk to re-write the finale as a 90-minute episode instead. It’s possible that this resulted in the finale feeling a little rushed, and it’s also quite possible that the finale would have been slightly better as the two-hour episode it was originally intended to be. Conversely, one could argue that this resulted in a better-paced finale. Personally, my guess would be that I’d have preferred the longer version, given how well-structured the majority of the season has been.

The first season finale of “American Horror Story” is, for the most part, pretty much what we’ve come to expect from this show. It’s weird, unconventional, unsettling, and includes some of the show’s trademark black comedy. And, as always, it’s thoroughly entertaining; a fact that I often find inexplicable. “American Horror Story” has been such an unusual mixture of ideas that somehow seems to gel together into something that, while perhaps not masterful, is an engaging and fascinating experience that one does not easily forget. Given how accustomed I’ve become to the show’s general approach to storytelling, nothing in the finale comes as very much of a shock, but there were surprises.

Rating: 8/10

(Season 1 Final Average: 7.7)

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