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American Horror Story: A Look Back
At first after seeing trailer after trailer on this show I didn't think much of it. Ever since seeing the opening scene of the pilot, I have been hooked. The story revolves around the Harmon family. It is a bit of a broken family as Ben Harmon, the father of young rebellious Violet and husband of Vivien, is first seen cheating on Vivien with one of his patients. Ben is a shrink who sees his patients in the comfort of his own house and Vivien comes home early after a check up with a doctor to catch him in the act with one of his patients. Adding insult to injury, before than Vivien had a gruesome miscarriage where the child she had been carrying was dead inside her for quite some time. Ben chalks up his infidelity to burying his grief in between the legs of a younger woman seeing as how he hadn't been able to touch his wife since the miscarriage. Ben and Vivien try to work things out and decide a change of scenery would benefit them greatly, hopefully. They move from Boston to California and move into a beautiful house that carries it's fair share of baggage just like the Harmon's. The Harmon's find out through their real estate agent that the house is being sold at a cheaper price because of the murder's that took place on the property, the fact doesn't scare the Harmon's off and decide to take it.
The Harmon's begin to move into the house not fully noticing the weird kinks in the house. At one point Ben finds a black plastic suit in the cellar to which they think nothing off but that suit has creeped into the plot of the show a couple times in the four episodes that have aired already. Violet develops a relationship with one of Ben's new clients that he is seeing in the area named Tate. Tate is a troubled child who doesn't deal with rejection very well and is quite mysterious even through the past four episodes. All that is really known about him is the fact that he knows a lot about the house and truly cares for the Harmon's as he saved them from intruders in the second episode.
The Harmon's also have a very intrusive next door neighbor in Constance who is played by Jessica Lange. Constance and her daughter Adelaide frequently come in and out of the Harmon household and their only response as to why is that they are very familiar with the house. It is also revealed that Constance once lived in the house where she found her husband cheating on her with Moira the young red-headed housemaid. When Constance found them she pulled a handgun and shot Moira through the eye killing her instantly, and saved multiple bullets for her husband. Moira is still somehow connected to the house as Vivien hires her in the first episode to be the housemaid. She comes off to Vivien as a innocent and nice old lady who is very familiar with the house but then through Ben's eyes he sees a young and seductive red-headed woman who constantly makes sexual advances on him. Moira, Tate and Constance remain to be three of the most intriguing characters of the show as they clearly know more about the house then they let on to the Harmon's.
Ben is frequently visited by Larry Harvey, a disfigured and insane man that explains to Ben that he needs to take his family and get out of the house. He tells Ben that he was driven mad by the house and the end result meant the death of his family and disfigurement of himself. Ben dismisses it to Larry being a sociopath, but when Larry asks if Ben sleep walks or blackouts it grabs Ben's attention. In the first episode Ben is seen having multiple episodes of sleep walking and then in the third episode he has multiple blackouts. The blackouts in fact happen during his job when he is helping a woman who says that her husband doesn't listen to him. When he experiences a blackout in front of her it drives it to kill herself. He doesn't know this at first and throughout the episode he wonders if he was indeed the killer. Adding to his stress throughout the episode he is also approached by Hayden, the woman he cheated on Vivian with. In the second episode he traveled to Boston to see Hayden and help her through her abortion. However, he left in such a hurry she decided to keep the baby and tell Vivian. Larry comes to the rescue of Ben in the form of a quick slap on Hayden's head with a shovel. It instantly kills her, and Ben who had been digging holes throughout his blackouts buries Hayden underground and builds a gazebo on top of the hole.
Larry is confusing character, but due to Denis O'Hare's portrayal of the character he may just be the most fun to watch. He effortlessly adds comedy to his character in spots you wouldn't expect comedy to be in all the while being incredibly mad. O'Hare's portrayal of Larry and Lange's performance as Constance have been two of the biggest bright spots of the show as the two are terrific actors.
The black plastic suit that Ben found in the attic still remains to be the most mysterious part of the entire show thus far. Toward the end of the pilot we see Vivien getting ready for bed only to find at her bedroom door a man in the black plastic suit. She assumes it is Ben trying to spice things up a bit and the two have sex. However, during this scene we are also shown Ben downstairs sleep walking about to burn himself. It is still presumable that it is Ben inside the suit, but it is also presumable that it was not Ben at all. The most disturbing part of this is the episode ends with Vivien revealing to Ben that she is pregnant, we are not told how much time has past but it can't be that long of time in between. In the most recent episodes there has been complications with the baby, that is still unknown as to what those complications where however. I have a theory that when Vivien and Ben went to the hospital and the nurse passed out after doing a ultrasound that the nurse saw a deformed baby in Vivien's stomach. The fact that in the episode it was mentioned that the house's first owner tried to sew his baby back together after it was killed has to tie into the story we are being presented in the present timeline. In the same episode the viewers are shown a gay couple that lived in the house in 2010 that was murdered by the black plastic man.
The show is disturbing, but not scary. I do realize it can scare people, but I don't scare easily so I'll take that into consideration. The writing and direction is amazingly well done and is the main reason why it has me hooked. The performances from Dylan McDermott as Ben Harmon have been okay week to week, but he could improve. Connie Britton as the grief stricken Vivien Harmon has been about what you'd expect. The show benefits greatly from seasoned actors like Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy, Denis O'Hare and newcomer Zachary Quinto. The show benefits from having Conroy, O'Hare and Quinto as all three are used to being apart of a television show. Conroy was on the television show Six Feet Under, O'Hare has appeared on multiple episodes of True Blood and Quinto appeared as the villain in Heroes.
Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have done a fantastic job in setting up this creepy horror/thriller story and creating likable characters that keep the viewers engaged in the story that is being told. I question the show's longevity but every episode has been fresh and wildly entertaining.