American Horror Story: Review: Season 1 Eps 11 & 12

FX 14 & 21 December

The battle for Connie’s babies heats up as everyone in the house (alive or dead) play their parts…

The final two episodes of the first season of American Horror Story provide a satisfying conclusion to an unusually outré tale that has brought a new genre to American television: the seasonal anthology series in which each subsequent season features a new set of characters in a new situation, but under the same umbrella title (something Heroes initially promised, but failed to follow through with).

Vivien returns home in ‘Birth’ and the episode builds to the event of the title. With the ghosts of Chad and Patrick, Ben’s ex, Hayden and even Mrs Nora Montgomery, wife of the house’s original ‘mad doctor’, all making their own plans for the babies coming into the house, this is a far-from-normal birth.

With mad doctor Charles Montgomery and the nurses murdered in 1968 helping out, the Harmon twins are born, with ghost Nora making away with the stillborn one, while the second goes to Constance (the superb Jessica Lange). Vivien’s death in childbirth and her reconnection with her already dead daughter, Violet, gives a huge hint of the ultimate finishing point of this story. While too much time is spent on a distracting sub-plot that sees Violet deal with a non-existent banishing spell, this penultimate episode of the series is largely set-up for the all-out finale.

‘After Birth’ hit a season ratings high of over three million, rewarding FX’s decision to renew the show despite the fact that this season concludes the Harmons’ tale. An opening flashback takes us back to the set up of the first episode of the series, bringing out the irony in the fact that Ben is the last member of the family remaining. Visited by the ghosts of his wife and daughter, Ben is saved from suicide only to be murdered by Hayden and Mad Larry anyway. Now the entire family are ghostly members of the household, seen in a satisfying (if unconventional) family unit around a Christmas tree, and happy to help drive out the house’s prospective new residents.

Perhaps most disappointing, yet necessary thing about these final two episodes is the inevitable emotional sidelining of high school killer Tate by Violet. Given everything he’s done (and finally admits to in the final episode), there’s no way back for him, condemned to an eternity of being trapped with Violet in the house but never being able to reconnect with her.

Verdict: The family that haunts together, stays together… whether they like it or not.

Episode 11 ‘Birth’: 8/10

Episode 12 ‘After Birth’: 8/10

Brian J. Robb

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