Afterbirth (American Horror Story)

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"Afterbirth"
American Horror Story episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 12
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Jessica Sharzer
Featured music "El Infiél" by
Marvelous Toy
"The Little Drummer Boy" by
The Harry Simeone Chorale
"Tonight You Belong to Me" by
Patience and Prudence
"Twisted Nerve" by
Bernard Herrmann
Production code 1ATS11
Original air date December 21, 2011 (2011-12-21)
Running time 52 minutes
Guest actors
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Birth"
Next →
"Welcome to Briarcliff"
American Horror Story (season 1)
List of American Horror Story episodes

"Afterbirth" is the twelfth episode of the first season of the television series American Horror Story and the season finale, which premiered on FX on December 21, 2011. The episode was written by Jessica Sharzer and directed by Bradley Buecker. Due to a very aggressive production schedule it was previously announced that the show's first season would be cut short. This was the last episode to feature the Harmons. Murphy announced that a new cast will return for the second season.

In the aftermath of family tragedy, Ben (Dylan McDermott) tries to take his child out of the Murder House. Meanwhile, Violet (Taissa Farmiga) and Vivien (Connie Britton) accustom themselves to their new living arrangements, Constance (Jessica Lange) raises Tate's child as her own and a new family buys the house.

The episode was well received by the majority of television critics and viewership and ratings for the episode reached a season high with 3.22 million. It garnered a 1.7 rating in the 18–49 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. This episode is rated TV-MA (LSV).

Plot[edit]

Nine months ago[edit]

In their Boston residence, after Vivien (Connie Britton) has caught Ben (Dylan McDermott) cheating on her, he begs her forgiveness, saying he would do anything to save their marriage. This includes getting out of Boston and moving to a different city. He shows her pictures of a great house in an older district of Los Angeles, claiming Vivien loves old houses. He tells her the price of the house is strangely lower than those around it, and that it would be a great place for the family to start over.

Present[edit]

Days after Vivien's death, Ben attempts to find Violet and Vivien in the house. He goes to see Constance (Jessica Lange), who has been taking care of the baby since Vivien's death. He discovers that she is Tate's mother, argues with her, threatens her and leaves with the child. Back at the house, Vivien wants to show herself to Ben to ease his sadness, but elder Moira (Frances Conroy) tells her it is better if she does not so Ben and the baby can leave.

Ben begins drinking and plans to commit suicide. Vivien appears and stops him. He then reconciles with Vivien and Violet's (Taissa Farmiga) ghosts, who encourage him to take the child and start a new life away from the house. Before he can, Hayden (Kate Mara), with the help of other ghosts, kills him by hanging him from a chandelier, making it look like a suicide. Hayden takes the baby away as hers. Constance reclaims the baby with Travis' (Michael Graziadei) assistance, who "kills" Hayden allowing Constance to leave with the baby. Later, she tells the police that she found Ben after he hanged himself and that Violet must have taken off with the baby, leaving without a trace.

The Harmons realize that the house is a danger to those living in it. They resolve to protect those families by scaring them away. Moira explains that while some ghosts in the house only wish the living to suffer the same fates they did, other ghosts are innocents and do not wish to see any more bloodshed. Both of Moira's ghostly forms (Conroy and Alexandra Breckenridge) and other ghosts, including nurse Gladys (Celia Finkelstein), Beau (Sam Kinsey), the burned Lorraine (Rebecca Wisocky), the exterminator (W. Earl Brown), and the Black Dahlia (Mena Suvari), join the Harmons to help scare new families away from the home.

Meanwhile, Tate (Evan Peters), still in love with Violet, tries to make her happy out of fear that she is alone. He attempts to kill Gabriel (Brennan Mejia), thinking he might be a better boyfriend for Violet. She stops Tate, helping the boy escape, and gently rejects him once more, telling him that she has her family and is not alone. Gabriel and his family flee the home, while the Harmons look on.

Tate then seeks counsel from Ben, who wants nothing to do with him, labeling him a psychopath. Tate is moved to finally admit his responsibility for the massacre, burning Larry, killing Chad and Patrick, and raping Vivien and attempts to apologize. Ben tells him that the only people who could forgive him for the awful things he has done are the ones he hurt directly.

In the basement, Vivien discovers that the other twin had actually lived for a brief moment after its birth before dying. Its spirit is being taken care of by Nora (Lily Rabe), who finds that she does not have the constitution to be a caring mother and returns the baby to Vivien. Vivien asks Moira to join their family as the baby's godmother, which she happily accepts. Together, as one happy family, they all celebrate Christmas by decorating a tree in the abandoned house with various ornaments found in the attic. Watching from outside, Hayden tells Tate that Violet will never forgive him for what he did and that he should get over her, but he resolves to wait, even if forever.

Three years later[edit]

Constance goes to a hair dresser who was concerned she had not seen Constance in a long time. Constance explains that she had been taking care of a baby, Michael. She tells the hairdresser that Michael's parents were distant relatives that died in an accident. She explains that she had hoped to be famous, to be important and that when her acting career didn't pan out and all of her problems with her children, she never thought she'd get to be important. And now she realized that all the tragedy was preparing her to be important and namely raise this child.

She leaves and returns home. Returning she calls for the babysitter. Finding blood on the floor and across the refrigerator, she looks for Michael and finds the babysitter dead on the floor of his room. There sits Michael in a chair with some blood on his face and on the arm of the chair. Constance smiles at him while wondering aloud what she's going to do about him. He smiles back.

Production[edit]

What you saw in the finale was the end of the Harmon house. The second season of the show will be a brand-new home or building to haunt. Just like this year, every season of this show will have a beginning, middle and end. [The second season] won't be in L.A. It will obviously be in America, but in a completely different locale."

— Murphy on American Horror Story's second season.[1]

The episode was written by consulting producer Jessica Sharzer and directed by Bradley Buecker.[2] Due to a "very aggressive" production schedule and the series' pilot shoot having to wait for co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's other show, Glee, to wrap its second season production, it was announced that the show's first season finale would be thirty minutes shorter than planned. An option was given to Murphy by the network to drop the thirteenth episode altogether and air an hour-long finale, but Murphy came up with a plan for a ninety-minute episode.[3]

After the episode aired, Murphy spoke of his plans to change the cast and location for the second season.[4] He did say, however, that some actors who starred in the first season would be returning. "The people that are coming back will be playing completely different characters, creatures, monsters, etc. [The Harmons] stories are done. People who are coming back will be playing entirely new characters," he announced.[1]

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Murphy commented on the structure of the series' first season. "I loved how it began. I loved it in the middle and I loved the end. The only thing really frustrating for me, to be honest with you, is that sometimes people would write this idea that we were making it up as we went along and I wanted to say, 'Really?' But I think now people are writing and saying, 'Oh yeah!' I'm excited for people to see it on DVD, because now that they know how it ended, [they can] go back and see all of the little things, like people who have no reflections in mirrors. When you go back, you will see everything was set up."[5] When asked if the House "pulled" the Harmons to it, Murphy responded: "I don’t know if they were targeted. I don’t think the Internet site had any supernatural pull to it… although that would have been hilarious. I thought it was two things: it was house porn because I think that house really is extraordinary. And also I think there’s always that allure in American lives of the fresh start, moving West, starting fresh."[5]

Reception[edit]

In its original American broadcast, "Afterbirth" was seen by an estimated 3.22 million household viewers and earned a 1.7 rating share among adults aged 18–49, according to Nielsen Media Research, its highest numbers of the season.[6] The first season tied with the TNT series Falling Skies as the biggest new cable series of the year among adults 18-49.[7]

The Star-Ledger James Queally commented about the season and its finale, "After a wildly uneven first nine episodes ... and two red-hot episodes leading up to the finale ... 'Afterbirth' starts out flying high at the way too fast pace that has made 'American Horror Story' an enjoyable ride these past two weeks. But somewhere in the final 30 minutes of this episode, 'Afterbirth' turns into a wandering epilogue."[8] Todd VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club stated, "Part of the fun of those early episodes — even when I really didn’t like them — was that you never quite had a good sense of what the hell kind of show you were watching. The finale sticks us into what seems to be a pretty basic setup for season two."[9] Tim Stack of Entertainment Weekly called "Afterbirth" "an exhilarating shocker."[5] Matt Fowler at IGN gave the episode a score eight out of ten, signifying a "great" rating. He stated: "'Afterbirth' was a very odd finale and I'm pretty sure that it was nothing like most of us thought it would be."[10]

The Horror Writers Association gave "Afterbirth" the 2011 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Screenplay.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Mullins, Jenna (December 22, 2011). "American Horror Story Season Two Scoop: New House and (Mostly) New Faces". E! Online. 
  2. ^ Jessica Sharzer (writer), Bradley Buecker (director) (December 21, 2011). "Afterbirth". American Horror Story. Season 8. Episode 19. FX.
  3. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (November 18, 2011).'American Horror Story' Two-Hour Finale Will Be Trimmed To 90 Minutes, Deadline.com, November 24, 2011.
  4. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (December 22, 2011). "‘American Horror Story’ Will Scare Up a New Cast and New Haunted Home for Season 2". The New York Times. Retrieved December 22, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c Stack, Tim (December 22, 2011). "'American Horror Story': Ryan Murphy talks the game-changing season finale -- EXCLUSIVE". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 22, 2011. 
  6. ^ Gorman, Bill (December 22, 2011). "Wednesday Cable Ratings: 'American Horror Story' Finale Rises, Leads Night + 'Sons Of Guns,' 'Moonshiners,' 'Top Chef', 'Hot In Cleveland' & More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved December 22, 2011. 
  7. ^ VanDerWerff, Todd. "American Horror Story to completely ditch season one characters, story, do something new in season two". The A.V. Club. Retrieved December 22, 2011. 
  8. ^ Queally, James (December 21, 2011). "'American Horror Story' finale review: 'Afterbirth' or What to Do in L.A. When You're Dead". NJ.com. Retrieved December 22, 2011. 
  9. ^ VanDerWerff, Todd (December 21, 2011). "Afterbirth.". The A.V. Club. Retrieved December 22, 2011. 
  10. ^ Fowler, Matt (December 21, 2011). "American Horror Story: "Afterbirth" Review". IGN. Retrieved March 18, 2012. 
  11. ^ 2011 Bram Stoker Award™ winners and Vampire Novel of the Century Award winner

External links[edit]