Smoldering Children

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"Smoldering Children"
American Horror Story episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 10
Directed by Michael Lehmann
Written by James Wong
Featured music
  • "Hate My Way" by Throwing Muses
  • "Hazard" by Gossling
  • "MIA2 Battalion of Hate" by Wehrwolfe
Production code 1ATS09
Original air date December 7, 2011 (2011-12-07)
Running time 42 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Spooky Little Girl"
Next →
American Horror Story: Murder House
List of American Horror Story episodes

"Smoldering Children" is the tenth episode of the first season of the television series American Horror Story, which premiered on the network FX on December 7, 2011. The episode was written by James Wong and directed by Michael Lehmann. This episode is rated TV-MA (LV).

In this episode, the reason for Larry's (Denis O'Hare) burns are revealed, while Violet (Taissa Farmiga) learns a shocking truth. Charles S. Dutton guest stars as Detective Granger.



After Larry Harvey's wife, Lorraine (Rebecca Wisocky), kills herself and their daughters, Constance (Jessica Lange), Tate (Evan Peters), and Addie (Jamie Brewer) move into the house to live with Larry (Denis O'Hare). On Thanksgiving, the atmosphere is tense, with Tate expressing his disgust with Larry for killing Beau (Sam Kinsey) and his naïveté with Constance, who strings him along to live in the house. Tate also resents Constance for her part in this as well. An undetermined time later, Tate, high on cocaine and crystal meth,[1] goes to Larry's office, douses him in gasoline and immolates him, before going to his school to commit the shooting massacre seen in the episode "Piggy Piggy".


Ben (Dylan McDermott) visits Vivien (Connie Britton) in the ward, and apologizes. He tells her he believes her claims that she was raped, and she will be discharged soon. He also tells her that the rapist fathered one of the twins.

Detectives (Charles S. Dutton & Malaya Rivera Drew) tell Constance of Travis' (Michael Graziadei) murder, and she confronts Larry, believing he killed Travis out of jealousy. Larry states he only moved the body, and that a ghost killed Travis in the house. He continues to seek Constance's love, but she says she never loved him. A truant officer (Gregory Sporleder) informs Ben that Violet (Taissa Farmiga) has skipped school for sixteen days. Ben convinces Violet to try a new school. He calls an exterminator to handle a sudden fly infestation. The exterminator discovers something which horrifies him, but is killed by Tate.

Learning of Constance's fights with Travis, the detectives take her in for questioning, believing her to be involved with his death. They review her history of familial deaths, noting that the district attorney intended to charge her with the murder of her husband Hugo (Eric Close) and Moira (Alexandra Breckenridge), who are considered missing persons, but could not find the bodies. Unknown to them, this is because Constance buried Moira and ground up Hugo's body, feeding it to the dogs. A lawyer, Harry Goodman (Derek Richardson), appears on her behalf, and tells her that they want to pin Travis' high-profile murder on her.

Tate overhears Ben looking into boarding schools for Violet and tells her that Ben plans to send her away; leaving Violet devastated. Larry retrieves the murder evidence from the house and sees his daughters and wife. He apologizes to Lorraine and swears to get revenge on Constance, but she tells him that he was the one who broke their vows, not Constance. Wearing the suit, Tate attacks Ben with chloroform. Ben fights him and pulls off his mask, seeing Tate's face before going unconscious. Tate tells Violet that they can be together by committing suicide. Violet flees, but finds that no matter where she runs, she winds up back in the house. Tate takes her to the basement, where the fly infestation is revealed to be from Violet's decaying corpse hidden in the crawl space; Violet did not survive her initial suicide attempt in Episode 6. Tate, who has known that he too was a ghost the entire time, ironically admits that he was trying to protect her from realizing that she was dead. Though shocked, Violet eventually comes to terms with her death.

Constance is brought in again by police, only to learn that Larry has confessed to the murder. She visits him in jail, and he explains he confessed to pay for his sins, but will be able to handle his punishment if Constance will just say she loves him. Constance coldly refuses and leaves.


The episode was written by co-executive producer James Wong, while being directed by Michael Lehmann.

Taissa Farmiga had guessed that Violet was dead early on from hints dropped in earlier scripts, though the staff were not allowed to confirm her suspicions.[2] Though series co-creator Ryan Murphy had planned for Violet to be dead for a long time, he kept this information from the staff, and intentionally wrote the suicide scene in Episode 6, "Piggy Piggy" to be vague.[1] Murphy only revealed Violet's death to the other writers while they were writing Episode 8, "Rubber Man".[1] Both Murphy and Farmiga described the scene revealing Violet's death as "emotional."[1][2] Violet's decaying corpse was a prosthetic made from a mold of Farmiga's body. Farmiga had not seen the prosthetic until shooting; Murphy claims that Violet's reaction during the close up of the reveal is Farmiga's response to seeing herself dead for the first time.[1]

Murphy sensed audience concerns that the previous two episodes, "Rubber Man" and "Spooky Little Girl", were straying from the main characters of the show, moving Vivien away from the house and introducing the character of The Black Dahlia. Thus, Murphy intended this and the remaining episodes to focus more on the Harmon family and the outcome of their experiences in the house.[1]


"Smoldering Children" received critical acclaim; Rotten Tomatoes reports a 100% approval rating, based on 9 reviews.[3] The Star-Ledger's James Queally commented on the episode, saying, "Every week, I think I have American Horror Story figured out... the show sits down, shuts up, straps in and delivers an effective, character-driven story like "Smoldering Children"."[4] The A.V. Club's Todd VanDerWerff said this about the episode, "I could make a number of complaints if pressed, since there were the usual dumb moments, character beats, and lines of dialogue, but... this was awesomely pulpy genre fun." He gave the episode an A grade.[5] Matt Fowler from IGN gave the episode a rating of 8.5/10, citing it as "great."[6]

In its original American broadcast, "Smoldering Children" was seen by an estimated 2.54 million household viewers and gained a 1.6 rating share among adults aged 18–49, according to Nielsen Media Research. The episode was down one tenth from the previous episode.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "'American Horror Story': Ryan Murphy on the Violet reveal and Ben's 'magical towel' -- EXCLUSIVE". Entertainment Weekly. December 8, 2011. Retrieved December 9, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "'American Horror Story': Taissa Farmiga talks last night's huge Violet twist -- 'I totally called it'". Entertainment Weekly. December 8, 2011. Retrieved December 9, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Smoldering Children – American Horror Story: Murder House, Episode 10". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 21, 2016. 
  4. ^ Queally, James (December 7, 2011). "American Horror Story "Smoldering Children" Recap: Living Dead Girl". Retrieved December 16, 2011. 
  5. ^ VanDerWerff, Todd (December 8, 2011). "American Horror Story: "Smoldering Children"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved December 16, 2011. 
  6. ^ Fowler, Matt (December 7, 2011). "American Horror Story: "Smoldering Children" Review". IGN. 
  7. ^ Gorman, Bill (December 8, 2011). "Wednesday Cable Ratings: 'American Horror Story,' 'Sons Of Guns' Top Night + 'Psych', 'Hot In Cleveland,' 'Ghost Hunters' Finale & More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved December 11, 2011. 

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