TV Recap: American Horror Story, Episode 11

Written by Doug Strassler on . Posted in Arts & Film, TV.


I’m not just recapping any old show as I discuss “Birth,” the penultimate episode of AHS’ debut season. I am now writing about a double Golden Globe-nominated show, as of this morning! (But more about that tomorrow).  Tim Minear’s episode gave us what we have expected all season long: one big bloody mess. And also a few unexpected callbacks to several lesser films in the Meryl Streep oeuvre.


The earlier part of the episode put a fair amount of fun on display. Basically, all the dead people have congregated throughout Murder House staking various claims on Viv’s babies. Tate tells Nora that while he had promised her a child, he must retract, since that child is Violet’s brother. So to recap; Constance still wants a baby, Hayden wants a baby, and Chad wants both babies.

Chad and Patrick are still tussling, with Chadeventually learning Patrick had planned to leave him before Tate killed them. Oops! It’s a shame that there are still such problems in the afterlife. Maybe it’s because these people are still telling lies. Have they not seen Albert Brooks’Defending Your Life?! (Please tell me the writers convulse in giggle fits as they wrote this and that they’re not taking it dead seriously. Pun intended.)

There were two contestants for line of the night. The first one is delivered by Violet, worried that when her parents find out she accidentally offed herself, “they’ll literally go crazy.” Um, your mom’s in a loony bin and your dad sees dead people. How much more literal does their abating sanity need to get? But this week’s top line of dialogue belongs to the team of Constance and Chad. Constance, ever the bleeding heart, says “Man should not lie with man – it is an abomination.” Chad’s response: “So is that hairdo. But I figure that’s your business.” Meow!

As the episode heads into headier territory, the SPOILER ALERTS!, for those who missed either this week or last week’s episodes. I’m still not clear on the rules of corporeal versus non-corporeal form in Ryan Murphy’s universe. If Violet is dead, how can Ben still talk to her? And if he can put her in his car on the way to Viv’s hospital, how can she also be in the house? At one point does he not see her?

When Viv goes into premature labor, Constance drags the unwilling expecting mother into Murder House, where Ben catches up to her as Dr. Charles Montgomery and his nurses from the 1920s operate. As these worlds collide, Ben finally processes how the house itself has terrorized – and begun to claim – his family, and McDermott remains completely committed to making this scene work. So, too, is Britton (who hasn’t always had me so convinced this season), as Viv wails and writhes through two deliveries. There’s also a nice AHS callback in this scene, as director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon works in cello music to underscore this sequence; back when she was alive, Vivian played the cello.

You read that right, kids: Viv is a goner. After passing one kid – likely the one sired by Ben – off to Nora (claiming it was still-born), Tate’s alpha child “literally” rips Vivien apart, and she bleeds to death while Constance smuggles the baby away from Ben. Again, McDermott is wonderful as he begs Vivien not to leave him, penitent for all of his mistakes (and, let’s be real, his punishment nowhere near fit his crimes). But Vivien crosses over, reunited with Violet, who has just banished Tate from her (after)life.

So…yeah. I don’t know that this turn of events was particularly shocking, but more to the point, was it moving? Are people watching this show legitimately, or just either for the humor or gross-out kicks? Does Viv’s death mean anything to viewers? Does the image of her reunited with her deceased daughter evoke any particular emotion? Are people watching this show legitimately, or just either for the humor or gross-out kicks? AHS hits the notes, but does it really sing?


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