I would like to give every ounce of kudos to the writers of American Horror Story. They’ve combined 3 separate and already complicated storylines into one season that has – so far – flowed seamlessly. Perhaps a few things have to be experienced with a stretch of the mind, but every worry that could have been had has been put to rest with this week’s episode. Directed by Sarah Paulson, and written by Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy, Return to Murder House placed the majority of the key players from season one into the storyline of Apocalypse. How do they mold into the current season? Let’s dissect.
Madison (Emma Roberts) and Chablis (Billy Porter) are impersonating a happy couple in order to purchase the Murder House. They were successful. They’re task from the council is to find out as much as they can about Langdon (Cody Fern) so that they can use it against him, and dethrone him from his status as the new Supreme. After a simple spell, all of the spirits of the house have no choice but to be seen by Madison and Chablis.
The spirits begin with Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) and Tate (Evan Peters), still having therapy sessions after all of these years. Tate‘s still struggling with Violet (Taissa Farmiga) not returning his love, and Ben is still struggling with masturbating while crying. Madison and Chablis interrupt their therapy session, and get right down to business. They begin questioning Ben about Langdon. Madison also takes a liking to Tate and Violet‘s story.
An introduction and return of Beau (Sam Kinsey), one of Constance Langdon‘s (Jessica Lange) children whose spirit got stuck in the house, leads to the return of Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson), the medium who aided Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton) in season one. Billie Dean tells Madison and Chablis that she is one of the only living people who the spirits allow to enter the house. Within seconds, we are reintroduced to another familiar face. It’s the face that everyone has been waiting to see for years.
I’m Constance Langdon, and this … is my f*cking house.
Jessica Lange returns with a spouting of an epic line while smoking her cigarette and exuding an aura that all AHS viewers are familiar with, followed by the return of another beloved character in Moira (Frances Conroy), the house maid. Constance and Moira remind viewers of their hatred of each other with a few back and forth quips. Moira wins the quip-off, and leaves Constance to fume. Madison and Chablis jump on Constance, asking for information on Langdon. Constance tells them if they can rid the house of Moira‘s spirit then she will talk. In one of the episode’s – and this season’s – more emotional scenes, Moira asks for her recovered bones to be buried with her mother who she has had qualms about since she pulled the plug on her. In the cemetery, her mother confronts her, and they come to terms with a burden that has haunted Moira while she haunted Murder House. They walk off into the fog in a beautiful wide shot.
Constance will now talk of Langdon. The biggest bits of info that Madison and Chabli find out are that Constance raised him from birth, which we knew, and that after his first human kill, Langdon aged 10 years in one night. She makes a remark about how he was in such a hurry to do something, and that’s why he aged so quickly. She tried to help him, and steer him in the right way, but he continued to murder. Fearing him and for her own life, she settled into Murder House, and after a cocktail of antidepressants and whiskey, she killed herself, leaving herself to be one of the many inhabitants of Murder House.
It’s now Ben‘s turn to tell his story. He began “raising” Langdon after the death of Constance. Having been afraid of him in life, she has decided not to show herself to Langdon. Ben instantly decides that he wants Langdon to see him as he sees Langdon as his own son. Tate, his actual father, denies the existence of Langdon, and that leads him down a path of darkness. Ben falls to the side of Constance‘s as he realizes that he cannot help Langdon. Langdon murders two new inhabitants of the house, and proceeds to literally burn their souls out of existence. That was too much for Ben. He denounces Langdon.
It is now Vivien‘s turn to share what she knows. Her biggest piece of information comes from the arrival of three hooded figures (including Mead [Kathy Bates]) who perform a ritual that literally brings Langdon to where we see him at the beginning on this season. With the murder of an innocent girl, he is embodied with the dark power. Vivien attempted to murder Langdon, but failed as he attempted to burn her soul from existence. She was luckily saved by Tate.
Madison and Chablis have all that they need to know. They set out, but not before Madison helps Violet see that Tate has changed as all of his evil left once Langdon left. She reunites him, and they’re off to Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) to reveal what they’ve learned.
Time to Unpack
Holy crap. A lot happened in this episode, and I tried to condense as much as I could without missing anything big. This is why I give props to the writers as they were able to condense so much into one episode with such a consistency that it is mind-boggling.
This is the biggest crossover episode of the season, yet. Jessica Lange’s return as Constance was the most talked about going into the episode, but it was refreshing to see that this episode wasn’t all about her. She returned with every ounce of her being, and Lange gave quite a performance, but she wasn’t a show-stealer. Ben and Vivien gave just as much to the story as she did. They each played their part in releasing just enough information about Langdon to help the Coven. The return of Tate and Violet played out just enough to give them closure. That’s actually what this episode did with the majority of Murder House’s characters. Their season did leave them all as tortured souls, but this episode brought a lot of their plights to an end. Constance resumes her life with all of her children (sans Addy [Jamie Brewer) who did not die in the Murder House), and she got rid of Moira. Moira was able to be put to rest and get closure with her mother. Ben is now able to masturbate without crying, and he was given a sort of closure from Vivien. Tate and Violet ended their relationship struggle, and are now happily in each other’s arms.
And, extra neat surprises were given. Naomi Grossman returned, not as the beloved Pepper from Asylum and Freakshow, but as one of the three hooded people who helped Langdon realize his dark powers. Another familiar face from Murder House was found in Mena Suvari as she reprises her role of the ill-fated Elizabeth Short.
Madison was given a little depth this time around. Perhaps its Chablis bringing it out of her, or the realization that she feels expendable by the Coven, but a softer side that has rarely been seen was portrayed. This was shown heavily in the scene where she helps open Violet’s eyes to see Tate‘s love. She stopped to do this as she was on her way out of Murder House. Is the end of the world making Madison a softy?
All theories of Mead being constructed from Constance have been erased. We see Mead is an actual being with an actual self who we can assume takes over the parental role of Langdon. How she becomes a robot has yet to be seen.
As much as the writers are rock stars for this season, a round of applause should be directed towards Sarah Paulson. Not only has she portrayed three different characters this season (Venable, Cordelia, Billie Dean), but she directed tonight’s episode. Just today, in Hollywood, a debate was created about the availability of female directors in the horror genre. There are plenty out there. Of the 6 episodes aired so far, this season, four of them were directed by women. With tonight’s episode, Paulson declared her spot among the many talented female directors that horror has available. Paulson’s episode contained beautiful shots (the cemetery scene, Constance‘s rose garden, the evil embodiment), perfectly timed dialogue, and a flow so seamless that the episode flew by. Paulson’s spirit is just as vibrant in the AHS sphere as Lange’s is, and I’m perfectly okay with her being 100% involved in the next two announced seasons, whether it be in front of or behind the camera.
Who knows how this season will end? It is safe to say that it is turning out to be one hell of a season. With only four more episodes to go, who else will we see return? Who will we see not make it past this season? Will Langdon come to terms with everyone who has abandoned him, and will he realize that he is only being used by those who says they love him? (I’m waiting for the perfect time to discuss that dilemma)