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American Horror Story: "Birth"

Written by Tricia Long on Thursday, December 15 2011 and posted in Reviews

Life is a circle, my friends. A bloody, historically inaccurate, ghost-ridden circle.

It's the opening shot, and Constance is passed out drunk. I smell a classic episode here, folks. The time stamp says 1984, and in case you weren't on board we know that her husband is dead thanks to the past-due bills and the "thinking like a man" quote from the ancient television program playing in the background (Is that Bob Newhart? I'm probably too young to know, as is most of this show's target demographic). Is that our theme for the episode, thinking like a man? Or is it just going to be about subverting traditional roles?

Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself. It's 1984, and Tate is playing with a toy truck. His truck falls down the stairs and into the basement where he's attacked by the 1920s monster baby, Thaddeus, and then saved by Nora (Thaddeus's mom). Shades of Bo, anyone? Nora and Constance have more in common than we knew. Nora teaches Tate how to banish the ghosts: close your eyes and tell them to go away. Little Tate wishes Nora was his mommy, perhaps that's why he's so attached to her in the earlier episodes this season. Poor Thaddeus, Nora probably wishes Tate was her kid too.

Next shot, in the present-day, Tate finds his toy in the basement. Nora is crying in the next room and doesn't recognize Tate. I thought this was weird, but later in the episode we learn that time moves differently for the dead so I guess it's not that weird. This is a show about dead people and demon babies, after all. Anyway, Tate is guilty over raping Vivian, only because he's in love with Violet, and he says he can't give Nora her baby. He can't take away Violet's brother, even if the kid is the Antichrist, but Nora can. DUN DUN DUUUUNNNNN.

(Commercial break note: Holy shit, premiere for Archer! YAY!)

On the first floor, Ben is trying to take Violet out of the house to get Vivian from the psych ward. Remember that Violet can't leave the house because she's dead. Like many secretive teenagers, though, she hasn't shared this fact with her dad. They have a family spat and Ben says he won't make Vivian stay in the psych ward (even though he's totally the one that put her there). Ben forces Violet into the car, but she just apparates back into the house... and he totally doesn't question it. This guy is thicker than treacle fudge. (This review has a Harry Potter flavor, just because.)

Violet gazes longingly at her father's retreating car before heading up to her love nest, where Tate doesn't know how to use the internet! Because he was a kid in 1984! Haha, get it? These two could totally have a spinoff sitcom about how hard it is to date a ghost. Like Sabrina the Teenage Witch, except with a shorter run because they could never grow up and grow to college. Anyway, Violet feels guilty over killing herself because the grief her parents will feel when they find out will probably make them go crazy. The YouTube snafu is relevant because in thirty years everyone will have "computer chips in their brains" and "no one will be able to show us the ways of the world. We'll be like all the others here." Just like a young person to worry about keeping up with the latest technological trends instead of the whole being dead thing. Tate's response is to insist that they won't need the outside world, or feel lonely, because they have love. Whatever, Tate, love doesn't entertain a girl for eternity no matter how much inadequate pseudo-illegal sex you have (and especially if you've boned her mom).

Violet shows some maturity when she points out that they also will never have kids. This is the perfect moment to cut to Chad and Patrick painting the nursery in preparation for the baby. Things seem pretty okay at the moment – maybe the infidelity is a thing of the past? They have a cute little argument about possibly painting the cribs red: Patrick is for it and Chad reluctantly admits "It could be fabulous." Or demonic, you know, whatever. Interchangeable, that's what those terms are.

Enter Tate and Violet, who are confused by the redecorating activities. Chad and Patrick tell them that they're getting ready for the babies and Tate reveals his homophobic tendencies. Violet insists that they won't be able to raise the babies because her parents are leaving, but Chatrick (that's so much easier to write) know she's dead and her parents won't leave without her. There's a reference to Vivian's c-section scar as a zipper they can use (is that the macabre line of the episode?) and Tate gets really defensive to the point of calling Chad a queen. I know that subtlety and complexity aren't this show's hallmarks, but tolerance for homosexuals seems to have two speeds here: totally okay and fire poker sodomy/murder. Not cool, Tate. Not cool at all. Chad calls his bluff with one of the best lines of the episode: "I am quaking in my loafers." Still stereotypical, but I will listen to Zachary Quinto say anything.

However, he has a point. How can you get rid of people who are already dead? Not only dead, but stuck in the afterlife vortex of Murder House? To find out, Violet meets with Constance to share cigarettes and ask for help with "Fric and Frac". Violet wants to exorcise them with Billie Dean's help (oh I'm so hoping for a return of my favorite psychic ever).

Constance tries the diplomatic solution first, seeking out Chad to have a heart to heart. She's fascinated by the red crib, but I'm fascinated by Chad's wine glass. There is a politically incorrect discussion of parenting politics: is being raised by a gay couple better or worse than having Constance for a mother? Based on the death toll, survey says better. Chad triumphs with the line: "Just because they crawled out of your hole doesn't mean anything." Crude lines aside, things are getting really high-brow around here. First a "Yellow Wallpaper" reference and now an argument over appropriate childrearing arrangements? Shit is so real.

Surprise of the episode: Chad didn't know Tate was the father. I thought everyone knew that by now. She offers him Ben's child instead, but Chatrick want one blonde and one brunette just like them. They aren't going to raise the babies though; they're going to kill them when they get to "that perfect cute age". Really, guys? I think that would turn out like Kristen Dunst's character in Interview with a Vampire, where her brain matured but she was stuck in a child's body. That alone warrants some more exploration.

No time for asides though because YES BILLIE DEAN IS HERE. Billie Dean knows that Violet is dead and they have a mind-to-mind moment where she asks Billie Dean to keep that secret to herself. Billie Dean explains stuff I learned by watching "Ghost Hunters" – how evil energy keeps drawing them in, the evil wants to escape into our reality – but Constance is more interested in getting rid of the gays. Billie Dean says Tate needs to leave before she explains what they're going to do because being around him is too stressful for her.

At the psych ward, Vivian is getting ready to go home while Ben stands by unhelpfully. She wonders why Violet didn't come visit her once and Ben bullshits some excuse because he has yet to realize that he is living in a horror show. Vivian's psych doctor has recommended that Vivian remain on bed rest, she insists she's still safe to travel because she's only six months pregnant. He has also recommended an emergency c-section to get the demon baby out because it's growing much faster than Ben's baby. She's determined to get to Florida to have the baby though, so she won't listen to the doctor.

Back at the house, Billie Dean has a drink and explains that the last exorcism was performed in Roanoke, the famous lost colony of America. The ghosts of that colony kept killing everyone, so the Native Americans living there exorcised them by burning their personal effects and shouting "Croatoan." The History Channel can neither confirm nor deny the veracity of this claim.

Tate is pacing upstairs, upset that he hasn't been invited to girl/exorcism bonding time. Violet explains to him how they need to go about exorcising Chatrick, but he seems skeptical. Tate doesn't trust Billie Dean, but Violet wants to pursue it. Tate goes to get a talisman from Patrick, specifically his ring, by hitting on him way too much. Did you ever notice how phallic woodwork can be? Tate did. Patrick beats Tate up, not only because of the awkward come-ons but also that whole murder thing. Chad overhears Patrick say that he didn't want to stay with him, and it looks like the nursery scheme is off. At the end of it all, Tate has the ring. Violet gets a watch off Chad, so exorcism is a go!

When they arrive at the house, Vivian refuses to go in. Ben goes in to get his stuff and Vivian starts having contractions in the car. Ben tries to get Violet to come with them to Florida, but she tries everything she can to get them to leave without her. He accuses her of being on drugs, so Violet tells him that she's dead. Ben of course doesn't listen and insists that she's going with them.

Meanwhile, Vivian gets out of the car and Constance comes to help her. She drags Vivian into the house despite Vivian's protests. Violet is explaining to Ben how she killed herself – with pills – when they hear Vivian shouting downstairs. Her water broke and now she's trapped in the house.

(Yay another Archer preview!)

Oh goodness, time for the gory birth scene. Vivian is in labor on Ben's therapist couch and she's already mostly through the birthing process so there's no time for an ambulance. Violet has to figure out a way to make the house safe for the babies, so with Constance's blessing she heads off to perform the exorcism. Ben sees the ginger twins smashing his car up and notices that they are nearly headless (That, Ron, is how you can be "nearly headless".) The lights go out, because birthing the antichrist soaks up a lot of electricity, and Constance tells Ben "It's time."

Dr. Montgomery and the dead nurses are on hand – it's just like being in a hospital! – to help Vivian with the birth. Ben gets a voice over about how this whole situation is messed up. I think he has finally figured out his house is home to an excessive amount of ghosts. There are simultaneous shots of Ben sitting next to Vivian at what I'm going to call the birthing station and of him sitting in a corner and freaking out. I'm not sure which one was real.

I don't know why a cello is appropriate background music here, but it totally is. There is a flashback to Violet's birth in a hospital, when everything was shiny (literally, lots of light blue and bright white here) contrasted with the dark and very red/brown present. Ben and Vivian reconcile a bit in the middle of the birth, saying they don't want to lose each other. The first baby, Ben and Vivian's baby, is stillborn, but in this house nothing is really gone. Montgomery gives the baby to his wife, Nora. Woo, someone got what they wanted – can she cross over now or something?

In the basement, Violet tries to exorcise Chad by throwing his watch into the furnace and shouting "Croatoan." It is not effective, because none of those spells work. Chad doesn't want to raise the babies anymore anyway, because he finally caught on that Patrick wanted to leave him. Chad thinks Violet is in a worse situation because Tate does love her, but he's a monster – Chad goes on to explain all the things Tate has done, including rape Vivian.

In the den, Vivian is giving birth to her half-ghost baby. This birth is more difficult, and Connie Britton has quite a set of lungs on her. She cries that the baby is ripping her apart, which it probably is because I can't see a demon baby not killing its mother. We hear the baby crying as it enters this world, but don't get to see it. They cut the cord and Constance takes the baby away to clean it. Moira shows up and starts crying because the baby is so beautiful. Hayden shows up to claim the baby for herself.

Vivian is bleeding out and they can't stop it. Violet shows up to say sorry for not coming to see her in the hospital. Ben tries to get Vivian to stay with him, but Violet tells her to let go if she's in pain. No one is making any attempts to save her, and Ben is the only one telling her to hang on. Vivian dies in a classily believable way, by looking off to the side. All of the ghosts are gone, and only Vivian's blood-soaked sheets show they were even there.

Violet runs up to her room, where Tate is on the bed. She tells Tate her mom is dead, he apologizes and offers condolences. Violet quietly asks him why he even came to her dad as a patient in the first place, since he knew both that he was dead and why he died. He doesn't remember that he shot all the kids from Halloween, he starts crying and asking why he did that. Violet keeps reminding him of his past transgressions, and says that she used to think they were the same because they were both "attracted to the darkness"- omg can you get more dramatic, Vi? – but he is "the darkness." He says that she's the "only light he's ever known." In a tearful scene she confesses she loves him, but she can't forgive him. She insists that he has to pay for all he did; his punishment is that she refuses to spend eternity with him. She tells him to go away and there's a lot of screaming. When she opens her eyes, he's gone – which I didn't expect. Ghosts can banish ghosts? Sweet.

Vivian shows up to hug Violet, and she looks GOOD. Death includes makeup and a hairstylist, apparently. They have a lovely bonding moment which made me tear up a little bit. Taissa Farmiga has one of the most heartbreaking sobs I've ever heard, by the way. It's half the reason I was almost, but not quite, crying at this episode.

Next week: Season finale! And a return to gore-ish form. Super looking forward to it, because that stuff is way more horrific.

Written or Contributed by: Tricia Long

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