American Horror Story episode 5 review: Halloween Part 2

Ron continues his love affair with American Horror Story, as he checks out the latest terrific episode...

American Horror Story

This review contains spoilers.

5. Halloween Part 2

It’s Halloween night, and as usual Murder House is a hub of activity. With Ben and Vivien gone, poor little Violet is left all alone when creepy crispy Larry shows up, banging on the door and screaming about the $1000 Ben ‘owes’ him for solving the Hayden problem with a shovel and a shallow grave. Needless to say, just when it looks like Violet is in trouble (and Leatherman is skulking around behind her), Tate shows up to save the day and take Vi out for their date.

Unfortunately for Tate, he’s got some company in the form of a group who Vi amusingly dubs The Dead Breakfast Club, aka a group of random misfits (jock, cheerleader, smart kid, rocker, goth girl) who all have massive holes in their heads/torsos and zombie-like pale faces. Since it’s Halloween, Vi doesn’t think anything about it, but these kids seem to know Tate and hate Tate, in spite of Tate’s protest to the opposite. Their relationship seems obvious, considering the fact that they’re all dead, but does Tate really not know what happened, or is he playing dumb to preserve Violet’s budding interest in him?

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While Vi is off making out on the beach and getting ghost-stalked, Ben and Vivien return home to find the alarm going off and no daughter. They finally get the bright idea to call her and find out where she is, but that means Ben and Viv are left alone to argue. Vivien’s throwing Ben out of the house, though he still refuses to give up on his family (it’s technically giving up when someone forces you to leave, but you try talking sense into Ben).

The fight was bad, but when Hayden shows up and starts telling Viv to ask Ben about Boston, well… things go from bad to worse for the Harmon family. Fortunately, Murder House is home to a lot of spirits, and they seem to want to protect Ben and Vivien—at least for now.

Writer Tim Minear has put together a very smart script this week. For example, there are lots of fun little clues concerning characters. Even before we find out what Tate has to do with the Dead Breakfast Club (a great name for the group that chases Tate down on the beach), we get a nice monologue from Tate that talks about all the high-school drop-outs who have gone on to greater things, including names like Kurt Cobain, Quentin Tarantino, and DeNiro. Note the semi-dated (but not obviously dated) references.

Hayden’s unhinged monologues were well-done this week; they were overly dramatic in that emotional college girl way, but not so bad as to be cringe-worthy. It’s a delicate line to walk, and Minear’s script does it nimbly.

As usual, there were a lot of stand-out scenes in this week’s AHS. The normal scene stealer, Jessica Lange, takes a back seat. Denis O’Hare’s Larry is stellar this week, and Kate Mara continues to impress as the unbalanced Fatal Attraction-type Hayden. Lily Rabe’s brief appearance as Nora Montgomery only affirms how much fun that character is, as she’s a less-polite version of Constance (yet still there to help Ben when he is needed). Pretty much all the actors this week had something good to do, from Connie Britton getting a nice face-off to Dylan McDermott’s Ben having the scene of the night while throttling Larry. Even Evan Peters got some face-time with a nice monologue in the beginning of the episode.

This is a top notch cast, and their guest stars also prove to fit in nicely with the show’s framework without being showy or excessive. The regulars seem to take turns taking the bulk of the spotlight, but the focus is never too heavy on one or the other; for example, after a Constance-heavy episode, we got a Tate-heavy episode.

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If you get a lot of the Harmons one week, you’ll get a lot of the ghosts or Larry the next week. It’s not a huge cast by any means, but it’s a pretty sizable collection of major characters, and the show does a great job of making sure everyone gets a little something to do. It’s nice to see a show with a good balance for supporting players (unlike The Walking Dead, which has basically marginalized Glenn all this season in favor of Daryl).

Also integrated well into the show is the gore. This week’s episode had some outstanding-looking ghost makeup, and the little touches of sickness (the microwave scene, Hayden’s slow decomposition and the monster of a ring she left around the bath) were handled well. They had stomach-turning moments without being too gory for the average viewer. It was just enough squick to disturb, but not a gross-out. The show’s sexual element has been toned down since the first episode, but the disturbing content continues, even if it’s not all real.

I wish I knew who directed this week’s episode (the information isn’t online yet), but it was incredibly well done, and there were some very creative shots this week. Particularly impressive was the final scene at the end as the sun rises on November 1 and all the spirits of the house, who had been wandering and enjoying their freedom among the living, returned to their home within Murder House. It was a great capper to a great pair of episodes.

So far, everyone who shows up in the show has made sense within the show’s framework. It’s a generous framework, but none of the bigger names (Zachary Quinto, Alessandra Torressani, Morris Chestnut) have smelled of stunt casting. It’s just been a case of good actors taking on interesting character roles. And man, does this show get more and more interesting with each passing week! While the big reveals weren’t terribly shocking, they’re going to lead so some great stuff in future weeks.

Once again, American Horror Story has put together one of the best hours of programming on television.

Read our review of the last episode, Halloween Part 1, here.

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US Correspondent Ron Hogan is greatly amused by the phrase “The Dead Breakfast Club.” Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.