American Horror Story episode 7 review: Open House

American Horror Story continues to get its balance just about right in its latest episode, Open House. Here's Ron's review...

This review contains spoilers.The Harmons have decided. The future of their family is that their family will have no future, as Ben and Viv are going to (probably) get divorced. As for Murder House, the Harmons have decided to divest themselves of it, post-haste. The house is back on the market under the care of Marcy the real estate agent, and for once, there’s an interested buyer. Unfortunately, said interested buyer doesn’t know what’s in the attic.

Everyone thinks he’s persian, but he’s actually Armenian. Not that his ethnicity really matters, as he’s got plans for the house. Sure he tells Vivien and Moira that he wants to put in a pool in the backyard and move in, which sounds like the answer to everyone’s prayers. Vivien gets to leave the house behind and Moira gets to get her grave dug up in the pool-making process, which will a) get her put into a decent grave and give her freedom and b) will get Constance thrown in jail for murder. It goes without saying that Constance hates this idea, and she is not a woman to be crossed.

Meanwhile, Violet is getting further into her depression. She’s cutting herself again, until Tate stops her and makes her promise not to hurt herself anymore. There’s a lot of Tate and Violet bonding this week, with Tate introducing Violet to his brother Beau before showing her some of the secret goodies he’s found in the attic, namely some keepsakes from the home’s original owners, Nora and Charles Montgomery. We also get our first hint at just what the thing in the basement is, shortly before we see how the Montgomery family meets their end.

This week’s episode of AHS introduced us to another of Constance’s brood of malformed and troubled-but-sweet misfit children, Beauregard. It also explored more of the back story between everyone’s two favorite characters, Constance and Larry. Apparently, the two were quite the thing way back in 1994, and Larry’s not quite over Constance, even after all this time. The fact that Ben has discovered the truth behind Larry’s story isn’t too odd (after all, it is Larry), but the fact that Constance was the reason behind Larry’s marriage going up in flames is an interesting reveal, and it explains why Larry has been so proactive in helping Constance keep an eye on the Murder House. He’s doing it for the woman he loves and her brood of murdering malformed moppets. Awww, how dementedly sweet.

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The fact that this episode had Larry interacting with everyone from Constance to Ben (in a very good scene) to Vivien and Marcy (in probably the funniest scene of the show) is a benefit.

Brad Falchuk took over writing duties this week, and he answered a whole lot of questions for the show’s fans, laid out a lot of back story, weaved the characters more tightly together, and even managed to add a little more of that familiar weird sexuality back to the show after a few weeks of sexless weirdness. There wasn’t a real stand-out Emmy bait speech this week, but the interactons between the characters were really well-done; this might be one of the best ensemble dramas on television, and this week is Denis O’Hare’s week to take the lead, both as crispy-faced Larry and as pre-fried Larry.

I have to give a lot of credit to director Tim Hunter, too. He had one of the toughest characters to handle this week in the form of Beau, Constance’s third child. He managed to shoot with the makeup, using shadows and light to really add to the character’s frightening appearance, without making Beau into a monster. After all, he’s just an unfortunate-looking child, not a blood-thirsty monster. The real blood-thirsty monster, the Infantata, was also handled really well; the scene where Lily Rabe (Nora) slowly approaches the gauze-draped crib after Charles announces that he’s brought their child back from the dead was one of the most intense things on network TV, and we haven’t even really seen the monsterbaby yet!

One of the things I loved about this week were the call-backs to previous weeks. In one of Addie’s first appearances, she’s in the basement playing with a red rubber ball that she’s rolling back and forth. This week, we see Beau in the attic, rolling a red rubber ball to Larry to play a little before going to bed permanently. Was Addie playing ball with her older ghost brother earlier this year? I certainly think she was; of course, they could have both been playing ball with the Infantata. The reapparance of Marcy is also welcome; she proves once again to be the most un-PC character in the show, and she’s a constant source of comic relief when she’s around.

They’re wrapping things up nicely this year, and it’s obvious that the show’s memorable supporting character actors are having a lot of fun in their roles. It doesn’t take much Old Moira to shift the balance of the show from good to great, Jessica Lange has been really putting together one of the best perforamnces of her career as Constance, and Denis O’Hare has been a revelation. Even the younger actors, like Evan Peters, Jamie Brewer, and Taissa Farmiga, have been solid to great even when compared to veteran, award-winning performers.

The cast has benefitted from having good matieral to work with, but in the wrong hands, the show could go from dramatic with cheesy elements to just cheese. Not that there’s anything wrong with cheese, but I like the balance American Horror Story has achieved between suspense, psychosexual horror, character drama, and conspiracy theory. How they’ll top this for season two I’ll never know, but I’m eagerly awaiting the day that comes.

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Read our review of the last episode, here.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan is in favor of restrictive zoning laws against backyard burials. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.