Pilot: Meet the Harmons’! A nice, conveniently dysfunctional, clan who’ve decided to relocate themselves from Boston to Los Angeles to put their past behind them. Ben, cheated on his wife Viven (Mrs. Coach to you FNL fans!) after she had a particularly awful miscarriage. They’re attempting a fresh start and in the process purchase a classic Victorian house, which just happens to be EVIL! This episode is all exposition; we meet the crazy neighbors, the shape-shifting maid, Ben’s new emo teenage boy patient Tate, and a dude named Larry who’s a former resident who killed his entire family in the house AND tried to burn it down, but has been let out of prison because he has terminal brain cancer (of course!- that happens all the time!). Oh and by the way Vivien is pregnant!
Home Invasion: This episode was far better than the pilot, in that it actually connected the historical murder to the present day events in an interesting way. The historical murder shows us that some weird, fetish, psycho killer offed a couple of nursing students living in the house with a bunch of other girls back in the 60’s. In present time, Ben’s suspicious new patient turns out to be part of a weirdo group of people who revere the pyscho killer as a Manson-esque precursor and are trying to recreate the 60’s murder at the actual house in homage to him. The modern day psycho worshiper group attempts to kill Vivien and Violet in the same fashion as the historical murder, complete with vintage nursing outfits! Through a number of other twists, involving some ipecac saturated cupcakes courtesy of neighbor Constance; Violet and Vivien survive. Yay!
Murder House: Since this is the most recent episode it will be less of a recap and more about my thoughts on the episode. The opening sequence in which we get some background on Constance and her connection to the house was helpful. Its been obvious for the last two episodes that she had some significant connection to house, so it was nice to see it finally played out. Also, Jessica Lange as a scorned Southern belle with a gun is pretty bad ass, plus we get an explanation for Moira’s screwed up eye! Although, it’s never explained how exactly Constance got away with murdering her husband (FYI- that is not uncommon on this show, pretty much people just go around killing each other with very few legal consequences of any kind).
It has also been obvious for the last few episodes that there would need to be some sort of plot mechanics to keep the Harmons’ in the house; as any normal family would have run screaming for the hills after last week’s episode. So, the financial issue was a given and one I’m sure lots of people saw coming. In addition, Viven’s OBGYN says that moving would be an added stress that might endanger the baby, because I guess the money thing wasn’t enough? I have no idea what is going on with the whole Ben/Larry thing where Larry seems to be attempting to blackmail Ben for money for acting lessons? I liked the bonding last week between Violet and Vivien and props to Violet for giving her mom an honest opinion of the marriage and the situation she’s in.
The whole “Murder Tour” thing seemed unnecessary in that it just made the Harmons’ look even dumber for not having researched any history on this house before they moved there. If your house is on a local tourist trap murder tour, then I’m pretty sure that would have come up if you had done something simple like GOOGLING your future house! This episode also eliminated the Hayden problem, so hooray for cutting down on useless plotlines! It also culminated in the awesomely ridiculous scene of Ben building a gazebo to cover up the spot in the backyard where he buried Hayden’s body after Larry killed her. Apparently, you can build your own gazebo from scratch in a matter of hours! And nothing solves all your marital and/or murder problems like iced tea and a backyard oasis!
Overall, I don’t have a lot of critical reasons why ANY person should watch this show. There may, or may not, be a plot involving Constance, Moira and Tate being somehow trapped/tied to the house and its evil ways (they certainly hang out enough as a group and talk about it, that it seems that way). Also, as a whole the show is difficult to follow and a bit like you are watching everything on LSD. It’s hard to tell what’s happening in reality and what’s not, while this sometimes works for the storytelling, it can also be annoying. Unless, maybe you are on LSD and then it’s very easy to follow? (I have not tried this method of watching the show). Ben/Dylan McDermott is boring and I don’t care about him. Connie Britton is a credible actress and she does a good job with what she’s given, at least making Vivien somewhat relatable. Violet, despite being moody, temperamental, emo, and dressed in the attire of Blossom circa 1990; is unbelievably the MOST tolerable teenager I’ve seen on television recently (I’m looking at you Tyler from “V” and boy from “Terra Nova”).
Taissa Farmiga inexplicably does an amazing job of making Violet’s typical teenage assholeness seem justified considering the situation. Too bad, she’s clearly only a second tier character. The flashbacks are the more entertaining part of the show; giving weekly glimpses into the past gruesomeness of the house. I’m curious as to how the series moves forward longer than a season or so, since most horror movie stories involving haunted/possessed houses inevitably end with some key original incident which brought all future evil events upon the house (think the Indian burial ground explanation in “The Shining”). However, the visuals and the theme have pulled me in. Honestly, I’m a sucker for old school pyscho, horror-thriller style, movies like the above mentioned, or Hitchcock-esque “Rear Window” type stuff so perhaps that’s the only reason I’m hanging on; but for whatever reason I keep watching. On the other hand, nothing about the show really scares me, at least not in an “I can’t turn off the lights” kind of way.
I don’t recommend watching if you are looking for something particularly in-depth, but if you’re fine with just a cool horror-thriller exterior and a moderately interesting (though poorly constructed and occasionally unrealistic) story and characters, you’ll probably be fine with this show. I will still be happier if somehow Ryan Murphy gets confused while doing this show and Glee at the same time and they cross over.