AMERICAN HORROR STORY Recap: Smoldering Children

     December 7, 2011


This is a fair warning to anyone who is reading this and hasn’t been keeping up with our American Horror Story recaps: turn back now or risk ruining some fantastic surprises from this series. When last we left the Harmon house, we learned that Vivien’s (Connie Britton) twins had, not one, but two fathers. We also watched as Ben (Dylan McDermott) came to certain revelations about the house and its inhabitants. Hayden (Kate Mara) was up to her old tricks again and ill-advisedly added a new member to the ghost line-up: Travis (Michael Graziadei). The episode “Spooky Little Girl” ended with a spoon-fed foreshadowing of the birth of Vivien’s demonic (read: antichrist) baby. But what have the other kids, Violet (Taissa Farmiga) and Tate (Evan Peters) been up to? Hit the jump to find out.

[The following episode recap contains spoilers.]

Last week in the comments section, you guys brought up the idea that Violet was, in fact, dead, having actually overdosed on pills (rather than the assumption that Tate had saved her). Well, it appears creators Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy gave us the answer to that discussion this week on “Smoldering Children.” But as it happens late in the episode, we’ll save that until last.

No major guest stars portraying famous murder victims this week, but we do start off by jumping back to 1994. The familiar faces of Tate, Adelaide (Jamie Brewer) and Constance (Jessica Lange) are at the dinner table with an unexpected figure at the head. Larry (Denis O’Hare) has brought the Langdons into his home after his wife, Lorraine (Rebecca Wisocky) burned herself and their children, Margaret and Angela, to death. Tate doesn’t take Larry’s advances lightly as he knows Larry was the one who killed his brother, Beau (Sam Kinsey). After a fight between Larry, Constance and Tate, the still-alive teenager storms out, promising to “never be your perfect son.” Tate not only stocks up on his arsenal (after a few hits of coke) on the way to school, he also stops by Larry’s office, douses him in gasoline and sets the man ablaze. (I love AHS’s opening sequences.)

American-Horror-Story-Smoldering-Children-Connie-Britton-Dylan-McDermottNow we’re back to the funny farm where Ben is visiting Vivien to tell her the truth about the twins, a fact that led him to believe she wasn’t crazy and that she was indeed raped. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak (Sorry, Larry).

Also in hot water is Constance, as two detectives come calling in search of clues to the Travis’s death. Due to the manner of his passing, the media has dubbed him the “Boy Dahlia.” Constance isn’t the only one dealing with the cops, as a truant officer shows up at the Harmon house to notify Ben of Violet’s delinquency and impending date with the court. The officer also draws attention to the swarms of blowflies in the room, to which Ben says he’ll call an exterminator.

American-Horror-Story-Smoldering-ChildrenAs this episode jumped around even more than most, I’ll try to sum up the big parts from here on out. Constance and Larry played a big part of “Smoldering Children” so we’ll continue there. After the visit from the cops, Constance pays a visit of her own to Larry. Though she plays innocent and wounded at first, she presses a knife to Larry’s throat and says she knows he killed Travis. Larry confesses to moving the body (or, at least its pieces) but did not kill him. There’s a great line here, when Constance says, “Even dead, even a boy, he’s twice the man you are.” And Larry replies, “Well, he is now.”

In a frenzied state, Constance returns home to find the cops waiting for her. She accidentally drops the knife in front of them and they haul her down to the precinct. After a round of questions about the numerous tragedies that have befallen her (and a great flashback of Constance shooting her cheating husband, Hugo (Eric Close) and grinding his body up for puppy chow), Constance is saved by a lawyer. He advises her not to say any more, as the cops are looking for someone to pin the “Boy Dahlia” murder on and take the spotlight.

American-Horror-Story-Smoldering-Children-Jessica-Lange-Denis-OHareLarry, meanwhile, is obviously hurt by Constance’s repeated refusals to accept his advances.  He skulks around the Murder House’s basement, fishing in the walls for Travis’s clothes and the murder weapon: evidence. As he does, Travis shows up to discuss the news coverage of his death and Constance’s reaction, and we get our first look at the title characters. Margaret and Angela, Larry’s burned children, are sitting at a table with a tea set. As Larry watches Travis join them, his scorched wife appears by his side. When he asks Lorraine why he’s seeing her now after all this time, she replies, “You’re almost ready now. You’re on the cusp.” (Perhaps this is similar to Ben’s progression, although Larry’s problem is unrequited love while Ben’s issue is too much bang-bang.) Before he leaves, Lorraine tells Larry that none of this is Constance’s fault, but rather his own.

Constance and her attorney are summoned to the police station again and for a moment we get the feeling that Larry has set her up. Quite the contrary, as Larry has confessed to Travis’s murder. In a conversation in prison, Larry speaks to Constance and asks her to say she loves him one last time, claiming that if he can hear that, he can survive anything. She says, “You’re going to die in here.” and walks away.

American-Horror-Story-Smoldering-Children-2Now, onto the more exciting arc of the show. Ben is trying to determine the identity of the man in the rubber suit. He’s also trying to get Violet enrolled in a new school and deal with an exterminator on top of everything else. Tate handles the exterminator in his own personal way, pumping the toxic gas into the man’s mouth when he accidentally stumbled onto something horrific in the house’s crawlspace. (Should we expect an exterminator ghost? Or did you hear him calling for help like I did when Larry was fishing for evidence in the wall?)

Now that the exterminator is out of the way, Tate has to deal with the problem of Violet going back to school and Ben attempting to split them up. The first part is easy: he seduces Violet into staying with him just one more day. The second part is harder: he dons the rubber suit again and attacks Ben in the bathroom. The two have a pretty good knock-down, drag out fight, with Ben revealing Tate’s face just before Tate drugs him into unconsciousness.

American-Horror-Story-Smoldering-Children-Dylan-McDermottNow, without Ben to protect her, Tate seemingly convinces Violet to commit suicide with him so that they’ll be together forever. Violet, thankfully, is too sensible for this and tricks Tate and manages to escape him and the house. There is a great scene where Violet is screaming for help outside, only to be ignored by nearby pedestrians (although the dog clearly hears her). Then, once Violet hits the border of the property, she’s portal’d back into the house. We watch this Scooby-Doo scene for a few minutes where every door out leads her back in, until she gets all tuckered out. She says, “Please, Tate. I don’t want to die.” To which he replies, “It’s too late for that.”

In easily the creepiest moment so far, Tate takes Violet down to the crawlspace to show her her own dead, curled-up, fly-infested corpse. I’ve seen a lot of movie/TV corpses, but this one was downright morbid and creepifying. The two have a dialogue that confirms what our crafty commenters already knew: Violet was indeed dead, having overdosed. Tate tried to make her commit a second suicide to save her from the horrendous truth.

American-Horror-Story-Smoldering-Children-Evan-Peters-Taissa-FarmigaAnd that, my fellow American Horror Historians, is where we leave “Smoldering Children,” with one of the most bizarre love…parallelograms on TV this side of soap operas. (Honestly, this really is just a soap opera with a macabre spin. And I’m okay with that.) What will happen when Ben regains consciousness? How much like Romeo and Juliet will Violet feel once she’s learned that Tate banged his mom and is the father of one of her babies? How will Vivien respond to choosing between leaving the house or her daughter, Violet? Just how many more ghosts can this place hold, anyway?

Next week on “Birth,” it looks like we can expect…well, a birth! But it looks like all the ghosts in the house have their own plans for the Harmon twins. Tune in next week to check out the recap!