by Alex Greenberger
- via The AV Club
Last night’s “Birth” may be the most aptly titled “American Horror Story” episode yet. As Vivien finally gives birth to her twins, we get little explanation for much of anything in this intense, eleventh episode. Instead, we get a frenzied, dream-like climax to Vivien’s storyline.
Lets begin with a look at the less eventful part of “Birth.” The opening scene felt, for once, a bit expendable. Tate’s relationship to Nora is explained, which is a bit aggravating, since the reveal is not the most important question right now. Superfluous as it may have been, the scene featured a great jump scare in what a lighter atmosphere. Maybe it’s just because it involved the Infantata, but it recalled fond memories of being mortified when I first saw “Insidious” in theaters. Clearly, the director did something right.
After that, there are about fifteen minutes that are just filler. The gay couple gets to have signature snappy Murphy banter, Violet is confused, Tate remains creepy, Vivien gets out of the hospital, etc. etc. There was one interesting part however. Billie Deen, the psychic, explains the disappearance of the Roanoke settlers. Intriguing? Yes, but it’s pretty much just writer Tim Minear admitting that he needs to fill time before he gets to the good stuff.
Finally, the episode reached a critical point where it had to shift gears. Ben drives Vivien back to the house, so that he can go retrieve Violet and her luggage. They’re finally leaving the house! Well, no, not really. Just as Ben gets into the house, Vivien goes into labor, of course! “It’s too soon,” she shouts, “it’s too soon!” She should’ve known better. Anything goes in this house.
At that exact moment, everything starts happening at once. Ben finds out Violet is dead. Constance pulls a shrieking Vivien out of the car and shoves her into the house. All the ghosts plot to get the child, and naturally, they all make an appearance at the birthing, even Moira for a few seconds.
What follows is a twenty-minute birth sequence that is wrenching, sad, and incredibly disturbing. As if it’s hard enough to watch Vivien give birth to one child (who is stillborn, might I add), we have to watch her give birth to a second one as well. The room spins. The camera whirls. The second half of “Birth” is a nauseating experience, and I suppose that’s the way it should be.
“Birth” ends on a surprisingly sentimental note, however. Ultimately, Vivien gives birth to a live second child, only to slowly die in the process. Vivien’s death feels like a blurred fever dream: Violet begs her mother to join her on the other side, while Ben squeezes her hand, tearfully asking her to stay with him. Finally realizing Tate’s crimes Vivien, breaks up with Tate and joins Violet.
The final shot of the episode shows Vivien holding Violet as she cries over the loss of what was meant to be her soul mate. The ending of the episode was surprisingly somber, and it reminded me of how David Lynch famously deconstructed the nuclear family in “Twin Peaks.” Lynch’s show, unlike “American Horror Story” (until now), exposed emotion in its characters, who were forced to constantly grapple with the death of a loved one. And here, “American Horror Story” finally achieves what Lynch did: a touching portrait of a mother and a daughter, reunited in a twisted rendition of death. It’s a painful, scary, and disturbing experience, and it’s everything “American Horror Story” should be.
Alex Greenberger is a staff writer. Email him at email@example.com