by Alex Greenberger
For the first time since “American Horror Story” started, I’ve been disappointed by an episode. “Spooky Little Girl” followed up last week’s strong episode with slow soapy turns for many of the characters and obnoxiously odd reveals. Sure, “American Horror Story” has always been really weird and really far out there, but “Spooky Little Girl” may have just pushed it over the edge a little bit. There’s a difference between being kitschy on purpose and unknowingly writing a campy episode. Unfortunately, the ninth episode of “American Horror Story” falls into the latter.
One of the episode’s biggest faults is the opening scene, which, while very disturbing, fails to ever truly connect with the story. Mena Suvari guest stars in “Spooky Little Girl” as Elizabeth Short, otherwise known as the famous victim of the Black Dahlia murder case. I mean, seriously, how long has it been since critics panned Brian de Palma’s failed adaptation of James Ellroy’s “Black Dahlia?” Doesn’t Hollywood ever learn anything?
Make no mistake: Murphy is no Ellroy. The rendition of the Black Dahlia found in “American Horror Story” is even less coherent than de Palma’s bland film. I understand that the murder happened in the house, but it really never fits in the rest of the episode. Suvari rarely ever makes an appearance anyway. Her character feels like a sad afterthought to a virtually plotless episode.
There is something interesting going on with the shows treatment of Hollywood stardom, however. Of course, this is well tread ground, but analysis of failure in Hollywood always manages to impress. I would go so far as to say that Jessica Lange closely modeled her performance after Gloria Swanson in Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Boulevard.”
But again, we’re presented with a lot of interesting themes and little payoff for them.
In speaking of teases, there are (or perhaps “were”) three femme fatales now living in the Harmon house. We now have Short, Hayden, and Moira all vying for Ben’s attention. There’s this really odd, gratuitous fantasy that Ben has in which he has a threesome with Short and Moira. There’s also a lesbian sex scene with Short and Moira in all this, and several sex scenes involving Hayden and Constance’s boytoy (who Hayden did a real number on with that knife!), and several more failed attempts from Moira. All right, great, there’s a lot of sexy sex. But what do we do with it? None of it pieces together, so nothing becomes of it.
The two great twists came in the final five minutes of the episode. The first was that Ben finally saw Moira for who she really was after he fired her. So now he knows that he’s nearly had sex with an old woman many times. The second was the most bizarre thing that’s happened yet on this series. Earlier in the episode, Vivien’s OB-GYN revealed that one of twins belongs to Ben, while the other is belongs to someone else. And then at the very end, Constance began talking with her friend, who hinted not so subtly that a child that is the product of a ghost and a human may be the antichrist.
This could be the critical moment for “American Horror Story.” Either Murphy and Falchuk just shot themselves in the foot or they just created one of the most thrilling dramas on TV. Where it goes will certainly be interesting.
As Moira leaves Ben, she says that he has “finally seen things as they are.” I’m praying that I haven’t seen “American Horror Story” for what it is by disliking this episode because I’m very much intrigued now. Even if “American Horror Story” has gone off the deep end, I don’t think I could stop watching if I tried.
Alex Greenberger is a staff writer. Email him at email@example.com