American Horror Story: Murder House

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(since I know there are some readers who haven’t seen this yet and want to watch it, I’ve tried to keep this entry spoiler free.)

I managed to finish the last episode of American Horror Story: Murder House last night.  I’d been interested in it ever since I heard about it, and especially after friends started talking about how good it was.  But since we live in the land of no cable or dish (we haven’t had cable since 1999 and we’re not about to start now), I wasn’t able to watch it in its original run.  I remember checking on Hulu to see if it was there and sadly, it was not.  Even the current season is not which is a damn shame.  Anyway, when I saw that it was streaming on Netflix, I added it to the queue pretty much instantly.

At first, I can’t say I was super thrilled.  It was interesting, but it kind of dragged and I really have an unnatural aversion to Dylan McDermott, who seemed to be contractually obligated to appear shirtless at least once in each episode.  We get it, you’re buff, now put your shirt back on.  I didn’t really like either Ben (McDermott) or Vivien (Connie Britton) all that much and I could understand why their teenage daughter Violet was so moody and depressed all the time.  If it had just been them, I think I probably would have turned it off around episode 4.

Thankfully, it wasn’t just them.  And I know I’m probably stating the obvious, but Jessica Lange totally made this show for me.  She’s an actress  who seriously needs to work more.  As Ben and Viven’s next door neighbor, Constance Langdon, she stole every scene she was in, leaving teethmarks all over the scenery.  This is not to say that she overacted – quite the contrary.  Constance, whose life has been riddled with death and tragedy, has a little bit of a reason to be dramatic.  Jessica Lange, who earned an Emmy for this role, knows just how to play Constance.  She’s an annoying neighbor, yet oddly sympathetic.  She’s done some terrible things, but we don’t really care.  While watching the show, I came to the conclusion that the quality of the show was directly proportional to how much screen-time Constance got.  Other standouts include Zachary Quinto as a gay former owner of Murder House, and Frances Conroy and Alexandra Breckenridge playing the older and younger version of Murder House’s maid, Moira O’Hara.  These secondary characters were frequently more interesting than the main characters, as we tried to figure out how they fit into the overall plot arc.

Utilizing flashbacks to fill in the gaps to the story, American Horror Story never felt forced.  I loved how it always held a little something back while telling just enough to have things make sense.  I never once felt spoonfed by the show, nor did I feel like it was being deliberately obtuse.  And that last episode?  Wow, a perfect endcap for the series.

And imagine my relief when I found out that Jessica Lange is back in the second season American Horror Story: Asylum which is telling an all new story with all new characters.  It’ll be hard for her to top her role as Constance, but I’ll definitely be watching.  If Dylan McDermott is back, I just hope he can keep his damn shirt on.

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