‘Return To Murder House’ Takes AHS Back To Its Roots
by Ben Martin
PLEASE NOTE: This recap of American Horror Story Season 8: Apocalypse, Episode 6: Return to Murder House DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS. It is assumed you have already viewed the episode. If you have not, it is recommended you do so. Episode 6: Return to Murder House can be seen on FX, FX+, On-Demand or via your preferred streaming service.]
American Horror Story: Apocalypse is following the current cable TV model of a 10-episode season; a seasonal TV length that seems to have become the norm ever since Game of Thrones took off. I think this is an excellent idea for this particular season of AHS for a couple of reasons. In my opinion, previous seasons of this series have all felt a little too long. As we all know, Apocalypse is a crossover season. A concept which I was hesitant about first; but must admit that I’m enjoying. However, I would imagine you can only squeeze so much narrative juice from a crossover event. One which seems to reach its apex in this episode in recap, Return to Murder House.
This episode opens with Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) and Behold Chablis (Billy Porter) quickly gaining access to the Murder House. The investigating witch and warlock pose as a married couple and purchase the house with no trouble. Not they should have any considering over 30 people were killed in the home. Together, the two quickly discover that the house is a Hellish purgatory which holds many souls. Only the souls that want to be seen in Murder House can be. As a result, Behold and Madison quickly make the acquaintances of Dr. Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott), Tate Langdon (Evan Peters), and Violet Harmon (Taissa Farmiga).
Ben and Tate seem to be in a near perpetual eternity’s worth of therapy sessions. Both of them are miserable, as Ben attempts, in vain to help Tate with his numerous issues. However, all Tate wants is to reunite with the Juliet to his Romeo, Violet. Alas, she remains distant; but who could blame her? After all, Tate did slaughter 12 of his fellow students as a school shooter. What hits closer to home for Violet though is that Tate also raped and impregnated her (Violet’s) late mother, Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton). Despite all these meetings, none of the ghosts in the Murder House want to give up any information on Michael Langdon (Cody Fern).
The introductions continue as Madison and Behold soon meet Beau (Sam Kinsey), Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson), and Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange). Constance is smoking and drinking her way through her afterlife. However, there is a thorn in her side that comes in the form of Moira O’Hara (Frances Conroy). So much so that Constance agrees to give the investigating duo the lowdown on her grandson, Michael Langdon. That is if they can get rid of Moira. With no other option, the witch and warlock dig up Moira’s old Irish bones, and after consulting with Moira relocate her bones. As a result, Moira’s soul is now free, and she can now spend the afterlife with her mother.
Holding up her end of the deal, Constance tells Behold and Madison all about Michael. She explains that Vivian died giving birth to him. Thus, Constance, being the mother of Tate and therefore Michael’s grandmother, raised the boy as her own. Soon enough though, she knew there was something different about her grandson. By the time he was toddling, Michael was killing small animals. All of which was dutifully bury and plant a rose garden over. When young Michael became bored with that, he murdered his babysitter.
Things only got stranger when Constance awakens one morning to find that her grandson had “Aged a decade overnight.” It wasn’t long after this occurrence where Constance found that the evil in her grandson was just too powerful to be around. Feeling an eternity in the Murder House would be preferable, Constance explains that she came back to the house and committed suicide. That way, her soul would remain here. Not a bad afterlife, considering most of her children’s souls are in the house as well.
Wanting to leave no stone unturned, Madison and Behold convince Ben to talk as well. After Constance’s suicide, Michael finds her body in the house. Upon seeing Michael, Ben reveals his spirit to him; wanting to help the teen. Alas, despite a period of period peace; filled with a surrogate father-son relationship and therapy sessions; the evil in Michael gets the best of him. (Of course, it didn’t help that Michael’s biological father, Tate rejected him.) Before long, Ben can do no more to help Michael. After Ben unloads all this information, Vivian finally once again reveals herself to her estranged husband.
Vivian, it seems, knows more about Michael than anyone else in the house. She explains that things changed once he took up residence in the house. That is until three Satanists, including Ms. Miriam Mead (Kathy Bates) and Anton LaVey (Carlo Rota), shows up to take Michael away from the house. Once the devilish trio does so, they reveal who Michael truly is by sacrificing a young hitchhiker and feeding her heart to him. It’s through these means that Michael’s being The Antichrist is exposed. As Vivian says, “The source of darkness is his (Michael’s) true father.”
Knowing they have to high-tail it back to Cordelia with this information, Madison and Behold take their leave of The Murder House. However, before she leaves, Madison has a heart-to-heart Violet. Madison insists that the heartbroken teen give Tate another chance; and that he was not the real evil in the house. Using her magic, Madison shows Violet the truth. Proving herself a good witch, Madison leaves the Murder House; having reunited the young lovers’ souls. The episode ends there, with the fate of the world now hanging in the balance.
Instead of burying the lead on my thoughts on this episode; I’m going to go ahead and dig up the bones. Return to Murder House is the best episode of Apocalypse thus far! Firstly, I love that this episode avoids the trite apocalyptic surroundings, while properly utilizing its end of days them for all the horror that could be eked out of such. To me, the way humanity comes to its common end has always been scarier than the post-apocalyptic world itself. Perhaps that’s why this episode worked so well for me. Unlike the previous five episodes of this season, Return to Murder House finally leaned into its series’ titular horror. In doing so, they pulled from horror classics like Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Omen (1976). As well as completely ripping off a classic bit from The Changeling (1980).
Secondly, this episode managed to make the crossover between this season, Murder House, and Coven, into a smoothly constructed and well-told narrative. Something I feared Apocalypse would not achieve. The most significant highlight of this episode is its cast, however. We get to see old faces and characters; all of whom were a welcome addition to this story in my mind. In particular, I would like to point out the performances of Billy Porter as Behold Chabis; and Jessica Lange as Constance Langdon. It’s a pure joy to watch these two actors inhabit their respective characters.
This episode feels like the perfect way to close the second act of Apocalypse. Or at least, I hope that’s the case. As I said, this triangle-shaped crossover season has been well-executed thus far. However, I feel that pushing the concept too much further could impede the story as opposed to propelling it. In any event, this episode was a peak, and I look forward to seeing where we go from here.
Episode 7: Traitor can be seen on FX, FX+, On-Demand or via your preferred streaming service. Recap Coming Soon!