American Horror Story Review: “Smoldering Children”

This episode of American Horror Story had shocking revelations. The show begins with a flashback. Its 1994 and Constance, Addy, Tate and Larry are having a family dinner. Tate volunteers to bless the table. Larry expresses happiness that Tate is trying to be a member of the family. Tate gives a sarcastic, insult filled prayer. He talks about his father leaving and the family being a charade. Tate tells Larry that Constance doesn’t really love him. Larry doesn’t show any remorse about his family burning themselves alive. Tate gets angry when Addy expresses joy at Larry inviting them to the theatre. He says that he knows Larry killed Beau. Constance interrupts him and says that Beau died in his sleep of natural causes. Tate tells Constance that Beau suffered because of her. Constance can’t understand why Tate won’t use his normal appearance to get places. He tells her that he will never be her perfect son and leaves the table. We then see a montage of Tate doing drugs, loading his weapons and not sleeping. He appears to be out of it. We then see him enter an office building and walk through the lobby with a red canister. We see Larry at his desk working. Tate walks into his office and surprises Larry. Tate tells Larry that he is going to school “after”, but never says what he is going to do. Suddenly he douses Larry with gasoline and lights a match and throws it on him. He then walks out of the office with a burning Larry in the background. Tate never looks back.

Ben visits Vivien in the mental ward. She wants him to leave but Ben tells her that he believes she was raped. She asks him how he came to that conclusion and he tells her that the twins have two different fathers. Ben apologizes for not believing her. He asks her if she remembers anything about the man. She says that he didn’t speak and she doesn’t know how he got into the house or where Ben was. Ben tells her that they will find answers together. He tells her that she will be able to come and she tells him that she isn’t going back to the house. The police visit Constance to tell her about Travis and ask her some questions. Constance is upset that his face had been mutilated. They tell her Travis was found in South Central Los Angeles and Constance wonders why Travis would be in the “colored section” of town. Constance realizes that Travis is the boy discovered on the news. They are calling him the “Boy Dahlia”. She says that Travis didn’t have any enemies. Ben is on the phone requesting a DNA analysis for the mask when a truant officer visits the house for Violet. The officer notices that they have blow flies. Ben says that he will call an exterminator. He tells Ben that Violet had missed 16 consecutive days from school. He tells Ben that if Violet has anymore absences they will take her to truant court. Violet is in her room and Ben comes to talk to her. He tells that he hasn’t been a good father and he owes her an apology. He tells her that she can go anywhere she wants for college. He tells that she needs to go to school. He begs her to meet him halfway and that he will find a school for her to go to, but she has to attend. Constance visits Larry and is sweet to him at first. Then she pulls a butcher on him and threatens to cut his genitals off. Larry tells her that he only transported the body and he didn’t kill him. He says that Travis must have pissed off somebody in the house, but he doesn’t who. Constance leaves to go visit Travis, but Larry begs her to tell him she loved him. She scoffs and tells him that she never loved him; she endured him for the sake of your family. Violet gets ready to go to school, but Tate intercepts her and begs her to spend the day with him. She reluctantly agrees. Constance comes home and sees the police outside her house. They say they have a few more questions for her. They interviewed the Korean store owner and he told them about the fights Constance and Travis had. She dismisses his claim, but the butcher knife falls out of her purse. The police take her to the station.

The exterminator is examining the house. He tells Ben that he can take care of it for him, but he will have to get in the crawl space before he knows how much it will. He assures Ben that he is the best for his money. Ben agrees to let him look around. Constance is being interrogated by the police. She denies any wrongdoing. She says that they are interrupting her grieving that started with the death of her daughter.  They bring up her dark past. They ask her about Beau and she tells them that he died because of his condition. The detectives say that there were noise complaints from the neighbors. They move on to Tate being a mass murderer and she says that she has grieved enough for two lifetimes. The detectives then question her about her ex-husband and Moira who disappeared in 1983. She says that they ran away together. We then see scenes of her shooting Moira and her husband. She said that she never pursued them. We also see scenes of her burying Moira in the backyard. The detective tells her that the department didn’t think they just ran away together. They suspected Constance of murder and almost charged her. We then see flashes of Constance dragging her husband and feeding his ground up body to dogs while she tells the detective that the bodies were never found. She tells him that her husband ran away and once he cheated on her, she didn’t care anything about him. A court appointed lawyer interrupts the interrogation and tells Constance not to say anything else. He tells her that the department is moving fast and they want to pin it on her. He advises her not to say anything else. The exterminator is suiting up and crawls into the crawl space of the house. He sees something that freaks him out and Tate appears before him and calls him a murderer and tells him to repent for all the innocent lives he’s stolen. Tate then takes the sprayer and sticks it down the exterminator’s throat and pumps poison into him. He then leaves him there. Ben is on the phone with a boarding school discussing their programs. He sees Tate’s reflection in Violet’s picture, but when he turns around, Tate is gone. Ben continues talking on the phone. Violet is in the attic playing chess and Tate comes to her and tells her that Ben is planning on sending her to boarding school. Violet gets upset and Tate tells her that he won’t let Ben send her away. Tate is then seen putting on the rubber costume.

Larry is seen in the basement taking Travis’ clothes and the knife that killed him out of the wall. Travis catches him and asks him what he’s doing. Larry tells him that the stuff is evidence so he’s moving it. Travis then asks him if he’s made the news and Larry tells him that he’s been all over the news. Travis asks him about Constance and Larry tells him that she has taken his death pretty hard and it’s too soon to come see him. We then hear a child’s voice tell Travis to come play with them. We see two burned little girls sitting at a table. Larry realizes that the children are his. Travis asks Larry to get him some news clippings. He then sits down to play with the girls. Larry’s wife appears next to him and begins to talk to him. Larry asks her why he is just now seeing her and she tells him that he is on the cusp. He tells her that he’s sorry about everything that’s happened and that he’s going to make Constance pay. His wife tells him that Constance didn’t break any vows. Ben is showering. When he gets out, he wipes the steam from off the mirror and sees the Rubberman behind him. Rubberman tries to drug Ben, but Ben breaks free. They fight all over the bedroom, each getting the upper hand. Rubberman finally gets the upper hand again and succeeds in drugging Ben. Before Ben passes out, he manages to take Rubberman’s mask off and sees that it’s Tate. Ben calls out to Violet and passes out. The court appointed lawyer comes to Constance’s house and tells her that the police want her at the station as soon as possible. He says that something new has surfaced and he thinks she’s going to be charged. Tate goes to Violet in the attic and tells her that he bought them some time. He assures her that he didn’t hurt Ben. He tells her that he knows how they can be together. He tells her they can commit suicide together like Romeo and Juliet. Violet tells Tate that she wants to commit suicide in the bathtub. When she leaves the attic, she begins to scream out for help and runs with Tate chasing her. He tells her to calm down. She runs to the front of the gate and screams out to a couple for help, but they walk by as if they didn’t hear her. She suddenly finds herself back in the house. Every time she runs out of the house, she enters it again. She sees Tate and tearfully tells him that she doesn’t want to die. Tate tells her that it’s too late for that.

Tate tells Violet that he isn’t going to hurt her and she can go wherever she wants. He tells her to trust him. He takes her into the basement and they climb into the crawl space. Violet follows Tate and screams when she sees a dead mouse. Tate then shines light on an unseen object and Violet breaks down in tears. We then see Violet’s dead body in the crawl space curled up and surrounded by flies. Tate explains to her that he tried to save her but she took too many pills. We then see flashbacks of him dragging her through the house when she overdosed. It’s revealed that she really didn’t wake up. They tearfully embrace. Constance goes to the police station and pleads her innocence. She then sees Larry in an interrogation room and the police tell her that he confessed to everything. The detective asks her about a motive and she tells him she has no answers. The only thing that she can think of is that he wants to pacify a guilty conscience. Violet is shown coming to terms with being dead. She realizes that Tate was protecting her. She asks Tate why he kept his death a secret from her and he tells her that it would be hard to tell someone you’re dead. She asks him how it will be now. He tells her it will be how it’s always been and they’ll be together forever. Constance visits Larry in jail. He tells her he confessed because he wants to pay for his crimes. She tells him it’s the last time he’ll ever see her. He tells her that he can endure anything that happens to him if she tells him that she loves him. She wordlessly gets up and leaves Larry sitting there.

Normally this is the point where we pose questions about the episode and where it may go from here.  However given the shocking nature of the revelation in this episode, we have no questions to ask about the reaction of Ben and Vivienne.  This is because we know how they will react.  Their daughter committed suicide and is sentenced to forever haunt the most God forsaken dwelling on the planet.  When you really think about it, the title American Horror Story has a double meaning.  Of course there are the obvious supernatural aspects of the show that qualify as horror.  But the word horror is taking on a much more tangible form for Ben and Vivienne.  They have endured infidelity, rape, miscarriages, debt, mental instability, home invasion and coming soon, the death of a child.  They could strip away the ghosts and this would still be a horror story.  We will be tuned for the final two episodes in the coming weeks to see how this is all reconciled.  We think we know where they are going with the story, but we want to know what you guys think is going to happen.

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