'American Horror Story' season finale recap: No Exit

"Afterbirth," the season finale of American Horror Story and possibly the series finale for Ben, Vivien and Violet Harmonleft me in limbo. My opinion pings between cool admiration and hot disappointment, between reflections like "It's Sartre's No Exit but with a happy ending! How ironic!" and snarky knee-jerk reactions like "That was lame. And Sartre? Can you be any more pretentious?!" (Sadly, I can.) Right now, I'm pinging toward the positive. The more I sit with the finale, and the more I re-watch it (three times, as of this writing), the more it grows on me, and the quality that initially irritated me the most – a surprisingly light tone that went for laughs instead of scares – becomes a virtue. In the spirit of the episode’s big theme, I should take personal responsibility for my experience and confess that my expectations set me up for inevitable let-down. After last week’s frothy and frightening peak installment, I was anticipating -- envisioning -- a terrifying corker worthy of FX’s "television event" positioning and extended running time, a high stakes dark tragedy driven and dominated by the conflicts that "Birth" seemed to set up: Ben Harmon fighting for his sanity in the wake of triple-whammy loss (Vivien, Violet, his stillborn child) and intensifying Murder House crazy; and a battle royale between the living and the dead over guardianship of the Tate-sired infant terrible. Yet "Afterbirth" made quick work of both Ben and baby, then sought to amuse and even uplift with a loopy, low stakes dark comedy – a very special Christmas episode, no less -- that labored to give the Harmons a redemptive victims-to-heroes makeover. If "Afterbirth" was the end of the line for the Harmons, then it gave the woefully abused family some closure and triumph, albeit clumsily. Read More...



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