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TV Review: American Horror Story – “Halloween: Part 1 & Part 2″

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This week and last, FX’s big horror drama, American Horror Story, pulls out all the stops for a two-part “Halloween” showdown. Because of the holiday, the walls between the ghost world and the “real” one are thin, and the house’s previous residents manifest more than ever. What’s more, they can leave the property, and they do. This provides trouble for Ben (Dylan McDermott) when Hayden (Kate Mara) insists on telling Vivien (Connie Britton) the truth, and possibly microwaves her dog. A gang of teenagers come after Tate (Evan Peter) as he tries to enjoy his date with Violet (Taissa Farmiga). And feuding gay couple Chad (Zachary Quino, Star Trek, Heroes) and Patrick (Teddy Sears, Torchwood, Raising the Bar) try to help decorate their former home.

When a series hinges on the creepy, as American Horror Story does, it makes total sense to celebrate “Halloween” in a big way. As such, the series brings in a ton of guest stars for this episode. Not only do Chad and Patrick, the most recently deceased residents, pop up, but so does virtually every ghost seen in the first few episodes, including Nora (Lily Rabe), Charles (Matt Ross, Big Love), Angie (Missy Doty, Shameless), and Maria (Rosa Salazar, Parenthood). As if that isn’t enough, the gang of teenagers that chases Tate boasts some recognizable faces, such as Alessandra Torresani (Husbands, Caprica) and Ashley Rickards (Awkward.). One would think that this means “Halloween” is just a stunt episode, but it’s not. Each extra performer is used sparingly, but importantly. They enhance the plot without distracting from it. Good thing American Horror Story gets a full two hours to tell this tale, because there is far too much going on for a standard episode length.

Of course, horror stories are not nearly as scary without death. “Halloween Part 1″ delivers a significant, and unexpected, one when Adelaide (Jamie Brewer) is hit by a car. Desperate to save her, her mother Constance (Jessica Lange) pulls Adelaide frantically towards the property where the haunted house sits. This seems to support what has been suspected, that people who die on the property do not follow the same rules as the ordinary dead. Sadly, it looks like Constance doesn’t quite make it, and so Adelaide will be absent for the remainder of the series. Unless the creators are just trying to trick the audience, a possibility they could choose to utilize right away, or save for years from now. Or she can still return next Halloween, either way.

There are further rules revealed for the ghosts in “Halloween.” It is already known to viewers that Moira (Frances Conroy) is dead. But it seems that she cannot normally leave the property, except on Halloween, when the barriers are down. She uses this opportunity to visit her mother in the hospital, and ends her mom’s life. Her mother asks Moira to come with her to the other side, but Moira says that she can’t. Why not? What holds Moira back? The house must have a draw that not only lets the dead speak to the living the dwell there, but also keeps them from crossing over to peaceful bliss. It’s evil as well as scary.

Of course, Hayden causes the most trouble by far. Upset that Larry (Denis O’Hare) kills her, and Ben builds a gazebo over her body, she is determined to let Vivien know that she has Ben’s unborn child in her belly. When Vivien doesn’t want to listen, Hayden grows more and more upset. It is unclear if she actually microwaves Vivien’s dog, making it now one of the house’s many ghost inhabitants, or a tomato, as she tells the security officer, Luke (Morris Chestnut, V). I suspect the former. But learning that Vivien is also with child seems to change things for her. She thinks that might be why Ben didn’t leave Vivien, though in reality, that’s hardly the only reason. Either way, it appears that Hayden may stop causing trouble, at least for now.

Is Tate a ghost? This is a question that lingers throughout American Horror Story. The teenagers that chase him at “Halloween” claim that he killed them. They also say they would be in their thirties if he hadn’t. Since Tate still looks like a teenager, that means he must be dead, too, not aging. A brief cut scene also might back up their story. Unless they have the wrong guy, as Tate says. Since Tate is only seen on the property, except in “Halloween,” and he can easily get in through some unknown way, he may very well be a ghost. The teens might only be able to appear on Halloween, not having been killed on the property. Did Tate then go there, maybe because he might live in the house, and kill himself?

Equally interesting is the revelation that Tate is Constance’s son. Constance worries what the news of Adelaide’s death might do to him. This would lend credence to the ghost teens’ story, showing that Tate has a temper, and can act violently. As such, Constance’s conversation with Violet lends as much support to the Tate as a ghost theory as the teenagers hunting him do. Whatever is real or not, Tate is a vital part of the house’s story, and thus, an important thread of American Horror Story.

So what might change, now that Vivien hires Luke to help with security? Clearly, he lends a hand with the angry Hayden, and can cart her away, at least temporarily. But now he’s going to suspect some stranger happenings, considering that Hayden disappears from his patrol car as morning breaks. It doesn’t make a lot of sense that a security guard can provide much protection against the dead. But if he knows what’s really going on, maybe he could be some sort of help. If nothing else, it will give Vivien some peace of mind.

She’ll need all the peace of mind she can get once she’s in the house alone without her husband.  Now that Vivien has kicked out Ben, it makes her all the more vulnerable. True, Vivien is a tough lady, and can take care of herself. But when facing off against ghosts, the more help one has, the better. Without Ben around, that is one more protection that she doesn’t have. Or maybe she’s safer without Ben, considering what the house drives Larry to do when he lives there.

Larry must be permanently changed by the house, unable to leave it, unwilling to stop interacting with the current owners. Larry is probably not a ghost, because Ben interacts with him outside of the home in a previous episode. But he still looks like he’s from another time, and is heavily involved in the goings on there, like Constance. Thus, Larry is likely to keep going after Ben for money, if for no other reason than to stay involved. How soon until his continued presence tips off Vivien about Hayden’s fate, and Ben’s part in it?

For anyone who likes a good scare, or a decent mystery, American Horror Story is a series to watch. Having just been renewed for a second season, like its ghosts, it is not going anywhere.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com