American Horror Story, Ep. 1.07, “Open House″: Homophobia, misogyny, and gay porn

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American Horror Story Review, Season 1, Episode 7, “Open House”
Written by Brad Falchuck
Directed by Tim Hunter
Airs Wednesdays at 10pm ET on FX

For the past two weeks, American Horror Story was a decent show. Some weird moments popped up occasionally, but the majority of the episodes were respectable. This week’s episode, “Open House,” tries to strip away any of that earned dignity.

“Open House” is ridiculous. Yes, the show often has flaws in exposition and story, but this episode goes beyond technical missteps. Almost every scene dissolves into a laughable and bizarrely unmotivated mess. The unfocused plot touches on Vivien’s attempts at selling the house, Larry’s true past, Constance’s other son, a reanimated baby and the Violet/Tate relationship. It’s a junkyard of unrelated points that the episode squeezes into forty minutes.

The one-dimensional guest stars border on screwball and bring down the rest of the cast. There is a tonal dissonance between the serious draw of Connie Britton and Jessica Lange next to Marcy, the kooky realtor, and Mr. Eskandarian, the misogynistic hotshot developer. This results in cheap comedy and goofy drama.

For example, these are some of the actual lines said throughout the episode:

“Everything was meticulously restored by the previous homos, I mean homeowners.”
 – Marcy to Mr. Eskandarian 

“Game over.”
Ben intimidating Larry and right before flicking a cigarette to the ground

“There are three reasons I deal with women: sex, money, or making me sandwiches.”
– Mr. Eskandarian to Constance

“I think gay porn is hot.”
– Violet to Tate

The contexts fail to make them read any better or give them any relevance. There’s not much to say about these lines other than they are part of the reason this week is silly.

A lot of “Open House” deals with Larry, whose background is developed a bit. He’s always been an extraneous character, so it’s likely the writers scrapped what they had planned for him previously to tie him into the main story. He now has a link to Constance and a past that he lied to Ben about, invalidating almost everything audiences knew about him before this episode. Instead of an insane killer of his family, he is now an insane romantic trying to win back Constance.

This doesn’t fit with the hints that the show dropped a few weeks back. Larry was set up to be foreshadowing of what Ben was to become, kind of like the role of the caretaker in The Shining. Ben was showing pyromaniac tendencies, much like Larry had when he supposedly killed his family. Now that Larry is innocent, Ben’s behavior makes no sense. The show has done a good job at following through on the mysteries, but this is the first time it has tripped over itself.

The other flashback this week is another scene with Dr. Montgomery, who actually built the house, and his wife, who wanted to buy the house from Vivien a few episodes ago. Every scene with these characters is cartoonish, and it’s confusing why they’re still part of the show. The flashback, though, is actually interesting. It proves to be one of the scarier moments this week and answers what happened to them.

Another decent storyline is that of Violet and Tate. It’s not quite clear yet, but it’s very likely that Violet is dead. Neither her nor Tate talk about anything they learned in last week’s episode, Piggy Piggy. They both had some major breakthroughs, revolving around the fact that Tate is a ghost, but there is not one reference of this revelation from either of them. At one point, Tate even asks Violet if she believes in ghosts. Violet doesn’t react the way she should, which is “yes, I’m talking to a ghost right now.” Instead, she’s confused by the question.

These characters’ amnesia is either part of the bigger mystery or the writers tripped up again and forgot about last week. If not for Larry’s flexible character background, the Violet/Tate stuff would be more intriguing and poignant. Now, it’s just confusing.

The final moments of the episode also close with a whimper. The big reveal is not even a reveal. Vivien learns that the woman she showed the house to (Nora Montgomery) was actually a ghost. She didn’t know this, but the audience knew this for weeks. The writers placed too much importance on a fact that changes nothing for the show.

Very little of “Open House” is redeeming, but it ironically improves with a repeated viewing. Once fans expect the madcap moments, they can focus more on the mythology and the dialogue surrounding it. A second viewing also allows more appreciation for Jessica Lange, who consistently carries the show. Overall, this episode feels like it’s biding its time for next week’s “Rubber Man,” which promises to deliver based solely on the title.

Criticism of this episode is not as harsh as before. This is surprising considering it feels weakest of any episode this season. Many online are still enjoying it though. Where do you stand?

Ryan Clagg

2 Comments
  1. Ryan Clagg says

    Thanks. I never did check out “Nip/Tuck,” but I heard crazy things, the kind of crazy that this show is. As far as Moira, the interplay is very interesting. Oddly enough, though, in the only flashback we have of Young Moira, she wasn’t that promiscuous. Her character makes the least logical sense (besides Rubber Man).

    And nice observation about Tate and Violet. I didn’t notice that detail, and I hope it wasn’t an inconsistency. The “things happen for a reason” angle always hooks me. They’ve cashed in on several hints, so let’s hope we can still trust the writers to maintain control of all the crazy they’ve thrown out.

  2. Mario in Philly says

    Nice summary. The story does seem all over the place and the rules of the ghosts appear to change on a whim. AHS is trying to up the ante of the other Ryan Murphy show Nip/Tuck. But whereas N/T increasingly went over the top AHS is already up there so it has nowhere to go but to backtrack a bit. It is the story telling that is most at fault.
    In addition to a great performance by Jessica Lange, I like the interplay of Frances Conroy and Alexandra Breckenridge as maid Moira. The directors appear to get the POV correct in each scene. It also works when Violet is talking with Tate and we don’t see his reflection in the mirror. But we do see Violet. I like Tarissa Farmiga as Violet and while she could indeed be dead, could her mirror image be just another inconsistency?

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