Dennis Cozzalio and I are going to recap American Horror Story's first season at our respective blogs. Each Monday, one of us will will start the discussion and we'll go back-and-forth on our respective blogs. I am posting my first post on "Halloween, Part 1" here, but you can also follow along with our conversation at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. Read on for some of my thoughts on the fourth episode of season one.
To begin, a confession: I skipped ahead and watched both "Halloween, Part 1" and "Halloween, Part 2." This is partly because I wanted to see how the two-parter ended and partly because I realized, with the Toronto Film Festival coming up next week, I'm probably going to have to skip ahead at some point to get all my required viewing in (I still need to get my computer issues resolved, alas. Word of advice: don't use Tekserve for your repair needs). That having been said, I did not find "Part 1" to be as compelling as you did. I know, I know, I'm no fun but I at least agree that the show starts to pick up soon. I just think it only returns to the standard of quality established by "Pilot" in "Halloween, Part 2."
There were a number of little things that bugged me about "Halloween, Part 1," and generally contributed to my dislike of the episode. For starters, again, the tone of the show is still too kitschy, for my money. I think this is even true of the declamatory way that Constance addresses Addy in the speech you highlighted where she mentions sharing men with Addy. If this were a habit of Addy's that I felt were more than just a tacked-on means for Constance to fight with Addy before her big accident, I'd be fine with this scene. But apart from a winningly vitriolic tirade from Jessica Lange, I just don't buy this scene.
That kind of bombastic scene is indicative of how much of the dialogue in "Halloween, Part 1" triggered my gag reflex however. It should be noted that the dialogue in this week's episode sucks on multiple levels, and in various ways. There's juvenilely sarcastic jokes, as in the dopey, unfunny and, as far as I understand it, pointless joke comparing interior designers with "fluffers" (is the term so mainstream that we can honestly expect anyone other than perverts to get it, let alone laugh at it? Laugh at the Harmons for being rubes, is that it?). Then there's the stick-in-your-craw-and-choke quality to much of Constance's expository-but-also-pointedly-cryptic dialogue ("The dead walk freely on Halloween." "We've always known that."). Constance's line to Addy about what Halloween means--"Everyone gets a chance to be someone else for a little while, even a pretty girl."--was the worst of this type, I think. Mostly because it's the most distractingly creaky and artificial. Then there's also random little awkward bits of back-and-forth dialogue that should have been weeded out in a third or fourth draft script revision, as when Ben barks, "I have patients," and Larry replies, "And I have patience! But only so much." Oy, these puns.
James Wong's script really did drive me bananas, Dennis, so I'm sorry if reading these complaints has become monotonous for you but gah, this show! I want to like it so badly but, there's just so much to hate! So much clutter and so many missed opportunities for scares and thoughtful thematic exploration. For example, I totally agree that there's something compelling about the idea of children and parenthood being a central theme. That's what makes Ben so compelling to me: he's a provider that's driven nutty by the insane amount of pressure put upon him.
But where I really get frustrated with "Halloween, Part 1" is the way that, as in "Murder House," everything seems to happen for largely contrived reason. I'm especially stymied at the thought that Constance would actually set her child loose on the streets in such a latex mask. I get it, it's in character for Constance. But really? This just feels like Murphy, Falchuk and Wong and have shoved a stick in my eye and then expected me to like it or leave. I can't really argue with the inevitable bad result of Constance's decision, as I think there's a fairly poignant scene in "Halloween, Part 2" that this episode's events set up. But gah, really?! Is Constance really that much of a cartoon that she not only has to shoo her Down's-afflicted kid away from her latest young lover, but also has to try to ineffectually help her while only actively showing her disdain for her own child? COME ON.
Or! Or, when Constance recounts how she resents when other parents tell her how brave she is for raising Addy? And she spits out, "As if I had a choice?" I almost lost it. Constance is not a brave character as she's sketched out. Had we seen her doing more for Addy, being patient on a semi-consistent basis, doing the work of a parent that she more often than not alludes to, I'd be sold. Mostly, we just see Constance shouting, Constance over-zealously refereeing, Constance condescending, and Constance worrying over Addy. Does that accurately describe parenting? I'm sure you'd know better than me, but dramaturgically speaking, it is not a generous interpretation of what a parent does for a child.
Again, I get it: we can't see Constance interacting with the parents she's alluding to in this scene in order for this complaint to have some kind of emotional impact. It's just one beleaguered one's word against the world, myaa, see? Still, generally speaking, I don't think Constance's relationship with Addy is strongly characterized in this episode. It's the backbone of the episode. So, since you did like it, I can see why you would like the episode in general. I however felt it was rushed, canned and generally underwhelming. I did like the scene where Violet applies make-up to Addy. That had a genuine warmth to it thanks to the show's talented young actresses. But Constance and Addy's relationship in "Halloween, Part 1" just struck me as overwrought and underdone.
But now I am curious to hear more of your thoughts on Constance and Addy's relationship in "Halloween, Part," and the episodes other key sub-plots. Maybe it will bring out some love and/or greater interest that I didn't previously see. I mean, what else am I going to do, but listen to you while I hyper-ventilate in this lil brown baggy, right? Just give me a second to...catch my breath....