AMERICAN HORROR STORY 1.10 ‘Smoldering Children’

Ben confronts Rubber Man and Violet learns a disturbing secret. Meanwhile, Constance is blamed for the death of her lover.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Smoldering Children"

Writer: James Wong
Director: Michael Lehmann

Previously on "American Horror Story":

Episode 1.09: "Spooky Little Girl"


Flashback to 1994 (which is turning out to be a pretty crappy year in the Murder House). At the dinner table, Larry Harvey (Denis O'Hare) welcomes his new family, Constance (Jessica Lange), Tate (Evan Peters).and Adelaide (Jamie Brewer). Tate even volunteers to say grace; but he only uses it as a chance to taunt Larry about the horrible burning deaths of his family and the fact that Constance doesn't really love him… she just wanted to live at the house again. Constance scolds Tate for mouthing off and he retreats to his room where he does a lot of drugs. The next day, Tate packs up his many, many guns and he heads over to Larry's office.

Larry is surprised to see Tate and even more surprised when Tate douses him with gasoline and immolates him… on his way to an infamous school shooting. Back to the present, Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) visits his estranged wife, Vivien (Connie Britton) in the mental hospital. She's understandably not happy to see him, but Ben tells her that he now believes she was raped by the man in the rubber suit. Incredulous, Vivien asks Ben why he had a change of heart and he reveals that the Rubber Man fathered one of her twins. The only good news is that Ben thinks that Vivien will be released in a few days.

Back at the murder house, Ben is surprised by the appearance of a truant officer, who tells him that his daughter, Violet Harmon (Taissa Farmiga) has skipped over two weeks of school; meaning that it will soon go to juvenile court. They also notice a blowfly infestation before the officer leaves. When Ben confronts Violet, he does so in a more understanding manner and he offers to find her a new school. She just has to actually go there. Meanwhile, Constance is questioned by two police detectives about the death of her lover, Travis (Michael Graziadei); whom the media has dubbed "the Boy Dahlia."

Constance professes her ignorance of the Travis' murder to the cops, but she soon heads to Larry's apartment and accuses him of killing Travis because he still loved her. Larry says that one of the spirits at the Murder House killed Travis and he just moved the body. Larry tries to reinsert himself in Constance's life by pointing out that he's still alive and he loves her. But she just scoffs at him and denies ever loving him. At the Murder House, Violet gets ready to go to school when Tate stops her before she gets out the door. He then convinces her to stay with him for the day.

Next door, the police are waiting for Constance again. And when Constance accidentally drops the knife she used to threaten Larry, the police bring her in for questioning. At the station, the police badger Constance about the numerous deaths and disappearances in her life. They also reveal that Constance was almost prosecuted for the murders of her husband, Hugo and her maid, Moira. But their bodies were never found. Constance's attorney arrives and gets the cops out of the room. He then warns Constance that the police want to close Travis' murder and they think that she did it.

Back at the Murder House, Ben gets an exterminator to find the source of the infestation before they settle on a price. In the crawl space of the house, the exterminator sees something horrifying before Tate appears and murders him. Soon after, Tate overhears Ben talking to a Boarding School about getting Violet accepted and Ben briefly sees Tate's reflection before he disappears. Tate races upstairs to tell Violet that Ben is trying to send her away and that he won't let that happen. Tate says that he has a plan, but his plan seems to involve putting on the rubber suit.

In the basement, Larry retrieves evidence of Travis' murder and he runs into Travis' ghost, who is very interested in hearing about the media coverage of his murder. More horrifying to Larry are the burned apparitions of his dead daughters, whom Travis has been entertaining with a "tea party." Heartbroken, Larry sees his dead and badly burned wife appear next to him and he promises to make Constance pay for destroying their family. But Larry's wife tells him that he destroyed his family, not Constance. Therefore, Larry is the one who needs to pay, in her eyes. Before Larry can reply, all of the ghosts vanish.

Upstairs, Tate is in full Rubber Man mode as he tries to chloroform Ben right after he gets out of the shower. Ben puts up a hell of a fight and he even pulls off Tate's mask, but ultimately Tate is victorious. He leaves Ben unconscious (but alive), before returning to Violet and attempting to convince her to commit suicide with him to stay together forever. Horrified, Violet tries to flee the house, only to constantly find herself back inside. Frightened and confused, she tells Tate that she doesn't want to die. Tate tells that it's too late and takes her to the crawl space… where they find her body.

Tate explains that he wasn't able to save Violet's life when she tried to commit suicide and he's been trying to protect her from the truth ever since. Next door, Constance's lawyer shows up and says that she's likely to be charged with Travis' murder. But when they get to the police station, they find that Larry has presented them with the evidence of Travis' murder and confessed to everything. Constance denies knowing Larry and says that he must have confessed because of his guilty conscience. Back at the Murder House, Violet is still stunned by the revelation of her death, but Tate assures her that they now have an eternity together.

Some time later, Constance visits Larry in jail. Larry tells her that the authorities are transferring him out of state to serve his term and that he confessed because he needs to pay for all of his sins. The one thought that gives Larry any joy is that Constance once loved him. He says that he'll happily die in jail if she'll just say it one more time. Unwilling to give Larry even that small kindness, Constance walks away in silence.


Did you know that 99% of all murders in Los Angeles take place in or around the Murder House?


Obviously, the biggest thing to come out of this episode of "American Horror Story" was the death of Violet Harmon. The audience seemed to pick up on that almost immediately a few weeks ago, putting them ahead of the show. But compared to a similar occurrence this season on "Dexter," the reveal in "American Horror Story" was genuinely unnerving. As soon as Tate murdered the exterminator, I knew it had to be Violet's body that he was protecting. And the first full look at Violet's dead body was also unsettling and effective.

The sequence in which Violet constantly found herself back in the house also featured some terrific editing and it was unusually exciting. It's impressive that the key revelation of the show was so entertaining even though Violet's fate was so obvious.

It's also clear that the Langdon family is more monstrous than Infantata could ever be. Only Adelaide and Beau seem to be except from that. But Constance is an incredible piece of work. Everything that Tate said about her was true. She killed her husband and turned him into dog food. And when it would have cost her nothing to give a kind word to Larry, she didn't even bother to pretend to care about him.

In short, she's a monster. And the monster begat another monster in Tate; whose crimes are even more heinous than his mother's. Rape, multiple murders… Tate's done it all. He's even behind Larry's horrible burns. Who needs the antiChrist when you have Tate around?  Come to think of it, I forgot to mention that Tate may have fathered the antiChrist when he raped Vivien.

While it's surprising that the writers of "American Horror Story" would kill off Violet in the first season, I also feel that it was a huge mistake. Violet was often the only sympathetic member of the Harmon family and there were some intriguing hints that she may have been slightly psychic. On this show, death is obviously not the end of her character. But it definitely limits what can be done with Violet in the future. She'll never be the main focal point of the story after this.

However, I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how Ben and Vivien react to the death of their daughter. It could also be the thing that keeps them in the Murder House permanently (or at least through the end of the series), provided both Harmons survive the remaining two episodes of this season. For all we know, the entire family may end up as ghosts who will be haunting the next sucker to move into the Murder House.

I also wonder if this is the end of Larry Harvey's role in the story. He seems to be written into a pretty tight corner and there's no easy fix to get him out of jail. It's kind of a sad sendoff for an increasingly amusing character. But a sad end is kind of fitting for his shell of a life. Larry's best dramatic moments came when he finally saw the ghosts of his burnt children (which was also one of the show's more disturbing visuals). Prison is Larry's penance, but he'll find no absolution there.

BTW, did anyone notice that Travis may have actually been good father material? He coaxed Larry's dead daughters out of hiding and he got them to act like children again. Travis also seemed to have a rapport with them that Larry never had. Maybe Constance was right about him.

Hopefully she never finds out. Otherwise, there would be no living with her in or out of the Murder House.

Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.