Michael Langdon: An Oral History in Three Parts
The worst possible version of Heidi Klum and Seal (ie) Behold and Madison, have successfully purchased the Murder House and now they can perform their own community theatre X-Files production. In this episode, Behold and Madison will try to learn the history of Michael Langdon, the first man to conquer The Seven Wonders. After conjuring up some warlock magic, all of the spirits in the Murder House are now visible to our two intrepid paranormal investigators and this allows all of us to take a trip down memory lane and reacquaint ourselves with some of the 36 spirits in this house. We get to see one of the nurses, Larry Harvey’s children, Beau, Moira, Tate, the Harmon Family and, wait for it…Constance Langdon.
“I’m Constance Langdon and this is my fucking house.” YES, QUEEN!
Just like she did when she was alive, Constance has staked her claim on this house and she is less than enthused to see uninvited visitors. After her usual go around with Moira, she informs the witches that she will tell them anything they want to know if they can rid her of Moira. This allows for a really nice moment of closure for our long tortured maid. While Moira’s extra sassiness this episode was truly a joy, it was nice to see her be reunited with her mother. What we all came here for, though, is to hear Constance explain how Michael came to be in the care of Ms. Mead and then go on to be the harbinger of the apocalypse.
Constance gladly assumed the role of motherhood after Viven died during childbirth because Michael being her grandson, Constance thought that this would be her chance to correct the mistakes she made in raising Tate. She says, “To raise a great man, that was the most admirable and selfless act a woman could aspire to.” But she says this as she puts him to sleep in the same closet where she punished her daughter Addie. As Michael grew, he started leaving presents for Constance; dead mice, cats and eventually working up to the baby sitter. (Insert flashback scene of Season 1 finale.) Constance decides that, “I was put on this earth to raise the monsters.” and simply accepts that she was raising a garden variety serial killer, or maybe even a gifted one. Dare to dream.
In a very lame attempt to explain why Michael is now a full grown man, Constance tells of the morning that she went to wake him up and he had aged a decade overnight as if, “he was in a hurry to get somewhere, age wise.” I mean seriously, did he go play a giant piano at FAO Schwartz after this scene? Anyway, after almost strangling Constance, Michael is truly very sorry and he doesn’t even seem to understand why he was doing it in the first place. Now, Constance can deal with his random killing sprees, but his rapid aging causes her to call in a priest who doesn’t manage to see another day and this is when Constance decides that she wasn’t going to give Michael, or any man, the satisfaction of ending her life. So,we get a classic Jessica Lange musical moment while she kills herself in the Murder House where she can eternally be a mother to her little monsters. For such a wretched woman, it seems kind of unfair that when she awakes in the afterlife, she is greeted by three of her four children. Addie, of course, is not trapped in the house because she didn’t die on the property: I like to believe that Addie is enjoying being one of the pretty girls somewhere fabulous.
“Well, there it is, the whole story. Is it everything you dreamed of witchy-poos?”
“The day Constance died was when I first saw my son,” Ben tells Madison and Behold which means that he accepts Michael as his son, which is super bizarre. Ben Harmon did not live a life of endless selflessness, so it’s pretty much unthinkable that he would accept the son of the man who raped his wife, but I suppose you have to think differently when you’re trapped in a house for eternity. Seeing Michael cry over his dead grandma was truly saddening and then to add insult to injury, she doesn’t want to see Michael anymore: this is when Ben starts treating Michael as a patient and while he paints it as trying to help Michael choose the better side of his nature, he is clearly enjoying the feeling of being a father, but someone needs to because Tate refuses to take ownership of being Michael’s father. Between Constance killing herself to get away from him and his dad refusing him, Michael lends himself over to the dark side which allows us a nice cameo from Mena Suvari as Elizabeth Short and when two new home owners move into the house, Michael immediately dons the Rubber Man suit and kills them. When Ben explains to him why the new owners are still “alive”, Michael then burns their souls. This is a very interesting development:Michael can make you dead beyond resurrection. At this point, even Ben can’t find some way to excuse his relationship with Michael and he becomes just another in the line of people who have turned their back on him and it almost feels as if they’re giving Michael an excuse to fully embrace the darkness within himself.
When Vivien finally shows up to tell her story to Madison and Behold, she is all kinds of fire and brimstone. “What you’re dealing with here is not just evil. Michael is not just a bad witch for you to exterminate,” she says and then she quotes, “And then I saw a beast with ten horns and seven heads rising out of the sea and all who dwell on the earth will worship him.” This was kind of fun because I felt like I was back in Sunday School.
She kept her distance from Michael at first, but then a murder of crows would circle the house every day and inside of the house it was sweltering hot and then Anton LaVay and his two cardinals show up. You know, the usual satanic shenanigans. (Enter Ms. Mead and Naomi Grossman. Squee!) LaVay claims to have faked his death solely for the purpose of this moment. These three followed a dark star and found a house built over a portal to hell. (This “repurposing” of a Christian story isn’t just lazy, but feels mildly problematic. I encourage you to read this article from The Church of Satan regarding this storyline.) Michael, of course, loves this because he’s just a young boy who craves acceptance and these people finally gave it to him. Viven thinks this is all a bunch of hooey, but then she witness the Black Mass where a poor young woman is sacrificed and Michael eats her heart while the shadow of, presumably, Lucifer materializes. So, Vivien then decides she should kill Michael because that seems like a super easy task to accomplish. “Ben is not his father, nor is Tate. He was born from the evil of this house. The source of darkness is his true father and he is here to destroy the earth.” Essentially, we still have no concrete idea of who Michael’s father is and Michael holds no culpability in any of his actions.
Behold and Madison are now so very aware of how truly dire this situation is and they need to head back home and try to figure out a plan. But first: reunite Violet with Tate because Madison gives a fuck about this? The love triangle between Madison, Zoe and Kyle was superfluous in Coven and so is this new Roberts/Farmiga/Peters triangle. Madison says some flowery things to Zoe and then blows some dust in her face and fixes everything. What is she, some kind of fucked up fairy godmother? Nothing about this storyline rang true for Madison and it kind of makes you wonder if they’re pulling a The Waling Dead and humanizing a character so we get extra sad when they die in a future episode. Also, Madison explained away any responsibility that Tate had in any of his many transgressions. The Murder House is to blame for everyone’s shitty behavior and that is really fucking convenient.
In fact, so many things about this episode were uber convenient. Rather than an episode that was meant to truly bridge two halves of the Apocalypse season together, it felt like an epilogue for Murder House with storylines getting a pretty, little bow on them and nothing about that feels true to this series. Is this the only visit we will have to Murder House? Between this and the small Hotel Cortez cameo, it feels like they’re just trying to placate the longtime fans. What does this look like to the viewers who have just joined the AHS universe? Are they confused as to why we are still in a flashback? When will we be back in present time and get answers to so many questions that were brought up at the beginning of the season?
Directed by Sarah Paulson, she did an excellent job of including all of the AHS camera angles that we have come to love, but I do wish she had stayed behind the camera. The appearance of Billie Dean Howard was completely unnecessary and added absolutely nothing to Behold and Madison’s experience. Sure, she mentions that she has known other Montgomery’s but that’s it and what is she doing there? Does she need a hobby or another job or what?
Take away the joy of seeing Constance and the Harmons and what are we left with? Another episode taking place in the past that was really just a hodgepodge of pop culture references and winks to the first season along with a fun cameo by Naomi Grossman who played Pepper in Asylum and Freakshow: the first character in the AHS universe to ever prove that all of the seasons connect somehow. Don’t get me wrong, it was tons of fun to see everyone and get some closure with a few characters while also getting more backstory on Michael, but now that we are past the halfway point of the season, it’s a bit worrying that there is still so very much to answer for before the actual apocalypse even happens. Next week we get Joan Collins back in some form, the voodoo background of Dinah and Papa Legba!!! Looks like another epic episode.
Behold, you’re gonna need a shit ton of sage for that house.
“Calm down, skinny witch!”
Behold had to put on khakis and dig a giant hole; he’s definitely having a bad day. And did he tear down the gazebo?
“I’m different now. I’m dead and I’m hot.”
Ms. Mead drives a Prius and I find this hilarious.
Michael eating the heart is the second Game of Thrones-esque moment.
Just give Jessica Lange the Emmy for when she corrects Michael’s grammar right after he tries to kill her.
If we never return to Murder House, does that mean that ghost don’t survive the apocalypse?
When Michael was just living by himself in the house, did he just walk to the market to get groceries? The guy has no actual life skills and, mentally, he’s a young child. I guess he could just go down to the Korean like Constance always did.
Lisa Fremont | Twitter: @lcfremont