Getting closer and closer to the finale of a show it can be hard to keep a storyline from getting too complicated, and even the task of keeping the narrative set on the important parts of the overall story rather than branching into less important aspects of it (which is very much allowed when a series begins) can be pretty hard one to achieve. However, American Horror Story seems to be doing pretty well on that regard by centering this episode on the current narrative and clearing up mysteries rather than attempting to build up bigger questions.
The storyline this week was centered on Violet – A character that was completely absent from last week’s episode except for a reference to a sandwich made for her and Constance’s idea that her boyfriend was having sex with her. In this case we actually get to know more about the situation the character is living; for it is heavily hinted from the beginning of the episode (and later confirmed) that Violet has been dead for quite some time. Other than that, however, there’s very little the episode tells us – It clears us several doubts about Larry, particularly about the way in which he got disfigured and gives us more insight into Tate’s personality previous to the school shooting. Sadly, the whole Tate being the rubber man idea goes on and his recklessness keeps on appearing over and over in several scenes that I believe are better ignored for the good of the series – Having him be both Violet’s beau and a horrible psychopath who’s absolutely reckless about the results of his actions make him a little too much of a strange character for my taste.
Other than that, a smaller part of the episode was dedicated to Ben and Vivien, who are now on the way to hopefully fixing the marriage – if the house allows them to, with Ben finally understanding that Vivien was indeed raped by the rubber man. However, Ben’s offer of getting Vivien outside bedlam is met with a blatant refusal to going back to the house. Constance also has her part in the episode after she becomes the main suspect on an investigation regarding Travis’ murder, where she is revealed by the local police that she’s been a suspect murderer for a long time already. However, Larry jumps in to save the day by bringing the murder weapon and confessing the crime to the police in an attempt to get Constance’s love back – Even when she refuses to acknowledge ever having any kind of esteem for him.
Though seemingly short on plot advancement, Smoldering Children (That’s a reference to Larry’s children I’m sure) is actually one of the best episodes in the series so far – Somewhat slow-paced yet presented in such a way that the drama doesn’t stop. From Constance’s state as a suspect of murder, something that was doubtlessly done for the writers to be able to put Larry on a bus, to the whole of the storyline regarding Violet, Smoldering Children weaves its own storyline beautifully, somewhat going back to the heights the show reached with Halloween, Part 2 and Piggy Piggy. Violet’s storyline, for example, creates a psychological thriller inside of the episode and the ramifications to finding her body will sure impact the next episodes greatly, possibly even putting Ben on jail after the body of his daughter is found and forensic tests determine she died several weeks before while he kept telling the school council she’d go there the following day.
Another interesting ramification of this is the impact the news will have on Vivien, who will surely want to know even less of the house after that, though even more interesting shall be how (and if) it will affect her pregnancy and to what extent it will do so. Perhaps the last question I had after this episode was whether Moira knew about Violet’s death or not; for she has become quite an enigma of herself, having shown she isn’t really a nice, charitable soul yet also not a monster that’s allied with the house – She seems to have her own reasons to do what she does, some of them pretty selfish, but it is actually very hard to know what side she’s on or even if she’s on anyone’s side but herself. Beautiful as her character is, Moira is one of the most enigmatic characters in the house, and the fact that Constance’s husband isn’t haunting the house yet Moira is raises some more questions regarding how or when exactly people become ghosts, especially considering it’s been pretty much stated that Moira should be able to pass on shall her dead body be found.
Overall, Smoldering Children can be counted as one of the best American Horror Story episodes to date and it is indeed a very nice set up for the series finale. Though still a bit rough over the edges, it is one of the most engrossing episodes in the series so far and definitely the raise in quality the series needed after the horrible Rubber Man episode.
Final review rating: 4.5/5