"From blood and pain come perfection."
That's what Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) once said about childbirth, but the same could be said for Wednesday's episode of American Horror Story: Apocalypse, "Return to Murder House." The episode, directed by Sarah Paulson, was the most anticipated installment of the season, featuring the arrival of Murder House favorites Constance, Ben (Dylan McDermott) and Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton), their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga), Tate Langdon (Evan Peters) and Billie Dean Howard (Paulson). It also marked the first time fans have seen Lange in the FX anthology's twisted universe since Freak Show and the first time Britton has appeared since the first season, making it an extra-special occasion.
So what brought Horror Story back to Murder House? At the end of last week's episode, reigning Supreme Cordelia (also Paulson) sent the recently resurrected Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) and the eaves-dropping warlock Behold Chablis (Billy Porter) to investigate the alleged rising Supreme Michael Langdon's (Cody Fern) past by visiting his childhood home. However, after Madison's purchase of the Murder House goes through, she and Chablis discover that none of its ghostly residents are in any mood to chat and they must force them out of hiding.
Fortunately, Chablis and Madison aren't your average mortals so Chablis works his magic and BOOM, ghosts everywhere, including Tate and Ben having a very tense therapy session in Ben's office. Apparently, Ben wound up agreeing to continue their arrangement and the pair now have daily sessions in which Tate insists he's a changed ghost, that Violet still has feelings for him and blah blah blah. But before we could dig anymore into whether or not Tate actually has changed, Madison and Chablis interrupt to insist on interrogating them about Michael, to which Ben retorts that he has to go stare out the window while crying and masturbating. (There were a lot of little, fan-service Easter eggs like this woven throughout the episode, so if you like your AHS slightly heavy-handed and meta, this is probably your favorite one in a while).
When Ben and Tate don't pan out as sources, Billie Dean shows up to give Madison and Chablis a little more background info. But then it's their turn to get interrupted when Constance Langdon in all her glory strolls down the stairs to ask WTF the pair are doing in her house. Now dead, Constance has apparently installed herself as the lady of Murder House, spending her afterlife torturing Moira (Frances Conroy) by making her dust rooms repeatedly. (Bleak.)
Once she learns what Madison and Chablis are there for, Constance says she'll tell them everything they want to know about Michael... for a price. The deal: Madison and Chablis remove Moira permanently from the residence. And so the pair go about finding Moira's bones in the expansive yard and gift them back to the maid, asking her where she wishes to be buried now. Her final wish is that they bury her near her mother in the local cemetery, reuniting the pair in the afterlife and giving Moira the opportunity to unburden the guilt she's carried for years over pulling the plug on her ailing mother. As it turns out, Moira's mom was in such agony that death was a blessing, and Moira strolls off into the
sunset cemetery mist hand in hand with her mother, finally getting her much-deserved happy ending.
Moira's blessing is also Constance's, who is grateful to be rid of the woman she killed once and for all. With their end of the bargain fulfilled, Constance begins to share Michael's story, some of which we already knew (ghost dad, etc.) but a lot of which we didn't. As Constance tells it, she really did try to do everything she could to avoid making the same mistakes with Michael that she did with Tate. Constance did truly love Michael, but he began to erode her sense of purpose and faith when he began tearing the wings off flies while still in his crib. When he graduated to rodents, a troubled Constance would bury Michael's "presents" in her garden and plant a rosebush over each one, hoping to create life out of death. But after he escalated again and killed his babysitter (which we saw in the final moments of Murder House), Constance realized she wasn't just raising an average serial killer. Add to that the fact that he then randomly aged 10 years overnight shortly afterwards, and yeah, let's call the fact that Michael isn't average pretty much confirmed.
Once Michael had grown into either an underdeveloped teenager or an overdeveloped toddler, take your pick, the uncontrollable darkness within him grew too; although it is clear that Michael did his best to fight it off and even loved his grandmother, despite once trying to choke her to death. All of this led to Constance facing the stark realization that she had outgrown her use to Michael and was one grammar-correct away from having her throat slit by her violently impulsive grandson. So, in true Constance fashion, she decided to kill herself before he killed her, going to the Murder House and taking pills mixed with lots and lots of booze and dancing until she could finally dance no more.
When Constance woke up in her afterlife, she was reunited with three of her four children: Tate, Beau and her young daughter who inexplicably has no eyes. (Don't ask, we have no answers.) Constance explains to Madison and Chablis that these kids were the real reason she bound herself to the house and that she was born to be a mother and died to be one too. It was actually a very touching way to wrap up Constance's storyline and see her get some sort of peace, even in death. But the episode was far from over yet.
As it turns out, Ben wasn't kidding when he said he has to stare out the window masturbating and crying every day. Ghostly impulse, y'know? Madison and Chablis offer to make that need go away if he shares more scoop on Michael. Ben agrees, revealing that when Michael came to the house to find Constance dead, he showed himself to the heartbroken young man and offered to help him since he still thought of Michael as his son. And so the two started up their own therapy sessions and did things father and sons in TV shows always do like play catch and whatnot. But after Michael found out Tate was his father and went looking through his stuff (like the Rubber Man suit) to try and get closer to him, Tate snapped at Michael, refusing to acknowledge his role as his father. After that, Ben says, Michael began to turn away from the light and give himself over to the darkness. And when Michael not only killed a young couple who made the mistake of moving into the house but burned their souls out of existence, Ben turned away from Michael too.
It's at this point in the episode that Vivien becomes the interrupter and we learn that she and Ben haven't spoken since he struck up his relationship with Michael. She hates that Ben had a relationship with him, and for good reason: She knows he's the Antichrist and she doesn't believe in reforming Satan's spawn. She then proceeds to fill in the rest of the story, sharing that one day a trio of Satanists, including Mead and one played by Naomi Grossman (aka Pepper!!!), showed up at the house to find Michael. As part of their plan, Mead kidnapped a young girl whom they murdered in a ritual sacrifice that involved pulling her heart out of her chest by hand and then having Michael eat it, also with his hands. After Michael consumed the heart, his shadow took on the most literal devil form you can imagine because this is American Horror Story and subtly is a foreign concept.
After this Black Mass, Vivien decided to kill Michael, whose Antichrist abilities meant that he saw her coming. Before Vivien could get stab-happy, Michael attempted to burn Vivien out of existence like he did the couple, but Tate saved her and none of the Murder House residents have seen Michael since. Viven concludes her tale by insisting that while Ben isn't Michael's dad, neither is Tate and that his only real father is the source of darkness. Sure.
After Madison hears this, she is ready to run straight to the Council and spill. But before they leave, Madison sees Violet crying in the hallway and goes to comfort her because, like Veronica Mars, Madison Montgomery is a big ol' marshmallow underneath all that Prada. The lovesick Violet explains that she hates herself for still loving Tate despite knowing all the monstrous things he's done (ex: shoot up his school, rape her mother — the list goes on but does anyone need more examples than that?). However, Madison poses the theory that maybe Tate isn't a monster and that the evil of the house infected him and used him as a vessel to create something worse. Maybe, Madison suggests, now that Michael has left, the evil inside Tate has gone too. Madison then works some witchy wonder and presto blam-o, Violet and Tate get back together and get their still problematic but also pretty sweet happy ending.
And so we once again leave Murder House behind, but at least this time everyone has gotten their happily ever after... until Michael destroys the whole world in three years.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on FX.