"Is that the sound of someone jumping a shark I hear?" said the Wife With One F after this week's episode of American Horror Story, and though we don't think the show is airborne just yet, they are approaching a ramp at high speed.
Simply put, this episode tried just a little too hard to distract us from the fact that absolutely nothing happened. The first and easily most pleasant of the distractions was the appearance of Mena Suvari as the Black Dahlia. Apparently, Elizabeth Short met her end in the Murder House, the victim of a dentist who raped her then discovered that he had given her an overdose of nitrous oxide. After dragging her body to the basement, Dr. Montgomery (Matt Ross) appears and offers to dismember her for easy transport. He gives the Dahlia her Chelsea grin because he thought she looked sad.
Since everyone killed on the property just wanders around, the Dahlia tries to engage Ben (Dylan McDermott) for his psychiatric services and for sex. He refuses her his penis, thus far the first person in the series he has refused to counsel with coitus, now that we think about it, but does offer to treat her. When she arrives for her appointment, she's on his couch with young, hot Moira (Alexandra Breckenridge), attempting to land him via the offer of a threesome. He responds by throwing them both out.
Now, we're not going to paint a lemon red and try to sell you a strawberry here. The above scene we just described was a lot of fun to watch, and we plan to do so over and over and over again. However, what we've always liked about American Horror Story is the way it used shock, either through sex or horror, in ways that are not so much gratuitous as necessary. It may sound weird to say that a scene calls for a cheerleader pissing herself or someone getting the business end of a poker in the pooper, but somehow the show has always made it work.
This time, though, it all felt like we were infants who were being distracted by jangling keys. Look, the Black Dahlia! Look, lesbians! Don't cry! Look, a dismembered body!
The only thing of any substance that occurs is that we learn that Vivien's (Connie Britton) twins are the result of two different fathers, a rare but perfectly real possibility given the right combination of egg production and infidelity. Even though Ben takes this opportunity to briefly strut around in a self-righteous huff for a bit, he finally realizes that Vivien is not hallucinating things, and that she may actually have been raped.
That is a very important revelation, but instead, we spend the entirety of the episode with a cameo.
American Horror Story started off for us with a very interesting approach, that of using each episode as a self-contained macabre tale while at the same time advancing the story. Understandably that's hard to do, but by our count we've spent the last two hours in the House without much clear direction and without powerful scares. The only thing we're afraid of is how close we're getting to the ramp.