It seems like such a long time ago when the editor whacked me upside the back of my head and said, "Oi, goth boy. Go write something up on this American Horror Story thing and make it snappy." Well, in reality, it was Halloween two years ago, and since then the Halloween episode of the show always gives me a thrill remembering when I first delved into this weird world.
If there is one person in the cast I have failed to give credit to it's definitely Denis O'Hare. He was a wonderful supporting character in the first season before moving onto the role of Big Bad on True Blood. This who season I couldn't help but feel that he was being entirely wasted as the mute servant Spaulding. He's always there, in the background of every scene in the school, and being O'Hare even his quiet presence is more than most actors can pull off with a full-page monologue, but it seemed like they were just letting one of the most talented scene-eaters in Hollywood wither on the vine.
"Fearful Pranks Ensue" finally allowed him if not center stage than at least some room to move around in and he uses every inch to the hilt.
It's a flashback heavy episode, with a look back at the early days of desegregation. A young black boy braving the white school finds himself lynched by rednecks because if there's anything bigots hate worse than colored people it's colored people who can read better than them. Marie Laveau summons the dead to tear his killers apart limb from limb in a wonderfully sadistic scene. Seriously, this whole show could be bigots being eaten by zombies and I would probably watch it.
Also in the past is a closer look at Fiona's rise to power, and the back story of Spaulding. It turns out that as the only witness to the murder of the previous Supreme Witch, Spaulding is going to be called to testify before the council of witches. Myrtle Snow, who knows through her own powers that Fiona is a murderer, enchants Spaulding's tongue so it can speak nothing but the truth.
This leads to a moment of ultimate sacrifice for him as he calls Fiona to an upstairs bathroom and speaks his only lines this far in the season. "These are my last words. I have always loved you." Then he severs his own tongue with a straight razor and ends the inquiry into Fiona.
It's a really powerful scene, and honestly the high point of the whole episode. That said, we get an even darker look at Spaulding toward the end as we see him in his doll-filled (Author's note: AAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGHHHH) apartment with the dead body of Madison Montgomery, who Fiona did fill.
The capricious delight of Spaulding as he has his bizarre ritual with Madison, including serving her tea, is both sinisterly pornographic as well as mind-numbingly sad all at the same time. Just how deep in his mind does the damage go? There's no evidence that he has any particularly dangerous qualities, at least not in comparison to the other murderous tendencies revealed in the episode's other avenue, but O'Hare creates something so very, very broken that it is in itself the most horrifying reveal of the season.
For the most part this Halloween on American Horror Story served more as a utility outing used to more thoroughly flush out some depth to the story. Still, it's amazing what you can do with only a few gestures and words when you want to manufacture madness. O'Hare can do that.