Photo: FX Networks
After seven long years of waiting, fans finally got their return to Murder House on last night’s episode of American Horror Story and it did not disappoint. Not only did this highly anticipated episode see the return of AHS royalty Jessica Lange as Constance Langdon—AKA grandmother to Satan—but it was also directed by Sarah Paulson, who appears as eight different characters that span every single season of the show (medium Billie Dean Howard in Murder House and Freak Show, journalist Lana Winters in Asylum, supreme witch Cordelia Foxx in Coven and Apocalypse, conjoined twins Bette and Dot in Freak Show, junkie ghost Sally McKenna in Hotel, actress Audrey Tindall in Roanoke, scared-of-her-own-shadow Ally Mayfair-Richards in Cult, and sinister outpost leader Venable in Apocalypse).
To prepare for her directorial debut, Paulson took it back to the very first season of AHS and re-watched the Murder House season to recreate the aesthetics and to give the audience a sense of “immediate visual recognition,” as she told Variety. “Certain rules of the show became clear,” Paulson said. For example, “every time you’re in Ben’s office, you always see the ceiling.”
Dylan McDermott returned as Ben Harmon and Connie Britton returned as his wife Vivien, who is also the woman who gave birth to Apocalypse’s Michael Langdon (Cody Fern)—AKA Satan—after being impregnated by a ghost in the house.
Fans got to see Michael before he became the picture of pure evil, although it’s clear that he always had an affinity for killing. “There’s that moment when the Satanists come to the house, and he’s in his pajamas, essentially, and it was not scripted that he be in his boxers and a tee-shirt, but I wanted him to seem like a boy,” Paulson said. “I wanted the juxtaposition of, ‘Remember, he’s not at the end of this road yet.”
Paulson told Entertainment Weekly that her favorite scene to direct was Constance’s suicide—a scene that came as a surprise to fans because Constance was still alive at the time when the first season ended. Last night’s episode showed Constance’s transformation into a ghost, bound to the Murder House by choice to spend eternity with her dead children. “We just probably spent three or four hours shooting that and we played it through straight through the entire time and every single time the crew burst into applause when she was done and our camera operator turned to me after the first take and said with tears in his eyes, “That was so sad,” Paulson said. “She just had that kind of potency and she had that kind of effect on people. That’s why she’s Jessica Mother F—ing Lange.”
The episode gave some closure to the tortured soul Moira (Frances Conroy), the tragic relationship of Ben and Vivien, as well as a Tumblr-worthy end game between fan-favorites Violet (Taissa Farmiga) and Tate (Evan Peters). The last scene with Madison (Emma Roberts) pulling the Murder House gates shut with magic was added in as a spur-of-the-moment decision. “I’m proud at the end of the episode it was not scripted that Madison closed the gate on the house and I added that at the very end,” Paulson told Entertainment Weekly. “I kind of thought that was a wonderful way of saying now we have a bit of closure and we know that Violet and Tate have been reunited and Moira was more or less freed from the house, that Constance is there with her children. I thought that it just had a tiny hint of hope to it.”