SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE SEASON FINALE OF AMERICAN HORROR STORY!!!!! I’m not sure there’s another show on TV that would have the guts to kill off its lead characters and that’s what makes AHS‘ finale such an exhilarating shocker. In the end, Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) joined his dead wife Vivien (Connie Britton) and dead daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) in the afterlife once vengeful ghost-stress Hayden (Kate Mara) hung him from the house’s balcony. (If you were wondering what Ryan Murphy was alluding to in last week’s Q&A, about “the most shocking scene we’ve ever done,” this is the moment he was talking about.) Plus, Constance (Jessica Lange) ended up with yet another baby who appears to be a deviant killer. EW talked to Ryan Murphy exclusively about the FX series’ twisty (and twisted) climax.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The prologue seemed to tease that the house pulled the Harmons to it. Was that what you were implying?
RYAN MURPHY: I don’t know if they were targeted. I don’t think the Internet site had any supernatural pull to it… although that would have been hilarious. I thought it was two things: it was house porn because I think that house really is extraordinary. And also I think there’s always that allure in American lives of the fresh start, moving West, starting fresh.
Seeing that Vivien was prepared to leave made it even more tragic.
I loved how they both played that scene.
My favorite scene in the entire episode was when they’re scaring the family; it reminded me of Beetlejuice.
Oh really? I never thought of that.
But my truly favorite moment was when she guts him and then he shoots her in the head and they’re both like, “You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do this.”
Don’t you think every married couple in America will stand up and cheer at that scene? I know for Connie and Dylan that was the thing they loved doing the most.
I did worry about how that will affect the Rubber Man suit.
You know what? That’s true. That probably is the end of Rubber Man after that scene because the suit was ruined.
Vivien seemed so at peace with everything even throughout Ben potentially moving and her seeing her living baby.
That was purposeful. Unlike most of the people in the house, in fact maybe the only one, she died surrounded by love. So I think that made her a little more at peace: accepting, not fighting. She sorta died at peace in some weird way. I was really excited that in the afterlife they have such great blow-dryers.
Also they have stylists!
They do. You look really good when you’re dead. What I loved about that is that I think everybody, particularly women, would like to think they looked most beautiful in the afterlife. So it made sense to me that she did that.
Was there ever a moment you thought about diverting from all the Harmons dying? Like maybe we should keep Vivien alive?
No, because that would really screw the whole story up. I loved how it began. I loved it in the middle and I loved the end. The only thing really frustrating for me, to be honest with you, is that sometimes people would write this idea that we were making it up as we went along and I wanted to say, “Really?” But I think now people are writing and saying, “Oh yeah!” I’m excited for people to see it on DVD, because now that they know how it ended, [they can] go back and see all of the little things, like people who have no reflections in mirrors. When you go back, you will see everything was set up.
That is interesting in the sense that The Killing had such a controversial finale because it didn’t pay off for viewers, while this did answer pretty much all questions.
Working on many shows, I feel like this was the [finale] I was most proud of because that was the through-line from the beginning. I feel like that first season of American Horror Story by design feels like a little Edgar Allen Poe novella. It was designed to be very contained.
Was Constance raising the demon child always part of your plan too?
Yes, because the thing about Constance was she was the biggest survivor. Very early on I pitched out that last line, “What am I going to do with you?” to the writers room, and I loved how Jessica played it with both fear and pride. It was a very weird little moment. There had been some discussion very early on, right around episode 3, about how do we kill Constance, and I was like, that’s never gonna happen.
The odd thing about the ending of that is I love how we could get a redemptive Christmas scene in a horror show. And I loved that it was actually a very uplifting ending where everybody got what they wanted. That’s another interesting criticism about the show: People say, “I don’t like the Harmons.” Look, they did terrible things to each other — there’s no doubt about it. Particularly Dylan was a real antihero. But I think you ultimately cared about them at the end and you forgave their bad behavior and choices because I think in death they all had a sort of redemption and an awareness and a growth. I think it’s funny that in death with the stillborn baby… that Dylan can say “I’ve never been happier.” I think that’s such fantasy to people to think that the afterlife is the ultimate redemption and the ultimate peace and finally I will lose all my demons.
The new family, the Ramos’, seemed to immediately move into the house and have baby fever. Is the house projecting that on them?
No, I think that’s how it is for most people when they move to a new nest. But I love little things about the finale. Like, I loved finally that we have explained why people sleepwalk and go to the fire. Who’s drawing them there?
It seemed like at the end, the Harmons had figured out how to exist in the house without interacting with the unpleasant folks like Tate and Hayden.
Yes. I always thought that the Harmons would become the alpha people of that house, particularly Vivien. I thought she would be the matriarch. I personally think Violet will never speak to Tate again. I feel like he deserved pain. I think the biggest justice for him could be to not get the one thing he wanted, which is love.
Basically Tate’s and Hayden’s comeuppance is that they end up alone.
That’s exactly right. That’s what we wanted for them. Alone and tormented.
And I loved that Moira got what she always wanted, which was a family.
Yes, exactly. She progressed beyond her servitude and was seen as a true member of the family and a woman. I always thought, amongst all the characters, she was the most tragic to me. I’m glad that she got her happy ending.
It was almost like a curtain call at the end with all of the previous ghosts showing up. I forgot about the bug man.
We always wanted that act to be the Grand Guignol cavalcade. I love the idea too that some of those ghosts are benevolent and some aren’t interested in helping people. It was fun to have arguments in the writer’s room like, Who’s the nice ghost? Who’s the mean ghost? Who’s the vengeful ghost? Who would help?
Is the Infantata still alive?
He’s down there scavenging for bugs and eating possums until some other poor souls go down there.
I just read that American Horror Story is the highest time-shifted show of the year, which basically means the most DVR’d. Why do you think that is?
I think it’s two things: I think a lot of people don’t like to watch this show at night before they go to bed. And I think a lot of people like to watch it in groups. Ultimately, I’m really proud to do a show that’s too terrifying to watch when it airs.
Follow Tim on Twitter: @EWTimStack