American Horror Story: Asylum‘s “everything but the kitchen sink” approach gets some narrative streamlining courtesy of the titular ‘Dark Cousin’: the Angel of Death (Frances Conroy).
Let’s bitch it out…
On a horror anthology – particularly one in which each season marks a reboot – it seems clear that we shouldn’t get too attached to any particular character because they could be facing a grisly death at any moment. What’s so different about AHS S2 is that there’s actually a preponderance of likable characters populating the show, and even the ones that you can’t cheer for, you don’t necessarily want to see gone (here’s looking at you, Lily Rabe and Zachary Quinto). This does prove challenging though: as creepy as the little girl was last week, I don’t want a new Briarcliff patient showing up each week simply so that they can be killed off (RIP Miles, the random character we’ve never met before, who is the Angel’s first kill).
And so we have to be ready to say goodbye to some of our main cast. Last week was Shelley (Chloë Sevigny). This week it’s Grace (Lizzie Brocheré), who dies taking a bullet meant for Kit (Evan Peters) after he sneaks back into Briarcliff to rescue her.
While I’m sad to see Brocheré go, I have to say that I’m okay with this death. Had it been earlier in the run, I would have been quite upset because she was still so vital. After her sterilization procedure last week and her near death at the top of the hour in ‘Dark Cousin’, however, it feels like the show was preparing us for her passing. Early in the hour she has a near brush with death before a really determined nun brings her back to life, but now it’s her time to go. As she breathes her last breath, she confirms it for us: “I’m free.”
In truth I found a lot of the episode mildly disorienting – jumping haphazardly across the various storylines as though they needed to fit Conroy into everything all at once because this was her only shooting window. And so we go from Briarcliff, to Thredson’s dungeon basement and the road outside when Lana (Sarah Paulson) escapes, then jump back to Sister Jude’s (Jessica Lange) discovery of Mr. Goodman’s (Mark Margolis) body. It’s not hard to follow, per se, but the pacing feels off. I would have preferred for the Angel to stick around for another episode so that it didn’t seem like death had randomly descended on Briarcliff in a big way (seriously, how many people did Conroy nearly pucker up to? 5?)
- So wait…if Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) didn’t perform Grace’s surgery, who did?
- I enjoy the back and forth between the Angel and Sister Mary Eunice. Let’s face it: Lily Rabe is amazing in this role and it’s giving her a ton of fun stuff to play. At the same time, the brief hint of the actual Mary Eunice still lurking inside fills me with a bit of dread. The possessed version is so much more fun! If that version leaves, who’s left to hurl Arden around the room like a child’s doll?
- Lana being raped by Thredson = absolutely disgusting. Last week I thought Murphy liked Quinton and Paulson, but now I’m not so sure. Lana’s been put through such a sh*tstorm this season that I can’t imagine how Paulson gets psyched up to go to work
- Dear Kit: knocking out your court appointed lawyer is not going to help your case. xoxo Yours, AHS viewers
- Why doesn’t Lana follow through on her Princess Leia school of murder lesson? She’s got Thredson by the throat with her chains, but then she just unlocks her leg and runs off. Whaaaa? My notes during Lana’s escape: “Lana, you dumb b*tch, you always kill them when you have a chance. ALWAYS“
- Random guest appearance #1: William Mapother as the suicidal car driver who picks up Lana. My notes: “Oh god, she’s been picked up by William Mapother. He’s always eeeevil“ It’s episode’s most lurid, over-the-top sequence, filled with implausibilities and stupid characterization. Why, of all the people she stops, does she get picked up by a crazy person? Oh…it’s all just so that she can be sent back to Briarcliff. Aggravatingly weak plotting
- I’m digging the flashbacks to the possession/exorcism from 2×02 ‘Tricks and Treats’
- Random guest appearance #2: Sean Patrick Thomas as Jude’s old bandmate from 1949 who insults her singing and then ditches her
- Also working for me: the not-quite-cop-out where we see Jude slit her wrists and lay dead on the floor of the diner bathroom. As she tells the Angel, it “was nothing but a passing thought.” Another way to think of it: a rebirth. The compelling story of her descent into alcoholism was because she contracted syphilis and couldn’t have a child. Following the events that happen next (see below), Jude may have finally turned a corner that will bring her back to life…and Briarcliff as God’s avenging agent
- Random guest appearance #3: Molly Price as the mother of Jude’s not-dead hit-and-run victim. I did love their suspicious faces as Jude tries to unbury her near-confession. I’m not sure I would have bought her excuse about being a nun in despair if I were them
- Poor Kit: his escape back to Briarcliff ends up landing him a dead friend/potential lover and another murder charge. It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of the monster he kills (was that Spivey?), or do we just think it’ll be covered up like all of Briarcliff’s other dirty little secrets?
Best / Worst Lines:
- Best – Mary Eunice (to Arden, re: Grace’s surgery): “All of her girl parts have been…scooped out” That’s a delightfully gross visual
- Worst – Diner waitress (watching Jude drink dejectedly in the booth): “Maybe we should call Briarcliff? At least they can give her a bed for the night.” Le boo – this is the kind of jokey/hokey dialogue that moves the show into camp.
What are your thoughts on the episode? Did you love the femme fatale costuming for Conroy’s Angel, as well as her gorgeous CGI black wings? Are you excited for Jude to get her mojo back and face off against Mary Eunice? Do you think Lana is the next person destined to appear on Arden’s table since “no one knows” she’s back at Briarcliff? And will Kit ever catch a break?! Sound off below
American Horror Story: Asylum airs Wednesdays at 10pm EST on FX