Damn, this is a gonzo show. Last week, the most out-there element of the plot was a woman who claimed to be Anne Frank claiming that the already-evil Dr. Arden was, in fact, a former Nazi Doctor. This week? That plot seemed downright…normal as AHS brought in a series of shocking events that made this episode one of ‘Asylum’s best to date. Fans of the first season have admitted to some trepidation in how this season has unfolded, mostly because the show, although written and directed by many of the same people- ‘Asylum’s tone is a complete 180 from the first season’s oversexed, bloodthirsty, madcap proceedings. The color palettes are darker, more austere, the scenes a little slower, more methodical, but I think that this season has finally learned how to make those aspects work to their advantage.
AHS also has the distinction of being able to resolve what could be seen as the ‘season’s big mystery’ in the space of about five episodes- yes, we finally found out who Bloody Face was. And maybe it’s because I was so distracted with Nazis and aliens and demon-possessed nuns, that I had basically forgot about the serial killer plot altogether, and found the revelation a bit of a shock. In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have- it’s Zachary Quinto’s character, the mild-mannered Dr. Thredson, because of course it was. Poor Lana only finds this out as he whisks her back to the safety of his apartment, which is tastefully decorated with human skin lampshades and candy dishes made out of the tops of skulls. It becomes clear that Thredson had no interest in helping Lana escape Briarcliffe and after he frames Kit for his crimes by procuring a confession. Lana comes across his human-skin-furniture workshop and Thredson sends her down a trap door into his Saw-esque bathroom torture chamber. But that’s not even the half of last night’s episode.
Let’s go back to Anne Frank: after finding what’s left of Shelly in Dr. Arden’s lab and shooting him in the leg, she tries to convince Sister Jude that he really is a Nazi war criminal. However, a man shows up claiming that “Anne” is actually a woman named Charlotte who became obsessed with Anne Frank and the Holocaust while in the last months of her pregnancy, even tattooing the serial number on her arm herself. Thredson thinks she’s suffering from post-partum psychosis, and since Jude wants Charlotte/Anne out of her ward (since she shoots people and brings trouble), she’s eager to send her back with her husband, even though Thredson is sure she’ll be back sooner than later. She eventually does come back after another violent episode at her home, and Dr. Arden makes an offer to her husband: a little “procedure” that will turn her into a new woman. Yes, Dr. Arden gives “Anne Frank” a lobotomy to turn her into an obedient housewife. Instead of turning Anne into a vegetable, AHS uses the “lobotomy” to turn Anne into the perfect 1950’s housewife: she cooks a pot roast for her husband, cares for her child, lights his cigarette and makes him a martini, all while using the word “swell.” This is shot in a grainy old tv-stock, and I’m not sure if it’s all meant to be some sort of fantasy or commentary about the 1950’s mentality on women or whatever Ryan Murphy wanted, it’s an interesting presentation.
And THEN, we have Kit and Grace, who are in solitary and supposed to be sterilized by dawn. Thredson claims to “save” Kit and let him stay in the institution, as long as he confesses to killing his wife and the other women. He does so, to avoid sterilization and imprisonment, but his confession is turned over to the police and he is arrested. Grace, on the other hand, is not so lucky and Sister Devil Mary Eunice gleefully allows her to be operated on. Or maybe not. Because Grace is abducted by the same aliens Kit claims to have seen, and she is shown Alma, Kit’s supposedly dead wife, pregnant, possibly with an alien baby. So: serial killers, aliens, demonic possesions…all in episode five. Oh and Shelly’s horrific monster body was discovered by screaming Catholic School children. Here we go, truckers.
- This episode, bizarre as it was, was very artfully directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. A lot of the scenes, particularly the ‘news stock’ aspect of Anne’s story, the conversation between Kit and Grace, and Shelly’s ascent up the stairs at the school were well-done. This episode also had more of the quick and clever editing we’ve come to expect from this series.
- I’m kind of pleased that Bloody Face turned out to be Thredson, I was getting bored with clinical-Quinto. An unhinged Quinto is always better television, and his role in last season was one of the show’s highlights.
- Next week, we’re going back to the whole ‘Sister Mary Eunice is possessed’ debacle, although I really enjoy her that way. I would make predictions about what might happen, but on this show, it just seems superfluous.
- Mark Margolis made an appearance! If you didn’t recognize him, he’s best known now as Tio Salamanca from Breaking Bad.