‘American Horror Story’ is a tough show to judge, let alone recap. The first season was kind of a modern touchstone of gonzo television writing that even when it wasn’t necessarily good, it was pretty darn entertaining. This new season of AHS, ‘Asylum’ is more subdued and plot-related, and for awhile I worried that the treats of the first season, so overtly sexual and absurd and downright fun, were all but gone. But this week, someone claimed that they were actually Anne Frank, alive and well in the 1960’s and I said “Ahhh yes. That’s the Ryan Murphy I know and love.” This week, exploits at Briarcliff focus on Dr. Arden, last seen cutting off Chloe Sevigny’s legs, who may or may not be a Nazi war criminal. The woman claiming to be Anne Frank (played by ‘Run Lola Run’s Franka Potente), who was institutionalized after stabbing an anti-Semite in a bar, claims that she recognizes Arden (real name Hans Gruber because of course), from her time at Auschwitz. This is the kind of…insensitive but delicious thing that this franchise likes to dig up mid-season to make sure you were paying attention. Dr. Arden is a Nazi Doctor! Sure! He can’t just be an amoral, sexually twisted Dr. Frankenstein for this series, no, that would not please The Murphy. But, okay, yes we’re going with it. Anne Frank.
Obviously, Sister Jude doesn’t believe the woman, and gets some pretty classic lines out of the situation. “I’m sure millions of school children will be thrilled to know you survived.” and “Didn’t you read the book?” The woman’s story is thus: she was discovered at Auschwitz but was too sick to identify herself, and there were too many dead to properly be accounted for. The episode makes it a point for her to spend a lot of the episode writing- like, yes, in a diary, something that Lana warns her against. But if her story is true, and wow, I kind of can’t wait to find this one out, I doubt she’s very afraid of getting on trouble with some nuns. Dr. Arden is questioned by police for his interactions with the prostitute from several episodes ago, the one who found BSDM pictures in his drawers, along with Nazi memorabilia. Of course, the Monsignor is in cahoots with Arden, and tells Jude that her hatred of Arden is “clouding her judgment.” But I doubt some chiding from Joseph Fiennes is going to stop her.
On the other side of things not related to Nazis, Lana, Kit and Grace have stopped trying to escape, which is a nice change of pace for the plot. Kit begins to think that his whole defense about aliens abducting him might have been something he made up after talking to Dr. Thredson, but apparently the alien bug implant has disappeared again, making Kit think it’s back inside him. We also finally learn the deal with Grace. Apparently she killed her father and stepmother because her father was molesting her, and she doesn’t feel very sorry about it. I’ve always liked Grace as a character, and surprisingly, finding out she’s an axe murderer only made her more sympathetic, because that’s the way Ryan Murphy shows work. Her and Kit finally try to have sex or, as Sister Jude calls it when she goes to punish them, “make a murder baby.” Kit is running out of sessions with Dr. Thredson, who has to make a decision on whether or not Kit stands trial (even though he seems to know that there’s still a murderer out there.)
Speaking of Dr. Thredson, probably the creepiest plot line this week involves his attempts at a “cure” for Lana, so that she may get out of Briarcliffe to find out what happened to her girlfriend. His answer, and well, the real life 1960’s answer to homosexuality is aversion therapy, which is a conditioning technique that makes the patient physically ill when it comes to attraction to the same sex. The scene is actually very straightforward, and AHS feels no need to Clockwork-Orange it up to make it seem any less cruel or dehumanizing. Thredson then attempts to condition Lana to relate pleasure to male anatomy by making her touch herself while touching a naked man. It doesn’t seem to work very well.
Finally, we find out what happened to poor Shelly after Arden cut her legs off. The woman claiming to be Anne Frank (Can I call her Anne Frank? It feels weird. Please no one yell at me) discovers her after trying to get Arden to admit what he’s done. She’s become a hideous creature covered in lesions, asking Anne to kill her. This story is so bonkers, I can’t even imagine what might happen next week.
- Potentially totally insensitive plotlines aside, I like Franka Potente.
- No one seems to notice that Sister Mary Eunice is still possessed. Sister Jude even thinks it’s an improvement.
- Dr. Thredson says he understands Lana’s plight, so is Dr. Thredson also gay? Or does he just understand being a sane person surrounded by crazy people?
- No seriously, I have no idea where this Anne Frank thing is going, but that kind of giddy anticipation is what I’ve missed about this show.