American Horror Story: Asylum returned from holiday break last night with a busy episode which saw major character deaths, a few plot twists, and a veiled reference to creator Ryan Murphy’s other major show, Glee.
In case you missed “All About Judy,” we have to warn you that this article will contain spoilers, so stop reading here if the episode is still burning a hole in your DVR.
In this week’s episode, we saw Jessica Lange’s character undergo brain-frying electro-shock therapy, the death of those weird wood cannibal mutants, Joseph Fiennes’ Monsignor lose his virginity, and the deaths of Sister Mary Eunice/The Devil and James Cromwell’s Dr. Arden. Everything worked pretty well, and it was one heck of a way to bring American Horror Story back, and the random crazy pants rendition of “The Name Game” was unexpectedly sublime.
” ‘The Name Game’ sequence was pure Murphy,” writes Halle Kiefer of Rolling Stone, “Overly long, completely unnecessary and constantly vacillating between delicious kitsch and pure awkwardness.”
Of course, this week saw several plot threads quickly wrapped up with major character deaths whilst questions still linger elsewhere. The modern-day storyline, Lana and Dr. Thredson’s child, Pepper’s new-found sapience, Grace’s resurrection, Kit Walker’s wife, aliens, the list goes on and on.
One of the things that has been working solely on suspension of disbelief for me is the blend of sci-fi and classic horror. You don’t often see horror stories that combine The Devil and demon possession with outer space invaders, and Amercan Horror Story has gotten away with it by having the two story tropes work independently of each other.
For a while, I suspected that Sister Mary Eunice was under some type of self-inflicted psychological suggestion rather than true demon possession. A few weeks back, she made reference to a humiliating past, which made me think that this whole “Whore of Babylon” bit was just a long-due release of self expression on her part. But then the Angel of Death thing kind of threw that out the window and made a case for the supernatural existing in Asylum.
And it does make some sense. After all, one of the central conflicts early on was between Dr. Arden and Sister Jude, both clashing over how Briarcliff should best be run: with science or religion. These often-opposing forces acting out that debate on the sidelines makes more and more sense as the story plods along, and it seemed fitting that Dr. Arden should take his life with a dead Sister Mary Eunice in the incinerator. He admitted that he is enamored of her for her innocence and perhaps respects that innocence after having lost his own as a maybe-Nazi, but their deaths were more than that. Each were victims of their own, opposing belief structures in many ways.
This leaves the only thing that has never really worked for me at all, and that’s the Monsignor. Despite a stellar performance by Joseph Fiennes, Ryan Murphy hasn’t really given the Monisgnor much to do in American Horror Story. After being largely peripheral for most of the season, he emerged in the last couple episodes as a genuine rube as we learn that he’s himself more of a servant to Dr. Arden than a religious authority, or even a sinister villain.
He’s a young priest who wants to be Pope. He has never experienced the “joys of the flesh.” He extends good faith and grace to those waving red flags of danger. He was, himself, crucified like Christ. He sometimes murders people. I get it. Wait, no I don’t.
In any case, Murphy talked with EW about last night’s episode and even gave some hints as to what season three of American Horror Story will hold:
Is the devil really gone?
“I really loved that ending for her character. We didn’t want she dies and the devil goes into someone else. I liked the idea that the only thing more powerful than the devil is the Angel of Death, which is actually the cousin of the devil. I liked that ending and I thought it was good. That’s always what happens historically around episode 10, we start wrapping everything up and characters die. So this was a big one.”
Dr. Arden’s death: Was he just crushed by the loss of Sister Mary Eunice?
“Yeah, I think he’s destroyed because our version of that character was his whole life was someone who really thought he was not capable of love and to do all the inhuman acts that he did, he had hardened himself. I think when he felt that part of his heart open up and to have it close again was devastating. I also think the image of a Nazi doctor going into an oven is sort of a brilliant metaphor of him literally paying. Obviously, he’s a terrible character but I thought his end was very justified and somewhat poetic.”
Season three of American Horror Story:
“I mean, I don’t think anything could ever be as dark as the mental health care system in our country. I sorta feel like for the third version I want to do something that’s a little bit more ‘evil glamour.’ Just something that’s a little bit more…one of the things that I missed this season was I really loved having that Romeo Juliet youth story with Violet and Tate. I want something like that again and we’re doing something like that in the third season. And we’re contemplating shooting the show in a different place. We’re contemplating shooting it in a place in the country where true horror has been. We’ve got lots of delicious plans.”
Check out more of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story interview here. How do you expect Asylum will wrap up? Theories, please!