A weekly investigation of “American Horror Story: Asylum,” as well as, when applicable, an investigation of the “American Horror Story: Asylum” bakery. Spoilers lie ahead.
It’s become a weekly tradition to watch each increasingly disturbing episode of “American Horror Story: Asylum,” then turn to whoever is in the room — a spouse, a roommate, a nun recently possessed by Beelzebub — and say, “Wow. That was messed up.”
But after this week’s episode? Wow. Guys. For real — that was seriously, ser-i-ous-ly messed up. But this installment wasn’t purely about shocks. Its stomach-twister moments and plot zig-zags were presented in a way I’d describe as elegantly chilling. This was certainly the best episode of “American Horror Story: Asylum” and possibly even of “American Horror Story” period.
I know the disclaimer above said that spoilers lie ahead. But before delving into this week’s 10 questions, I must repeat: SPOILER ALERT. There were some big reveals this week, and we need to discuss them immediately. I’d also like to discuss the fact that I have become incredibly frightened of every lamp in my house.
Let’s go to the Q&A.
Analysis: 10 questions about “I Am Anne Frank, Pt. 1”
Let’s start at the obvious discussion launching point: OH MY GOD, ZACH QUINTO. Which isn’t a question, but a valid statement nonetheless.
Yes, Quinto’s once seemingly rational Dr. Thredson is actually the “American Horror Story” equivalent of Buffalo Bill from “Silence of the Lambs.” In other words, we have now confirmed the identity of Bloody Face and he is, as surmised in last week’s post, Mr. Quinto. And I swear to God — the same God that Sister Jude prays to about squirrels — that I did not watch this episode, provided in advance to journalists, until after I wrote that post.
Unfortunately, Lana was not so adept at predicting the serial killer’s identity and didn’t realize what she’d done by agreeing to leave Briarcliff with him until it was too late.
In this blog and other coverage of “American Horror Story,” Jessica Lange’s performance tends to get the most shout-outs. (True to form, that squirrel-related monologue last night was pitch-perfect.) But at this point, I’d just like to say — Zachary Quinto and Sarah Paulson: Holla. What made the scenes of Bloody Face’s capture of Lana so disturbing — you know, aside from the knowledge that this guy kills women, tortures them, then uses their skin as material to accent light fixtures — was the way Quinto so nonchalantly explained his habit, and Paulson so believably trembled with terror. You wanted to spot an escape route for the poor woman, some hidden tunnel like the one she discovered back at Briarcliff that would take her out of that dank basement and away from the real possibility of a horribly violent death But no tunnel could be found. Kind of ironic that she once passed on an opportunity to dash out of Briarcliff because she feared the “killer” Kit, but ultimately escaped by walking right into a trap set by the real Bloody Face.
1. Okay, Quinto’s Bloody Face. But is he in cahoots with the Monsignor and Dr. Arden as also previously suggested in this blog?
Good question. I’m not sure. I feel like he must be on some level because someone had to gave him the authority to enter Briarcliff, and because he made such a point of noting to Frank the security guard that he never worked for Sister Jude. All three of those aforementioned men have seemingly taken great delight in driving Jude mad, or at least crazy enough to start wearing normal clothes and boozing. But as to whether he’s actually assisting in some way with Dr. Arden’s experiments, I can’t decide. Thredson’s Creepy Lampshades, Inc. seems like a business that exists pretty independently of what goes on in Arden’s Briarcliff lair. At least at the moment.
2. What are the chances that Thredson will get caught?
Well, the fact that he convinced Kit (Evan Peters) to record a confession that implicates him as Bloody Face obviously works in Thredson’s favor. But as I’ve said before, Wendy’s disappearance seems like it should be a problematic one. She’s a teacher in a small town; the fact that she vanished should raise a red flag that would make some people wonder whether Bloody Face really has been caught.
But if Thredson left no trail linking her to him, it might take a very long time for law enforcement to even consider investigating a guy who, as an evaluator of mentally ill individuals, does not seem capable of multiple murders.
3. What about Shelley? Won’t her scream-inducing arrival at the local elementary school — perhaps the same school where Wendy taught — prompt someone to investigate Dr. Arden and the other things happening at Briarcliff?
One would hope. The problem is that Shelley can’t exactly speak. Hopefully her blisters won’t prevent her from writing down her story and leading police to Babe’s Dad, Nazi Killer.
4. Speaking of James Cromwell, what was up with that cane of his that kept appearing in close-ups? Was there some reason we were supposed to note the dog’s head on the end of that walking stick?
Yeah, probably. And this might explain it.
5. So Anne Frank/Charlotte: Is she really Anne Frank or Charlotte?
Remember how in the beginning of the episode, Mr. Goodman — a.k.a actor Mark Margolis, a.k.a Hector Salamanca — noted that fake bios were drafted for Nazi scientists? Well, who’s to say that fake bios weren’t given to some of the Holocaust survivors, too.
In short: The woman played by Franka Potente really is Anne Frank, but she’s also a woman named Charlotte Cohen, who assumed that identity so no one would know who she really was.
I believe that Frank’s husband really believes she is Charlotte because, in a sense, she is. But the fact that having a baby brought on all these thoughts of the Holocaust could mean that the presence of Charlotte’s son triggered her memories of the terrible things that happened to infants in the World War II death camps, which in turn made her think about her own terrible experiences. As for the tattoo she supposedly gave herself: I would bet the original tattoo was removed, and she was just trying to put it back in its sadly designated place.
Of course, now that she’s been lobotomized, the odds of her remembering all of this seems really low. Which is just how Arden wants it.
6. So we should probably talk about the aliens now, right? What is up with those things, and what did they do to Grace?
Based on the flashing imagery we saw of Grace’s alien encounter, the ETs seem to have impregnated her and then performed a C-section. (Presumably alien babies can be conceived and born in an accelerated fashion?) At the very least they did some sort of surgery, suggesting they are real and potentially spearheading some experimentation on humans.
Conclusion I leaped to as a result of the Grace/alien episode: The aliens are colleagues of Dr. Arden. Because Nazis and space creatures go hand-in-hand.
7. Is Alma still alive at Briarcliff somewhere?
Yes, I believe she is being held captive somewhere in the bowels of the asylum.Both she and Kit were taken by the aliens that night and brought to Briarcliff. The memories that Kit has of hitting her and killing her were planted there by the aliens — literally, perhaps, in the form of that weird bug — and then reinforced by Thredson’s mental manipulation. But Kit’s wife is still alive and probably in closer physical proximity to him than he realizes.
8. Why is Sister Mary Eunice protecting Dr. Arden?
Wasn’t it touching the way she dragged Chloe Sevigny into the woods for him so Sister Jude’s investigation wouldn’t uncover any deformed women whose legs have been removed by a Nazi? Truly moving stuff.
Pre-possession, Mary Eunice did Arden’s bidding out of an unspoken mix of fear of and attraction to the authoritative doctor. But post-possession, she’s mainly helping him because she’s Satan. And Satan just looooves evil Nazis.
9. Poor Sister Jude — did she give up the Briarcliff fight too easily?
Well, she did flip the switch pretty quickly from judgmental nun to hotsy totsy lady who picks up men in bars. I was a little surprised that she was so willing to believe Arden’s contention that her “goose is cooked” without at least fighting his claims. It’s not like Arden isn’t being investigated by the cops; his credibility easily could be questioned, too.
But Sister Jude is at a weak point. Her memories of that horrible hit-and-run — I still think the victim is Sister Mary Eunice, by the way — have made her emotionally vulnerable. And she’s also conditioned to believe the male authority figures in her life and in the Catholic Church. As Frank noted, as a woman, she didn’t stand a chance at Briarcliff. And Sister Jude knows it.
10. So, uh, think this show is about sexism much?
This entire episode certainly was. The way that one scene cut between Sister Jude’s renewed loose behavior in the bar and Anne’s lobotomy suggested that women can have their hearts, minds and souls stolen by the “unfairer sex” in a variety of forms. Putting one’s trust in men or organizations dominated by male figures — seemingly earnest court-appointed psychologists, or distraught husbands who want their wives back, or a Catholic Church unlikely to back you in an argument with a Nazi doctor/lunatic — means disappointment over and over again.
But let’s hope there will be liberation for the ladies of “American Horror Story: Asylum.” I want their truths to be heard and accepted. In a twist on unusual “mean old nun” tropes, I want Sister Jude to be empowered to be a mean old nun again. And more than anything, I want Lana to avoid becoming another lampshade so she can get to the nearest typewriter, blow the lid off of Briarcliff and finally win that journalism award the way she always wanted when she was still a free woman.