FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 3: “Nor’easter”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl (Ray Donovan, Mad Men, Shameless)
Written by Jennifer Salt
* For a review of the previous episode, “Tricks and Treats” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “I Am Anne Frank: Part I” – click here
Back to the framing narrative of Asylum now, as we see Bloody Face once again stab poor Leo Morrison (Adam Levine) to death, then break into the cell where Teresa Morrison (Jenna Dewan Tatum) is trembling in fear. Between the two, as Leo is not completely dead just yet, they manage to knock Bloody Face down and stab HIM to death with a small ice pick (one once used for prefrontal lobotomies).
However, it turns out two more Bloody Face-masked young guys show up and shoot the Morrisons dead. I guess it was another serial killer enthusiast situation. Sort of like Season 1’s “Home Invasion” did it, but slightly different.
Except out of the darkness comes the real Bloody Face – or is it? Now we’re in present day, Bloody Face was killing back in 1964. So what exactly is happening here, anyways? Well, writer Jennifer Salt, as well as creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, have interestingly eerie subplots we’ll see coming out in this episode. Even further, this will all stretch out over Season 2 and gives us plenty to enjoy.Back to 1964, as Sister Jude Martin (Jessica Lange) receives mail Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) delivers for her. The newspaper on her desk appears to Jude as one from 1949 – harkening back to when she hit a girl with her car, then took off. It’s easy to see Jude is starting to unravel slightly.
While she’s in the kitchen downstairs getting more bread ready to bake, she has flashbacks to the killing of that girl. Her mind is breaking bit by bit. Putting more pressure on her aside from this is Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto). He wants to try and make things more light for the patients; her corporal punishment is frowned upon by scientific men such as himself.
Well, Sister Jude has some plans to help the patients through the big storm planning to blow through. She is getting a projector sent over so that the inmates can watch 1932’s The Sign of the Cross. But all good intentions can’t hold back the floodgates of her own mind, washing away sanity. It seems she’s starting to think like some of her inmates more than a wife of Christ. Paranoia is gradually working its way into Jude’s brain with every episode now that goes by, especially since last episode’s encounter with the demon inside Jed Potter. She even has guard Frank McCann (Fredric Lehne) keep tabs on Thredson in order to determine if he’s “on the up-and-up.”
The new Mary Eunice has arrived. Everything about her has become different, more confident and… devilish, might I say. The way she holds herself talking to the inmates, you can see right from Lily Rabe’s acting that it is Satan himself hiding within her bones. I love Rabe’s performances in American Horror Story, she does such a wonderful job in the horrific universe of the series.
Moreover, Mary Eunice – as the devil – begins to wreak havoc amongst the halls of Briarcliff. First, she seems to blow on The Mexican (Gloria Laino) who appears to see beyond the Sister’s surface; she prays and prays as Eunice walks over to her and casually blows air at her. Then, she temps the alcoholic Sister Jude with communion wine, as well as wearing some bright red lipstick she claims came from Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell).
At the same time, Arden is still examining Kit Walker (Evan Peters). Last episode, he found a tiny piece of something inside Kit’s neck, embedded below the skin. He deemed it too hard to be a tumour, now in this episode he finds it’s a strange bit of technology; the pieces he dug out of Walker come together by themselves, almost magnetized. Arden does not yet know it is from the extraterrestrials. He thinks it is some form of government looking for him, trying to “infiltrate my labs.” We’ll see this develop more now, as Arden comes to figure out the truth behind what has actually happened to Kit.
Sister Mary Eunice goes to The Mexican’s room. It’s clear the woman is afraid of Eunice, and rightfully so: the possessed nun brutally murders her, stabbing her in the throat with a massive pair of scissors, then stabbing her more all over the torso. Luckily, Sister Mary has a good place for disposal. Out in the forest, where Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) caught her feeding something at the end of the first episode, Mary dumps the body for some weird creature hissing out in the bushes.
What I love about the devil is that he’s non-partisan. Inside Mary Eunice, the evil Satan goes after anyone and everyone in its path. Not just Sister Jude. Mary goes to see the doctor and she taunts Arden with sex, seducing him saying “I‘m all juicy.” But the doctor wants none of it; at least he pretends not to, anyways. We know he has a thing for nuns, after his date with the young prostitute went awry. He only denies what he wants most likely because of fear it will out him in some way. Regardless, I just love how Sister Mary Eunice has been taken over by the devil, and even the other evil entities in Briarcliff aren’t safe from the devil; he will use and abuse everyone.
Almost even better, the devil pits Dr. Arden versus Sister Jude even more than they’d been butting heads before now. This also helps to setup an event later on in the season, which is MASSIVE! I won’t say anything about that at this point, but just remember: this tension between Jude and Arden becomes larger than simply a few arguments in the basement like in “Nor’easter.” Even Arden sees that Jude is “coming apart at the seams.” Perfect foreshadowing scene here that comes to bear later on down the road.
We also see the first meeting between Lana Winters and Dr. Oliver Thredson, most likely her only hope in escaping the horrors of the asylum. Neither of them realize Bloody Face has already killed Lana’s lesbian partner, but she tells Thredson to get a message to her in hopes of eventually getting her out. This is the start of an excellent relationship throughout Season 2. There is such a wealth of plot and character between Thredson and Lana that if they hadn’t had two wonderful actors like Paulson and Quinto, this would’ve been a drab storyline; with two great talents, it works incredibly well, time and time again until the end of the season. Great stuff in its beginning here!
Thredson later goes to see Wendy, but discovers there are similarities between her disappearing and some of the Bloody Face victims. A devastating blow for Lana, in several ways.
Already, only three episodes in, Jude is having great troubles. She receives a call from beyond in her office – the girl she struck and ran down 15 years ago calls her on the phone, even her broken glasses turn up in front of Jude on the desk. So, sadly, Sister Jude falls down through the tight neck of a bottle again. She picks up the booze and starts drinking. This doesn’t help when The Sign of the Cross is put on for the inmates; she stumbles and mumbles her way around, introducing film night for everyone, and it’s clear to all she has had more than a drink or two. I feel bad for Jude, but again like Ben Harmon in Season 1 she is the type who is hard to like. At the same time, it isn’t hard to pity Jude even if she has committed horrible acts of violence, and essentially murder. However, this too will flesh out more once the season pushes on further and you might be surprised where the story of Jude Martin leads by the final handful of episodes.
The end of “Nor’easter” is most compelling.
Prisoners try to escape – Kit, Grace (Lizzie Brocheré), and Shelley (Chloë Sevigny) – while the storm rages. Sadly this doesn’t turn out very well for anyone, least of all Shelley who finally ends up in the hands of someone she does NOT want to be with at all. The others end up out in the storm and they come across what lay in the woods, the things Sister Mary Eunice was feeding for Arden – and it is HORRID.
Best of all is Jude – she wanders around trying to find The Mexican with the guards, but cannot find her. What Jude does come across, though, is a drunken glimpse of a horrific and ugly extraterrestrial creature. Amazing moment where a nun comes in contact with such a strange being!
All the while, Arden is raging against both Sister Jude and Mary Eunice, marking up a statue of who I can only assume to be the Virgin Mary with lipstick, shouting WHORE. He then comes across Shelley, and yes – into his hands she falls. This is terrible for her, as Arden is not just a misogynist, he is a depraved sadist.
This episode’s finale sees things end on a savage note, so we can expect the next one titled “I Am Anne Frank: Part I” will go further down the dark and seedy rabbit hole; it is directed by Michael Uppendahl once more, which is excellent for continuity amongst the season. Stay tuned for more depravity and blood and murder!