FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 7: “Dark Cousin”
Directed by Michael Rymer (Hannibal, Queen of the Damned)
Written by Tim Minear
* For a review of the next episode, “Unholy Night” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Origins of Monstrosity” – click here
In the opening to this episode, as Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré) is seemingly about to die in a bed, two nuns discovering her bleeding everywhere all over herself, we get the WONDERFUL FRANCES CONROY returning to American Horror Story. She is the Angel of Death; that’s right, the Angel of fucking Death. in she swoops to kiss Grace, however, one of the nurses pounds her in the chest to spring her back to life. Sadly, it’s apparent Grace would’ve rather died.
Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) and his sassy partner Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) have a little chat. She chastises him for botching the sterilization on Grace. However, he claims not to have performed any such operation. She says “all of her lady parts have been scooped out.”
What’s most wild about this scene is how Arden gets physical with Mary. She warns he’ll die next time, throwing him across the room and into the wall.
An inmate named Miles (Tongayi Chirisa) sits in the bakery listening to the voices in his head spit vitriol through his brain. He’s had enough, as they egg him on. All of a sudden, he asks to try and fix the meat slicer, as it looks to be slicing too thin, he says. The voices scream at him until he lays his wrists down into the slicer’s blade.
The shocker comes when Sister Mary Eunice comes down to see an ancient Aramaic word scrawled across the white tiled wall of the bakery. Mary asks Miles sternly: “Did you summon her?” Hmmm. Would that be Satan ad the Angel of Death having a little interfamilial trouble? Perhaps. We will most definitely see.
Certainly, as Miles gets locked away by the guards and finds himself alone in a tiny cell, the Angel of Death comes to him, offering her kiss: that of Death. Love the BIG WINGS which protrude out of Frances Conroy’s back; the imagery is incredible, as well as the entire costuming she has going on, all of the black, very 1950s-ish.
Plus, fashion aside, there’s an excellent meeting between the cousins: Satan and the Angel of Death. Two amazing actors going back and forth, all sorts of good stuff especially once the real Sister Mary breaks through a moment before SATAN
HIMHERSELF rises up to stuff her back down into the dark recesses of her own soul. Just can’t get enough of this whole bit.Dr. Arden goes to visit Grace, mostly in order to not have to take a fall for her botched hysterectomy. All the while, Kit Walker (Evan Peters) is fighting to try and get his case heard; he’s now told about Grace, that she may not make it through the night with her injuries and infection. A lawyer lays out Kit’s case pretty plainly, not doing much to help other than progressing forward trying to say it’s best to go for an insanity plea, to say he doesn’t know right from wrong. Ironically, Kit jumps up and cracks him over the head, knocking him out behind his desk then runs off.
Disgustingly we’re treated to a scene of Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) thrashing on top of his surrogate mommy, Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), who fades off and sees the Angel of Death off at the peripherals of her vision. She seeks THE KISS slightly, feeling as if “death might be better” and that she used to be scared of it, but not any longer. Though right on the verge, Lana stops short of the kiss saying “not yet”. This is probably the biggest testament to her power as of yet, over anything else which came before. She willingly heads back into the situation.
Following quickly, Oliver descends upon her very angry. He feels as if the’ve reached an impasse, there’s nowhere to go except MURDER for Lana. But he claims to wish to make it as painless as possible for her; y’know, painless death.
This begins a savage fight for survival. Great fight and chase sequence here, as Lana manages somehow to escape the lair of Dr. Bloody Face. She runs out into the road where a car eventually stops to pick her up. The driver (William Mapother) is immediately quite an edgy man, accusing her of probably doing something to her boyfriend. He’s obviously got his own mommy issues, women issues in general, raging on about his own personal life, his wife cheating on him, et cetera. Then in the back of the car, the Angel of Death appears. Lana watches as the driver blows his own brains out and the car goes smashing down.
What might be one of the most cruel twists so far sees Lana back at Briarcliff, Sister Mary Eunice standing over her, stuck in a head brace and the whole getup. She’s back in a bed, right at home once more within those hideous walls.
Back to Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) who has discovered Sam Goodman (Mark Margolis) bleeding out on the floor with a piece of glass in his neck. Knocks at the door come, she sees blood on the television saying MURDERER with newspaper articles about the girl she killed in a hit and run; are they there, or simply images in her own mind?
She has a major flashback to her old days in 1949, as a singer, a serious alcoholic. Intense, desperate, sad scene for Jude whose further flashes to the night she killed the girl keep coming back, over and over. There’s some excellent little black-and-white bits here that I found incredibly effective. There’s this bit where we get an almost Oliver Stone-like feel to certain shots, of which I’m a big fan.
Now Jude is being framed for the death of Goodman. Sister Mary Eunice finally reveals herself to Jude, who remembers Jed Potter and the exorcism, what happened to the young nun as the presence left that boy. This all puts Jude in a terrible way, an awful state, back on the booze and yet knowing all the TRUTH but feeling powerless to do anything about it.
What does she do? Tries to commit suicide by opening her veins in the bathroom at a diner.
OR NOT. Tricked us. “Nothing but a passing thought,” Jude tells the Angel of Death out in a booth at the diner. Luckily the angel says she doesn’t judge, she merely comes and takes; never judging, only doing the job. Even more of Jude’s character comes out here and it’s so crushing to hear parts of her former life, how bad it was for her, what led her down a path of alcoholism and doubt. Solid scene, though, seeing Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy back together again, quite unlike Season 1 yet still impressive.
Jude goes to see the parents of the girl she killed in the hit and run years ago. It’s quite a tense, almost awkward yet touching scene. Until we figure out there’s been more going on with Jude’s memories.
Apparently little Missy Stone – all grown up now – (Kristin Slaysman) with the blue coat all those years ago, the one she’d run down, is still alive. Part of this makes her thankful, at the same time she still ran the girl down. It still happened, just didn’t kill her. So… relief, but never relieved.
Lana reveals to Sister Mary Eunice that Dr. Thredson is in fact Bloody Face. Of course, this is in no way a good thing. Certainly, Satan already knew that Bloody Face was Oliver.
It’s more terrible when Mary reassures a frantic Lana: “No one knows that you‘re here.” Not exactly what Lana wanted to hear in the sense which Mary tells her; Satan surely wants to keep her closed up and out of sight.
Kit Walker comes into Briarcliff through the tunnels of death, finding Grace to try and escape. As they attempt to break free, Arden’s latest monstrosity shows up and tears apart a nun. In the whole fiasco, Grace takes a bullet in the chest when Frank McCann (Fredrich Lehne) is aiming for Kit. The Angel of Death shows up for her, and finally, as she says: “I‘m free.”
What a whopper of a finale to this episode!
Next is “Unholy Night” – directed by Michael Lehmann (Dexter, Californication, Tyrant). One of my ALL-TIME FAVOURITE American Horror Story episodes.
Stay tuned, friends and horror hounds alike!