FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 4: “I Am Anne Frank: Part I”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl (Mad Men, Shameless, Ray Donovan)
Written by Jessica Sharzer
* For a review of the previous episode, “Nor’easter” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “I Am Anne Frank: Part II” – click here
The beginning of this episode begins, appropriately due to the title, as a young woman (Franka Potente) is brought to Briarcliff. Sister Jude (Jessica Lange)
Meanwhile, poor Shelley (Chloe Sevigny) is in the clutches of Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell). She thinks he’s about to kill her – legs already chopped off and what not – but Arden chillingly exclaims that “after this you‘ll probably live forever” before injecting her in the neck with some unknown serum. This is more of the mad doctor showing off his penchant for doing bad things to the patients at the asylum.
Kit Walker (Evan Peters) is still being smacked around and examined by Arden. After finding the strange bug-like metal implant in Kit’s neck, the Dr. Arden is determined to find out who (or what) is spying on him, or who’s been manipulating the young man.
Kit and Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré) are getting closer, as she discloses the truth of why she’s at Briarcliff. Apparently, having discovered someone murdering her father she hid away and tried to survive the massacre. Supposedly she’s been framed for it all.
So Pepper (Naomi Grossman), Shelley, and the Mexican (who was actually killed) are assumed to be gone, while it was actually Lana (Sarah Paulson), Grace, and Kit who’d tried to escape. Lucky for them, but not for the others.
Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) tries his best, all he can do in his power, to help Lana. He knows there’s something more inside of her than simply an asylum patient, an inmate locked away to rot. Thredson says he can get her out if he can show Briarcliff and the bureaucracy that she’s been cured; though, she plainly tells him she’s been “this way” all her life. We’ll see how rough things get for Lana as the episodes go on. I do love how the show tries to examine some of the atrocities the LGBTQ community has faced, particularly in this case at the hands of psychiatric hospitals and religious run mental hospitals such as Briarcliff. Good way to use a horror show, to examine these types of issues and situations.
Thredson also tries his best, again, to do what he can for Kit Walker. Young Kit is still being persecuted for the crimes of Bloody Face, denying it every step of the way. Dr. Thredson thinks he merely disassociated because of what happened, the murder he committed; Kit does not agree, however, he agrees to go along with Thredson’s plans to hopefully escape the death penalty. Thredson attempts to get Kit to face his crimes, but it’s tough going for the young man to even being to believe he killed his own loving wife Alma (Britne Oldford).
It turns out the young woman (Franka Potente) who’d been admitted at the top of the episode claims her name is Anne Frank. She throws a fit in the recreation room when Dr. Arden walks in, claiming that he was in Auschwitz.
She explains about living on the streets of Germany, too sick to tell anyone who she was, and then eventually Anne supposedly met an American soldier from New Jersey. She did not want to ruin the martyrdom of her ‘story’, so remained dead to the world.
Anne then tells Jude about how Dr. Arden is not who he seems – he was in fact an S.S officer at Auschwitz, Dr. Hans Gruber. There are parallels between him and Josef Mengele immediately: the first we see of Gruber/Arden in this new context, he is being very friendly with two twin boys, twins who were not seen again. Furthermore, he began to take women away and brought them back sickly, in poor health, sworn to secrecy. So it’s obvious Arden is a sort of Mengele archetype, doing his sick experiments on the Jews.
And if the story is true, now he’s experimenting in his Nazi ways on Briarcliff inmates. All in the name of science supposedly.
Regardless, now Jude has even more of a reason to be suspicious of Arden. Though, it’s likely Anne is not Anne at all, there is still a palpable feeling to what Jude hears and we can see it has stuck in her craw, that it will not let her rest. Fun to watch where this development may head.
After a wonderful dream sequence where Lana sees herself accepting a journalism award, giving a speech while still traipsing around the asylum, she rushes to Oliver and wants to start her therapy right away. It’s very clear, if wasn’t before, Lana has become fixated on getting out, her determination may be both a good thing, as well as her downfall.
Grace and Kit move closer and closer. She doesn’t care what his crimes were, whether or not he is Bloody Face or if he’s innocent; it’s obvious Grace cares for him, on some level.
They have a brief and heated encounter in the bakery, where Frank McCann (Fredric Lehne) finds them having sex on one of the bread tables. This, naturally, lands them up in the office of Sister Jude. A little corporal punishment is sure to be doled out. The new and sassy Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) picks out her choice of rods for Jude to use, however, the older nun believes sterilization for the both of them is in order.
But after Grace is taken away, the demonic Mary leaves Grace’s file open on the desk for Kit to read. And this is the first time Kit sees, for real, what exactly happened for Grace to arrive in the asylum.
Once the both of them are back in their cells, Kit confronts Grace and she tells him the truth: it was she who killed her own father. However, Kit comes to accept her as she’d equally accepted him no matter what he’d done. A true bond forms.
Harkening back to “Tricks and Treats“, two detectives show up questioning Arden about his encounter with the prostitute at his house. She reported he roughed her up, as well as the fact there was S&M pornography in his dresser, alongside Nazi memorabilia; this last bit especially peaks Jude’s interest. Though they cannot arrest him, now Jude has more fuel to the fire.
When mentioning her worries about Arden to Monsignor Howard (Joseph Fiennes), Jude reveals to him she believes the new patient to be Anne Frank. Sadly, this makes Howard believe there is a bias she has towards Arden, that there is an obsession Jude has over the man which is slightly unhealthy. Truly all she wants to do is protect a man she cares for, and slightly loves/lusts for, but Howard is linked up slightly with Arden somehow, which taints him. Worst of all, Howard accuses her of drinking again because of the drunkenness she displayed during their screening of The Sign of the Cross, and it’s evident she feels slightly defeated by the Monsignor.
Shockingly, right after Jude leaves Howard calls Arden in his lab, warning “they‘re onto you” and advises to clean up anything that may need to be cleaned up – NOW! I’m interested to see how this plays out and exactly what it is binding Howard to Arden in such a devious way.
Back to poor Lana, who is undergoing aversion/conversion therapy – a practice no longer undertaken by anyone serious in the psychological field, I’m sure it’s probably not even legal anymore; at least not in the way Thredson administers it. First, with a strong morphine drip and a bucket in front of her, Lana is exposed to pictures of women, sexy stuff, including her now dead lover (due to Bloody Face), and the morphine prompts her to throw up, hopefully meant to turn her away from the lust she feels towards women by reminding her of that disgust next time the feelings reoccur.
Worst of all, Thredson brings a male patient, Daniel (Casey Wyman) in to help in the conversion aspect of her therapy. She has to masturbate herself while touching his penis, but the sickness of the morphine comes back and ruins everything.
This stuff is SO INTENSE and highly disturbing. Again, though, I’m highly pleased Ryan Murphy and the writers are examining some of the things involved with psychiatry many experienced during the 1950s, even up until the 1980s in some cases. It’s wild that it ever went on, but great a show like this has the balls to confront these issues head-on.
Dr. Thredson comes to Lana and gives her the picture he had of her lover. He promises not to let her rot in Briarcliff. There is hope now at the end of the tunnel, a light shining, and Lana finally has something to care about, she’s not simply fighting to survive but rather there is a kind of redemption coming. At least, we hope so.
Kit Walker is also coming to an end of a tunnel, in a sense. He feels crazy and wants to try and figure out WHATEVER the truth might be in the end. While talking to Jude there’s a great moment when he says that the aliens he supposedly couldn’t have been real, and she gives him this look, signifying Oh yes they could be, as we know that during her drunken state she’d actually seen one of them briefly. So I love how there’s this weird dynamic happening now with Jude and Kit, even while she does still think he’s the killer of women for which the police have been looking.
The end of the episode is HUGE!
Dr. Arden hauls Anne Frank in to his lab, threatening her. But all of a sudden she pulls a gun, one she managed to wrestle off one of the detectives before they left Briarcliff. She shoots Arden in one of his legs. Then, right before the credits run, she opens a door: Shelley is inside, her face is deformed and hideous, bulging out with sores and puss, croaking out “Help me.”
Whoa. What a kicker.
Can’t wait to review the next episode, the second half this two-parter “I Am Anne Frank: Part II.” Stay tuned!