FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 12: “Continuum”
Directed by Craig Zisk (Weeds, Nip/Tuck)
Written by Ryan Murphy
* For a review of the previous episode, “Spilt Milk” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Madness Ends” – click here
Starting off back at the Walker house, Kit (Evan Peters) finds himself bloody, axe in hand, being called for by his child. Has he gone and actually murdered someone this time?
Who knows. Was it a dream?
Cut back to Grace (Lizzie Brocheré) stuck at her drawings, trying to recreate the aliens who took them, alongside Alma (Britne Oldford) who seems to be doing all the cooking/et cetera. Kit is obviously involved with protests of some sort, marching, “fighting the good fight.” While it’s not exactly an unhappy home, at all, there’s still an aspect about it that isn’t quite right. Particularly, Alma is worried about Grace’s fixation on the aliens; Kit passes it off, but Alma wants him to spend more time with her, to try and placate those worries of her own. Either way the entire situation is strange, two wives, one husband, two babies.
Then comes an attack on the house. At first, Alma believes it’s the aliens coming back for them. However, it’s only Billy Marshall (Joe Egender) and the rest of the local redneck idiots. Sadly there’s no real big help from police, as they’re more worried about Kit’s apparent polygamy than anything that might happen to him or his family.
I thought there was a great Amityville Horror vibe going at times here in the opening 10 minutes or so, from the beginning sequence with Kit appearing to have killed somebody in the living room by axe, to the quick cuts while Alma and Grace argue together back and forth with shots of Kit chopping wood. There’s definitely a bit of that film’s influence in these moments, I have no doubt.
Must say, I was surprised: Kit tries to do his best after Alma chops Grace to death with the axe. Incredible how the script loops things back around in that sense, playing with our expectations. Great stuff from Murphy and director Craig Zisk.
Back at Briarcliff, Jude (Jessica Lange) plays cards with Pepper (Naomi Grossman) and others at one of the tables. In strolls cock of the walk Monsignor Howard (Joseph Fiennes) to talk with Jude; he’s leaving the asylum for an appointment as Cardinal in New York. What a crock of shit, hey? The typical religious way: failure or outright incompetency, in massive and fatal ways, often means a promotion in the Roman Catholic Church’s hierarchical, bureaucratic farce of an organization.
Though, he wants Jude to be released, she starts to have trouble when a woman looking much like the Angel of Death (Frances Conroy) shows up as a new inmate; Briarcliff is now an overflow facility. This begins to threaten her pending release. Thrown in a cell with this woman, things get tense and Jude starts to slightly unravel once again.
She starts to lose time. Suddenly there are two years or so gone, Howard has been Cardinal for that time. Even poor Pepper is dead. There’s no end to Jude’s madness now, unfortunately. Honestly, this whole bit is slightly muddled and while I like it, the writing is surprisingly sloppy for Murphy, of whom I’m usually a fan in terms of this series. He is a good writer, I just find this section of this episode a bit lazy. Still, I love the tragedy of Jude anyways.
Cue up some Lana Winters, 1969, as her book is on the bestseller list for ten weeks – Maniac; One Woman’s Story of Survival. She proudly gives a reading at a bookstore for a group listening intently to every word, each syllable. Lana laps it up. She also puts things in the book which never happened, even Ms. Winters herself sees Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) chastise her from the crowd, as well as her lover Wendy (Clea Duvall) who she passes off in the book as merely a friend and roommate.
While Lana is clearly an admirable character, she survived so much and fought so viciously well, there’s a dislikable quality to her in these scenes at the bookstore. Worst of all, not everything Lana promised to Kit happened, she didn’t fully take Briarcliff down but merely stained its reputation and turned it into a snake pit.
Things change slightly once Kit reveals to Lana that Jude is still alive within the depths of the horror that is Briarcliff, but Lana is hardened. Ultimately she doesn’t care much about what happens to Jude, Kit, or anyone else, not anymore.
With a great natural edit we switch back to Johnny Morgan (Dylan McDermott) whose quest has led him into a bookstore, searching out a copy of Maniac by his long lost mother Ms. Lana Winters. This scene is extraordinarily creepy. He faces off against an old woman – her mother owned a copy of it – and there’s some real nasty exchange of dialogue, getting creepier by the second. I love how it ended, as Johnny doesn’t even get violent, he lays out what he’s going to do concerning his mother. Then he asks, semi-angrily/politely, for her to hand over the book, which she does quickly, trembling all over. Nice finish.
Good episode in some respect, though, again I think part of it was a bit sloppy on the writing. I did love the bit with Johnny Morgan at the end and I loved the whole opening 10-15 minutes, that was real masterful television.
The next episode and finale of Season 2 Asylum, “Madness Ends”, is up next. The episode is directed by series regular Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. Stay tuned and I’ll be finishing up this second season before moving onto the next!