June gets good news, but bad news isn't long behind. In Canada, Serena forges a life without Fred.
June makes an irreparable, devastating decision: be defiled again, or rise up with violence.
A woman once named Jane now goes by Offred, living under the rule of an authoritarian, patriarchal nation-state ruled with an iron fist.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 8: “Unholy Night”
Directed by Michael Lehmann (Tyrant, Dexter, Big Love, The Larry Sanders Show)
Written by James Wong
* For a review of the next episode “The Coat Hanger” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “Dark Cousin” – click here
One of my favourite of ALL-TIME opening scenes on this show comes in “Unholy Night”.
Starting out on a snowy Christmas eve in 1962, a Salvation Army Santa is out front of a store collecting donations, ringing the bell. All of a sudden, Leigh Emerson (Ian McShane) shows up. He shoots Santa.
Cut to Leigh, dressed up in the suit, playing with a train set in a family’s living room. A little girl meets him there, as he plays friendly; though, there’s a tell-tale stain of blood down the front of his white trimmed red coat.
The most terrifying wake up ever? Santa Leigh has the little girl bring him up to mom and dad, greeting them for an early Christmas. Downstairs he ties the mother and father up, taunting them terribly. An awfully terrifying scene as McShane just goes SAVAGE, mostly with his words. All before putting a bullet in the scared and pleading couple.
I love, love, love Ian McShane. He’s great in everything, especially on Deadwood as the surly saloon owner Al Swearengen. Here he plays a downright unsettling, shocking character who’s good for every last second he winds up in the frame.Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) changes the rules now that Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) has been dismissed. It seems Christmas is back at Briarcliff. She has all the inmates line-up, improvising ornaments for the tree; quite a macabre yet funny scene.
Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) is having a bit of a hard time quelling his feelings for the devilish yet oh-so-innocent Sister Mary Eunice; something that’s been apparent from the start. Perhaps it’s because Arden has a fetish, maybe it’s something he’d rather subject the darling nun to because he feels something for her.
At the same time, Frank McCann (Fredric Lehne) is mourning the death of Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré), one which he caused inadvertently when she jumped in front of a bullet meant for Kit Walker (Evan Peters).
Loving the first big confrontation between Sister Jude and the devil inside Sister Mary Eunice. She sneaks up behind the demon, putting a blade to the young nun’s throat. But before much else happens between them, Arden shows up. They have Jude escorted, however, there’s no doubt each of them have their own ideas about the problem now presenting itself. Arden warns not to underestimate the older Sister Jude.
Now Sister Mary Eunice goes to see Emerson in his cell; he’s now an older, bearded, lost soul in the darkness. At the same time, a flashback comes from 1963 during a Christmas event at Briarcliff. Leigh causes a bit of trouble for Sister Jude. When a photographer comes in to do some pictures, Leigh takes his chance and bites off an orderly’s face; or, parts of it.
In present day, the devil in Sister Mary presents Leigh a Santa costume. She knows all about him – how he’d been jailed for stealing a loaf of bread, there on Christmas five men, the jailers, raped him. This is what precipitated his Santa-centric killings. She wants Leigh to put the costume back on, have a little fun on that special day near the year’s end.
What’s in store is sinister.
A particularly grim scene between Dr. Arden and Sister Mary Eunice, which I can’t get enough of. He gives her a pair of ruby earrings belonging to a “jewess“, as he puts it. She would hide them, swallowing each one every day so they would not be stolen by the Nazis in the camps. Eventually she died, Arden retrieved them. He says that Sister Mary Eunice is worthy of their beauty.
Sweet? Strange? All of it?
Arden was in fact hoping for “a glimmer of that precious girl.” But the devil in Mary has no time for his sweet, saccharine lovey-dovey bullshit. In so many words, she tells the doctor to get moving or get out of the way.
Mother Superior Claudia (Barbara Tarbuck) is a trusted friend of Sister Jude. She’s not sure what to do to help, however, she is always there. Jude seems a little more clear, while certainly a bit revved up and panicked, but we know she has SEEN the devil, she knows where the devil resides. Luckily the passion in Jude convinces Mother Superior to help her.
Then out of nowhere, Arden shows up at the church where Jude is meeting Claudia. What we’re seeing is a plan slipping into action: Arden is convincing Jude to come back and help with Sister Mary Eunice, and while it seems he wishes to make amends, a little anyways, there’s no trusting a former Nazi doctor out of Auschwitz.
Back at Briarcliff, Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes) praises Mary Eunice for having the innovation to dress the Christmas tree with impromptu decorations. Leigh is dressed up, full Santa, whispering naughty nothings into another inmate’s ear. Even Dr. Arden seems to be having a slightly decent time.
Will it last? And for how long?
Kit is having dreams of Grace and Alma (Britne Oldford), their faces interchanging between one another in his head. He’s asleep in a bed at the asylum. Next to him – Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), who finds herself adjusting once more to life back inside the horrid walls of Briarcliff Asylum. She talks to Kit as he sleeps, finally coming to understand his true situation after Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) revealed himself to be Bloody Face.
I find this part super interesting because there’s a new dynamic between Kit and Lana. She knows for sure what Thredson did and she’s prepared to fight. Luckily for Kit, Lana is a true survivor. However, soon enough she’s got to deal with more than simply being back at Briarcliff.
Oliver shows up again, without the Bloody Face mask. Uh oh!
Disturbing as his character may be, I do think Arden is one of the most interesting to me.
He’s letting Sister Jude in incognito, via the bakery. She tells him to bring Mary to her office and lock the door. Jude believes she and Arden are in cahoots.
Is this really the case? I feel as if not.
Upstairs in the recreation room, Frank McCann places the star atop the Christmas tree, but Leigh tosses him off the ladder attacking him with an ornament. McCann lays into Emerson a little and then goes to haul him off to solitary; clearly the Santa suit was not a good idea. Maybe it wasn’t… for anyone else except Arden and Mary Eunice.
Because while Frank brings the nasty Santa down to a solitary cell, Sister Mary cuts the guard’s throat while Leigh looks on with a laugh and a smile.
It’s all led to here – Jude is put in a room alone with Leigh, Santa suit to boot. He says he’s there to “open his present.” IT WAS ALL A PLOY! As I knew it, Arden merely wanted to show how he was on the devil’s side, for the that sassy demon inside the young nun.
Absolutely creepy, chilling scene between Ian McShane and Jessica Lange. Two world class actors showing off their chops. It’s a disturbing scene, as we’re sort of waiting to see what exactly is going to happen. This made me truly worry for Sister Jude – watching on in horror wondering what Leigh Emerson would do to her.
Paralleled with their confrontation, Oliver tells Lana all about how he scoured his home for any evidence, making sure it was all gone; he ‘killed’ Bloody Face, so to speak. This is another tense, suspenseful moment. There’s these two tough women in peril and I honestly could not tell what would happen next. Great writing and execution to have these scenes playing back to back!
Though I give a good scan of everything happening, I’ll leave these NASTY TASTY LITTLE BITS for you to watch on your own.
Needless to say, though, the last ten minutes of this episode are pretty damn incredible. One truly excellent and bloody moment comes quick during the scene with Lange/McShane; gnarly!
Dr. Arden finds himself in the path of the alien creatures which have visited both Kit and Grace. All of a sudden, as he brings Grace through the tunnels below, they come and take Grace into the thin air, vanishing. This is going to be something to watch closely because I love how they’re including the Nazi doctor in with the alien subplot; anyone who knows anything about Hitler and the Nazis knows they were into some weird stuff, so Arden is bound to be very intrigued, wanting to find out all he can about these creatures. Kit will play more and more into this now, especially seeing as how Grave has disappeared without a trace and the doctor will need someone in order to find out more about them.
The next episode, “The Coat Hanger” directed by Jeremy Podeswa (True Detective Season 2’s “Down Will Come”, The Pacific, The Walking Dead, The Borgias), is one of my favourites from this season, as well. Very brutal and macabre and extremely fun in a horror type way!
Stay tuned, horror fiends. Come along for the ride.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 6: “The Origins of Monstrosity”
Directed by David Semel (Hannibal, The Strain)
Written by Ryan Murphy
* For a review of the next episode, “Dark Cousin” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode “I Am Anne Frank: Part II” – click here
“The Origins of Monstrosity” begins as a voice tells a 9-11 operator there are bodies at Briarcliff to be found. This may be the answer to when we saw a present day Bloody Face attack the young men in Bloody Face masks. I know the voice already, but won’t spoil it. We’ll wait and see together, shall we? Either way, it’s good to know the character of present day Bloody Face – whoever that may be as we’ve recently discovered Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) is the true original 1960s Bloody Face – will be handled by a fun actor.
Sister Jude Martin (Jessica Lange) meets a a woman named Mrs. Reynolds (Amy Farrington), whose daughter Jenny (Nikki Hahn) is brought in after suspicion she may have terrible, violent issues. Jenny’s mother discovered a lock of hair in daughter’s belongings: it’s the hair of a friend Jenny supposedly saw murdered; the little girl tells of a man who killed her friend, telling her to stand perfectly still or else she would be, too. Yet there’s obviously something sinister about little Jenny Reynolds. Jude tells her, there is no children’s ward at Briarcliff unfortunately.Meanwhile, back at chez Thredson, Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) wakes up to croque-monsieur frying on the stove. At first it’s nice, until she realizes again where she is; chez Bloody Face. He serves up the sandwich saying it’s the “perfect mommy snack.”
What becomes clear through his discussion is the fact Oliver has mommy issues. Oh yes. He’s got problems with women. He has been searching for a woman, a mother, as the one he had at birth abandoned him to the system where only his “basic needs were met.”
Oliver “Bloody Face” Thredson dubs Lana THE ONE. He recounts his sordid history with the female body, his “breakthrough” as he calls it coming after encountering a luring woman in medical school; except this woman was dead, cold, on a colder metal slab. This is one DISTURBING scene, which I love. It’s straight up Ed Gein, but adapted Ed Gein; if he were a scholar instead of a farmboy with no education. This is Bloody Face, instead of Leatherface – a maniac, yet a calculated, intelligent, damaged maniac.
Also love how we get a dose of Psychology 1000, as Dr. Thredson talks about rhesus monkeys and their attachment to the cloth of a simulated mother monkey, the skin essentially. This relates to his love, his need, for the feel of warm skin on his surrogate mother.
Sam Goodman (Mark Margolis) calls Sister Jude, who tells him not to worry anymore, she was wrong. In direct opposition, Mr. Goodman informs her the fake Anne Frank (Franka Potente) was right: Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) was in fact, IS in fact, Dr. Hans Gruber, a former Nazi and member of the S.S. In shock, Jude asks what can be done; she must be a fingerprint in order to confirm for sure, then they can move ahead.
This will set off serious repercussions. Eventually.
As Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes) goes to the hospital in order to see a dying Shelley (Chloë Sevigny), we get an incredible flashback explaining perfectly the wonderful title of this episode, “The Origins of Monstrosity”.
The first meeting between Dr. Arthur Arden and Monsignor Howard, several years prior, occurs as the latter is first moving in to the building. Arden introduces him to his ideas – he claims to be developing some kind of ultimate, super vaccine that would stave off even the most serious, deadly illness and viruses should humans be subject to them. This is a perfectly grim example – his wanting to do human trials – of the Nazi doctors and their insane ideas of eugenics, et cetera. The stuff going on between Howard and Arden, both in present day and the flashback scenes, goes to show how serious of a mess Howard has gotten himself into, allowing Arden to basically have free run of Briarcliff in order to further his “work“, if it can be called that.
Now there’s a real, palpable tension between the doctor and Monsignor Howard. Of course, there’s a terrifying aspect to Arden. Not only is he a tall and imposing figure, he is a sinister man. Furthermore, now we know through other events going on simultaneously HE IS A NAZI! He was in the death camps, just as the fake Anne Frank discovered somehow. This is scary enough. But then he has to go and show Howard more of his other work, the latest being on local tough inmate and pervert Spivey (Mark Consuelos). Savage, just as was done to Shelley. More supposedly in the name of the human race; yeah right, Nazi.
Saucy little scene between the devilish – or straight up Satan – Sister Mary Eunice McKee (Lily Rabe) and the equally devilish little girl Jenny, whose mother left her at Briarcliff and ran.
What we get here, though, is a heartbreaking flashback retro filmed scene as Mary Eunice recounts a story of when a bunch of girls tricked her into going naked under her robe then stripping, jumping into the pool; so sad and it made my heart both break and ACHE for her. At the same time, the devil is inside Mary. Right up in there. She’s both actively bad, as well as bad via extension, playing her influence over the young, impressionable, and pretty much evil little Jenny.
The tension between Monsignor Howard and Dr. Arden – more so Howard’s worry he’ll be caught out helping Arden – has led the Monsignor to removing Sister Jude from her position at Briarcliff. She knows it is Arden whose influence is turning Howard, which we know. But the childish and misguided Howard, worried for his own sake, sends her off anyways. I actually feel bad for Jude, no matter how bad she’s been on her own, because this is all out of her hands. She knows the truth about Arden above all else. Worse, Howard is being manipulated. Even more than that, the devil in Sister Mary Eunice is working full-time.
Kit Walker (Evan Peters) uses his one phone call to ring up Thredson. Naturally, it’s the worst time for Oliver; he’s got Lana downstairs, trying to escape. We can see a bit of the breaks at his seams, the little boy in Oliver escaping from time to time. Kit knows there’s something wrong with it all, he realizes now Dr. Thredson lured him into confessing on tape, falsely, then gave it to the police.
Sadly for Lana, getting all worked up has Oliver feeling crazier once he discovers her sweating, her pulse is rocketing, and she’s been trying to escape. Or as he sees it, trying to abandon him. Oh those MOMMY ISSUES! They’re a real bitch, at times. Pretty damn bad when you’re a psychopathic killer who wears the skin of women for a mask, teeth, hair, the whole she-bang-a-bang.
AMAZING SCENE with Lily Rabe. Sister Mary Eunice sings and dances in a red negligee she stole out of Jude’s dresser along to “You Don’t Own Me” performed by Lesley Gore. The best part, surprisingly, is not seeing the beautiful Rabe, but it’s the fact the devil inside is raging, singing the lyrics right at the cross on the wall.
As Sister Jude gets a useable fingerprint from an unsuspecting Arden, unfortunately Mr. Goodman reached Mary Eunice on the phone – pretending to be Jude.
At Goodman’s hotel later, Jude finds him with his throat cut, blood everywhere, now the jig is up. On the bathroom floor she pulls close to him and he tells her it was one of her nuns. BAM!
Simultaneously, Sister Mary Eunice, or Satan – whatever – brings all the research Goodman had back to Arden. She also kept some stuff for backup, in case Arthur decides to turn around and double cross her. This is the first time we see him BLOW UP, the Nazi Aryan piece of shit in him exploding in front of us as he rants to Mary about the “money grubbing Jews”. I mean, whoa, Arden! I knew you were a Nazi, but that was… direct. At least for his sake he’s got Sister Mary Eunice, whose devilish side loves the doctor and his own evil ways.
Then there’s Jenny, whose latest situation involves another dead girl. Naturally influenced by Sister Mary, as well. What a bad, bad nun she is. I love this little subplot, having a creepy little kid – pays homage greatly to some of the killer kid films from the 1950s-70s era. Lots of disturbing bits of fun in here.
Worse and worse is the situation for Lana. Dr. Bloody Face is crawling on top of her, ready to cut in and have some fun. A flashback reveals when he first saw her as fit to be MOM, back when Kit Walker – supposedly Bloody Face – had been brought into Briarcliff.
But the kicker is when Oliver says “Baby needs colostrum“, which is downright sickening and twisted. Blew me away in a terrifying way. He sucks on Lana’s breast and it trips me out. Yuck.
Very end sees the police in present day show up to Briarcliff, as they find a phone – current day Bloody Face, whomever he may be, tells them he’s up to no good.
In fact, he’s got Teresa Morrison (Jenna Dewan Tatum) captive – Leo’s (Adam Levine) wife from the framing narrative beginning at the season’s start – and who knows where they are, or what exactly he’s doing with her.
Looking forward to reviewing the next episode, “Dark Cousin” directed by Hannibal regular Michael Rymer, an excellent television director as of late. Stay tuned for that one, should be another creepy chapter in the Briarcliff diary!