Tagged Naomi Grossman

American Horror Story – Freak Show, Episode 10: “Orphans”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 10: “Orphans”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by James Wong

* For a review of the previous episode, “Tupperware Party Massacre” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Magical Thinking” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-4-30-16-pmWith only a few episodes left, the freak show in Jupiter is experiencing all sorts of madness descending upon it, from Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) and her dangerous ties with Stanley (Denis O’Hare), to Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) who now finds himself at the mercy of the police; so, so much is happening. And still, there’s more!
This episode commences with the death of Salty (Christopher Neiman). Poor Pepper (Naomi Grossman) is devastated, clinging to his corpse on his beautiful deathbed. Paul (Mat Fraser) and Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin) try to tear her away, though, she misses him obviously. Elsa claims to know the “depth of that girls soul” even if others don’t always. We get a couple very sad moments where Pepper discovers Salty dead during sleep, a stroke they assume. Such a tragic thing, to see two people who loved each other in spite of the world around them, now one of them left alone to remain on earth.
But we get more of Stanley looking for specimens, as he takes the body of Salty, chopping off its head, and sending it over to the Museum of Morbid Curiosities. Where the head is displayed next to Ma Petite, floating in a jar of formaldehyde. More of a sad end in the life of Salty.
screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-4-31-32-pmOver at the camp, Pepper lays in bed while Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett) reads her a bedtime story. The part-newly changed Dell (Michael Chiklis) shows up, moved by her reading the book and claiming she’ll be “a great mom someday.” He’s still a bad guy, but to see this shift in him is a bit incredible. For all the terribleness that is Dell, he still cares for Desiree, as well as seems to have started caring for the freaks around him after finally admitting that he, essentially, is just as much a freak. Inside the tent, Pepper cries while Desiree has to leave to prepare for the night’s show.
Elsa and Desiree have a drink together, talking a little about Pepper’s dilemma. Further, they chat about Elsa’s new move off to Hollywood, or at least what Elsa believes is her coming big break. Will Stanley, a.k.a Richard, do anything for her? We’ll see. For now, we get more flashbacks into the life of Elsa Mars and her first days in America playing in a group from Boston. Soon enough, though, Elsa found her niche, proclaiming the circus owners as “morons” and saying they couldn’t “see the future.”
But Elsa could. She understands entertainment, what people want, what they crave, even the darker things. “Most people dont see beauty in someone like Pepper. They see shame, they see human garbage,” Elsa tells Desiree. This is where she arrived at an orphanage to find Pepper alone in a corner, playing with blocks by herself. Such a touching scene, highly emotional to see Elsa connecting with Pepper in those first beginnings of their long relationship/casual friendship. She was Elsa’s “first monster,” one who made her feel real and unconditional love for the first time, as well. Moreover, Elsa saw the maternal instincts in Pepper grow, but knew she couldn’t have children.
Then came Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge), who satisfied the curiosity of Elsa, and also helped to quell the maternal longing of Pepper. What a beautiful sequence where we see the origins of these freak show relationships! Such fun to see Ma Petite back, too. Even when she’s traded for 3 cases of delicious Dr. Pepper into Elsa’s arms. But, although Petite became a part of a carnival of so-called freaks, she was let off the leash to which she’d been held by the Indian prince, and so I say: good. One of the most emotionally challenging and intense sequences out of this season, as we get this really romantic and nostalgic sort of thing happening throughout these scenes. Especially after Salty is first introduced to Pepper, and they fall in love at first sight! They have a nice carnival wedding, officiated by Elsa and flowers tossed around by the sweet little Ma Petite. Definitely a favourite overall from Season 4 Freak Show, with an extended sequence stretching out a bit. This gives more depth to the other characters. It also makes Elsa a little more human, regardless of her terrible faults.screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-4-34-10-pmStill, Desiree suggests maybe Pepper’s sister may take her back in now that she’s older, not eighteen and hard to handle anymore. But, as we know, Pepper later ends up in Briarcliff during Season 2 Asylum. Are we to see that transition in this season, better yet in this episode?
Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts) receives Desiree and Angus T. Jefferson (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) in her tent, looking for a reading of their future. Shyster Maggie shows off her skills, or at least her skills of excellent perception; pretending to look at the crystal ball, only gleaning facts about him from looking at his shoes, his coat, et cetera. She feeds them both a good line of bullshit, as they lap it up eagerly, loving on one another. But then Maggie’s own feelings work into the reading, talking about how their perfect little little will go “all to shit.” Because that’s life. They have no time for her nonsense, even Angus claiming he’s a “Godfearing Christian” who doesn’t believe reading the future is possible. Yeah, like he didn’t love it before that.
Outside, Maggie and Desiree have a confrontation. Then Maggie reveals: she and Stanley are “on the grift,” and they’ve been working together since 1941. A little flashback to Maggie’s days grifting as a young sneak selling papers, supposedly, as a boy. Stanley yanks her out of trouble, then makes her his partner; for a bad price on her part. Maggie is upset, but Desiree knows there’s something nasty afoot on their part, and threatens the younger woman – if she finds out anything happening at the carnival, the freak deaths, has something to do with her and Stanley, there will be hell to pay.
In her tent, Maggie is awaited by Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson). They want her to do right by Jimmy. They have money to pay for a lawyer, so he won’t “turn out like Meep,” which finally frightens Maggie into helping. Or at least so it seems.
At Jimmy’s cell, up turns Stanley. He says he’s there to help and knows exactly how Jimmy feels. He reels off a story about losing his mother, being an orphan. Is it more sleek sales pitch, or is it real? I doubt that. Jimmy doesn’t remember killing those women in his drunken rage. Though, he can’t be sure. He had a long blackout. “I didnt kill them. Did I?” Jimmy asks Stanley. The latter says he has an attorney for Jimmy, one who wants a retainer. Stanley is greasing his way towards something: what is it? He says he has an idea on how to “raise the funds”, after which we get a flip-screen shot zooming in Jimmy’s hands. NO! Is Stanley going to do what I think he’s out to do? Will he convince Jimmy to cut the hands off? Will Jimmy die? Oh, man. I can’t handle that.
In tent city, Desiree is busy cooking for all her fellow freak family. She and Maggie are still flitting around each other. Maggie wants to help Jimmy and tries to gain Desiree’s trust: “Everyone in this entire camp will be dead soon if you dont listen to me,” Maggie tells her.
Mare Winningham returns to the Ryan Murphy-Brad Falchuk universe as Pepper’s sister, Rita Gayheart. She seems a very prim, proper type, an upper class housewife in the 1950s with a nice hairdo, high heeled shoes, and a drink during the afternoon with a little cherry in it. Elsa doesn’t want to leave her there evidently, but seems to believe it’s best for Pepper. Rita, for her part, is not too interested. Especially seeing as how her husband has no idea Pepper exists. “Pepper is a gift,” Elsa says and tries to express how Pepper needs someone now, after suffering “great losses.” More emotions flow again now, as Elsa says a teary goodbye to her friend, her companion Pepper, who also shows that she will miss her. But the trouble has only begun for dear Pepper.
In other news, Maggie brings Desiree to the museum where Stanley unloads all his freak bodies and body parts. Sad to watch Desiree walking around, seeing Ma Petite and Salty in their jars, dead and gone. Right as they’re moving around from one exhibit to another, up shows a new exhibit: lobster hands. Maggie faints, but is this real? ARE THOSE JIMMY’S FUCKING HANDS?

 

 


Before figuring it all out, we snap back to Rita who is with a familiar face: Sister Mary Eunice McKee (Lily Rabe). What a treat! I love Rabe, and her presence in the American Horror Story universe is incredible, as always. We’re flashing to 1962, at Briarcliff, where Rita talks about how she finally got pregnant after not thinking she could get pregnant. Unsuspectingly, Rita has a child. Only the baby was slightly deformed, and later little baby Lucas became more of a problem.
Rita claims Pepper was helping out with the infant. Though, we get shots of Pepper trying to do so while Rita lies drunk in bed calling for “another martini.” In Season 2 Asylum, we heard Pepper supposedly murdered the baby, cutting its ears off or something similarly nasty. Here, we see the truth. Rita was a mess, her husband Larry Matthew Glave) was possibly molesting Pepper. The baby was left mostly to Pepper, who is accused by Rita as being a murderer. Yet in reality, Larry and Rita want the baby gone; he leads things, but she certainly doesn’t try to stop him. They concoct a little scheme to have the baby gone, to have Pepper gone, too. Larry asks his wife: “What if I had a way to kill two birds with one stone?” I won’t say any more. But this whole sequence is very morbid, frightening, and entirely too sad. Pepper’s tragic history is a weepy one, no doubt. Which left her rotting in the hell-hole that is Briarcliff Asylum.
At the hospital, the snake pit, Sister Mary Eunice makes Pepper her “special project.” And while sorting magazines there, Pepper sees a Life Magazine from 1958 with Elsa Mars on it, calling her the Queen of Friday night television.

 


What a beautiful and painful episode, all at once.
Looking forward to reviewing the next one, “Magical Thinking”.

American Horror Story – Asylum, Episode 10: “The Name Game”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 10: “The Name Game”
Directed by Michael Lehmann (TyrantTrue BloodDexter)
Written by Jessica Sharzer

* For a review of the next episode, “Spilt Milk” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Coat Hanger” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-30-52-pmWith the return of Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré), now pregnant, along with Pepper (Naomi Grossman), Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) lies to Kit Walker (Evan Peters). He tells the young man they did not come, therefore keeping Grace and the baby insider her under wraps.
Meanwhile, Pepper has been given the gift of gab. She tells Arthur all about how the higher alien lifeforms mostly laugh at him and his crude experiments. Even more than that, we get the sad story behind Pepper’s life; she did not, in fact, kill her sister’s child, but merely got thrown in jail because of the shape of heard, as she is microcephalic. It’s an AMAZING SCENE because Pepper gives the doctor a dose of reality, ironically enough. Almost too much for Arden to take, especially to hear it from someone he’d so long ago written off as mentally challenged and useless to him.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-31-06-pmMonsignor Howard (Joseph Fiennes) survived his crucifixion at the hands of Leigh Emerson (Ian McShane). Now he’s being confronted with the ultimate evil of Satan within Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe).
Nice flashback to the Angel of Death (Frances Conroy) telling Howard to cast out the devil from Mary. He’s advised to guard his thoughts, to keep his rosary close, and hopefully this may help him combat the demonic forces at work in Briarcliff. We’ll see if that’s the truth in the long run or not.
Still feel absolutely terrible for Jude (Jessica Lange). At least she now has Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson); their relationship has changed immensely now that Jude’s been introduced back into the asylum. Mary Eunice taunts Jude as much as she possibly can, certainly a ton since Jude smashed the “Dominique” record in last episode.
Lana has her own troubles, of course. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) is still kicking around. Sister Mary Eunice has brought him back on in a permanent position – Bloody Face and Satan together is one SAVAGE combination! Phew. What’s awful here is the way Thredson taunts Lana, talking about her carrying the child, breastfeeding it, so on and so on. Hearing all this Kit utters one of my favourite single lines of the season: “You’re one sick twist.”
The worst has come for Jude. She underestimated the devil inside Mary Eunice. After a bit of argument between the two, the young and awful nun brings Jude in to Dr. Arden where they give her some especially brutal shock treatment. Again, I feel horrible. Jude is getting way more than she’d ever brought upon herself.
When Mary Eunice tends to Monsignor Howard’s stigmata-like wounds, he attempts to appeal to Satan, however, she turns the tables. Miss Satan holds the Monsignor down on his bed and rapes him. The first time I watched this, when it came on FX originally, I actually didn’t realise Satan held Howard’s arms down initially with unseen force; doesn’t last the whole way through, but still, long enough to qualify it as a rape. Arden walks in and sees the end of all this, part jealous and probably part turned on in a sick way seeing the devil work with the body of Sister Mary Eunice in such a dastardly fashion.


One of the best scenes out of the entire series comes in this episode. We’re treated to a great rendition of “The Name Game”, which is of course why the episode is titled as such. After coming out of her shock treatment, Jude has this incredible dream type of sequence. It’s so cool because everyone else goes with it. At first, Lana and Kit seem weirded out, but then they’re each a part of it – love the way Lana jumps in so reluctantly to start, then Kit ends up jiving in after awhile. There’s something so ridiculous about the scene, yet at the same time I cannot help but love every second of it. Because it’s beyond trippy while being fun – there are some inmates rocking out in a highly creepy way. Even Pepper gets down like crazy.
But it’s just perfect once the whole sequence ends, Jude lifts her head up off the new jukebox Sister Mary had put in, then – BAM! – she’s right back with Lana again. So perfect, right down to the editing itself. Wonderful sequence.
One thing Jude successfully accomplishes is telling Mother Superior about Lana – that she put her in the asylum, wrongfully, and asks Mother to help Lana get out.
Arden is beyond a broken man. He tries to kill himself while out feeding his monsters, but can’t bring himself to do the deed. Satan herself tells Arden he’s pitiful and throws him to the ground. While Dr. Arden is completely despicable, I think his own final chance for hope of redemption, for any hope of walking away from his horrible and disturbing past died when the devil entered Sister Mary Eunice. Her innocence maintained him in a sense, now he’s completely run off the rails after witnessing Howard being raped by Satan.
At the same time, Howard goes to Jude who is completely rocked by the electroshock therapy and apologises for not having believed her about the devil being in Briarcliff. He’s unsure of what to do, if he ought to renounce his vows, and hopes Jude will help. She can only advise: “Kill her.”
I highly doubt the Monsignor is in any shape, both mentally or physically, to do the deed. Particularly when you consider the fact Satan appears SO STRONG while in the skin of Sister Mary Eunice, as if her innocence and mild nature feeds the deep, dark evil like oxygen on a roaring blaze.
Yet Howard proved me wrong. Able to quickly turn the tables on Satan, he throws Sister Mary Eunice to her death from the third floor of Briarcliff to the lobby floor. As she perishes, the Angel of Death comes for Mary. Grim and gorgeous little moment here, something I actually did NOT see coming, as you can tell by what I said not a moment ago.screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-34-32-pmIn Arden’s office, Thredson ends up coming across Grace – Pepper pops up from between her legs and tells him she’s crowning. Uh oh. This is bad news for Kit because Thredson now has leverage he’ll be using with which to try and manipulate him. Almost immediately, this leads Thredson to the place where Kit stashed the tape of the Bloody Face confession. However, Lana switches everything up by taking the tape, not telling Kit nor Oliver, and using it as her own leverage – now Kit is safe. For now, at least. Who knows what will happen in the last three episodes.
Another of my favourite scenes out of the entire series comes – something I’d never expected when first watching this in its original run – when Dr. Arden puts Sister Mary Eunice on the conveyor into the furnace to be cremated and he lays atop her lifeless corpse, then hits the button and goes on in with her. SUCH A FITTING DEATH! It’s a weirdly romantic gesture, at the same time that dirty Nazi bastard gets a karmic end in a furnace like he’d done/watched done to so many European Jews during the Holocaust.


Amazing, amazing episode. Love it so much.
Next one is titled “Spilt Milk” and is directed by series regular Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.
Stay tuned for more horror and depravity!

American Horror Story – Asylum, Episode 9: “The Coat Hanger”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode
9: “The Coat Hanger”
Directed by Jeremy Podeswa (True DetectiveThe Borgias)
Written by Jennifer Salt

* For a review of the next episode “The Name Game” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “Unholy Night” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-25-15-pmIn current day, we’re treated to the return of Dylan McDermott as Johnny Morgan.
He meets with Dr. Gardner (Brooke Smith) for some therapy. Johnny wants to try to get better, he has “impulses” – scary ones. Though he makes nothing perfectly clear at first, soon it’s obvious he killed animals as a young boy – it made him feel wonderful. Now he doesn’t harm animals; he grew up. But into what has he grown? There’s a very tense air between Johnny and his doctor.
Tense air which turns vicious.screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-25-58-pm I’m LOVING McDermott being back. Especially in juxtaposition with his role in the first season, this is a dark, dark turn on his part. You see, his name isn’t Morgan – it’s Thredson. He is the son of Bloody Face.
Wait, what? The son? But that means….
Damn I am just all over the beginning to “The Coat Hanger.” Plus, you’ve got to imagine, what could that titular coat hanger be alluding to? Starting the episode out with the bombshell concerning Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) somehow having a son – wait to see where THAT leads – it’s interesting this episode is titled as it is— very suggesting.
Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) is now with child. The news comes saucily from the devil within Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe). Are we getting how important this episode’s title is with more context?
Oh my, how vicious. Worst of all, it’s clear Satan – via Mary Eunice – is going to let that child make its way into the world. Because why not, may as well have another little antichrist running around, cutting people up, as is evidence by watching the present day opener with little grownup Johnny Morgan/Thredson.
After trying to kill Leigh Emerson (Ian McShane) in the last episode, Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) wakes up in bed with Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes) hovering above her. He recounts what’s happened – she’s being framed for the killing of Frank McCann (Fredric Lehne), which Sister Mary perpetrated. Furthermore, it’s all being compounded through everything from Mother Superior Claudia (Barbara Tarbuck) recounting Jude’s tale of demonic possession at Briarcliff, to Leigh Emerson’s concocted tale of what happened during the Christmas shindig, and so on.
Poor Jude. This is comeuppance for all the bad things she’s done, but far too much. She deserves a good reprimand for how she handled inmates at Briarcliff, though, Jude does not deserve being imprisoned in that hateful place under the care of Dr. Arden and Sister Mary Eunice. Even Howard has now left Jude behind, Mother Superior too it seems as of now (because of the manipulation by Arden and Mary), so she’s up shit’s creek.
Even worse, Leigh Emerson feigns remorse, wanting to repent and become a good soul in the eyes of God. Yeah, right. Can we believe this at all? Bad things shall happen again soon at the asylum.


Though I’m not religious, I do feel bad for Monsignor Howard. He’s starting to go head to head with Sister Mary Eunice – a.k.a Satan hisher grand self. There’s nothing at all positive awaiting him at the end of this road. She’s already playing at him, teasing and poking, prodding like he’s a tiny little creature in her wake.
While Sister Jude starts to rot away already, naturally as she is being framed so heavily, Howard brings Leigh in to talk with her. A part of his repentance, I suppose. He offers her forgiveness for what she did to him.
Another flashback to ’63 when Jude doled out some corporal punishment on Emerson, who it seems had some sort of relations with one of the nuns. Then back to present day, as Leigh actually kisses Jude on the forehead. It’s unbelievable the psychological torture she’s now being subject to at the hands of EVERYONE around her. Poor, poor Jude.
Lana found the coat hanger. She went to her room, poised to do a homemade abortion. But nothing more is shown
A little later, she gets to see Kit Walker (Evan Peters). Last episode at the end, she survived her encounter with Thredson and they ended up tying him, hiding him in one of the unused rooms of Briarcliff. Now they need him in order to get Kit free from his crimes.
Lana reveals to him the pregnancy. She also tells him he won’t be a father because now? She’s performing the abortion via coat hanger right there and then. Or is she?
She makes him tell her about his crimes. Bloody Face confesses to his murders, so they can.. bond, or something. Who knows with Oliver, that sad mommy’s boy who never got to be mommy’s boy.
TOO BAD FOR OLIVER – the confession was recorded, Kit hiding out of sight with a recorder, and so sad for him the abortion was performed already! A bloody mess for the son of Bloody Face.
Yet we already know, supposedly, that Johnny Morgan/Thredson – the new Bloody Face of present day – is alive. So, we shall see what happens from now until the end of Season 2.


Kit hides the tape of Thredson’s confession, however, Dr. Arden walks in on him. It doesn’t appear he cares much about the tape, though. They go back to Arden’s office for a “special occasion“, which sees him break out some smokes and fine liquor. Very strange, seeing Dr. Arden/Hans Gruber be friendly.
He tells Kit he’s seen the “little green men“, but of course “theyre not green, are they Mr. Walker?” Arden says slyly. What Arden believes is that the aliens are experimenting, in eugenics he says (of course he’d say that the fucking Nazi), and that the aliens are in some way protecting Kit; that if he brought Kit to the edge of death, they would come to find and protect him, “their specimen.”
This is a strange and tenuous bond between Arden and Kit. Highly weird and at the same time interesting. I can’t wait for more with them, to see where the alien subplot goes. Some didn’t find this angle of the season interesting, I do because while I’m a sceptic I would LOVE if aliens/things not of this world were actually real. Plus, the Nazi-alien dynamic is something we’ve not got a lot of good instances of in film or television. Ryan Murphy and the writers solve that.
Oh, Leigh Emerson is still trying to be saved by the Lord. He tells Monsignor Howard he wants redemption. In a ceremony with only the two in attendance, the Monsignor offers him a baptism in the name of Christ. Everything goes wonderfully, as Leigh is dunked back into the water, given new life in the arms of the church and God alike.
But, yes, you guessed it – Leigh’s got some better, more nasty ideas. He and the Monsignor have a little wrestle in the water, the latter getting his own dunk now and held under. Leigh obviously doesn’t care, as I thought, about religion. He simply wants to give Howard more of the terror which he is SO GOOD at handing down. The unfortunate man ends up crucified right up on the cross like Jesus, living yet barely hanging on.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-29-34-pmWhen Lana goes down to kill Oliver, seems Dr. Bloody Face has escaped his ties. Turns out the devilish Sister Mary Eunice let him out. WHOA! Satan really plays hardball. No doubt.
Creepiest scene goes to the one between these two, as Mary puts her hand against Lana’s stomach and feels the STILL BEATING HEART of the Bloody Face child beginning to grow inside her. What a brutal shock for Lana and the audience! Doesn’t surprise me the devil can do that, but it’s a rough way for Lana to find out because it must be confusing; she has no idea Satan is creeping around inside the young, delicate nun.
Saddest scene has to be when Sister Jude shows up in the recreation room, as Lana watches her shuffle in. I just feel beyond terribly for Jude, though, she seems to feel awful about what she did to Lana, admitting nothing that was done to her wasn’t something she didn’t do in her time as head of Briarcliff. And while Lana does have her fair share of anger for Jude, they do have a bit of an understanding.
Lots of changing relationships here in this episode, which I find awesome! Switches things up in a fun way, as we can see now Lana and Jude are becoming friendlier with Jude understanding life as a patient/prisoner there at Briarcliff.
Back to Arden and Kit. The doctor plans to essentially kill Kit, then revive him with adrenaline and a sharp punch to the chest, all in order to try and bring the aliens down to save the young man. Each with their own worries and apprehensions, the experiment begins. VERY COOL AND CREPY MOMENTS! Love how the alien scenes are shot, it stays consistent throughout the various directors of Season 2; another reason this is a series that has a great overall layout and vision.
Another thing I don’t mention enough is the camerawork, in the sense of how I love the way American Horror Story has this ominous and unsettling cinematography in tons of scenes using low and high angles. It throws us off, unsettles, as well as forebodes with the skewed framing at both low/high angles and creates this very cool, unique effect other shows do not use. Amazing horror technique, in my opinion.
GRACE IS BACK! Pepper (Naomi Grossman) has also returned, having disappeared awhile back under the radar. Turns out, Grace is also pregnant and Pepper somehow talks perfectly. THE ALIENS – THEY’VE RETURNED!
Wow. This part blew me away, I was never expecting this at all. Can’t wait for more of this next episode.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-30-03-pmAnother great one, a favourite of mine in this season. Next up is “The Name Game” directed again by Michael Lehmann who last directed “Unholy Night”.
Stay tuned for more madness, aliens, horror, blood, and SAVAGERY!

American Horror Story – Asylum, Episode 2: “Tricks and Treats”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 2: “Tricks and Treats”
Directed by Bradley Buecker (GleeThe New Normal)
Written by James Wong

* For a review of the previous episode, “Welcome to Briarcliff” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Nor’easter” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-37-22-pmWe begin “Tricks and Treats” directly after the end of the previous episode, as Teresa Morrison (Jenna Dewan Tatum) crosses – apparently – Bloody Face in the tunnels below the asylum. Her husband Leo (Adam Levine), meanwhile, is bleeding out from a torn off arm. This part is savage, as Bloody Face stabs Leo to death in front of Teresa, who is hiding inside one of the cells.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-38-26-pmThe editing and sound design here is perfect! Bloody Face’s banging on the cell door goes from present day back to 1964, as a knock on the door from trick or treaters comes outside Wendy Peyser’s (Clea DuVall) house. Perfect little moment. Wendy has signed Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) into Briarcliff and now feels terribly about it.
Sadly for Wendy, though, another figurative knock on the door comes later. She lights up a joint, plays a record, but once she’s out and drying off there’s someone else inside with her: Bloody Face. In a tragic scene, she pleads with him because the kids she teaches “wont understand.” Bloody Face cares not about the plight of women, nor schoolteachers, and he hacks at her before the opening credits roll. I thought this sequence was so well-written, designed, and executed! Just one of the many instances where all the aspects of filming – the shots, the sound, the acting, the dialogue – come together to make a perfect set of scenes. Watching this over now for what might be the 3rd or 4th time around since Asylum first aired, I’m noticing so many of the little things which passed me by the first time around.
Poor Lana Winters is slowly becoming acclimated to her surroundings at Briarcliff.
We’re meeting more of everyone now from Pepper (Naomi Grossman) to Shelley the resident nymphomaniac (Chloë Sevigny). Everyone gets a little bit of time here and there.
Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) has problems with Lana; the feisty reporter has been keeping notes on the ill treatment at Briarcliff. Ms. Winters even threatens Jude by saying she doesn’t need the notes because she has a great memory. Jude plans to have Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) use the 1960s version of electroshock therapy – barbaric compared to anything used today – in order to scorch the memories out of her brain cells. The worst part is that Jude also has prejudice against Lana because of her homosexuality, so it’s disturbing enough to see her have Lana shocked as it is, but coupled with her not wanting any information to escape the walls of Briarcliff the fact she does not like lesbians/gays makes it all a bit more unsettling. This is further how Ryan Murphy and the writers of American Horror Story begin to explore issues during the 1960s surrounding homosexuality and the social stigma which then went along with it.

 


Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) shows up in “Tricks and Treats”. There’s a ton of great stuff involving Thredson. First, there’s the immediate situation between Thredson and his new patient Kit Walker (Evan Peters), accused of the Bloody Face killings. Secondly, Thredson gives us a window further into the psychological practices of doctors in the 1960s; some of what they did under the guise of helping patients was downright primitive, uncivilized pseudoscience masquerading as scientific truth. What’s even more interesting is the fact that Quinto himself is a gay man, so I think it’s interesting what he’s able to explore through the character of Thredson, who deals significantly with Lana Winters further into the season in regards to her homosexuality. I won’t go too much into this now. I’ve seen these seasons, over and over, so I’ll wait until my review to flesh it all out.
At the same time Thredson represents a bit of misguided psychology, he also represents a more loud voice of reason than any of the clergy employed at Briarcliff. It’s still funny, though, as he rages at Sister Jude for allowing electroshock therapy to be used as treatment for homosexuality; in the same breath he points out that behaviour modification is “the current standard” versus her “barbaric” ways. Always love how period piece shows now in hindsight can dissect so many of the issues, as well as hypocrisies, surrounding the social and cultural climate of those times in which they’re set.
Another thing I love in “Tricks and Treats” is the inclusion of a patient whose parents believe something has “taken over” his body. This is a case of exorcism, which serves more than just the purpose of a brief subplot; you’ll come to see how later in this episode. When a young man named Jed Potter (Devon Graye) is brought in by his parents (Andrew Rothenberg & the fabulous Robin Weigert of Deadwood fame), Sister Jude reluctantly agrees to let Dr. Thredson sit in on a meeting. After they first meet Jed, though, Jude advises Thredson it is not medication the boy needs, but something else entirely.
Found that The Exorcism of Emily Rose and the true story behind it was absolutely an influence on the flashback to when Jed’s father found him in the barn, ripping open an animal. Not huge on that film, but I do enjoy tales of supposedly true exorcisms; I’m a sceptic, however, I do find the prospect of such things being true real exciting and dark and weird. The quick flash we see of the barn is creepy and subtle.
Lots of other stuff going on, as well.
Shelley tries to seduce Dr. Arden for privileges; I love the character Shelley because she represents another horribly misguided idea from the 1960s, which still resonates today, about the ideas men have concerning how women ought to act sexually compared to how they’re allowed to act in the eyes of society. I feel downright terrible for Shelley, and Chloë Sevigny plays her incredibly! In real life, Sevigny is a bit of a trainwreck I find, some of her interviews are madness; that doesn’t change the fact she is a terrific actor in every project I’ve seen her do.
At the same time, Grace (Lizzie Brocheré) is starting to help Lana Winters in an attempt to hopefully escape. Though, Lana does not want Kit to come, which is a stipulation imposed on her by Grace. Kit involves himself all the same; we pretty much know he’s innocent, not for sure but we think, yet Lana believes him to be Bloody Face. She doesn’t trust him, yet he tries to help her by grabbing a note she’d written in order to save her from the guards. We’ll see where that goes by episode end.
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The exorcism section of “Tricks and Treats” is damn eerie, all the way home. I like the little introduction to Father Malachi (John Aylward), as he gives a classic line (seen above). Even better is the exorcism scene itself because the demon inside young Jed Potter says some WILD stuff! It’s entertaining, intense, and all at once quite disturbing.
Jed, or the demon inside, begins spewing secrets about the inner lives of the clergy present, as well as Dr. Oliver Thredson – an interesting comment about him being given up obviously foreshadows backstory elements for his character. But the best is when Sister Jude Martin steps into the room with Jed, after Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes) urges her to help.
The demon knows all about Jude, about her past life before becoming a nun and a wife of Christ. It’s revealing and also sad, because we can see how clearly Jude tries to run from her past. Still, it always keeps on catching up with her. Love the red dress she wears in the flashback to her life before the convent and Briarcliff; parallels her red lingerie under the habit so well, shows how she still hangs on. Even further, the demon talks about a night when Jude hit a young girl with her car – drunk off her ass. Jude never got out, only went on over the road. It’s a wild scene that speaks volumes.
Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) has a nice dinner planned at home. Not only for himself, but a guest arrives: a young prostitute (Jenny Wade). It’s a chilly scene, as Arthur almost looms over and around her. He’s given her a fake name; she calls him Stan over and over. He clearly has ideas about what a woman ought to be. When the prostitute talks about a “big cock,” he looks utterly repulsed. He starts talking about how unsafe it must be for women on the streets such as herself with Bloody Face about. Though cheekily he says now the culprit is locked up and the girl is safe once more – all the while, he carves up some rare, bloody pot roast with a long, gleaming sharp knife. Ominous the way he handles the knife throughout the scene, especially at this point. Even the poor prostitute reads between the lines; you can just about her the GULP in her throat.
“Tricks and Treats” is one of my favourite episodes because it contains SO MUCH information and plot movement, as well as character development. Above all, I think my absolute favourite scene is when Jed Potter finally succumbs to the demon/sickness inside him and goes into cardiac arrest. Then the essence of evil inhabiting him releases – Jed eyes Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) standing in the back of the room while Dr. Thredson and Monsignor Howard try to help the boy – and she falls backwards to the floor, fainting.
The demon may have found itself a new vessel.
Creepily, Dr. Arden has his prostitute guest dress up in a nun’s habit. I mean, is it hard to tell he has a thing for Sister Mary Eunice? Earlier he fed the nun a caramel apple, he’s always around her, getting her help feeding the things in the forest.
The prostitute dressed like a nun in his room goes a little too far by picking through Arden’s things. She finds some strange pictures and a small fetish magazine. Unsettling things, of a violent nature. This sets up a moment where we’re sure Arden is going to dispatch the young lady. Luckily for her, she bites her way out and gives the naughty doctor a knee in his groin, escaping alive. Unfortunately for Dr. Arden, this might come to pose a few problems down the line somewhere.

 


When Sister Mary Eunice comes to, she is slightly different than before. Still the same sweet lady in a sense, but behind those eyes lies newly discovered knowledge; a deep, dark well full of it.
Love how she covers up for Dr. Arden, playing the fool, and then when he leaves she flicks the blankets off her body in an almost disgusted gesture. At the same time, the crucifix on the wall shakes. Dig that moment so hard!
Grace tries to help Kit escape with her and Lana, but the reporter pulls the plug: still believing Kit to be Bloody Face, she won’t allow him to make it out and terrorize any other women. After they’re caught, Sister Jude gives Lana a reward – of not being punished and having to watch the punishment (bare assed caning) of Kit and Grace. A twisted view into the corporal punishment ideals of Sister Jude Martin. Plus, it amps up the tension in the relationships between all these characters – Sister Jude & Alana, Kit & Sister Jude, Kit & Grace, Grace & Alana. Should be great to see all these dynamics further expand throughout the season.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-45-04-pmAwesome episode. One of my favourites of Season 2, as well as overall in the entire series of American Horror Story. Then again, while some aren’t huge on this season, I think this is one of my top 3 overall so far.
Stay tuned for more horrific and wild episodes. Next one is titled “Nor’easter”, directed by series regular Michael Uppendahl whose other work includes Mad MenShamelessRay Donovan, and much more.