Tagged Sister Mary Eunice

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 5: “I Am Anne Frank: Part II”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 5: “I Am Anne Frank: Part II”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (The Town That Dreaded Sundown)
Written by Brad Falchuk

* For a review of the previous episode, “I Am Anne Frank: Part I” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Origins of Monstrosity” – click here
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At the top of this episode, Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) meets with a man named Sam Goodman (Mark Margolis) – he is a Nazi hunter, a Jew who was in the camps during the Holocaust of World War II. She’s finally caved and believed what might be the truth: Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) could possibly have been a Nazi. They talk, and Goodman warns not to do anything to make the man run.
This also brings in the real life fascinatingly disturbing Operation Paperclip – look it up.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-02-03-pmFurthermore, the supposed Anne Frank (Franka Potente) busts in on Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) with Arden at gunpoint. Luckily for all, mostly Arden, guard Frank McCann (Fredric Lehne) saves the day. Or does he?
Probably so, once Sister Jude is met at the asylum by Anne’s husband – or that is, Charlotte Brown’s husband. Jim Brown (David Chisum) shows up to tell Jude all about how Charlotte became delusional after reading Anne Frank’s diary while she was pregnant, then went to see a play adaptation and fell into a deep spiral; even going so far as to tattoo a death camp tattoo on her arm.
What I love most about this whole section of the episode is how we get these truly creepy, eerily shot pieces of flashback like they’re being done on an old 1950s/60s era camera – scenes of the Browns at home, documenting Charlotte’s madness and her husband Jim becoming more and more frustrated trying to care for their child with an insane wife at home, raving constantly about the Holocaust and the Jewish peoples experiences during World War II and how they need her, the baby doesn’t need her like they do. It’s amazingly effective, this whole bit. Very cool and so creepy.
Kit Walker (Evan Peters) and Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré) are awaiting sterilization now at the hands of Briarcliff Asylum and Sister Jude Martin. It’s a sick, true to life reality of many in the system during this era. Sad yet wildly true.
The twist comes as Kit is told, by the now very devilish Sister Mary Eunice, he won’t be sterilised. Good news, right? Not so much for Grace, who is likewise informed by Mary Eunice, but informed instead she’ll still be going ahead for the procedure.
Afterwards, while alone in her cell, Grace appears to see a rattling, shaky light coming in at her through the door. Could it be the aliens are about to visit Grace? Will she have some proof then to help Kit? Or do they… need her, for some reason?


Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) still has a plan for Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson). He tells her, off to the side, they’re leaving at the end of his day. She’s obviously extremely happy and there’s finally some end to the cruel tunnel through which she has been crawling at Briarcliff, a light approaches.
Thredson is also attempting to help Kit with his troubles. However, suspiciously Thredson has Kit confess to his crimes on tape, in order to hear how it sounds to him – to try and learn something about what he may have done to his wife. While Kit seems to trust him, there’s something not quite right about the doctor’s theories here, his methods. But then again, neither were his intentions with the aversion therapy he conducted on Alana in order to misguidedly cure her lesbianism; oh, the tragic state of “mental health” in the 1960s. Still not even that long ago, scarily enough. I love how this fictional show takes on very real issues such as mental health and those of the LGBTQ community.
Grace has indeed been visited by the aliens Kit saw. She’s taken – somewhere – she is greeted by Alma Walker (Britne Oldford) in a blank, vacant white space where the aliens once took Kit. Who knows what their plans for Grace are now.
She shows up later, bleeding and confused. Kit finds her in the recreation room sitting in a chair, dazed. At the same time, cops show up to arrest Kit for his supposed crimes; coincidence? Hmm. And Grace starts screaming she’s seen everything – the aliens, Alma – they’re all real, she’s alive. An INTENSE moment between these two, especially for Kit himself.
Jude calls off Mr. Goodman after discovering Anne Frank is actually Charlotte Brown.
Best of all now – for Dr. Arden – is that she’s off his case a good bit with all this fracas. Furthermore, he’s got Sister Mary Eunice, possessed and loving it, on his side. She helped dispose of Shelley (Chloë Sevigny), the now mutated beast, which Charlotte had seen in the last episode in Arden’s lab.
CRAZY SCENE as a bunch of school children and their teacher discover the deformed and ragged Shelley, a virtual monster, crawling up a stairwell. Awesome, awesome shocker scene. Loved this quick and nasty moment!
Charlotte gets tossed back into the asylum by her husband, after she tries to smother their baby at home. An amazing sequence is enacted when Jim Brown asks Sister Jude to take Charlotte back, but he wants Dr. Thredson – who was understanding of her beforehand – to treat her.
This is right as Thredson is leaving with Alan in tow. Jude sends Frank off to find the doctor, and there’s this incredibly tense, suspenseful sequence where they sort of barely slip through the fingers of Briarcliff. Really excellent writing, as well as the fact it’s directed expertly.
Instead, Charlotte is trusted to the care of Dr. Arden who plans on giving her a pre-frontal lobotomy. Y’know, to calm her down.


Sister Jude has a disappointed conversation with Frank, retelling a story of when she was a young and took in a baby squirrel, keeping him in a shoe box. She says one day she came home, realising she forgot to feed him, and he was dead. Jude, as a small girl, prayed for hours over the squirrel, but her mother came home and lost her mind, throwing it in the trash.
In the end, the rest of her story stands to show how Jude is disappointed with God. Even as a nun, even as someone who wants SO BAD to be pious and holy and wants to be a good nun, she has those doubts about God.
Frank makes a terribly poignant remark about how she “never really had a chance” because she’s a strong woman and men don’t like that. While you get the sense Frank probably isn’t, for all his faults, one of those men, it’s a big stinger for Jude to hear; even if painfully obvious anyways.
So as Charlotte is being lobotomised, just a little, Jude puts on her bright red lipstick, heads to a bar for a drink and a smoke, then picks up a man.
Back at the home of Oliver Thredson, the doctor brings Lana inside to a comfortable, safe environment for the first time in so very long for her. His house is quite the chic-looking abode, nice modern type furniture and layout.
But as the minutes wear on, Lana realizes something is not right with Oliver. He flicks on a light – you can clearly see the lampshade has nipples. When he offers up some mints, they’re sitting in a skull-shaped bowl; no, damn it if the thing ain’t an ACTUAL SKULL.
What I love about this section is not so much the surprise that Thredson is Bloody Face, it’s the fact Bloody Face takes a good deal of bits and pieces (get it?) from Leatherface, as well as the real life inspiration mostly from serial killer Ed Gein. There’s a ton of macabre stuff to mine out of Gein and I find Ryan Murphy & Co. do an excellent job starting out with doing a few things we’ve not yet seen from the serial killer’s real story.


The end of “I Am Anne Frank: Part II” hits hard like a weight in the guts.
We watch as Charlotte Brown has become the perfect little housewife for Jim. He takes most of her research on World War II, Anne Frank, et cetera, and goes for the trash. While the episode closes out with Leon Bibb, Ronnie Gilbert, and Robert De Cormier singing “It Could Be a Wonderful World”, we also zoom in on a picture of Nazi officers saluting together, and one of them we end on is ABSOLUTELY MOST POSITIVELY DR. ARTHUR FUCKING ARDEN!
Love it. No better way to close off a two-parter episode.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-08-31-pmCan’t wait to review the next episode, “The Origins of Monstrosity” directed by David Semel (HannibalThe StrainHomeland). Stay tuned, horror hounds!

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.

American Horror Story – Asylum, Episode 1: “Welcome to Briarcliff”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 1: “Welcome to Briarcliff”
Directed by Bradley Buecker (The New NormalGlee)
Written by Tim Minear

* For a review of the next episode, “Tricks and Treats” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-22-30-pmThe beginning of Season 2 is a lot of fun because, as opposed to Season 1 where we’d get decades old flashbacks from 1968, 1922, and so on, the main action of Asylum is taking place in 1964. However, we get to jump forward, as well as back a bit, and the framing narrative of the season itself takes place in current day. This seems a bit confusing what I’ve said, but as the episodes wear on you’ll really get a feel of what’s happening. In fact, the present day framing device isn’t exactly very clear until a few episodes in. But once it starts to become clear, the wide and reaching sprawl of Season 2 becomes apparent and it makes the episodes all the better for it.
Beginning in present day, we see Leo and Teresa Morrison (Adam Levine/Jenna Dewan Tatum) on their horror honeymoon – they plan on visiting the twelve most haunted places in America, plus they want to have sex in all the buildings because y’know, they’re wild. Only when they arrive at the infamous Briarcliff Asylum there is more inside the walls than they’d bargained for, and certainly there is nothing sexy about the madness, the pain, the mayhem and murder that is trapped inside that building.
Things really kick off when Leo sticks his hand into one of the cells with his cellphone, trying to get a night vision look at anything terrifying inside. Then, something comes at him and tears his arm off. Blood everywhere. INCREDIBLE! Turns out Bloody Face may actually be real, not just an old, outdated tale of murder from the haunted houses of America.
This moment kicks off Asylum incredibly well. It offers up enough of that psychosexual horror mashup we’re used to from the series, and so it’s already clear this season should follow suit with all the dark terrors of the first; maybe even more.screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-24-36-pmWhat I really enjoy about the opener to Season 2 is how the entire aesthetic of the first season holds over. It’s more evident than even most regular tv series’ are with their style. As an anthology, there’s always a risk each season might either fall short or overshadow its predecessor. While certain seasons of American Horror Story are most certainly better than others, I think what helps them all glue together and what allows each of them to still be excellent, regardless of the others before or after, is the fact the cinematography, the editing, the score, it all compounds into a beautifully evident overall style.
So then we switch back to our main narrative of 1964.
First, we meet Kit Walker (Evan Peters). He’s a young, handsome man just getting by in the mid ’60s, working at a gas station and garage somewhere out in the boonies. At home, his wonderful wife Alma (Britne Oldford) waits for her husband. Unfortunately, in that time the Walkers had to remain underground with their relationship because interracial relationships were still frowned upon. We already get a threatening atmosphere from Kit’s friend Billy (Joe Egender) and a group of guys who show up at the station, giving Kit a very unwelcome feeling concerning his wife at home; a reference to chocolate becomes not so much racist as it feels scary.
But it’s not Billy and the boys Kit needs to worry about protecting himself, and his wife Alma, from ultimately. Lights flicker and the power goes off, on, the bedroom radio is on the fritz; things are not right. Then Kit seems to experience some kind of contact with… something. He thinks it’s Billy with some others, but it is far worse.
I thought this scene was awesome. So often the alien abduction angle is attempted in film and television, yet it’s not often things are treated correctly. Kit experiences something Other-ly. We only see it briefly, in a few flashes; sound design and visuals weave together creating an excellent moment. We know it’s aliens, but at the same time there’s none shown onscreen. Perfect.
Next we follow journalist Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) into Briarcliff, as she heads to meet Sister Jude Martin (Jessica Lange) concerning the bakery at the asylum. Along the way we’re introduced to an interesting new character out of Season 2, Pepper (Naomi Grossman) – the nun, Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe), who accompanies Lana through her visit says that Pepper drowned her sister’s baby and sliced its ears off. Chilling, because Pepper seems so innocent; strange looking yet truly child-like and innocent looking.


Lana meets with Jude for a brief time, however, up shows the apparent newly caught Bloody Face – he is being admitted to the asylum until the lawmakers decide if he is fit to stand trial. This is the whole reason Lana Winters showed up in the beginning, under false pretences about the asylum’s bakery.
What’s most surprising is when we’re introduced to who the alleged Bloody Face killer is: Kit Walker. He’s lead in, chained from head to toe, then treated to the 1960s psychiatric hospital admittance – delousing powder, a shower by way of fire hose, then a good dose of intravenous drugs via syringe. Plus, after a bad meeting with Sister Jude, he’s even given a bit of capital punishment in the form of Jude’s favourite method – caning across the bar ass.
Already now with Kit especially, we’re treated to a look at how Briarcliff operates, and the sort of cruelty all around we’re bound to experience as Asylum wears on.
There are a ton of characters again this season. Probably even more than the first. What I like is that there are plenty characters, but the most important ones are singled out for us and we’re given a big view of them here in “Welcome to Briarcliff”. Of course, more come into play later. This is just a wonderful introduction to so many of the characters, as well as the sort of thematic elements we’re going to see come up over and over.
Kit briefly meets a woman named Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré), also an inmate at the asylum, who takes a liking to him. She helps him a little, from exposing him to the way the hospital works, to giving him a cigarette while he’s wrongly thrown into solitary confinement. This is one relationship, while brief here in the opening episode, that will expand in later episodes and eventually become a big part of the latter half of Season 2.
The character whom I find most interesting in Asylum is the ominous Dr. Arthur Arden (fantastically played by James Cromwell). First off, there’s a palpable tension between Arden and Sister Jude. I love how this second season has brought together Jessica Lange and James Crowmwell. Not enough older actors are given such incredible material as American Horror Story to explore through character; here, we get two downright iconic actors, in my opinion, chewing on luscious scenery and intense character scene after scene.
Immediately in this episode, Arden and Jude are set as complete opposites. There’s something sinister about Arden off the bat, as his scene with Jude is intercut with creepy shots of a bowl of meat being gnawed on and thrown empty into the corner of a room. It’s dark stuff and I think lets us in on his evil backstory right away without hesitation. Also, while we come to discover Jude is a little less than holy herself in more ways than one, Arden comes off quickly to us as being a foreboding presence; not only physically, as Cromwell himself is massive, but in the whole way he acts, speaks, sounds.
Now we’re already seeing how unholy Sister Jude is underneath that black habit. Preparing for her dinner with the younger Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes), we can see Jude put on a blood red sex of lingerie, rubbing oil on her skin before getting dressed. She cooks dinner for the Monsignor, and even as they talk you can tell Sister Jude feels something – more – for the man. This little insight into Jude automatically makes her a conflicted character, as much as anyone else in Asylum. At first, Monsignor Howard seems on the up and up himself; we’ll see how true that holds as we move on through the season.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-31-38-pmGreat dreamy sequence here. Sister Jude imagines herself unbuttoning the habit, revealing her lingerie and sitting in the Monsignor’s lap, embracing him. Then she snaps back to their dinner and all is normal. Once more, like Season 1, that psychosexual feeling worms its way through the characters, the dialogue, the scenes.
Furthermore, Dr. Arden has his hooks in poor, fragile little Sister Mary Eunice. The bad doctor has her bringing buckets out into the woods, obviously to feed something; we don’t know what as of yet, though.
In the forest, Sister Mary is confronted by Lana Winters who is looking for a way inside the asylum. She wants an inside scoop. Scared and worried Jude may find out she was out there, Sister Mary brings Lana inside. This sets into motion something unstoppable and terrifying.
At the same time, Dr. Arden comes for Kit in his cell, injecting him in the neck with something and proclaiming: “You dont belong in here.” If I were Kit, I’d be awful worried. There’s nothing good about the feeling Arden produces as soon as he’s onscreen.
Kit’s story of “little green men“, as Jude calls it, comes back into play. Arden doesn’t know it right away, but he’s becoming drawn into a web of extraterrestrial technology. He believes it’s government work at first. Slowly it all will be revealed.
Worst of all, though, is the situation of Lana Winters. She’s found a way into the asylum, but in a time long before any professionalism found its way into the psychiatric world – especially the ones run by the Roman Catholic Church – she also finds herself in a terrible place once getting knocked out, poking about one of the cells. When she wakes up, Sister Jude has Lana strapped into a hospital bed, ready for treatment. Using Lana’s relationship with Wendy Peyser (Clea DuVall) – a lesbian relationship far ahead of the social times unfortunately – Sister Jude is able to have Ms. Winters officially committed, blackmailing Wendy into signing documents or else her homosexuality be revealed to the school where she teaches.
I love how American Horror Story is able to take on LGBTQ issues through a horror landscape. Something I’m a big fan of. It isn’t preachy in any way, it’s a very intriguing view and perspective into the gay issues facing us even today. But especially, with the 1964 main storyline, the whole aspect of having Lana and Wendy as a lesbian couple really goes head-on at how society treated homosexuality even just 50 years ago. Lots more where that came from! It gets better in further episodes, especially once Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) is introduced to help the patients.


Some awesome little references to other films I want to discuss briefly:
A Clockwork Orange – Kit hooked up to the eye-opening equipment of Dr. Arden with blue & red bulbs attached to a strap across his forehead. Very cool homage to Stanley Kubrick’s horrifying classic.
The Silence of the Lambs – Spivey throws semen in the face of Sister Mary Eunice just as Multiple Miggs did to Clarice Starling in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
Awesome ending to this episode, as we see Teresa (Dewan Tatum) in present day trying to escape Briarcliff and get her husband Leo (Levine) some help. She runs down through the tunnels below, where Dr. Arden spends quite a bit of time this season, and then before the episode cuts she runs into – Bloody Face? It appears so, even decades after his reign of terror.
But we’ll learn much more about that later.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-2-35-28-pmNext episode is titled “Tricks and Treats”, directed by Bradley Buecker again. I like that, helps keep the initial two episodes in a cohesive unit and sort of moulds everything together off the chopping block.
Stay tuned for more horror, sex, and all around savagery!!