We’re closing in on the end of the second season of “American Horror Story,” and I’m still not sure how all of the different threads of this story can be satisfactorily tied up, though we do get a hint this week of one big, ugly potential resolution ahead for at least two characters. Of course, there’s still plenty of time for everyone to be killed off in, say, a raging flu epidemic (topical, if not dramatic) or an alien invasion, so never say never with this show.
Thus far the show has largely jumped back and forth between present time and 1964, but in “Continuum” we dig into 1967, which also means some funky period clothing and awesome sideburns. Despite the sideburns, we know immediately that this is not a great year for Kit, as we first see him in his underwear, covered in blood, and holding an ax. Given that one of the most consistent elements of the show has been Kit’s determination to do the right thing, I somehow doubt he’s gotten in touch with his inner Bloody Face.
We back up to see Kit’s seemingly bucolic life with Grace, Alma and their kids, Julia and Thomas. For a biracial, polygamous family, they seem pretty damn conventional — even, yes, sitcom-ready. Alma wonders if they should grow corn this year while Grace doodles at the kitchen table and the kids rip into a roll of toilet paper. Gosh, I could be watching Lifetime! Of course, a closer look reveals this peaceful scene isn’t all that conventional, as Grace is drawing exacting sketches of the aliens that abducted her and Alma. When Kit sweeps in to goad the women into going on a protest march (it is 1967, after all), neither Alma nor Grace is all that enthusiastic. Alma, for one, is too distracted by Grace’s disturbing pictures. She prompts Kit to tell her to keep them away from the kids, and I can’t blame her. I think they may even give me nightmares.
That night, Alma has a heart to heart with Kit about Grace. “She’s dwelling on the past because she’s unhappy in the present… She needs you, Kit. Go to her.” Yes, Alma, the one who’s actually married to Kit, tells her husband to go give it to his girlfriend. This is like “Sister Wives,” if “Sister Wives” started off an episode with Kody covered in somebody’s blood.
But Grace doesn’t just need sex (although, you know, there’s some of that). Unlike Alma, she believes her encounter with the aliens was meaningful instead of random and invasive. Grace sketches the aliens so that she might remember them and be able to tell the children about them. In fact, the only memories she’s afraid of are of her own dark past. “The ones when I lost control of myself.” Yeah, when she murdered her family with an ax. Is this a red herring or an actual hint about that first scene?
The lights flicker, and Alma freaks out. The aliens are back! Well, actually, they’re not. It’s some thug throwing a Molotov cocktail at the house and setting the drapes on fire. Of course, when the cops come they aren’t sympathetic when Kit complains. “There are lots of trucks, Mr. Walker,” the cop sneers when Kit declares he’s sure the perpetrator is his former frenemy Billy. “You know polygamy is illegal in the state of Massachusetts.” Yes, 1967 was not really the year to report hate crimes.
When Grace later tries to bring up the alien issue with Alma, Alma is in no mood. After Grace suggests Alma wants Julia to grow up ashamed of who she is (concocted by aliens), Alma slaps her. Kit walks in on the two women post-argument, both of them looking guilty and miserable.
Grace warns Kit that the future is coming, and that “I won’t live in isolation, not again.” So, yes, things are a little tense at the Walker household. You know, slaps and arguments and that sort of thing. Thus, it makes perfect sense (sarcasm implied, because it makes no sense at all) when Alma thwacks Grace in the back with an ax while Kit watches in stunned horror. This would be the same Alma who was mortified that she slapped Grace during an argument. It seems Grace being someone with actual ax murdering experience was just a red herring and her death by hacking a cosmic, ironic joke. This is, yes, a surprise, but one that seems to be surprising for the sake of it, without regard for character development or logic. We never got to know Alma particularly well, granted, but what little we do know certainly doesn’t mesh with this level of violence.
Well, at least we don’t have a lot of time to rail at how truly stupid this plot twist is, as we’re quickly transported back to 1964. Sister Jude/Judy Martin is lucid again, playing cards with Pepper while hanging out in the common room. I guess now that Lana has been turned away, she doesn’t have to sit in solitary anymore, and I guess she just pockets her meds when she feels like it. Her lucidity comes and goes, it seems, according to what the scene requires.
Monsignor Timothy comes to visit with his former nun. He’s been appointed the Cardinal of New York, and he wants her to know the church has relinquished ownership of Briarcliff to the state, who will be turning it into an “overflow” facility for the prison system. But none of this matters, as he assures Jude/Judy (who is now Betty, as a death certificate has been issued for poor Jude/Judy) he is going to have her released. “The cruelty ends here,” he says with watery, puppy-like eyes. “I promise, I will make you a believer, Jude.”
She wants to believe him, of course, but even Pepper can see right through his narcissistic, lying ass. When Jude/Judy/Betty (let’s just call her JJB) says she saw something in his eyes that made her believe he was telling the truth, Pepper replies with cold certainty, “There’s nothing there.”
JJB is soon distracted from hoping for her release when an overflow inmate who looks eerily like the Angel of Death (well, they’re both played by Frances Conroy) comes to Briarcliff. Even though it’s quickly apparent to us this crass bully is nothing like the comforting Angel, JJB is terrified that she’s been targeted for death. Of course, that could be the case. With Briarcliff welcoming an influx of thuggish new residents and JJB marked as the “woman in charge,” it isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
After JJB sees the Angel of Death doppelgänger stick a shiv in a mentally ill patient who doesn’t turn over his meds, she’s horrified to learn this cretin is her new roommate. When the doppelgänger tries to initiate some less-than-friendly kissing, JJB comes unglued and beats the stuffing out of her — it’s only then that she sees this woman looks nothing like the Angel of Death, but instead is a heavy-set woman with brown hair and rough features.
That might be a relief, but a visit to the facility shrink brings some bad news — Monsignor Timothy hasn’t requested JJB’s release. Worse, he left the former Briarcliff two and a half years ago, though to JJB it seems like it’s only been a week Boy, time flies when you’re not having fun! Still, JJB isn’t buying it. “I’m not confused. Ask Pepper.”
The good doctor, who is wearing glasses much like Dr. Thredson’s, sighs. “Poor microencephalitic creature. You were very upset when she passed.” Apparently, poor, alien-improved Pepper died in 1966. The doctor assures the confused former nun that her medication levels will be increased (surely not what she really needs), and that “everything’s going to be alright,” something we have every reason to doubt.
We rush forward to 1969 and learn that Lana has become a best-selling author. Her book about her experiences with Bloody Face, “Maniac,” has been sitting pretty at the top of the best seller list, but success hasn’t stopped the past from haunting her. During a book reading, she hallucinates that Thredson and Wendy are there to contradict factual errors in her book, including an abduction that never happened and the “cloak of asexuality” she draped over her relationship with her girlfriend. “I’m a writer. It’s my job to tell the essence of truth,” she tells the apparitions.
Someone who isn’t an apparition at the reading, though, is Kit, who invites Lana to join him for coffee afterwards. She can’t stop prattling on and on about her successes, which Kit tolerates, but when she mentions she may write a book about Lee, the Santa killer, he’s livid. “That’s my canvas, Kit,” she purrs. “I found my voice, the way Capote did with ‘In Cold Blood.'”
Kit could give a crap about her voice or her book, though. He reminds her that she swore she’d take down Briarcliff, that she’d use journalism — not cheap fiction — to tell the truth about that snake pit. “People change,” Lana shrugs. Forget Lana, though — I’m still surprised that, after Bloody Face was exposed, Briarcliff wasn’t shut down anyway — well before the church could hand it over to the state. But it’s still open, and worse, Alma was sent there after she killed Grace.
We see Kit visiting Alma at the exponentially more crowded asylum. As much as she wants to see the kids, she knows Kit can never bring them there, as people are yanking out catheters and humping wildly in corners. Shortly afterwards, Alma’s dead — apparently of a heart attack — and Kit stands over her body, telling her lifeless form he’s failed her and Grace and the kids, and he’s going to try to make it right. But if he’s going to make it right with Lana’s assistance, good luck. She feels for Kit, but she has no interest in doing anything about Briarcliff.
At least, she doesn’t until he mentions one person they know who’s still there — Jude/Judy/Betty. “That’s not possible. I saw her death certificate,” Lana stutters, and Kit explains that he saw evidence to the contrary — JJB herself.
Initially Lana seems interested, then new, cold, selfish Lana kicks in. “I’m sorry to hear about Jude,” she says. “But let’s be real here. Every bed in that place she made.” Both Monsignor (I mean Cardinal) Tim and Lana have let down our long suffering former nun, and I don’t see an exit for her — at least not out the front door — anytime soon.
There’s one more time traveling jaunt in this episode, as we fast forward to Bloody Face’s son Johnny searching for a copy of “Maniac” at a soon-to-shutter bookstore. The woman who owns the store isn’t interested in selling — so Johnny decides to explain why he needs it. He’s Lana’s son, the one she claimed died in childbirth, and he plans to meet her face-to-face. “I’m gonna greet her with a polite hello. And then I’ll present this book of lies… I’m the piece of trash you threw away 48 years ago.” And when Lana understands who he is, he intends to take out his handgun and shoot her in the face. I’m pretty sure a similar fate awaits the woman at the book store, too.
So, I’m getting the feeling this season might wrap up with (or at least include) a confrontation between Lana and her son, though I hope we learn at least a little more about Johnny next week. I’d also like to learn a little more about the aliens — I was disappointed to see that they only showed up to protect Alma and Grace when they were convenient incubators for Kit’s kids. They certainly don’t seem to be interested in helping out a single dad with babysitting duties. I also have my fingers crossed that Cardinal Timothy will get his day of reckoning, and Jude/Judy/Betty gets a taste of freedom, no matter how delayed. But then, I can’t expect any of these story lines to be resolved, and I certainly can’t hope for happy endings. This is “American Horror Story,” after all, not a fairy tale.
What do you think is going to happen in the series finale? Do you think Lana will survive? And do you think the nun formerly known as Jude will ever get out of the asylum?