‘American Horror Story’ recap: ‘Dark Cousin’

11.28.12 5 years ago 11 Comments

Is anyone else having nightmares after watching this show? Anyone? Well, if you are so unlucky as to have the opening credits playing in a nightmarish loop in your head, take heart. Tonight’s episode is relatively low on gore (it’s hard to top those Shelley episodes), so that should be some small comfort. As luck has it, the angel of death (who pops up almost immediately and is played with understated grace by Frances Conroy) has a strangely calming influence on this episode. Yes, she tends to appear when people are contemplating suicide or are hurtling toward high speed car accidents, but in her modest black suit and kick-ass black wings, she makes the Big Sleep seem no more troubling than closing your eyes and leaning in for a kiss. Of course, when you’re stuck at Briarcliff, the angel of death probably isn’t all that scary at all.

The angel first appears to Grace, who’s having another round of extreme bleeding post-alien hysterectomy. Grace seems relieved that death is knocking on her door. But just as she’s shuffling off this mortal coil, one ambitious nun thumps on Grace’s chest, bringing her back to life. “You should have let me go,” she mutters, and I would call her an ingrate if I didn’t agree with her so wholeheartedly. In the Unlucky Olympics, she’s only beaten out by Lana and Kit, which is saying something. 

Grace’s dance with death gives Sister Mary Eunice a reason to visit Dr. Arden. Apparently, she’s no longer interested in making nice with the good doctor. “The French girl, Grace? She nearly died because of you,” she sneers. The problem is, of course, Dr. Arden didn’t “scoop out” Grace’s lady parts, and he deeply resents the idea that anyone thinks he did. Sister Mary Eunice isn’t buying, and when an enraged Dr. Arden smacks her, she growls, “You touch me again, you die.” Dr. Arden may be a mad scientist, but he’s also an idiot, because instead of following orders he raises his hand to smack the nun again. In response, she sends him careening across the room to slam against the wall — without ever touching him. “I hope this clarifies the chain of command, Arthur,” she says, before exiting as if propelling someone twice her weight and possibly a full foot taller than she is no great shakes. 

I have to wonder what Dr. Arden, a man of science, is thinking at this point. He knows something’s gotten into Sister Mary Eunice, but does he believe it’s the devil? A bad mood? Hormones? What? He hasn’t really expressed any opinion on it, and I have to wonder what’s going through his head at this point. He’s such an egomaniac, though, I suspect he’s going to take another run at the sister. Historically when he bumps into a strong woman he can’t control, he either conspires against her or slaps her on the operating table. Despite her show of superhuman strength, I don’t think Dr. Arden’s going to suddenly get in touch with his obedient slave of Satan side.  

It’s a nice little moment for Sister Mary Eunice, I suppose, but that warm, fuzzy feeling she gets from smacking around a human with her mind is short-lived. Miles, one of the patients at Briarcliff, gets the drama rolling when he sticks his arms in a meat slicer on orders from the voices in his head (I said less gore in this episode, but I didn’t say none). Sister Mary Eunice is horrified to see he’s written a name in ancient Aramaic (the language Jesus used) on the wall. In his blood. “Did you summon her?” she squawks at him as guard Frank nervously suggest they, oh, get the poor guy some medical help. 

You can guess who “her” is, can’t you? The dark angel visits Miles in solitary confinement and asks him softly, “Shall I kiss you, to make this all go away?” Well, when you put it that way it doesn’t sound half bad! Miles undoes his bandages — apparently they’re too cheap to sew up mental patients at Briarcliff — and she flaps her quick-draw wings and kisses it all better. Or deader, depending on your perspective. 

Sister Mary Eunice shows up, itching for a fight. The dark angel just blinks. “What are you that you can look upon me?” she asks, the wheels turning. “One like me, but fallen.” Sister Mary Eunice wants the angel to split and in a hurry, but she ain’t budging. “The human girl you’ve taken hostage sings to me,” she explains, and for just an instant the real Sister Mary Eunice emerges, begging for help. It’s a horrible moment, but it’s a relief to know that the nun is still in there in some capacity — though we know what happened to that last unlucky human to house the devil. The nun and the angel vow to meet again, and I know who I’d bet on in this fight given how Sister Mary Eunice (the devilish version) seems to crumble in the angel’s presence.

After a brief visit to Grace’s beside by Dr. Arden (he’s determined to help her recover so no one pins her botched hysterectomy on him), we move on to our favorite car wreck — Lana and Dr. Thredson as he pumps away at her, a rape that seems to add another unpleasant twist to their mother-son relationship. The angel of death drops by several times to check in on Lana, so I don’t have a good feeling about this storyline at the moment.  

So it’s no surprise when he comes back later, angry — not with her, but with himself. He explains to her that he’s tenacious, which is usually a positive, but sometimes it makes it difficult for him to give up on a losing proposition. Of course, the fact that he had sex with Lana means that she isn’t His Perfect Mommy, so it’s time to die. When she begins to panic, he’s hurt. “I want this to be as painless for you as possible,” he insists. “I will either cut your throat or I will strangle you. I don’t believe in guns.” Gosh, he’ll even give her a shot so it won’t hurt! What a mensch!  

Oddly enough, Lana decides to take this opportunity to fight back. She strangles him with her leg chain, takes his keys, kicks him onto a table full of torture implements and gets OUT. I’m floored. Go, Lana! But surely, this is too good to be true, right? It’s a dream, a hallucination? 

No it’s true — and it’s too good to be true at the same time. She runs out into traffic, stops a vehicle — and William Mapother (“Lost”) is playing the cranky, woman-hating guy behind the wheel. A guy who decides to hit the gas, yank out a handgun, and blow his brains out as the vehicle crashes. 

But is this the end of Lana? Of course not! She wakes up… in Briarcliff.

You can take a moment to groan or smack your forhead if you need to. It would be funny if it wasn’t so awful.

Sister Mary Eunice assures her she’s back where she belongs. Lana, not realizing Sister Mary Eunice isn’t particularly fired up about seeking justice, tells her her tale of woe and begs her to contact the police.  Sister Mary Eunice says a bunch of things that would be reassuring in any other setting, but are blood chilling here. “I believe you,” she purrs. “No one knows you’re here.” She hands her a cup full of pills and adds, “You’re safe now.” At this point, you are entirely welcome to scream at your television, “NO, you’re not! RUN LANA, RUN!”

It’s soon time for the angel of death to move on for a visit with Sister Jude. Poor angel, she must be dead tired. Anyway, Sister Jude is still in Mr. Goodman’s room, trying to process his death (the angel snaps him up pretty quickly) when she has a miserably trite flashback to how she was fired from her band, then packed her things to go on the run for fear that the cops suspected her in the hit-and-run accident she was in and somehow she ended up in front of a statue of the Holy Mother. Luckily, Sister Mary Eunice calls the hotel room to snap Sister Jude out of her cliche. 

She tells her she’s going to frame her for Goodman’s murder, she might as well start running, and by the way, she left her a bottle of booze and a straight razor. You know, if she wants to kill herself. How kind! Really, everyone in this episode is being so, so polite, aren’t they? 

Sister Jude runs off to a diner, heads to the bathroom, and we see her slit her wrists. But she doesn’t, really — it’s just a hallucination. She returns to her booth, where the angel of death is waiting for her. “Your song was different this time,” she says. “Much more plaintive and piercing.” 

Sister Jude can’t understand why she came this time to collect her soul and not all the other times — like when her husband gave her syphilis and rendered her sterile, then called her a whore? “All I ever wanted was my own family, my own children to teach and love,” she sobs. Why not when she ran over the little girl? What’s so different now? This scene takes a fraction of the time spent on the hackneyed flashback, but it’s much more effective. 

Still, Sister Jude says she’s ready to die — but she needs to do one thing first. And the next thing we know, she’s sitting in the living room of Missy’s parents — Missy being the little girl she ran over. Sister Jude starts spinning a tale about being Missy’s Sunday School teacher, clearly shaky. So shaky, in fact, she doesn’t put pieces of the puzzle together. For starters, Missy’s mom is holding an infant in her lap. Secondly, the parents don’t seem too heartbroken about Missy. And then Missy, all grown up and a nurse, walks through the door and picks up her kid. Sister Jude is stunned, babbling about how she believed Missy had died and that led her to commit herself to the church. Hank, Missy’s dad, is staring at Sister Jude in such a way that I think he’s clued in to the fact that Sister Jude is that hit-and-run driver that was never caught. Still, I wonder if Sister Jude doesn’t find a little more will to live knowing she may be many things, but Missy’s killer isn’t one of them.

Finally, we get an ending to Grace and Kit’s romance. As this is “American Horror Story,” guess what? No happy ending here! Kit, during a meeting with his lawyer, clocks the guy with a 3-hole punch and makes a run for it. Where does he go? Back to Briarcliff, of course! And there he finds Grace, sitting in the kitchen following her miraculous recovery, just happy not to be under Dr. Arden’s care for a while. They hug, and Kit whispers, “I couldn’t let you die here, Grace.”

Yeah. Remember that line. 

What Kit doesn’t realize is that one of Dr. Arden’s monsters has followed him in. When a nun screams for a guard, the monster guts her — and when Frank walks in with his gun raised, Grace steps in the way of the bullet. Grace, who managed to cheat death at the beginning of the episode, doesn’t get very far. But at least we knew, as she said then, she was ready. As the angel of death descends, Grace smiles faintly and says, “I’m free.” Given the relentless agony of “American Horror Story,” it’s hard not to feel that, in a sense, this was the best conclusion she could have hoped for.  

What do you think of the angel of death? What do you think will happen to Kit now? Is there any hope for Lana?

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