Well, that didn’t take long. Just three episodes in, and the second season of “American Horror Story” (Wed. 10:00 p.m.) has started to give me nightmares. Surprisingly, this has nothing to do with the creepy timing of tonight’s episode. The asylum is hit by a monster storm, and the episode is called, yes, “Nor’easter.” Which is, by the way, part of the weather system that created Frankenstorm Sandy (the other part was pure hurricane). It would probably be especially spooky for some people in New York and New Jersey, but their power’s still out.
No, what’s most unnerving about tonight’s episode isn’t the storm and it isn’t the gore (though, as usual, there’s plenty of that). It’s that at this point in the season, the true horror of what’s happening is slowly sinking in, much as it is for many of the unhappy occupants of the asylum. It’s the chilling concept of having no control over one’s life, and for that control to be held in an iron grip of some very, very bad people. Teresa and Leo may be in bleak situation with Bloody Face, but there always seems to be a glimmer of hope — a door to be slammed shut, a weapon to be improvised, something. But what faces our cursed inmates at the asylum is the certainty that someone else will take every opportunity to make their lives as grim and painful (sometimes literally) as possible. And there’s not a damn thing they can do about it.
That’s not to say Teresa and Leo actually get out of their situation intact. In fact, shortly after seeming to vanquish Bloody Face, they get blown away by two sick teenagers who think dressing up like Bloody Face is a hoot — right up until they realize Leo’s had his arm ripped off and the real Bloody Face is hot on their trail. It seems like this supposedly abandoned asylum gets a lot of traffic, so I’m guessing next week we’ll see the ghost hunters from “Paranormal State” and a docent-led tour.
But after this modern-day gorefest, it’s time to head back to the asylum circa Sister Jude (Jessica Lange). Sister Jude is having a bad day thanks to Sister Mary Eunice, aka The Devil. After Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) plops a twenty-year-old newspaper on Sister Jude’s desk, the headlines screaming about the little girl Sister Jude ran over, the guilty mother never thinks to pin this mean-spirited prank on the formerly sweet dim bulb in front of her. Instead she suspects Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto), barking, “That newspaper, where did you get it?” This, of course, only serves the purpose of making Thredson’s guilty conscience meter go into the red.
Even when Sister Mary Eunice puts on “whore” red lipstick, taunting Sister Jude by saying, “Dr. Arden said red is Sister Jude’s favorite color,” she still doesn’t seem able to grasp the idea that Sister Mary Eunice is not herself — literally. It only takes one more nudge — a phone call for Sister Jude that seems to be from the little girl she killed — for her to decide that Sister Mary Eunice’s suggestion to test the communion wine isn’t such a bad one.
Yes, Sister Jude is going off the rails, but she isn’t the only one. Dr. Arden, who’s still a little freaked out by the UFO tracker he pulled out of Kit Walker (Evan Peters), isn’t doing so well himself. Of course, he thinks the tracker (if that’s what it really is) is an attempt by some nefarious, unseen force to infiltrate his lab, but we always knew he had a monstrous ego to go with his outsized sense of paranoia. But Dr. Arden’s real nightmare begins when Sister Mary Eunice drops by to talk dirty to him, lifting her habit and suggesting a romp. “This little bride of Christ has had an awakening, but not to the Lord” she whispers. “To the the power of sex. Lust. Desire.” Dr. Arden is horrified of course, but he’d be more horrified if he knew that his pure little nun had just killed an inmate with a pair of scissors, then dumped the body in the woods. Actually, he’d probably be happier about that than the seduction attempt, as he has those mysterious monsters to feed, but still. The sexy nun thing may be a hit with trick or treaters, but not so much with Dr. Arden.
Meanwhile, Lana is desperate to get word to her girlfriend, Wendy. She suspects her best hope is Dr. Thredson, but he reports back that he thinks Wendy may be the most recent victim of Bloody Face — and that he doubts poor Kit is guilty. So, when Sister Jude declares that she’ll be screening a movie, “The Sign of the Cross,” (a 1932 film Sister Mary Eunice deliciously describes as “full of fire, sex and the death of Christians. What fun!”) to distract the inmates from the storm descending on the asylum, she sees an opening — and this time, she isn’t so averse to working with Grace and Kit.
Grace and Kit, however, have joined forces with Shelly (Chloe Sevigny), who declares that she’s “smarter than that stuck up bitch reporter!” in order to get in on the escape plan. She wants to go to Paris, and she isn’t going to get there wasting away in a sanitarium. “They’re twenty years ahead of us,” she says to Grace, who doesn’t really care. “Here, I’m a freak. There, I’d be celebrated!”
Well, maybe. But that requires getting out first, and after a brief squabble Lana, Grace, Kit and Shelly put aside their differences and make a run for it that appears as if it might actually be successful. But when Carl the orderly pops up, Shelly sacrifices herself to distract him, knowing that the blow job she administers might take too long for her to catch up to her friends. It’s a noble act, but as we know, no good deed goes unpunished on this show. Fortunately for the others, Sister Jude is too busy drunkenly wandering among the inmates, urging them not to be afraid of the dark. The guard is absorbed in the movie, which is pretty much what Sister Mary Eunice promised — and clearly NOT appropriate viewing for this audience. It’s a sick joke, but it adds an element of gallows humor that, wickedly enough, works.
It’s also quickly forgotten as the episode wraps up. Lana, Grace and Kit do make it out of the asylum. The problem, of course, is that Dr. Arden’s beasts are there, and they’re hungry. Worse, they aren’t really beasts — they appear to be people. Mutilated, hungry and feral, they aren’t quite human — but they have nothing against killing and eating one. Lana, Grace and Kit promptly turn tail and run back into the building. Sister Jude, however, is on the warpath looking for three escapees. Initially we assume she’s hunting for these guys, but in truth she’s searching for a “pinhead,” the “goddamn Mexican” Sister Mary Eunice stabbed in the neck — and poor Shelly.
Her storyline is the one that gave me nightmares.
After she knocks out Carl and makes a run for the exit, she has the bad luck of bumping into Dr. Arden. Dr. Arden is a little more unbalanced than usual, having co-opted the red lipstick Sister Mary Eunice wore (and which Sister Jude threw at him) to cruelly deface a statue of the Virgin Mary, then toss is onto the floor in a rage. It’s a ridiculous, campy moment, but it’s thankfully brief. Still, it sets the scene for his encounter with Shelly.
Initially, he tries to rape Shelly, but when he can’t perform and she has the temerity to laugh at him, he doesn’t skulk away in shame. No, he gets even. It’s a scene we’ve watched in tons of horror movies (“Boxing Helena” and “The Human Centipede” come to mind), so it’s almost to be expected. Still, when Shelly awakes to find that Dr. Arden has surgically removed her legs, it’s still horrifying, especially when we realize that Sister Jude thinks Shelly has run away — which means Dr. Arden can do anything with Shelly and no one will ever know. Her story is shaping up to be one of the most horrific on “American Horror Story,” and that’s saying something.
What do you think will happen to Shelly now? Do you think Sister Jude will get a hold of herself? And what’s the devil’s plan for Sister Mary Eunice?