Preparing to watch “American Horror Story,” I braced myself for another round of bleak, bad news. I mean, the middle name of this show is horror, for crying out loud. There’s no room for happy endings, or upbeat twists, or feel good resolutions in this cruel genre. Okay, in most horror movies someone survives after running for his or her life and cleverly outsmarting the bad guy and possibly choking said bad guy to death with chicken wire or inch-thick rope, but he or she is usually horribly scarred and needs a great deal of therapy and looks like he or she is going to cry as the credits roll. So, not exactly the stuff of Hallmark movies.
Fortunately, this week’s episode manages to give the audience some feel-good resolution without upending the darker themes of the show. The framing device of the episode (which follows Johnny Morgan’s encounter with one unlucky, breastfeeding prostitute after he hits the crack pipe) manages to maintain a gritty tone, an acid counterpoint to the episode’s more upbeat plot twists. Johnny hires a new mom so that he can breastfeed (he tells her, without irony, “Breastfeeding is so important for early development” in much the same tone as Dr. Thredson once did).
The patter between these two is, as you might expect, highly unnerving, but the prostitutes efforts to entice him to suckle (“Come to mama!”) do the trick. Unfortunately, this also inspires him to open up about his mother (reporter-turned-Briarcliff inmate Lana). Lana makes him SO ANGRY! SO SO ANGRY! The next thing you know, Johnny is strangling the crap out of the prostitute, and I think we can safely assume we won’t be seeing her next week.
Most of the episode, however, is focused on what’s happening at Briarcliff. With so many employees and inmates mysteriously disappearing, it was only a matter of time before the whole place started falling apart, and that disintegration begins in earnest in “Spilt Milk.”
Johnny’s dad, aka Bloody Face, aka Dr. Thredson, allows Kit to visit Grace and the baby in the common room. But, as much as he yaps on about caring (“If there’s anything in the world that I hold sacred, it’s a child’s need for love and protection”), Thredson ain’t so soft. He hopes only to manipulate Kit to work over Lana for the location of the incriminating tape.
Kit and Grace finally have a moment to talk, and it turns out Grace has seen some stuff. As in, alien stuff. How did she have a baby so quickly? “Time works differently up there,” she says. “They’re not like us, Kit. They’re not cruel.”
They’re not perfect, either, and Grace seems to be under the impression (following a cryptic, watery flashback) that Alma didn’t survive the experience. That stings, but Kit has a new life and a new family sitting right before him, and Grace urges him to pay attention. “You’re special, Kit. Our baby is special. People will listen to him. He’s gonna change the way people think.
“I just want to be a decent father,” Kit says, proposing to Grace in the next breath. And that’s when Dr. Thredson calls in the big guns.
Monsignor Tim and a nun walk in to claim the child. After all, an insane asylum is no place for a baby. “I can only imagine the heartache of having your only child ripped from your arms,” Thredson says in that effortless cool way only Zachary Quinto can deliver a line. He thinks he has Kit exactly where he wants him
Not so fast! Mother Claudia, who had to listen to Sister Jude/Judy Martin’s insane rambling, seems to have taken at least one part of it to heart – Jude’s request that she help Lana get out. She grabs Lana in the kitchen (everything seems to happen in the kitchen of this place; you’d think there’d be better security) and tells her she’s there to help her out at Jude/Judy’s request. Lana doesn’t seem to get it at first. She’s hung up on the fact that getting out won’t help her, not on its own, but Mother Claudia sticks her file in her arms and tells her to snap to it. “Your patient file. Documentation of every foul thing that’s happened to you here.”
Lana finally seems to wake up. This isn’t a trick after all, though she can’t be faulted for expecting a nasty twist. “You want this place shut down,” she says, as if she can’t quite believe it herself.
“I want it pulled down and the earth salted,” says Mother Superior. Lana just needs to change her clothes and climb into a waiting cab. She agrees, but first she has to thank Sister Jude/Judy Martin.
But she doesn’t thank her, not exactly. Instead, she makes a promise. “I’m coming back for you Jude. I won’t leave you here,” she vows to the broken woman before her. I’m hoping she can keep that promise, but all of this seems a complex caper that can’t end well. She’s just going to walk out of Briarcliff? It’s not like putting on street clothes renders her invisible or totally unrecognizable, does it?
But hey, maybe street clothes do have super powers, as she’s going to have to tiptoe right past Thredson and Kit to get to the door. And what are they talking about? Why, how Thredson can coerce Lana to hand over the tape. The good doctor has the perfect plan to save Kit, of course. He’ll pin Dr. Arden with the crimes, as he’s gone “mysteriously missing.”
If Kit believed Thredson for a second, or if he was anything like Lana was at the beginning of this second season of “AHS,” he’d tell Thredson to turn around and stop Lana the minute he sees her. Instead, he grabs at Thredson’s arm over and over, ironically begging for help in convincing Lana to give up the tape.
By the time Thredson suspects something has gone horribly wrong and the woman walking out of Briarcliff in high heels might have been Lana, she’s safely in a cab, giving him the finger — and holding the incriminating tape against the window.
And this is our moment to say, holy bananas, Lana is OUT. I can’t quite believe it, but I’m not exhaling yet. I shouldn’t, either, because in the next scene Dr. Thredson walks into his home and sees Lana sitting there, training a gun on him. She tells him the police have the incriminating tape. “They’re going to be here very soon,” she vows. “It’s over. You’ve been exposed.”
Thredson isn’t giving up so easily, of course. Lana wants to know where her Wendy is buried. I’m thinking this is a fairly stupid reason to see her attacker again, unless her real goal is to shoot him, in which case she’s already waited far too long to pull the trigger.
Thredson makes himself a drink, and in so doing sees the tape tucked into a drawer near his gun. Because that makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? If her goal is to piss him off and make him reach for his gun, well, I guess that’s one way to do it, but I think she’d have reasonable cause to shoot the bastard in any case. This just seems unnecessarily risky.
As far as what happened with Wendy, well, Thredson had sex with her dead body (which he describes as a “triumph” and explains, “What I couldn’t burn, I cut up.” Finally, after many menacing glares and much misdirection from the doctor, Thredson reaches for his gun and Lana blows his brains out.
I repeat — blows his brains out. As in, there will not be a surprise reappearance from Thredson unless the aliens take a liking to him, which I somehow doubt. Thredson, who was so good at skating out of tight spots for so long, finally meets his match (and not in a romantic sense) with Lana.
So, just a quick body count of recent episodes… Dr. Arden is dead, Sister Mary Eunice (really, the Devil himself) is dead, and now Dr. Thredson is dead. Is it me, or has rooting for the good guys not been a total waste of my time this season?
Next, we see Lana visiting Wendy’s mostly empty grave (ashes from Thredson’s fireplace will have to do) and Lana reveals to her friends that she’s moving to New York. Paparazzi snap her photo and hurl questions at her, and that’s how we learn that her story — from her homosexuality, to her time at Briarcliff, to Thredson’s true identity as Bloody Face — is out. And Lana, who looks movie star-glamorous as she gets into her car to leave the mausoleum, has a perfect comeback to the reporters’ questions: “All I can say is… read my book.” It seems that Lana is getting everything she once dreamed of having, but she’s learned that her ambition has come at a horrible price. And she hasn’t even had Thredson’s kid yet.
Someone else who’s also heard Lana’s story is Monsignor Timothy, who somehow thinks that if he ignores the chaos raging around Briarcliff, it will eventually all go away. Sister Jude/Judy Martin, however, won’t let him drown out that pesky outside world. When he visits her in the common room, she has rejected her medication and emerged entirely lucid — and angry. She reminds him of how he relinquished his virtue to Mary Sister Eunice and asks if he’ll renounce his vows.
“Not at all! I’m going to stay the course!” he huffs. Yes, Tim-O thinks he’s going to Rome, sure he can shove the horrors of Briarcliff under the carpet. The only obstacle that he sees to that (though I see many) is Sister Jude/Judy Martin. He has her carted off to solitary, as she vows, “You will not prevail, Timothy. My God would never allow it.” Before this week, I would point out her God hasn’t exactly been making things easy for her, but I’m starting to think she has a point.
Since Lana has submitted the tape of Thredson confessing to the police, Monsignor Timothy has no choice but to free Kit. But he’s not going out so easily. He wants Grace released and he wants his kid. Otherwise, well, he might start having to talk to reporters.
“You can’t seriously expect me to release an ax murderess into the community,” Monsignor Timothy sputters. The thing is, he doesn’t — he only has to release Grace’s body. After all, records show she died at the facility.
Thus, we see Kit, Grace and their baby walking into Kit’s old house and Kit suggesting they get a horse and it’s all so bucolic and happy but WHY IS THE MUSIC SO SPOOKY? Oh yeah, because Alma is sitting on the bed, holding a baby.
So, not exactly an easy happy ending.
Things aren’t easily wrapped up for Lana, either. She heads off to a woman who can give her an illegal abortion. “In a different life, I would have loved to have a baby,” she says. “But my lover was murdered by the man who raped me and got me pregnant.” But before they’ve gotten very far in the process, Lana begs the woman to stop, having flashed back to all the bloodshed at Briarcliff. “I can’t. No more death. No more,” she says.
Stuck with a baby she doesn’t want to deliver, she goes to the cops to expose the horrors of Briarcliff. The problem? They don’t seem interested in believing her. “There’s one person who can substantiate everything I’m saying,” she says, and we know she’s talking about Sister Jude/Judy Martin.
By some minor miracle, she gets a court order to force Monsignor Timothy to produce her. But he demurs. No, there will be no visiting the fallen sister, as she hung herself. Lana doesn’t seem convinced, even though he produces paperwork to back up his story.
Of course, Lana is right. Jude/Judy is alive, stuck in a dark, ugly cell deep within Briarcliff. I can only hope Lana, who, as she tells the cops “is tough but no cookie,” doesn’t give up. After all, we still need Monsignor Tim to pay for his sins.
Lana delivers her baby and asks not to see him — but no such luck. When a nurse brings the baby to her, explaining that he’s allergic to the formula and won’t stop crying, Lana surprises herself by letting the kid latch on. She leans back and sees the cross hanging above her bed. Whether it’s meant to bless or curse her is the question.
What did you think of Dr. Thredson’s exit? Do you think Sister Jude/Judy Martin will be rescued? What do you think Kit should do about the Alma/Grace situation?