While FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum might not be everyone’s cup of tea, even the skeptics among you would admit there was something extra creepy about tonight’s episode. Not only did it air on Halloween night, which is just candy in the basket for the show’s marketing, but the episode featured a powerful storm slamming into New England and throwing the patients of Briarcliff Asylum into hysterics. With East Coast residents still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Sandy, this prescient plotting did not go unnoticed; but was the rest of the episode as memorable?
American Horror Story: Asylum stars Jessica Lange, Zachary Quinto, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe, along with newcomers Adam Levine, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, James Cromwell, Joseph Fiennes, Chloe Sevigny, Lizzie Brochere and Clea Duvall. Hit the jump for the recap of tonight’s episode, “Nor’Easter.”
As always, we’ll start with a quick recap. In what’s presumably been setup as the format for future episodes, we start with a brief scene from the present time before we jump to the past. In this episode, Teresa (Dewan-Tatum) and Leo (Levine) are attempting to evade Bloody Face and even manage to do so for a hot, blood-soaked second, but end up running afoul of two Bloody Face-masked men who shoot the duo in cold blood. Too bad for them that the real (?) Bloody face is after them next.
Back in 1964, Sister Mary Eunice (Rabe) is warning Sister Jude (Lange) that there’s a “Storm coming. A big, fat storm.” Her daily mail delivery has dropped a horrifying reminder from Sister Jude’s past: a drunken hit-and-run accident that claimed the life of a little girl, whom she left on the side of the road; an incident that drove her to don the habit. In an attempt to calm the patients during the storm, Sister Jude orders up a movie to be played, but she ends up getting drunk, making a fool of herself at the screening and confronting a demon.
Speaking of demons! Sister Mary Eunice is up to no good: She’s setting Sister Jude and Dr. Arden (Cromwell) against each other even more, killing patients and feeding their bodies to Arden’s creatures in the woods and even offering herself up to Dr. Arden. And, yes, those things increase in creepiness in that order! Dr. Arden is beginning to show cracks in his meticulous foundation as the “lipstick on the statue” scene clearly reveals.
As for the relatively normal patients in Briarcliff, Grace (Brochere) and Kit (Peters) plan another escape, this time with Shelley (Sevigny) in tow. After word from Dr. Thredson (Quinto) that Wendy (Duvall) is probably dead at the hands of Bloody Face, Lana (Paulson) apologizes to Kit and joins the escape crew…until the man flesh-eating humanoids chase them back inside. Also, Kit experienced a bit of torture under Dr. Arden’s blade earlier on, but that’s nothing compared to what happens to Shelley.
Still a crazy amount of events crammed into each episode. No new additions this week, so let’s break it down by character development (or degeneration). Sister Jude had the most to lose this week as she succumbed to Sister Mary Eunice’s lies, Dr. Arden’s strong-arming and her own personal demons that drove her to drink. Her selection of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1932 film, The Sign of the Cross, was a nice stroke by the writers on a number of levels: the film centers on Emperor Nero blaming the Christians for burning Rome and sentences them to die in the battle arena (quite an odd choice for a Catholic nun, don’t you think?), it was DeMille’s concluding film to his Biblical trilogy (after The Ten Commandments and The King of Kings), and it inspired the formation of the Catholic Legion of Decency in 1934, which spoke out against material that the Catholic Church found objectionable.
Speaking of pop culture references, there’s an interesting bit where a drunk Sister Jude has a moment of compassion and attempts to calm the anxious patients by reciting the lyrics to “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” a song from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “Carousel.” This may be a throwback to a better memory for Sister Jude, as it predates her hit-and-run tragedy by four years. Perhaps she was a singer or stage performer? Either way, her demons come back to her, literally, in the form of a phone call from beyond the grave and a quick flash of what looked like a bat demon confronting her.
If anyone cracked on the level of Sister Jude this week, it’d be Dr. Arden. That man’s brain is Abby Normal. Whilst tinkering with the alien spider-tracker thing, he once again has Kit on his operating table, but merely pokes, prods and slices him a bit. What’s more telling is the interrogation of Kit, as Arden asks him if he’s working for the Stasi/East German spies, the KGB, the Jews or “fellow travelers,” which was a term for a Communist sympathizer in the 40s and 50s. Who is Arden running from and what is he hiding?
When Sister Mary Eunice, whom we’ll get to in a second, aggressively propositions Dr. Arden, he wants no part of it, even though he was obviously turned on by her presumed innocence in the previous episode. Having been stripped, almost literally, of her purity by the demon possession, Sister Mary Eunice holds no pleasure for Arden anymore. The only pleasure he finds is with Shelley, and not in a sexual way (though he tried, which led to one of the most hilarious scenes this season), but by surgically removing her damned legs! Poor Shelley! (Honestly, for a second I thought they were going to go really dark and delve into surgical castration. There’s still time for them to go there but…damn.)
Oh, Sister Mary Eunice, what fun you are now! Since becoming possessed, she’s now a lipstick-wearing, sexually liberated nun with a penchant for drinking sacramental wine and stabbing poor Mexican inmates to death with scissors. Thankfully, her character now brings a bit more dark levity to the show and has free reign to do whatever she wants.
For my closing thoughts, I’d like to point out that we got to see what Arden’s creatures were this time around and they appear to be some sort of diseased humans who feed on corpse flesh. How fun! Also, you may have missed it, but the weather report on the radio mentioned people seeing strange lights in the sky that were not related to lightning storms, so keep an eye out for more alien shenanigans in the future.
Overall, I enjoyed this episode, but I wasn’t blown away by it. There are too few quiet moments to allow any revelations to really sink in; there’s too much rushing around with multiple storylines to give any one in particular a chance to breathe. And while it’s certainly entertaining, the sense of mystery is simply not there this year. But perhaps I’m alone in that regard, so please share what you think of this season so far in the comments below.
Rating: 6 out of 10 Tubes of “Ravish Me Red” Lipstick
- “Fire, sex and the death of Christians. What fun!” – Sister Mary Eunice/Satan
- “I’m all juicy.” - Sister Mary Eunice/Satan
- “Let’s see if this will turn into an inaugural event, or just another bitter disappointment.” – Sister Jude
- “Lights! I’m off to find the Mexican.” – Sister Jude
- “Whore!” – Dr. Arden
- “Pepper pee!” – Pepper
- “What happened? Were you in an accident? You’re seven feet tall! I thought you’d be hung like a…*SLAP*!” – Shelley, upon seeing Dr. Arden’s none-too-impressive nethers