AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM Episode Recap: “The Origins of Monstrosity”

     November 21, 2012

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Last week on FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum, we closed out the two-part episode of “I Am Anne Frank,” featuring guest star Franka Potente. Now, we’re getting into the fallout from that episode as more truths and origins are revealed, forcing some alliances to be forged within the confines of Briarcliff Asylum to the exclusion of others. Plus new characters, dead characters and a spooky little girl!

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 and review of tonight’s episode, “The Origins of Monstrosity.”

zachary-quinto-american-horror-story-asylum[You have entered spoiler territory.  Turn back now or commit yourself to the insanity.]

Though not nearly as visually engrossing as last week, tonight’s episode did give some interesting reveals as to the nature of these disturbed characters. We find out that Dr. Thredson (Quinto) has deep-seated mommy issues while Dr. Arden (Cromwell) thinks himself a savior of humanity. Meanwhile we’re introduced to a new little psychopath in the form of Jenny, and say goodbye to both Shelley (Sevigny) and Dr. Goodman (Mark Margolis) who died as a result of the unholy trinity of Dr. Arden, Sister Mary Eunice (Rabe) and Monsignor Timothy Howard (Fiennes). Lana (Paulson) is holding her own, while Sister Jude (Lange) appears to be on the way out. We also get a brief look at activity transpiring in the modern timeline with police responding to a 911 call at Briarcliff only to find three dead Bloody Face impersonators, five-sixths of Leo (Levine) and the mysterious absence of his new bride.

Much like the title promises, we were given origin stories for Dr. Oliver Thredson/Bloody Face, Dr. Arthur Arden/Hans Gruber, a formative experience for Sister Mary Eunice and even newcomer, Jenny. We’ll start with Thredson because he’s not only the most interesting character on the show, he also happens to be the main villain. It turns out that his craziness is due to a long-held desire for a mother’s love, something he was denied when his mother abandoned him. After a creepy scene between a younger Thredson in med school and a corpse that resembled his mother, it became apparent that Bloody Face’s obsession with skin came from a longing for mother-to-son contact. Thredson even cited the revolutionary Harlow studies, which used rhesus monkeys to show that motherly contact was vital to proper physical and psychological development. (I like that the writers are referencing different practices of rehabilitation and true-life scientific studies  that were contemporary to 1964 in these episodes; it’s a nice continuation of the real-life homicides they adapted in season one.)

While Thredson is highly intelligent, he’s also unhinged. Luckily, Lana is smart enough to appeal to his need for maternal affection so she’ll get to keep her skin a little longer. It was also interesting to note Thredson’s reaction when Kit (Peters) phoned him from prison and called him a liar…daddy issues, too? What remains to be seen is the fate of newlywed Teresa (Dewan-Tatum) who is shown at the end of the episode to be on the current Bloody Face’s table. Whether she makes it out alive (and just who this version Bloody Face really is) will have to wait until another time.

james-cromwell-american-horror-story-asylum.Someone with more blood on his hands than even Bloody Face is the Nazi doctor, Hans Gruber/Arthur Arden. Turns out “Anne Frank” was telling the truth about the good doctor and Mr. Goodman had all the necessary paperwork to prove it; he just needed Arden’s fingerprint for confirmation. Too bad for Sister Jude that Arden, the Monsignor and Sister Mary Eunice are all in collusion against her. Goodman ends up with a mirror shard in his neck and Jude is about to be shipped off to another facility. What was interesting here was to see the meeting of the Monsignor and Dr. Arthur Arden just a few years prior when Briarcliff was still a tuberculosis ward. Here, Arden reveals to the Monsignor that his work on syphilis and tuberculosis patients was destined to create an “immune booster” that would grant people super-human abilities. (This could be a reference back to the infamous case of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.) He seems to have it in his noggin that his work will create a race of evolved beings that will survive the nuclear holocaust brought about by those no-good Russians. Back in 1964, the Monsignor disposes of one of Arden’s creatures (poor Shelley), and then threatens to expose the doctor’s unethical practices…of course, Arden won’t go down without taking the Monsignor with him.

Playing second fiddle to Arden’s monstrosity is the demure Sister Mary Eunice/Devil. Not only does she lure Spivey (Mark Consuelos) into spying on her so that Arden catches him in the act and experiments on him, but she also kills Dr. Goodman and brings Arden all of the documentation linking him to Hans Gruber…in exchange for his soul (more or less). Rabe also has a great scene where she dons Sister Jude’s red lingerie and dances to Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me.” She also happens to have somewhat of an origin story, in which we see a pre-nun Mary Eunice humiliated at a pool party in front of all of her friends. Shades of Carrie were in this scene, minus all the pig blood and burning gymnasium.

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But Sister Mary Eunice’s influence didn’t end there. A new character was introduced to the show tonight in the person of Jenny Reynolds, a young girl with presumably normal siblings and parents who felt that the asylum was the best place for her. It turns out that Jenny has a habit of killing her playmates and taking a lock of their hair as tokens, all while making up a story to cover her tracks. Sister Jude, citing the fact that Briarcliff has no children’s ward, leaves the girl in the care of Sister Mary Eunice. Worst. Baby-sitter. Ever. The not-so-good Sister basically encourages Jenny’s homicidal behavior and gives the young girl the very knife she uses to kill her mother, brother and sister. What a role model! No idea if the girl will make another appearance, but it would be an odd introduction if she didn’t stick around for a while.

All in all, some really solid character development this time around, even if the plot of the overall season wasn’t advanced all that much. Sister Jude can’t stick around the asylum much longer because it seems she is out of allies (unless Mother Superior makes another appearance). I’m also expecting Sister Mary Eunice’s influence to continue to grow and I hope that Rabe gets a cool character arc to explore. While it’s fun to play the Devil, I can’t imagine the character would be content with a little bit of singing and dancing when there are so many more souls to steal.

Episode Rating: 7/10 locks of hair.

Quotes: 

  • “Where does this evil come from? Could she have been born that way?” Mrs. Anderson
  • “Croque monsieur and tomato soup. The perfect snack.” Dr. Thredson
  • “I’ve long desired a mother’s touch…skin-to-skin contact.” Bloody Face
  • “Mommy.” Bloody Face
  • “We’re all God’s creatures.” Monsignor Timothy Howard
  • “Why do you look for the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own?” Dr. Arthur Arden via Matthew 7:3
  • “These patients came to me less than men, and now they’re more than human.” Dr. Arthur Arden
  • “It was a man. He was tall, he had a beard and a brown jacket.” Jenny
  • “No monster starts off that way; he was somebody’s precious baby.” Lana Winters
  • “A mother’s love is unconditional. Everyone deserves that, even you. Baby. My baby.” Lana Winters
  • “Baby needs colostrum.” Dr. Thredson/Bloody Face
  • For the record, Sister Mary Eunice impersonating Sister Jude was pretty damn funny.

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