American Horror Story Review: Lameness Ends
The season finale of American Horror Story is by far the best episode of the season, perhaps of the entire show, but it is still painfully inconsistent and simply cannot bear the burden of the massive plotholes and abstractions that the show has been setting up over the past thirteen weeks, making it an admirable but ultimately worthless ending.
We kick it all off in present day Briarcliff, with Bloody Face Jr. skulking around the abandoned asylum while listening to an audiobook by his mother Lana Winters. The book on tape returns to life all the “best” moments of the season amidst the rubble and ends up being one of the classier moves of the season. Until we’re greeted once again by Adam Levine and his tarty girlfriend- what we’re seeing is a flashback of their murders from Bloody Face Jr’s perspective.
After the cold opening, we continue to stay in present day with Lana Winters, now a mega successful author, prepping for a prime-time television interview in anticipation of her upcoming Kennedy Center Honor. Lana recounts through this interview events leading up to the closure of Briarcliff and there are many flashbacks bouncing back to 1968, where Lana returns with a film crew to the asylum by sneaking in through the sewers. Once inside, she narrates and guides a 16mm camera through the kitchen and living quarters, searching for Sister Jude. But Lana was too late and Jude had already disappeared by the time they arrive. Present day Lana asks to break from the interview and she is given a water by none other than Bloody face Jr, who has snuck his way on set.
Back in ’68, Lana goes to visit Kit after shutting down the asylum, camera crew in tow. She is still searching for Jude, as Betty Drake- revealed to have been released into the care of Kit via various medical records. Kit did take Jude in; he wanted someone to forgive. Over six months, she detoxes from the various medications, remains comatose in the bedroom, and eventually wakes up only to freak out on everybody. But have no fear: Kit’s alien-kids, who have never appeared to be alien in the past, calmly walk her into the forest to do who knows what and she returns totally happy. This will be the final and only reference to the alien story arc for the show- one that was introduced in the season premiere as if it was going to be a major player in the rest of the season, but it did little else other than confuse and mislead just for the sake of confusing and misleading. That, folks, is sloppy writing.
Months later, Jude is more or less on her death bed, saying goodbye to Kit’s children and the angel of death comes for her. This time, she is ready and the Angel kisses her, taking her away from the madness.
We return to the present day interview to learn that Lana’s next expose involved the Cardinal’s indictment regarding Arden’s experiments at Briarcliff. It was her snooping around and dogged reporting that caused the Cardinal to commit suicide. And then she offers up a confession: Bloody Face Jr. did not die in childbirth, as recorded in her book. She gave him away for adoption and went so far as to visit him one time when he was in grade school. Bloody Face Jr. will later confess that this was the moment that he knew Lana was his real mother.
After the film crew leaves, Bloody Face Jr. reveals himself to her after she asks him to come out from his hiding spot. She recognized him from a police file that was brought to her weeks earlier by a couple of homicide detectives. No doubt, Bloody Face Jr. has come to kill his mother, especially after the discovery that she nearly aborted him with a coat hanger, something he found out after buying the reel-to-reel confession tape of Thredson off of eBay. With a gun to her head, she lulls him into a sense of pity, playing to his broken child within. He lowers the gun and after a beat, she takes it from him, points it at his face, and shoots him in the head.
The final scene is a confusing and confounding coda in which we return to Briarcliff before Lana was committed. She speaks with Sister Jude about interviewing Bloody Face, who is supposed to be admitted into the asylum that afternoon. Jude warns her that, “when you look into the face of evil, sometimes evil stares back.” And that’s the end of the episode. What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Who knows. Does it mean that since Lana has committed murder that her time in the asylum has corrupted her and she is no better than Thredson? Does it mean that she has changed as a person, becoming kind of a cold hearted bitch and therefore, more evil? Who knows.
The funniest thing about this episode is that it is Lana-centric, which is such an odd choice because the show has never, ever been Lana-centric. Of course, when you never have a main character for your show, it’s hard to do any character-centric episodes, but this is another downfall of the show. It’s never about one person, so when an episode like this one falls out of the sky, it feels unnatural because we are never following one character as much as we follow Lana in these final forty-three minutes of the series. It’s fitting that American Horror Story ends on a question rather than an answer because that is what the show is best at- proposing wacky questions which it never fully answers. It’s as frustrating as anything and is probably a motif that will continue well into next year when they visit a haunted prison, or a cursed cafeteria, or the bathroom of a demonic entity or some such bullshit.
Season 2, Episode 13: “Madness Ends” (original airdate January 23, 2012.)
Images courtesy of FX.