Friday, November 23, 2012

Review: American Horror Story: Asylum "The Origins of Monstrosity"

Non Spoiler Review:
After a few weeks absence events are caught up in the present-day Briarcliff. Meanwhile, Father Timothy comes face to face with what his alliance with Arden has wrought. Eunice spreads some mischief in the power vacuum left by Jude, while the latter gets an opportunity to make things right. Oh, and there's Lana trying to stay alive in Thredson's dungeon.

With a focus on Oliver's madness, this episode was quite eventful, revealing plenty of past events and filling in mysteries along the way. With the status quo significantly overturned at Briarcliff, it seems that Eunice will be moving back to center stage with what appears to be a Faustian agenda.

Zachary Quinto definitely shines in The Origin of Monstrosity and I'm looking forward to seeing where he takes this character. Both he and Jessica Lange are becoming the central actors on this show, so I hope he remains for next season (Jessica Lange has already been confirmed). The series continues with a high level of quality from week to week, never managing to fail in delivering its now familiar outrageous level of entertainment. I'm happy to say season two has managed to become my favorite already.

Spoilers Now!
In the present day, 911 gets a call to come to Briarcliff explaining they'll know who they're dealing with when they see it. The cops find three dead people dressed as Bloody Face and hanging by chains from Jude's staircase. The voice on the phone sounds suspiciously like Dylan McDermott.

Back in 1964 a mother brings in one of her disturbed children. Jenny apparently killed the only friend who would hang out with her, though she claimed she was killed by a bearded man. Her mother found a lock of the girl's hair in Jenny's pocket. Jude is reluctant to accept a child, despite wanting to help. She suggests prayer instead.

At Dr. Thredson's home, Lana wakes up in what appears to be a bed full of Wendy mementos. But Oliver has created a bedroom for her in his basement where no one will hear her scream. He's disposed of Wendy's body, given Kit has confessed to the murders already. He's made her a delicious breakfast.

He confesses he was left by his mother and grew up in an orphanage. Lana tries to appeal to his sense of being abandoned and appreciates his act of kindness. He studied psychiatry to understand his own disorder, but when he was in medical school he saw his first female corpse, the same age of his mother when she abandoned him. He realized he was missing his mother's touch, but the corpse smelled of formaldehyde and didn't have warm skin. He needed someone more lively to quiet his craving. But now that Lana is there that's all behind him. He calls her mommy.

Sam phones Jude to tell her the woman claiming to be Anne somehow got it right. Arden was an officer at Auschwitz. He has the original documents but needs Arden's finger prints to establish a match. Jude turns around to find Jenny, who informs her her mother has left her at Briarcliff.

Father Timothy has been called in to perform last rights for a woman who has TB. He finds her in a horrific state, but recognizes it's Shelley. He has a flashback to 1962 when he arrived at Briarcliff after the church bought the property. It was housing the remaining TB patients. Timothy meets Dr. Arden, who explains these are the incurable ones. At its height they incinerated hundreds of bodies in the crematorium. Unfortunately, the end of his tenure means the end of his research into an immune booster. Timothy is curious and asks what he needs to continue his work. Arden needs human trials, but it's difficult to find volunteers, despite it being the greater good.

Shelley dies. Timothy storms into Arden's office declaring Jude was right about him. Arden reminds him they agreed it was all in the name of progress. He's given their wasted lives meaning by producing results in his experiments unseen in science. He escorts Timothy to show him what they've produced...the next stage of human evolution. When the Russians nuke America, Arden explains, he has improved the species to survive the radiation. Timothy is horrified, but Arden says they're in this together and if he exposes him everything in Briarcliff will be illuminated. That gives Timothy pause. The real threat is Jude, Arden points out.

Eunice is looking after Jenny in the bakery. She explains her mother is scared of her. Eunice knows she killed her friend because she's the Devil and knows everything. Jenny was born with the gift of authentic impulse, something that should be encouraged. All Eunice ever wanted was for people to like her, which was a waste of time, she remembers. The only place she thought she would be safe would be with God, but there is no God. Eunice suggests Jenny just needs to learn how to defend herself, and gives her a knife.

Timothy assigns Jude to another church in Pittsburgh. She protests Arden has turned him against her, but he won't hear her out. Eunice comes to advise her Jenny's mother has picked her up, but finds her packing. Jude is back in her civilian clothes, but muses there's something she can do to save her from Arden's depravity, and instructs her to get cognac from the kitchen and two glasses.

Thredson gets an angry phone call from Kit in jail saying the cops have a tape of his confession, and is none too happy. Kit realizes he framed him. Thredson comes downstairs to vent to Lana but finds she's been working on trying to saw through her chains. He straps her down to the bed and decides he has to kill her. 

Eunice dances around the room in Jude's red slip. When the phone rings, she impersonates Jude and finds out it's Sam Goodman. So she shows up at the hotel instead, claiming Jude doesn't know she's there.

Meanwhile, Jude appears in Arden's office, toasting his victory with a drink. He will only drink if she does, aware of her alcoholism, so she agrees. He leaves his prints on the glass. Jude then goes to the hotel room, finding the door open and the phone ringing. She answers the phone, but it goes dead. Goodman is bleeding to death in the bathroom. He whispers that it was her nun.

Eunice brings Goodman's evidence to Arden, explaining he was meaning to expose him, though she's taken care of it. He's infuriated when she calls him Hans. She's also hidden some evidence in case he tries to double cross her. Arden defends his actions as those of a misunderstood visionary. Eunice confesses this is the beginning of a new era, and he just needs to trust her with his entire soul.

Jenny has killed again, this time her brother and sister and mother, claiming the bearded man murdered them too. She used the knife Eunice gave her.

Thredson warns Lana not to scream as he prepares to cut her, and reveals he saw her before Briarcliff, back when she was pitching her story about Bloody Face. He saw in her that she was the first person who could understand him. She tells him he deserves a mother's unconditional love. He pulls off the mask and cries, kissing her breast and declaring "Baby needs colostrum" (which I had to look up).

In the present the three hanging victims are teenagers, but the police find another—Leo (missing his arm). They learn that there should be another woman (Leo's wife) and then hear her phone ringing. It's still in Leo's hand. Bloody Face is on the other end. He only killed the imposters, he explains, and hangs up. He's standing over Theresa on his table.

The Verdict:
This week brought insight into the origins of various characters' dark paths, specifically Oliver Thredson. Quinto dances carefully between madness and eliciting a modicum of sympathy for Oliver's childhood. Lana's intelligent enough to survive her ordeal, but I wonder if she'll begin to develop Stockholm Syndrome (see my theory below).

We see Eunice's suffering early years, as well. But at this point it's unclear if we're looking at the Devil or Eunice's persona, or are they now an amalgamation? We know there is definitely a supernatural force at work, so I'm assuming this all isn't in Eunice's head.

It's unclear if Jenny was just a one-shot character to allow Eunice some mischief, or if she will actually come back in the future, but she gets her particular origin at Briarcliff, with what looks to be a successful career as a serial murderer.

Timothy doesn't seem all that black and white either, given he showed sympathy for Shelley once he recognized her. His own agreement with Arden appears to have been made for the betterment of humanity, but it's obvious both men have different visions of that.

Echoing their agreement, the episode concludes with Eunice's Faustian offer to Arden. What is her ultimate goal for Briarcliff, aside from spreading dissent? Does she have some apocalyptic end plan  that uses Arden's new species as her own?

Back to the present, the mystery of Bloody Face continues. After this episode I've developed a wild theory that he's the son of Lana and Thredson. And that voice sounded a heck of a lot like Dylan McDermott's (given he's been cast to appear at some point this season).

It would be a surprise if Jude is out of the asylum for good and perhaps even the church. But there have been so many glimmers of vulnerability and concern coming from her these past weeks I'm wondering if her character will actually be redeemed when all is wrapped up.

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