Friday, January 4, 2013

Review: American Horror Story: Asylum "The Name Game"

Non Spoiler Review:
On the heels of his near death experience with Kit, Arden gets informed of the new status quo by none other than Pepper. Eunice makes some additions to Briarcliff and basks in doling out Jude's punishment. Timothy conspires to rid the asylum of the Devil, while Jude just struggles to survive.

As the series heads towards its conclusion plot lines are in full gear, and one thread comes to an end, prompting the return of the Angel of Death. Like any great American Horror Story episode, this one had the perfect mix of humour, one-liners, disturbing and chilling moments.

In the category of Is there nothing Jessica Lange cannot do? we get a surprising and totally awesome musical number that tops her previous drunken movie night moment from earlier in the season. The Name Game really rocked it out this week and maintains the winning streak of episodes that I hope continues for an epic conclusion to the series.

Spoilers Now!
Arden injects Kit and pounds on his chest, managing to resuscitate him. But he lies to Kit the aliens never came. Flashback to what really happened—Arden took Grace to his private lab, noticing she bore no sign of her bullet wound. He's not pleased that Pepper insists she's charged with protecting Grace, especially notable that the aliens appear to have given her the power of speech and increased her intelligence. She's protected, Pepper explains. His X-rays will not be allowed to penetrate Grace's body, and in fact, the aliens laugh at his meagre experiments. Defiant, he suggests an emergency C-section, but the tools fall out of his hand. Pepper explains she was framed for murder because the judge only saw a freak. If anything happens to Grace, there won't be anyone else to blame but Arden, and he'll understand what being a freak is like. 

Father Timothy is alive and recovering in Eunice's care. Leigh is on the run and the subject of a  statewide manhunt. Timothy remembers seeing the Angel of Death, who told him he has more work to do—the Devil is at Briarcliff in his favorite young nun and he must cast her out. Timothy doesn't believe he's strong enough, but the angel explains it's his moment. Eunice puts him to bed and leaves him to pray.

In the common room, Eunice has brought in a jukebox to spite Jude. She dedicates the first song to Judy Martin (her real name)—Put a Spell on You. Kit comes in, sharing an embrace with Lana, who takes him to talk in private. Before she can tell him Thredson's on the loose he walks in and comes over to see them both. For the moment Thredson can't make a move against either—Lana is safe until his child is born, while Kit has Thredson's taped confession hidden. But he reveals to Kit that Lana is pregnant, and Sister Mary Eunice has offered him a full time position at Briarcliff. She's also adept at untying slipknots.

Later, the guards wake up the ward for a room search. Lana berates Eunice for hiring Thredson. Eunice disagrees and has her taken to hydrotherapy. She then searches Jude's room and brings out a cucumber, prompting her to have Jude sent for punishment—electro shock, courtesy of Arden. Eunice takes delight in increasing the settings to the strongest jolt.

As Eunice cares for Timothy she notes his wounds are healing too quickly—someone like him deserves to be canonized. Timothy uses the opportunity to make a completely vain attempt to exorcise the Devil, but Eunice is too strong and throws him on the bed, straddling him and revealing the red slip she's wearing underneath her robes. It turns out he's never been with a woman, so she's very successful in seducing him. Arden watches from the door, disgusted.

A disoriented Jude shows up in the common room. Lana realizes seeing her like that doesn't make her feel any better. Jude makes her way to the jukebox and tries to pull the plug. Lana comes over, saying it's Lana Banana, asking her if she knows her name. That prompts Jude to select The Name Game...which turns into a full on colourful dance routine with Jessica Lange vocals, all in Jude's head. When it's over Lana still struggles to communicate with her, explaining her name is Judy Martin, but does she remember?

Eunice follows Arden with his wheelbarrow of food into the woods to feed the subjects. He's jealous and bitter with her seducing Timothy, so he shoots the creatures in the head, informing her the experiment is over. Eunice is amused by his tantrum. Arden puts the gun to his eye but can't pull the trigger. He admits he can't bear to have lost her. She tells him he's being pitiful and as he begs her to have pity on him she walks away and leaves him there. 

In the bakery, Jude continues to struggle to get a grip on reality. Timothy arrives and has come to unburden himself, offering his apology and his regret. He admits the Devil is inside Eunice and Jude's right. He's failed in casting her out and she's destroyed them both. His virtue is gone. He needs to know if he should confess and walk away from their dream. Jude manages to utter he should kill her.

Thredson goes to see Arden for sodium pentothal, but finds his office empty. As he searches he hears screams and stumbles upon Grace in the adjacent room about to give birth. Pepper informs him she's crowning.

Eunice comes into Timothy's room as he prays, and mocks him by finishing his prayer. She's found his innocence intoxicating and wants another go. She realizes he wants to kill her and that's why he's praying for strength. She taunts him further that he can't kill her, and instead they will rise through the hierarchy of the church together. Timothy belongs to her now, body and soul. He follows her out, saying he would rather die than let her sully the church. Eunice flies into a rage, but the Devil appears to let her have a moment to speak. The real Eunice tells him she's sorry. Timothy asks her to let go of him, so she does, and he throws her over the staircase. Eunice looks up to see the Angel of Death as blood flows from her head. "Take me," she says. "I'll take both of you," the angel replies.

With the body in bed, Timothy gives her last rites. Arden is bitter as he hears she fell from the fourth floor. Arden wants her cremated, but that is a pagan practice, Timothy informs him. The very cells of her body were corrupted, Arden points out. Timothy acquiesces and will assist, but Arden wants to do it himself. 

Kit, bound in a straitjacket is brought to Thredson, who has a way to get the incriminating tape. He takes him to see Grace and her baby. Thredson concludes Arden has been up to something quite extraordinary, and Grace claims it's Kit's son. Kit tells him where to find the tape, so Thredson goes looking for it, but all he finds is a book under the bathtub. Lana shows up to mock him that she's the only one who knows where it is now. If he does anything to anyone, she can get it to the police.

Jude recites the name of the inmates to herself, getting some memory back. Mother Claudia has come to see her. However, Jude remains in a fugue, telling her she wants to say good-bye as Timothy is taking her to Rome where he will be Pope and they'll be married. He killed Eunice. Claudia asks her to rest her mind. Jude points to Lana and explains her name is Lana Winters and she doesn't belong there. Help her get out. 

In the crematorium Arden has one last look at Eunice. He crawls on top of her and starts the furnace, and the two of them go into the fire together.

The Verdict:
Even though The Name Game is one of my new favorites, there was plenty of crazy and hasty plot developments. Eunice's death, while necessary (given it was doubtful an exorcism could ever save her at this point), came too conveniently. Having her be able to momentarily shake the Devil to speak to Timothy was definitely contrived.

Arden's departure on the heels of Eunice's death was a surprise. I'd anticipated a more epic demise for him, so in this case it didn't entirely work for me either. He was suffering a lot of ego shattering events, but it still didn't feel convincing that he was the type of man who could be so smitten with Eunice's innocence that he would abruptly end his experiments and opt for suicide. It seemed Eunice, Arden and his test subjects were all wiped off the map in the interests of cleaning the slate before the end of the season.

Thredson's return to Briarcliff is stretching this storyline out a tad, as well. It's been an ongoing string of brinkmanship between Kit, Lana and Oliver and it remains to be seen who can hold out and win the game. Their scenes are enjoyable, but the rounds and rounds of catch and release are frustrating.

Pepper's expanded role is a nice surprise, including her extreme slap down of Arden, who was in desperate need of being brought down a few levels. I hope she's one of the few who will get a happy ending. Given so many of the patients aren't there for any actual crime they caused, it would be fitting for her to end on a high note. The alien plot line remains as the one piece that needs to really get a solid explanation, otherwise it will all fall flat. At least without Arden and Eunice, there is more room to flesh this one out. But without a particularly interesting twist or revelation, I'm still dubious about this storyline (especially given how the radiation subjects were quickly disposed of here).

It goes without saying the impromptu musical number was probably the most memorable scene to date, a healthy mix of song, dance and outrageous (super-shaking patients) moments. I was laughing out loud and it made my week. Poor Jude doesn't look like she can get out of this bind without some heavenly aid. I definitely believe she won't be surviving this, though I'm sure she'll get to redeem her character in a final sacrifice (though I still wonder if the aliens did anything to her the night of the nor'easter).

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