Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review: American Horror Story: Asylum "Spilt Milk"

Non Spoiler Review:
As the episode title suggests, this week deals with Johnny Thredson's particular fetish. Events accelerate a lot, with Lana at the head of the parade being as plucky as ever. Father Timothy's hubris has returned, and he now has a problem with Jude, who in madness has achieved a clarity that threatens his position. There are explanations galore, an incredible amount of developments, and a generally awesome episode overall.

Spilt Milk was a tense outing—the music (Philip Glass) and camera angles were more experimental than usual, creating a Hitchcock feel. This felt more like a series finale, covering a huge amount of ground—and time. Considering there are two more left, it looks like we're in no danger of seeing the remaining plot threads wrapped up in a satisfactory manner.

This was really Lana's moment and it worked on so many levels as she faced her demons. After ten episodes of emotional, physical and sexual abuse of its characters, we got a very cathartic hour.

Spoilers Now!
Johnny Thredson is getting high in his apartment (which is Oliver's old place) when Pandora the prostitute shows up. She's had her baby three weeks before and he's interested in her triple-Ds—i.e. her breast milk, which she is more than willing to provide for the right price. Johnny admits to having mommy issues. She never loved him, or his father, he claims, and every time he thinks of her he wants to do bad things. Pandora tries to calm him down. 

Meanwhile, Thredson wakes Kit up to spend some quality time with his baby. Grace, Pepper and the baby are in the common room as Kit comes to see her. She's named him Thomas. Pepper warns Thredson she knows everything he's up to, so he orders her taken to hydrotherapy. He leaves Grace and Kit to enjoy their miracle

Grace only remembers pieces of what's happened. When she was shot she saw a bright light, but she realized she wasn't in heaven. The aliens put the baby inside her but she assures him they aren't cruel. Time works differently there. Unfortunately they make mistakes, and Alma didn't make it. The only link between both women is Kit. He's special and so is their baby. He'll change the way people think. Kit just wants to be a good father and asks her to marry him. She says yes.

Father Timothy arrives to introduce her to Sister Colette, who's there to take the baby to a home for lost children. Grace vows they won't, but they forcibly take the child. Thredson arrives to suggest he might be able to help.

Mother Claudia finds Lana in the kitchen, revealing she's taking her out of there. Jude has asked her to make it right. Claudia gives Lana her patient file, showing everything she needs for her exposé. Lana realizes Claudia wants Briarcliff brought down, too. A cab is waiting for her but they have to hurry. Lana retrieves Thredson's confessional tape that she's had hidden in the kitchen, then tells Jude she's coming back for her.

Thredson wants the tape and will ensure Kit keeps his son. As they speak on the spiral staircase, Lana is coming down dressed in her old clothes and she hears them talking. Thredson suggests they could frame Dr. Arden for the murders and save each other. He just needs to make Lana listen to reason. Kit notices Lana so tries to distract Thredson as she passes them.  

Lana makes it outside where Claudia awaits at the taxi and hands her the folder. Thredson emerges just then, seeing her in the car. Lana puts the tape against the window and gives him the finger as the cab pulls away.

Thredson rushes home, only to find Lana there with a gun. The police have the tape and will be there very soon. He's been exposed. Thredson muses he knew it would happen one day, but is actually relieved. He was right. She was the one. She agrees that he'll pay for everything he did to her, Wendy and every other woman he murdered. Thredson goes to make himself a drink in defiance of her order for him to sit down.

Lana wants to know what he did with Wendy's body. Thredson confesses he put her on ice just for her. Then he'd realized she could come in handy for practice, and admits to having sex with the body in order to conceive with Lana. What he couldn't burn he cut up. 

They hear the sirens, so Thredson has a refill. He realizes she won't keep the baby but Lana believes he'll fry in the electric chair anyway, so would never see the child. But he's clearly insane, he points out. At worst he'll live his life in prison. So he has no use for her anymore and reaches for a gun placed nearby. Lana shoots and kills him.

Later, Lana mourns at the cemetery. They found a lot of Wendy's ashes in the furnace. Lana tells her two friends she has decided to move to New York once she tidies up some loose ends. Her drive to get her story caused all this misery, she realizes. She was going to do anything to get it. Her friend gives her the name of a doctor to take care of her other little problem. Lana emerges to the crowd of media, asking about her reported homosexuality among the sensationalist claims about Briarcliff. All she tells them is to read her book. 

Back in Briarcliff Jude defies the nuns, telling her fellow patients not to take the pills, as it turns their brains to mush. Timothy is reading Lana's exposé in the paper which has led to reporters camped outside the gates. Brother James arrives to inform him of Jude's disturbance. 

Timothy comes to see Jude who is hanging out at the jukebox. He unplugs it. She sees the irony in him relinquishing his virtue to the Devil. But he is not renouncing his vows. He has too much to offer to the church, he claims. Jude confesses to having impure thoughts about him, but would have done anything he asked. She believed in his fantasy. Jude shouts of her disillusionment and shame she feels now that she sees through his naked ambition. He orders her to shut her mouth, but she admits she's more sane now that she's mad as she ever was in charge of Briarcliff. Timothy has her taken away to solitary. 

Kit is given his release papers. He learns Lana killed Thredson, as well, and so his innocence has been proven. He wants to see Father Timothy before he leaves and demands his son back. He informs Timothy he's going to let Grace out and advise the orphanage they're coming to pick Thomas up, otherwise he'll be talking to the reporters. Timothy refuses to release an axe murderer, so Kit points out Grace is dead, according to her death certificate signed by Arden. If anyone ever asks, Grace died at Briarcliff. No one has to lie. 

A cab takes Grace, Kit and the baby back to Kit's old house. The house is a mess from how he left it, but Grace is happy to be free. But there's someone in the bedroom, and they find Alma with a baby.

Lana consults with the doctor about aborting her child, telling her the story of the pregnancy. As the doctor proceeds, Lana begins to have flashbacks to all that's happened to her. She can't go through with it. No more death, she says.

Lana has given the police information on all the disappearances at Briarcliff. She wants them to get her back in there as only Jude can substantiate everything she's said and is being held against her will. Claudia was transferred to Puerto Rico as soon as she started making noise. The cop asks if Bloody Face is the father of her baby. Lana replies it doesn't have a father. 

She manages to convince them, so the police show up in Timothy's office with a court order giving them access to his patients. Lana is with them. He tells them it's impossible—Timothy found her dead in her room, hanging herself with her bedsheets two weeks earlier. He had her cremated given she committed suicide.

Lana and the police leave him. Meanwhile, a tray of food is delivered to the patients, one of whom remains locked away in solitary—Sister Jude.

Lana has the baby but has asked not to see it. The nurse brings him to her anyway because he's allergic to the formula and wonders if she would breast feed him. Lana finally holds him and feeds him. He calms down, but it takes all her effort not to lose it. 

The Verdict:
Wow. After last week's double cremation, off goes Oliver Thredson and Lana actually escapes for real. And Kit. And Grace. After so many false hopes Lana's walk to the cab was a very tense and effective moment. Spilt Milk was beautifully shot—the scenes outside the asylum were bright and full of color, letting us see just how gloomy Briarcliff has been all season. 

I've read some criticisms about the treatment of women this year, but here we see a lot of strength—Claudia rebelling against the authority of the church, Lana achieving everything she set out to do, and Jude's endurance. It was also satisfying to see the relationships that have developed and sustained themselves after such a series of tribulations—Lana securing Kit's release, promising to come back for Jude, who herself saw fit to provide her freedom. Even the police were overly cooperative. So often the characters have been knocked down with no allies on the outside. Spilt Milk was all about renewal and hope restored.

As for Johnny's claim he was denied his mother, we see that wasn't the case (at least initially). Where is the old and grey Lana now, as chances are she would be a famous author at this point and must have thought what became of her child. Will she be the one who puts an end to him?

Some observations—the date on Timothy's newspaper was mid-January, so not much time had passed since Leigh's appearance and Lana's release. Then at least six months transpired by the end given her pregnancy came to term. What's happened with Alma since we last saw her in her bedroom? What happened to Pepper? 

As I've mentioned previously, the alien plot really needs to come home with satisfying closure. It looks like Alma has her own child with Kit, too. What's the significance of his bloodline? That looks to be the key to the whole mystery. I'm left wondering about who Thomas really is with the notion the world will listen to him. Ryan Murphy hasn't been afraid in the past to weave real life people in his stories so his identity could be the final twist.

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