Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review: American Horror Story: Asylum "Continuum"

Non Spoiler Review:
Continuum is all about change. Jumping ahead, we find Kit in an interesting new family arrangement, but one that does not last for long. Jude remains trapped in Briarcliff but as much in her mind when reality and fantasy begin to blend together. Lana achieves everything she ever wanted.

Coming off such a hopeful episode as last week's Spilt Milk, Continuum is virtually its polar opposite, showing a series of events that continue to bring despair to the survivors of Briarcliff. Another batch of characters are shuffled off, winnowing down the core cast to a select chosen few.

Continuum was another moody period piece. There was more set up this time to lead into the finale and the time jumps kept coming. It was a disquieting episode, but that's what the show is all about. I'm looking forward to how it all ends for Asylum's core trinity—Jude, Lana and Kit.

Spoilers Now!
It's 1967 at the Walker's home, and from the photos on the wall it appears he, Alma and Grace have made a happy life together with their two children. Hippie culture is in full swing, and Grace is busy trying to sketch one of the aliens. Kit arrives home, excited for an upcoming anti-war march. Alma is concerned about Grace's obsession with the aliens, something Alma doesn't talk about at all. She wants Kit to spend more time with Grace so she's not so concerned with the past. 

Grace is doing it all for their children, she explains, who need to know where they came from. She confides in Kit that the night she lost control and killed her family is what really makes her afraid, not the aliens. He's sure she's a different person now. 

Their night is interrupted by the what Alma believes is the reappearance of the aliens. Grace rushes in to get Alma while Kit grabs his rifle as they see bright lights outside. A Molotov cocktail comes through the window. It turns out to be Billy Marshal and his friends. The police are less than sympathetic, accusing Kit of polygamy.

Later, Grace and Alma are having issues with who is spending more time with Kit. Alma hates and fears the aliens while Grace is grateful for what they gave her, and believes they're ultimately benevolent. Alma reminds her she was married to Kit before he brought home an axe murderer.  

With tensions high in the house, Kit leaves Alma's bed to sit with Grace, who is still sketching in the living room. She thinks something has changed and doesn't want to live in fear or isolation anymore. That's when Alma puts an axe in her back, to Kit's horror. Grace is dead, so he takes out the axe and sits back down in shock as his daughter calls for him. He tells her he'll be there in a minute.

It's 1968, the eve of the assassination of Martin Luther King. At Briarcliff Pepper and Jude are playing Candyland. She's back in general population. Timothy comes to ask a word with her. She remarks that Jude is dead and she's been renamed Betty Drake. He explains he's leaving Briarcliff and appointed Cardinal of New York. The Church has donated Briarcliff to the state to use as an overflow facility. He reveals he's arranging for her release, as he doesn't want to leave her behind. Jude believes it's false hope, but he makes her a promise. 

In the bakery Pepper and Jude see several new patients led in, and one of them is the Angel of Death dressed like a prisoner. Jude is horrified, thinking she's come for her. This mortal version of Death tells her she wants to see her—she's a drug dealer, and heard it was Jude who knows how things are run around there. She urges Jude to cooperate with her new business plans.

Jude confides in Pepper that she hopes Timothy is true to his promise, but Pepper warns her that he's nothing but a liar. They look down at more new arrivals streaming into the asylum, one of whom is Alma. 

Jude returns to her room  to find Death is her new roommate. Jude asks why she's tormenting her now when she's so close to getting out, but Death points out there's only one way out of Briarcliff. The next day in the common room Death stabs one of the male patients who had forgotten to give her his pills. 

Jude has nightmares of the Angel of Death coming for her, and wakes up to beating another woman in her room. She's strait jacketed and taken to her old office to see the new administrator, Dr. Miranda Crump. She chides Jude for not liking all five women she's roomed with in the last two months. Jude asks of Father Timothy, but Miranda informs her he was appointed Cardinal two and half years before. Jude points out she just talked to him. As for Pepper, she's told she passed away. Miranda shows her the file. Pepper died in 1966. 

1969: Lana's book is Maniac: One Woman's Story of Survival, and she's giving a signing at a book store. As she reads it's apparent she's embellished the story by bringing in an additional victim that Thredson shared with her. She suddenly imagines Thredson accusing her of lying and defends herself as a writer—to tell the essence of truth. Then her conscience brings out Wendy, who chastises her for making her asexual and hiding their true relationshiop to avoid any controversy. They declare she's only interested in fame now. 

Lana continues on with the signing, impatient with her assistant for not finding her almonds. Kit arrives and she's delighted to see him. Lana's heard about Grace and wanted to write but it's been so crazy, she claims, and explains how she's sold the film rights to Hollywood. He goes for coffee with her.

She's not been back to Briarcliff. Leigh killed seven nuns after escaping, and that's her next book. Kit is angry she's writing about another maniac. She's become a cheap celebrity rather than a reporter. But she defends the life she's built for herself writing about lunatics.

He warns her to be careful when she talks about those lunatics at Briarcliff, as his wife was an inmate. He goes on to explain how he visited her there. Alma was amazed he survived in such a place, but she couldn't. She died of a heart attack. Kit promised to try to make it right. Lana is sorry to hear that and realizes everyone is gone but the two of them. But Kit points out Jude is still there. Leaving Alma's bed he saw her in the common room. Jude was watching the Flying Nun, which she thinks is her life story, and vows to fly out of Briarcliff. 

Lana realizes Timothy lied to her, but Kit wants her to get the place shut down. Lana doesn't have any sympathies for Jude anymore—she made her own bed. Lana is called back to the book signing and leaves him. 

In the present, Johnny shows up at the same bookstore, asking for a first edition, but the old woman tells him they're going out of business. She's the only store in town with a signed copy of Maniac. It's true, but it's her mother's personal copy and she isn't parting with it. Johnny reveals Lana is his mother. The woman doesn't believe it—she knows her story and Lana's baby died at birth. Johnny just wants to see it, so she shows him the signature inside the cover. Then Johnny demands the book because it's his fate to have it. He explains his dark plan to meet his mother and kill her. She hands the book over.

The Verdict:
The time jumps, started last week, were a lot to absorb over the course of the hour, especially given Jude's fluctuating mental state and the question of what we were actually seeing as reality. When she first appeared she seemed to be pretty cogent, but that doesn't look to be the case, given the reappearance of the mortal version of the Angel of Death. Her grim reaper persona has been seen by too many characters not to be accurate, so is this all Jude's hallucination? It could very well be the case given how she woke up to the other woman she was beating up. Or is the angel appearing for some additional purpose to help Jude?

Lana's personality switch comes off as an odd choice given last week was all about how her drive for fame cost so many lives. She seemed to have more depth than that. Perhaps her older, present-day self (which must certainly be coming next week) will have achieved more balance (and sympathy). I get the feeling that both she and Johnny will have their reckoning and neither will survive it.

It's unfortunate that Pepper died off screen, if that's truly the case. I kind of hope that the aliens rescued her for another purpose in helping Jude. Otherwise that just leaves Kit to save her and make things right, which works very well in the grander context of the story to have these two manage to get out.

It would truly be a surprise if Jude does survive all this, but she's really the only one who can stop Cardinal Howard's rise to power and give him his comeuppance. Unless he manages to get back into Briarcliff at some point she'll need some avenue of escape. How foreshadowing is Jude's declaration that she'll fly out of Briarcliff? Does that mean a jump (out of a window)?

Finally, will the alien storyline come to a satisfying conclusion? I'm hopeful that it will all come together next week, with a suitable revelation as to the identity of Kit's two children in the present day.

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