This week's episode of American Horror Story: Asylum is no less confusing than last week's, as events continue to change with a debilitating quickness around Briarcliff. Years fly by in "Continuum," characters die or don't die or possibly die, we're no nearer to a conclusion and I'm really at a loss to imagine how they'll wrap everything up with tonight's finale.
The show keeps us in the dark with conflicting time cards and plot points that directly contradict one another. At first we see a card telling us it's 1968 as Jude (Betty Drake?) plays Candyland with Pepper, who calls Jude "boss" to my ultimate delight. The Monsignor stops by to tell Jude that he's been promoted to Cardinal in New York, and he vows to get her out of Briarcliff if it's the last thing he does. "The cruelest thing of all, Timothy, is false hope," Jude reminds him. And then, abruptly, we learn that the state took over Briarcliff in 1966, the Monsignor's nowhere to be found, Pepper's been dead for years and Jude's still hanging out in the rec room. Oh and the former Angel of Death (Frances Conroy) is now the rec room bully. Jude's at a loss, and frankly, so am I.
Are we meant to experience some of Jude's tenuous grasp on time with these inconsistencies? If so, it's working, because I felt like I was losing my mind this week.
The episode opens with the happily polygamous family of Kit, Alma, Grace and their adorable polybabies. Kit, you should know, transitions from looking like Robin Hood to Walter White to John Denver throughout the episode. I miss the days when he just looked like Kit. At first it seems as if he's secured his much-deserved happy ending, with pretty little wives who are always urging him to go check on the other wife. The show goes to great lengths to make it clear that Alma and Grace are happy with this arrangement. They have family meetings and everything. It's cute, if weird.
But soon Grace becomes obsessed with her abduction, constantly sketching images of the aliens and hoping they'll return to her for some unnamed purpose. If you'll recall, Grace's circumstances were significantly improved by her abduction. Here she is, free of Briarcliff with a precious miracle baby, a loving husband and a couple spare relatives. Alma, on the other hand, isn't as indebted to her alien overlords. She begins to resent Grace's preoccupation with the ETs, and that resentment quite suddenly manifests itself as an axe in Grace's back.
Grace is dead. Again.
I'm frustrated and disappointed. And just when are we going to meet these aliens and learn their connection to anyone who sleeps with Kit? Tonight, I guess, but we have an awful lot of wrapping up to do tonight. That's going to be one hell of a rushed episode. I really hoped this penultimate ep would conclude at least one storyline rather than unraveling further threads to be resolved (or more likely dropped) in the finale.
So now Alma (who is lovely; I hope Britne Oldford gets a heftier arc next season) is in Briarcliff too, except *poof* now she's dead again. Will she stay dead? Will Grace? Does anyone? Now it's 1969 and Kit goes to one of Lana's book signings to urge her to finish what she started and bring down Briarcliff, but Lana's turned into a real asshole in the ensuing years. Of course, she deserves to be an asshole after everything she's endured, but I always expected Lana to be the hero of the season, forgetting that no one is ever the hero on American Horror Story. Everyone's either a victim or an asshole.
Speaking of assholes, we see a glimpse of Baby Bloodyface and his creep mullet again this week as he smokes some crack and tracks down one of his mom's old books. He promises he's going to find Lana and tell her, "I'm the piece of trash you threw away 48 years ago. I'm your son." So is this season really going to end with mullet man killing Sarah Paulson in old lady make-up? I'll say it again - everyone on American Horror Story is either a victim or an asshole.
Except Jude, maybe? Please? Jessica Lange's been given the role of a lifetime on this silly show, able to show her tremendous, awe-inspiring range in every episode. Frances Conroy certainly holds her own against her this week, and honestly everyone on this show is wonderful, but Lange is a true marvel. Whatever happens tonight - and as much as I genuinely enjoy this show, I suffer no delusions that the finale will adequately resolve all of these mysteries - I believe Jude's arc will have a satisfying conclusion. If no one else's.
I really do like American Horror Story: Asylum quite a bit. Every episode is so wildly different both thematically and tonally, and I actually find that interesting. It's an anthology of anthologies, each episode its own tiny horror show. The direction has been solid (and occasionally great) this season, the writing is much improved, the performances are spectacular and the music's to die for. But after last season's debacle of a finale and the uneven set-up of "Continuum," my hopes for tonight's final episode aren't exactly sky-high. Prove me wrong, Murphy. Prove me wrong.
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