Wednesday, October 31, 2012

'American Horror Story' 203 Review: A "Nor'easter" makes Briarcliff the Devil's playground

 Sometimes, TV mimics real life circumstances and vice-versa in terms of big events happening on both and there’s no rhyme or reason as to why that is. While Sandy ravaged the East coast today in 2012, back in 1964 a nasty nor’easter blew through town and trapped everyone inside the walls of Briarcliff Manor. What unfolded during the first and last movie night at the asylum was a dark and stormy night of twisted motivations, guilt coming to the surface as long-kept secrets were revealed, and an escape attempt (a better one than last week, they got outside this time!)

First and foremost, bless me Ryan Murphy for I have sinned against thee.
Last week, I had a number of doubts about the concept of Sister Mary Eunice strolling around the place possessed by the devil itself—it just seemed like it might not deliver. Oh was I ever mistaken, watching the authority figures tear each other and themselves apart all over the tiniest implications that someone knew about their dark past was deliciously entertaining. The important thing to remember about the way in which the devil likes to operate is that it’s less of a force that commits acts itself. Instead it’s the person who opens the door and waits for someone to walk through it on their own.


With Sister Jude we saw that all it takes is a little push and anyone will gladly go over the edge themselves. Jude had a spectacular relapse when she got drunk after just the right mixture of temptation and guilt-inspiring circumstances appeared in her life just as she was most vulnerable following last week’s emotionally taxing exorcism scene. We can all agree that Jessica Lange would be remiss to not include her grand scene of intoxication with her Emmy/Golden Globe etc nomination episodes, right? She consistently brings the words to life with such a flourish that attention must be on her at all times to see what she’ll do next—hell, it seemed like she almost busted out into one of her sad whore songs from her past at one point.  While Jude tore herself apart from the inside out, Mary Eunice just smiled and watched the movie with the rest of the patients, content in enjoying the show without participating in it.

The only time we see Mary Eunice commit any sort of aggressively violent act is in her brutal slaying of a Mexican patient that can see her for exactly who she is. That was an act of pure self-preservation so that she can continue to pull the strings of all the puppets around her at Briarcliff, and it’s going to be a blast to see what she has left up her sleeve for these people in future episodes. Or if someone finally notices that hey, an exorcism occurred on premises and now a nun that stood right there during is acting strangely but Jude is so caught up in her own issues that I doubt she’ll see what’s truly going on around her.

While all of this mayhem is going on behind the sanitarium walls, last week’s new addition to the series Dr. Oliver Thredson remained calm and even kind throughout. Operating under the Ryan Murphy rulebook his character sent up the most red flags in tonight’s episode. He’s just too noble, too good to be true really and his scenes with Lana carry this strange undercurrent to them that demand suspicion toward this character. There’s this way about how Zachary Quinto plays him that, especially with repeat viewings, crawls under the skin. 


He’s almost emotionless in his portrayal and it goes past the point of an all-business character. Recall what the possessed Jed Potter said to Oliver last week whilst mimicking the voice of someone he knew, possibly a parent that made him recoil so. Focus less on the part where it claimed to be glad it gave him up, and focus more on the look at what you’ve become part of the dialog—that raises the question of what did Oliver become? Is he a sociopath with a degree that wishes to ensnare the vulnerable Lana so that she trusts him?

Both actors had Instagram photos showing that their characters may well get busy with one another and Ryan Murphy recently claimed something similar in an interview but he said it was incredibly disturbing. There is something that is not on the level about Dr. Thredson and it goes with the overall theme this year that the people in charge of others—those with all the authority and power—in this corrupt system are often as unwell as the people they’ve been entrusted to care for. We’ve seen it with Sister Jude and clearly Dr. Arden, but I think Oliver is soon to join those ranks it’s just a matter of time until his dark secret is revealed.


It’s also worth noting how the confrontation scene between Oliver and Jude played out in this episode. When she initially accused him--of planting an old newspaper in her office that featured the death of the little girl Jude ran over back then-- he thought it was of being responsible for Jed Potter’s death. A flicker of bemusement went across his face almost as if the next words out of his mouth were going to be for her to prove it. If you know the mannerisms of Quinto then you know he’s playing this character as though this nice-guy act is just that, an act.

Last season it was all about the threat of the ghosts and all of the evil that went on inside Murder House, but this season there’s a plethora of threats to be wary of. From the twisted machinations of Dr. Arthur Arden and his blood-thirsty experiments, which we finally got to see the Raspers tonight and they were worth the wait, to the threat of Bloody Face and even fucking aliens— well it just means that they’re absolutely throwing in everything and the kitchen sink this year.

Back in episode one it was easy to dismiss the aliens as a product of Kit’s traumatic experience with whatever really happened with he and Alma. While I still firmly believe there’s something to that theory, it also seems that just because there’s one threat doesn’t mean there aren’t a veritable cornucopia of things waiting to rip the limbs from the patients of Briarcliff. Clearly in tonight’s episode when we saw Dr. Arden completely alone fiddling with the deconstructed parts of the spideresque tracking device removed from Kit’s neck in episode one…well you can’t try and say that we were just experiencing events from Kit’s terrified mind any longer. There really are going to be aliens on American Horror Story this year and Jude even came face-to-face with one, albeit when she was drunk and it’s not like she could tell anyone what she saw anyway. Sanity is something that’s constantly at risk in this world and it doesn’t matter who you are, or the power you hold when it can all be taken away at any time if society deems you unfit.

Another example of the multiple terrors approach could be found back in the present day cold open of the episode. The doomed duo of Leo and Theresa faced off with Bloody Face and then another one…and another one. That’s right we were given the ultimate fake-out as the person that stabbed Leo was not Bloody Face and neither were the two other people wearing the costume running around the abandoned asylum. It turns out that three young men and were out for some thrill kill fun and Leo and Theresa were their source of entertainment. True, they do run into another “Bloody Face” by the end of the 2012 scenes, but don’t be shocked if it’s another person wearing a mask that’s with this little group of psychopaths. They certainly didn’t know what ripped off Leo’s arm and I think they’re in for a nasty surprise when they head into the woods after. The Raspers are still there and they’re no doubt still hungry. The abominations of years gone by don’t simply disappear and though these monsters turned out to be humans it doesn’t mean that the mistakes of ’64 aren’t waiting to show themselves today.

1 comment:

  1. Wow... good on you for pointing out Thredson's preturnatural calm, not to mention his reaction to being accused of the boy's death--or so he thought. I did not notice.