American Horror Story: Asylum "The Origins of Monstrosity" Review: Holla Backstory (PHOTO RECAP)
To those of you who celebrated America's most delicious holiday this week: Did you watch American Horror Story: Asylum with your family? How'd THAT go? Haha FX, you crazy for airing a new episode this week.
Anyway, whoa. "The Origins of Monstrosity" was definitely a downshift in intensity, right? It wasn't terrible; it was more like, after five episodes of extremely dense storytelling, we got a breather episode in which the writers decided to fill in certain backstories to prepare us for a turbo-charged endgame. (Hopefully?) While that makes sense from a season-outline standpoint (there needs to be a quiet before before the storm), nothing kills horror for me like over-explanation. One of my biggest horror pet peeves (aside from cat scares or dream sequences) is when we learn TOO MUCH about the killer's backstory or motives, particularly when those explanations are not very original or compelling. So, I'm just going to say it right now: Bloody Face's psychology kind of sucks? It doesn't matter that we now know his identity, I just wish that we didn't get the dumb "I miss my mother" explanation for what he does, you know? He'd be much scarier as an un-knowable, irrational enigma a la Leatherface from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Instead they went the Ed Gein/Norman Bates route and I'm already kinda bored! Oh well. But while I found that particular backstory to be a bit of a letdown, I did enjoy delving into the pasts of Sister Eunice and also the Monsignor. Those backstories actually shed light on the characters in a way that didn't kill my interest in them. So while I had major problems with certain flashbacks, the episode still had a lot going for it.
May as well talk about it! Grab a leftover drumstick and pull up a chair!
Unlike the past few episodes, this one brought back the flash-forward cold open, this time with a voiceover (by Zachary Quinto! EDIT: People are saying it's NOT him. Oops!) of the real Bloody Face calling in the murders at the abandoned asylum. So now we knew that somehow Dr. Thredson was still alive 38 years after the events of the main storyline and he was NOT happy about the copycats. Also, he was apparently very strong and limber enough to hang THREE corpses from the ceiling all dramatic-like:
So yeah, that was an interesting turn of events! No cult of Bloody Face, just an angry, elderly slasher.
Meanwhile we met a new psycho-of-the-week, sort of a Bad Seed, Wednesday Addams type:
I appreciated the scene in which the psycho girl's mother tried to have her locked up, but Sister Jude hemmed and hawed about Briarcliff not being a very good place for children. But it was pretty obvious Sister Jude was really just totally over the entire institution.
Sister Jude really fascinates me. We know she has a capacity for empathy and also the ability to discern right from wrong, so there's this huge temptation to root for her to become a heroine of some kind. But then remember that time she forced Lana to have electroshock therapy just out of bitchiness? Or the time she whipped Kit with a barbed cane? Sister Jude is basically a monster! I just never know how I'm supposed to feel about her, and I mean that as a compliment to the writers.
Meanwhile in Dr. Thredson's subterranean murder lair, Lana woke up and discovered that he'd moved an entire bedroom's worth of furniture down there for her benefit. Also he was frying up some croque madame using, like, a hot plate or whatever. So there she was in a serial killer's basement and she was already living a better life than me.
Anyway, while Lana tearfully ate her breakfast (eat-crying is the best!) Dr. Thredson helpfully explained what had caused him to become a repulsive monster... Aaaand it wasn't that interesting! Basically he was an orphan who missed his mother and skinning women alive was his way of feeling closer to them.
Plus, it came with some super creepy flashbacks. Like the first time he shirtless hugged a cadaver:
Unfortunately that dead lady was TOO dead, so he then resorted to kidnapping women, skinning them alive, then turning their faces inside out and wearing them over his own. Not a great hobby, in my opinion. But the twist of this sequence was that apparently Dr. Thredson viewed Lana as a mother surrogate whom he may actually keep alive. Lana was just chill like that apparently.
So even though Sister Jude decided that Anne Frank had been crazy, the Nazi hunter (who, it should be pointed out, was named SAUL GOODMAN and was played by an actor from Breaking Bad) called and told her that Dr. Arden was definitely once known as an S.S. officer named Hans Grueber. ( Ryan Murphy <3s Die Hard almost as much as Breaking Bad!)
Meanwhile across town, the little-seen Monsignor was called to a hospital to deliver last rites for some legless creature that had been discovered on a playground.
Even though he seemed to be a latchkey asylum director at best, he still immediately recognized the patient: It was Shelley!
So then we got a flashback to how exactly the Monsignor came to know Dr. Arden:
(Not trying to start any rumors did the Monsignor set off anybody else's gaydar in this flashback?) But yeah, upon converting the former tuberculosis ward into an asylum, the future monsignor learned that Dr. Arden had been undertaking experiments on human immune systems, and the monsignor insisted he continue developing his mad science in exchange for giving him tons of credit and helping him to become pope. Or whatever! Ugh, ambitious priests are the worst.
Then Shelley died (POOR SHELLEY!! Heaven just got a little sexier.) and it seemed like the Monsignor had had a HUGE change of heart about the ethics of Dr. Arden's science.
He was so mad he pulled the most badass priest move possible:
He rosary-whipped Dr. Arden's record player!! Oh my gosh, drama.
Unfortunately, his righteous anger didn't last long:
And boom! The b-mail card. Dr. Arden sure knows how to play hardball. It was hinted that the Monsignor had secrets (which MAYBE had to do with that second priest he was chillin' with in the flashbacks?) but it is probably just as simple as "I've been doing bad stuff on your watch and you'll be in troubz."
Okay, I loved this scene: After the psycho girl's mother abandoned her there (fair enough), the girl spent some quality time with Sister Eunice.
And they really got along! They just got each other, you know? I loved when Sister Eunice casually mentioned "I'm the devil" and the little girl wasn't even fazed. It was almost touching! Anyway, the interesting part of this scene was that although Sister Eunice was definitely possessed by a demon, it wasn't like the demon took over, it was more like the demon joined up with with Sister Eunice's personality and she still considered herself to be the original Sister Eunice, just with more bad girl 'tude.
In an explanatory flashback to explain how frightened and squeamish Sister Eunice used to be about sex, we got one of those in-movies-only horrifying prank situations where a group of friends brutally terrorize another person all in the name of being funny (but it's not funny at all and is actually just plain assault). So in this case they told Sister Eunice they'd all go skinny dipping but when it came time to drop their robes, they all had bathing suits on and she was just as naked as a jaybird. (What is a jaybird?) So that's why she became a nun! Cool story, sis.
Part of Dr. Arden's blackmail involved forcing the Monsignor to fire Sister Jude.
She did not take it well, but deep down I bet she was STOKED. Just my theory though.
Kit used his one phone call to call Dr. Thredson at home and tell him that he'd been sent to REAL prison under mysterious circumstances.
Haha oh, Kit, you lovable idiot. Dr. Thredson definitely used tricky language to deny that he'd done anything wrong, but Kit didn't buy it. Uh-oh, I bet Kit is just one alien-assisted prison break away from getting revenge on this dude. Except Dr. Thredson is apparently still alive in 2012 so who knows?
Anyway, while he was on the phone, Lana was furiously trying to saw through her chains and she almost did! But when Dr. Thredson came back in the room she was all sweaty and jittery from the effort and he immediately found her out:
Nice try, girl!
So then Sister Jude was packing up and left the room for a bit, and Sister Eunice started trying on her underwear and thrusting her pelvis at a crucifix. Typical demon stuff.
That's when the phone rang and it was the Nazi hunter, so Sister Eunice impersonated Sister Jude (!) and then decided to take care of business (business = murdering elderly Nazi hunters):
While that was going on, Sister Jude was offering a drink to her worst enemy:
As it turned out, she was really just trying to get his fingerprint so that the Nazi hunter could 100% confirm that Dr. Arden was once called Hans Grueber. Alas, it was too late:
Better call Saul... an ambulance! Before he died he gurgled something about how a nun had killed him, but it wasn't clear if Sister Jude understood him. Too much gurgling, probably.
Meanwhile both Sister Eunice and Dr. Arden opened up to each other:
He finally admitted that he had indeed been a Nazi and then he started whining that he had been denied recognition for all of his awful experiments, etc. And also Sister Eunice kissed him and it got even more awkward. Which, considering it was a scene where an old man whined about Nazi hunters just being a bunch of haters, is saying something.
Meanwhile, in a cute turn of events, the psycho girl murdered her entire family.
And in Dr. Thredson's basement, he decided that Lana needed to die for trying to escape, so he put on his mask and started sobbing and it was all a lot to handle
But using some quick thinking, Lana realized all she had to do was start calling him "baby" and act all maternal and whatnot. And it worked!
But whoops, that's when he started breast feeding:
The episode ended with the investigators nosing around the modern day crime scene and realizing that dead Adam Levine probably had had a ladyfriend in there somewhere. But she hadn't been found yet!
And that was because...
She was alive and in Dr. Thredson's old basement! And Bloody Face needed a new pashmina! Or something, who knows? Either way, I'm guessing at this point she probably just wished they'd gone to Maui.
So yeah, this episode was more like homework than a party. Still well-written and enjoyable, but it would've been more fun if we'd all been marathoning the entire season in one sitting and could immediately start watching the next episode. But as a standalone, it was kind of grim and academic. Also I wish Bloody Face had a more interesting explanation (or better yet, NONE). But I am not trying to tell American Horror Story what to do. Let your freak flag fly, show! I trust you.
... Will you miss Shelley?
... What is the Monsignor's secret?
... Does it ruin the suspense to know that Dr. Thredson will survive at least another 38 years?
... Should Sister Eunice start a mentoring program for evil children?
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