Here's how amazing this second season of American Horror Story has been so far: At the end of this week's episode I was shocked to discover it was only Episode 5! We are not even halfway through the season! Yet everything about "I Am Anne Frank (Part 2)" felt like the penultimate episode before a finale. Seriously, almost all the characters have experienced arcs that on any other TV show would indicate an imminent endpoint: Shelley's a mutant, Sister Jude had a one-night stand, Sister Eunice is a demon, Dr. Arden is a war criminal, Lana has already escaped from the asylum, Dr. Thredson is Bloody Face, Kit's going to real prison, Pepper is STILL missing. This season has been jam-packed with reveals, twists, reversals, setbacks, victories, and game-changers. I am not calling into question AHS's ability to continue moving the story forward (it's definitely earned the benefit of the doubt in that respect), but how exactly can the show keep topping itself like this? It frequently leaves me astounded, and that's never been more true than with this episode, an hour of TV that was not only compelling and terrifying, but one of the most beautifully filmed episodes of any TV show I've ever seen. Not a hyperbole. Despite its full embrace of low-culture tropes, "I Am Anne Frank (Part 2)" verged on high art. SO GOOD. (No really, don't even bother reading this recap if you haven't seen it yet. Watch the episode! Drink in its beauty! Bask in the glow of Golden-Age Television!)
Okay now pull up a chair (the one beside the nipple-lamp) and join me for a photo recap, will you?
The episode began with a stunner of a one-shot steadicam scene in which Sister Jude donned civilian attire and paid a visit to a local Nazi expert played by...
Tio Salamanca! I'm sorry, I know actor Mark Margolis has had a long, fruitful career of playing roles that didn't involve wheelchairs and bicycle bells, but I don't care. German accent or not, he will always be the grimacing Mexican invalid from Breaking Bad to me. So yeah, anyway, Tio Salamanca agreed to help Sister Jude determine whether or not Dr. Arden was a war criminal or not.
Speaking of which, the resolution to last week's loaded gun of a cliffhanger involved "Anne Frank" dragging a wounded Dr. Arthur into Sister Jude's office and waiting for her to get back so that Anne could tell on Dr. Arden for making slut-mutants (slutants?) in his lab. But there was one flaw in Anne's plan:
The 'not looking behind you' part. Oh well!
Things went from bad to worse for Anne once Sister Jude finally returned. For instance, a man claiming to be her husband showed up and explained that Anne Frank was actually just some housewife who was dealing with postpartum depression by pretending to be a famous Holocaust victim. What was super unsettling was that his explanations came complete with nausea-inducing video explanations:
They seemed to be filmed on archaic videotape technology and were underscored with theremin, heavily implying falseness, and, I don't know, brainwashing? These were not trustworthy flashbacks in my opinion.
Anyway, because apparently every woman's weakness is her biological clock, Anne immediately agreed to go home with the man once he showed her a picture of herself cradling a child. Basically, she did not believe she was his wife, but once a possible baby was in the equation, she was ready to follow him.
Meanwhile, Dr. Thredson was hassling Sister Jude about the rumor that she intended to surgically sterilize Kit and Grace.
Her response was the best:
Meanwhile Kit and Grace were still in solitary confinement in neighboring cells. I loved how artily framed these scenes were. Like, this first shot of Kit was just begging for this:
Anyway, I liked the artistic touch that they felt like they were near each other despite being on opposite sides of a cement slab:
At that point Sister Eunice the Demon Nun arrived to grant Kit a reprieve from castration.
Unfortunately Grace wasn't so lucky, so she responded by having a pretty funny freakout montage. I liked this shot the best:
And that was BEFORE the aliens arrived to abduct her!
It made perfect sense that Grace wasn't all that scared of being abducted. Her stay in this asylum had NOT been a vacation so far.
Meanwhile Lana and Dr. Thredson continued to arrange their hasty exit.
But not before Dr. Thredson fitted in a last-minute therapy session with Kit. Now, there is a good chance—a veritable certainty!—that I didn't have the brainpower to understand this bit, but somehow Dr. Thredson convinced Kit that (a) he had definitely killed his wife, and (b) he should admit to it on tape so that he could somehow be set free? I don't know, it lost me. Anyway, Kit definitely "confessed" on tape to killing his wife, so that was a bit of a blunder in my opinion.
Especially because in the very next shot we saw her all up in a UFO lookin' naked and pregnant (and seemingly high)!
Grace was there too, but she was not having nearly as much of a chill time. What followed was a quick-cut nightmare montage of the aliens being total dicks to her.
Anyway, back to Sister Jude. The Anne Frank situation had totally knocked the wind out of her sails, so she phoned Tio Salamanca and called off their Nazi hunt, AND THEN Dr. Arden limped in and started getting on Sister Jude's case for having believed Anne. He was throwing around threats and everything.
Sister Jude pretended she wasn't intimidated, but it was clear she was definitely feeling power slip from her fingers these days. Poor Sister Jude! (Just kidding, she's mean.)
At this point we learned what had happened to Shelley after Anne Frank first found her. Sister Eunice the Demon Nun had dragged Shelley out of Dr. Arden's lab, but she didn't do a very good job of hiding her, so then the next day a whole playground full of children encountered Shelley as she grunted her way up a stairwell.
Poor Shelley! She did NOT deserve this, you guys. All she wanted to do was get her freak on with some sailors. Now she was getting screamed at by children because she was legless and in her unmentionables and had adult acne. Was there an Oprah in the '60s? I am crossing my fingers that some saintly talk show host will swoop in and give Shelley a restorative makeover, you know? She deserves it after all she's been through.
Guess which creepy husband realized that crazy ladies tend to not be great mothers?
Yup, Anne Frank had been re-committed! As we learned in additional off-kilter flashbacks, Anne Frank was a bit of a baby strangler. Oh well! Fortunately, Dr. Arden was feeling helpful:
Yup. Anne Frank was about to get a raw deal here.
An emotional centerpiece for the show (and a moment that should guarantee Jessica Lange ANOTHER Emmy) was when the main guard dude informed Sister Jude that Lana had gone missing (with Dr. Thredson) and Sister Jude realized that basically everyone was escaping now.
This caused her to reflect on her life, tell a long, confusing story about a baby squirrel, and then conclude that she's not cut out for this sh*t. The whole speech was truly great. Like most of AHS, it straddled the line between pathos and ridiculousness, but still evoked genuine emotion. Jessica Lange is truly a national treasure.
What followed was a fairly upsetting montage in which Sister Jude de-nunned herself back into Trampy Judy intercut with Anne Frank getting her frontal lobotomy.
Meanwhile Dr. Thredson brought Lana into his home so that she could readjust to society. Or something. The whole situation was shady right off the bat.
First of all, his apartment was littered with red flags:
For instance, his lamp-with-nipples used a dark stitching that clashed stylistically with his mod-nouveau design scheme.
Secondly, what kind of maniac eats mints THAT BIG? Those mints are too big!
Thirdly, his crafting room was severely lacking in organizers, labels, and hot glue guns. Fourthly, the trap door:
So yeah, as it turned out, Dr. Thredson was Bloody Face! He liked to kill and skin ladies and use them for crafting! Also he had a tiled room under his home where the frozen corpse of Lana's girlfriend was chillin' on the ground.
You know, Lana has had a really bad week, let's be honest here. Maybe journalism is not the best job to have?
Things were also not going well for Kit.
He got arrested for confessing to murder on tape. Crazy, right? Off to REAL jail for Kit! His next prison's bare butt policy remains to be seen.
Oh, but guess who suddenly believed Kit's story now? Grace! But that's probably because she was abducted by aliens and returned to the common room with a bloody crotch and a poor memory. Probably not gonna help him much on the witness stand, girl.
Meanwhile Trampy Judy woke up from her sittin' and spinnin' session and pulled a coyote ugly basically. Don't wake up that trash heap!
For her part, "Anne Frank" had been sufficiently brain damaged into believing she was an ordinary, pearl-wearing housewife and mother. But, it should be pointed out, she did not lose her German accent.
Also, there was the matter of a certain photo still pinned to her cork board:
Whoops! Looked like Dr. Arden to me! Standing right behind Hitler! I guess her flashbacks weren't necessarily unreliable? I appreciated the vagueness of this final twist: Was Anne Frank actually Anne Frank, and the victim of a brainwashing conspiracy and/or illegal lobotomy? Or was she actually just a crazy housewife who came into possession of a photograph and correctly identified Dr. Arden? Either way, this dude seems like bad news to me. Not trying to be controversial, it's just a personal opinion, but I think Dr. Arden is up to no good. And while I'm at it, I don't think Dr. Thredson is a very good guy either. I said it.
Jeez, what an episode. I truly loved it. Bad things, big reveals, extraordinary filmmaking. How is it that we still have EIGHT episodes to go? I am not complaining, I'm just simply amazed. This show!
... Was Anne Frank for real or not?
... Should Lana's entire ordeal serve as a warning to aspiring journalists?
... Will Shelley ever get the restorative makeover she so desperately deserves?
... I ask you again: WHERETF IS PEPPER?