OH. So this is just how it's going to be with this show, isn't it, Ryan Murphy? The first episode of each season of American Horror Story will be a messy, barely coherent dare to the audience to get out while we can, and then Episode 2 hooks us permanently. Because I AM HOOKED NOW. Any reservations I had over last week's season premiere were assuaged and then some with "Tricks or Treats." In fact, I feel just plum foolish for having had doubts in the first place. To be fair, I was judging this show based on the idea that it's divided into episodes when in fact it's really just one big episode and the first 42 minutes or so were merely a "coming attractions" montage. I see this now. By throwing tons of elements and characters at us in the premiere, everything that followed now seems focused, compelling, and thoughtful by comparison. It turns out that instant immersion was necessary in order to be this engaged so soon. No seriously, I'm impressed, but more than that, I'm excited. I needed this!
Yeah, "Tricks or Treats" was pretty great in my book. (My book is mostly just doodles and Mr. Pibb stains, but still.) Here are the things that happened in it!
As though to verify my suspicion that "Episode" 1 was merely a prelude, this one picked up seconds after last week's, with Channing Tatum's wife running away from the dude who looked like he'd tried to force his head into a keyhole.
After trying to save her one-armed husband for a second, she ended up locking herself behind that same barricaded door through which her husband had lost his arm in the first place, and then she proceeded to stand there and witness her husband's repeated stabbing!
Things were off to a great start for these two. Just another perfect honeymoon destination.
Meanwhile in 1964, a secret cabal of lesbians had gathered to cheer up the one who had sold out her own girlfriend. That's when someone began knocking on the door in a sinister manner. Who could it be??
TRICK OR TREAT? Honestly, trick-or-treating is sketchy enough, but doing it the day before Halloween is just plain weird. Scram you kids!
Anyway, after Lana's "roommate" declared that she intended to figure out a way to spring Lana from the nuthouse, she comforted herself by getting real high and taking a shower. But she made the mistake of playing an ironically cheerful oldie on the record player, which is basically a written invitation for a boogeyman slasher to drop by.
Bye, Lana's roommate! But in addition to being very scary, this moment was also significant for a few reasons: (1) This means Kit is likely not Bloody Face. I mean, I'm not a detective, this is true, but I still think that Kit probably is not Bloody Face. Also (2) there may be a connection between Bloody Face and the asylum. I realize they are on the same show and most plotlines on shows are connected somehow, but hear me out. Was Bloody Face somehow protecting the reputation of the asylum? Obviously he (or she!) is a nightmarish murderer, but we now officially have a mystery on our hands!
The next morning all the patients had an impromptu room inspection. For her part, Pepper realized the error of her ways in hoarding loaves of bread under her pillow. They attract
LOL Pepper, girl you crazy.
When Sister Jude discovered Lana had been writing notes about her experience on scraps of paper, Lana got all boastful about how she intended to blow the lid off this story, notes or not!
This scene was really disturbing, I'm not going to lie. Everyone watching this was like, "No me gusta." The scariest part was how easy it was for Sister Jude to decide to permanently damage someone's brain—all she had to do was exchange a few hateful barbs with Dr. Arden and suddenly they were teaming up to zap Lana all kinds. But for a split second it looked like Sister Jude was kind of ashamed of herself. She was knowingly administering this treatment to someone who didn't need it, all to protect the asylum from muckrakers so that the monsignor's career could take off and she could become Mrs. Pope alongside him. Sister Jude horny for popery!
Oh here's a new character! Zachary Quinto as Dr. Thredson, court-appointed psychiatrist. Rather than just being another mid-'60s bigot and nutjob, he was actually super mellow and empathetic. So obviously he and Sister Jude were immediate enemies. He was only there to evaluate Kit and to determine whether Kit should be locked away in an asylum or put on trial and potentially executed.
I'm not sure how that worked. Shouldn't Kit get a trial anyway? I don't understand the legal system, especially not the legal system of 1964. They still used guillotines back then, right? And trials involved holding a white hot coal in the palm of your hand during the equinox? I don't know. But the thing to know about this exchange was that the alleged body of Kit's wife had been found headless and skinless, so Kit still firmly believed his wife was up in a spaceship. Which sounds crazy, sure, but not as crazy as the fact that in 1964 they had no way of knowing the identity of a dead body.
Anyway, this episode should've been titled "James Cromwell's Character Is a Mega Creep" because he was a mega creep the whole time and in so many different ways! Last week he just seemed like a crabby mad scientist, but this week he was a straight-up MONSTER. After the casual, explanation-free usage of electroshock therapy on a healthy woman, he then flirted with Sister Eunice big time by FORCING her to eat a caramel apple he'd brought for her in a decorative tin!
I can't be the only one who expected a razor blade in that apple, right? Like Lana said later, I've come to expect the worst.
Anyway, after Dr. Thredson hassled Sister Jude about how terrible her asylum was, he forcibly intervened in one of her newest cases: two parents concerned that their teenage son was behaving strangely.
In a flashback we learned that he'd been caught red-handed (because blood) eating the heart of the family's prized heifer. This was clearly demonic possession behavior in my opinion. First of all, the whole cow-heart-eating thing, but also the contact lenses. Plus the kid was played by Young Dexter, so that didn't help his case either. By the way, don't you love how bad demons are at passing for humans? You'd think they wouldn't want to be noticed so easily, but demons just can't help themselves! Instead of behaving rationally for a few decades and then, I don't know, running for president so they can start pressing all the red buttons, they just immediately start spider-walking and eating livestock and talking all kinds of sh*t on everybody. Cool it, demons!
The best part was after the parents described what was obviously 100 percent a demonic possession situation, Sister Jude immediately started gloating over Dr. Thredson's initial skepticism. Take that, you empathetic rational thinker!
So anyway, yeah. They took a look at the kid and he was still all possessed and whatnot.
Meanwhile Lana was still recovering from her electroshock therapy (her head continued to painfully buzz with electricity afterward, a feeling I can relate to anytime I watch a Twilight film), but she had the wherewithal to strike up an escape alliance with Grace while they were enjoying some bare butt action in the bathtub room.
Grace REALLY wanted to bring Kit with them, but Lana put her foot down. In her opinion, it was completely plausible that a majority of the asylum's inmates were wrongfully committed, but Kit was DEFINITELY a murderer and needed to stay put. (Nobody had yet found out that Bloody Face was still out there.)
I think right now my favorite character is Shelley, not only because Chloe Sevigny is a national treasure, and not only because she brags about stealing cucumbers for inappropriate reasons, but in this episode Shelley gave a pretty terrific speech. First she came onto Dr. Arden in order to get a few minutes of sunlight, but when he called her a whoo-er and turned his back on her, she gave this surprisingly articulate monologue about how she'd been locked up because her openly philandering husband caught her in bed with two Navy guys, plus society, and hypocrisy, and women's rights, etc. It was equal parts over-the-top and compelling! I love Shelley, you guys, but I'm concerned that she won't be sticking around too long since Sevigny is only listed as a "guest star." Who knows!
Oh, okay! So, the priest arrives for an exorcism and he's in A WHEELCHAIR. The SECOND I saw that, I was like, "Oh he is only in a wheelchair so that he can fly out of it and/or roll down the stairs." Only half of my wish came true:
Hahahaha. Oh man almighty. Stay away from demons, wheelchair priests!
I don't know about you, but I liked this hooker so much. She was already sympathetic for having Dr. Arden for a john, but then he kept hassling her about fine wine and Chopin and not talking about men's junk too much.
Quiet, you big creep! Team Hooker Lady.
Back at the exorcism, the demon had moved into the "personal trash talk" phase of the ordeal, sending everyone running from the room by dealing out white hot TRUTH. This continued when Sister Jude attempted to take over, and BOY did we get an earful about her!
That's right, before she was Sister Jude, she was Judy, a common floozy! And just an all-around good time, basically.
I loved that they didn't use the 'young face' CGI on Jessica Lange like they did in Season 1. That face shows up in my nightmares to this day. But also, was the implication that Sister Jude had only become a nun like six weeks prior? Anyway, this was probably the reason:
That's right, Judy had hit rock bottom after murdering a little girl with her Edsel, and it was the kind of guilt that could only be erased by turning into the world's meanest nun. That explains everything!
The coolest thing that happened during the exorcism was that all the power went out in the building. Even though it was 1964, all the cell doors were apparently locked via electricity? I don't know. But they all suddenly opened in a downright haunting shot of patients slowly exiting their cells into the asylum's red-lit hallways. The image legit gave me chills.
That's when Lana and Grace decided it was their chance to bolt for the underground tunnel. Unfortunately Kit wanted to come with and Lana was NOT about to let a supposed murderer loose into the world.
Yeah, Lana opted NOT to escape and instead just ratted out Grace and Kit for trying to. Harsh! But also, understandable? This conflict was a seriously clever bit of writing and internally consistent for each character. Lana might want to escape, but she legitimately felt that Kit was a serial killer and prioritized society's safety over her own. Sympathetic! But also misguided! (This episode gave us reason to believe that he was not Bloody Face.) So yeah, credit where credit's due: Good writing. Grace was not as happy about it though.
This was going to make naked bathtub hour a lot more awkward in the future.
So at this point the possessed boy sneezed out a demon and then died. Fortunately there was someone in the room who immediately caught the bug.
Sister Eunice! It was strange that nobody in the room immediately suspected that the demon had leapt out of the boy and into Sister Eunice. That's like demonic possession 101, guys. Ugh, you can't even get f*cked-up sh*t right!
Speaking of effed-up S., Dr. Arden forced his hooker friend to dress up like Sister Eunice, which, um. Yuck? Anyway, while she was taking off her makeup, she found his keepsake box filled with some VERY sexy photos:
It should go without saying that he immediately busted into the room and basically tried to rape her. Fortunately, she did what any crafty hooker would do:
Good job, girl! So if we hadn't already suspected that Dr. Arden was Bloody Face, those bondage and mutilation photos might've confirmed it? But also, the next morning he told Sister Eunice that the human body is basically just cogs and sprockets with a detachment that screamed "I'm a serial killer."
For her part, Sister Eunice was looking GOOD. And yeah, totally demon possessed. At one point she whipped her sheets away and a nearby crucifix trembled. Overall though, BETTER JOB, demon. Just try not to go eating cow hearts and growling in Latin.
As a reward for having ratted out her fellow cell mates, Lana was given a "treat" by Sister Jude. The treat was that she got to pick out a cane and then witness the caning of Kit and Grace.
Because Kit is a good guy, he claimed that Grace hadn't done anything and that he'd take her lashes too. Poor Kit!
Even Lana was like, "Ugh, Mondays." Not a good time for her or anybody.
"Tricks and Treats" was just better all around for me. The characters made more sense, were more compelling, and the stories gelled in a really great way. Let's talk theories: So, to me it seems TOO obvious that Dr. Arden is Bloody Face. That's why I think it's probably not him. I think it's the Monsignor and Dr. Arden is just his callous assistant (remember, the Monsignor is the one who lured Dr. Arden out of retirement to work at Briarcliff). In my opinion the Monsignor murders women and takes their bodyparts and Dr. Arden assembles them together to create his creatures. Also, Bloody Face doesn't choose victims at random; he murders people to benefit the asylum. Lana's girlfriend, to keep her quiet. Framing Kit in order to throw people off his scent. (Admittedly this theory doesn't work since Bloody Face is still active, but oh well.) So yeah, much like S1's mystery as to the identity of Rubber Man, it looks like the identity of Bloody Face (and WHY he's still operating in present day) will be the tantalizing puzzle we'll get to piece together this season. LOVE IT.
OK BYE SEE YOU.
... Who is Bloody Face?
... What is Dr. Arden's deal?
... Are you mad at Lana?
... Should demons do a better job of playing it cool?