Welcome back to Briarcliff for episode two, where the skirts and the body count rise, and we begin to tease out a few themes from the madness. Last season was a free-for-all of terror, both natural and super, but this time around the show seems to be focusing most of its energy on character development and themes of social justice. We’ve got Kit and Alma and their interracial marriage, Wendy and Lana battling homophobia, and Sister Jude and her love-hate relationship with “the patriarchal male” (her words). While I tentatively applaud Ryan Murphy and company for taking on some meaty issues (other than the actual meat Mary Eunice feeds to the monsters), I know that watching a Murphy show is a little like keeping Bloodyface as a pet: love him, if you will, for his piercing blue eyes and skill with a bone-saw, but find yourself trusting him, and there’s a whole section of “The Darwin Awards” just for you.
Speaking of Bloodyface, Adam Levine’s wife (I find it very difficult to care about her fate until I know her name), is still trying to escape his clutches. Not helping AT ALL is Adam Levine, who is just lying there, bleeding uselessly. His wife tries to drag him to safety, prompting millions of lesbians and music lovers to shout “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? LEAVE HIM!” She is forced to heed us when Bloodyface snatches Mr. “Moves Like Jagger,” and stabs him right to death. It feels kind of like when your dog does something wrong but you are secretly proud.
BAD BLOODYFACE. BAD. Here’s a treat.
Back in vastly more interesting 1964, Wendy has called a meeting of the Massachusetts Lesbian Club to confess her betrayal of Lana. She is wracked with guilt and vows to recant her testimony tomorrow. Lois and Barb assure her that “no one could blame you” in that way that means, “My girlfriend and I will be blaming you the whole car ride home.”
“Don’t worry. This same thing happened in Fingersmith and it turned out ok.”
And then that awful thing happens where a horror movie hangs out with a character for way too long while they do something totally mundane and it means that the killer is already lurking nearby. Sure enough, after a little fake-out Psycho shower scene, Bloodyface comes upon Wendy, knife raised.
“I beg you, think of the children. Who will teach them about the Krebs Cycle?????”
There’s no body, though, so let’s not totally lose hope, since Murphy and company aren’t usually ones to shy away from gore.
Then it’s time for another round of the title sequence of doom, to remind you that the only thing scarier than a weeping angel is a grinning one.
After that, we go straight to room searches at Briarcliff, and of course Shelley is there, checking out everything: guards, inmates, doorknobs, with equal lust. Lana gets busted taking notes for the exposé she still naively thinks she’s going to write, which prompts Sister Jude to decide she suffers from an excess of memories, both of her time at the asylum and her life with Wendy. She proposes to wipe the offending memories out.
Ok, as the daughter of two mental health professionals, I have to say that electroshock therapy is not the devil and, when used correctly, is an effective and humane treatment. When we demonize mental health professionals, we only reveal our fear of our own subconscious. That said, this scene breaks my f–king heart and makes me want to send a bouquet of roses to every gay person who medicine has ever tried to “treat” through torture. Even sister Jude looks a little guilty.
Speaking of shrinks, we now have Zachary Quinto as Dr. Thredson new psychiatrist at Briarcliff. He’s interviewing Kit, who now maintains that his wife is still alive, merely held captive by aliens. Dr. Thredson diagnoses him with “acute clinical insanity” which is about as vague as when people say their dog died “of old age.”
“I was just trying to get to my Mad Men audition. Damn you, google maps.”
Nevertheless, his heart seems to be in the right place, and he attempts to confront Sister Jude about the “barbaric” practices at Briarcliff, but she blows him off like so much lint.
Out on the grounds, Sister Mary Eunice is playing at Little Black Riding Hood with a picnic basket, when Dr. Arden comes upon her to offer her a caramel apple. She wisely refuses, having at least heard the story of Snow White, if not the urban legends of razors hidden in Halloween apples (I still say candy corn is worse). He uses his scary voice, though and forces her to take a bite, while Shelley the sex pot spies it all from her window.
Sister Jude, meanwhile is taken up with a new case, of a boy taking strange turns. “I’ve had great success in curing the chronic masturbator,” she says, never having seen pictures of her younger self. This boy’s problems go beyond idle hands though; indeed it seems his entire body has become the devil’s playground.
But let’s take a break from the terror. Couldn’t you use a nice hot bath with Lana Winters and Grace, the French girl? Yes, you could. Lana is so overcome by the steam and the sight of Grace’s naked body that she invites her to explore her secret tunnel. Wait I’m sorry, she invites her to escape the asylum through the secret tunnel.
“And you know, if we hit it off after that…”
Grace agrees to join but insists they take Kit. Lana, still believing him to be a murderer, refuses. Oh Lana, don’t you know that only ugly people are guilty at Briarcliff?
Meanwhile in the asylum kitchen, Shelley comes on to Doc Arden, offering him sexual favors in exchange for a glimpse of sunlight. I’m aware Murphy and Falchuk are getting their social commentary on with this scene and this character, and obviously they have a good point about the double standard of sex for women and men, but they overshoot “horror” and land in farce, with Chloë Sevigny chewing the scenery like an angry beaver (to be clear, I intend that as a sexual pun AND vintage nickelodeon reference). Anyway the hipster haircut has clearly affected her brain, because she starts telling her life story, which involves a bass player and a three-way, as if it is the most interesting thing in the world.
Dr. Arden just blows her off and recommends she be kept away from ironic t-shirts and banjos.
Upstairs, we seem to be doing a little “fright of the week,” as the Monsignor, Dr. Thredson, and an “expert” attempt to exorcise a demon from the young man. They’ve taken the case off Sister Jude’s hands, since it is far too spooky for a mere woman to handle. But much like The Exorcist, to which this storyline makes a studied homage, it’s only scary if a talented makeup artist and someone talking in an unnaturally low voice does it for you.
Infinitely more terrifying is Doctor Arden inviting a lady of the night to his home. She’s ready to get down to business, but he would rather sip Cabernet and discuss Chopin. So that’s your thing, doctor? You want to have your cake and eat it too with the whole Madonna/whore dichotomy?
More like ChoPANIC, am I right?
Now that the possessed boy is getting personal, the Monsignor calls Sister Jude off the bench, which she is embarrassingly excited about. Once she’s alone with the boy, the devil inside goes right after her. “It drives you crazy, doesn’t it, to be the smartest person in the room with no real power, because of that smelly clam between your legs?”
Boy, shut your mouth. That is a delicacy.
He goes on to reveal details of her past as a lounge singer in the 40s, when she was quite the loose woman. Driving home drunk one night, she hit and presumably killed a young girl and became a nun in penance. The rest of the staff has decided they’ve had about enough of this kid spouting their darkest secrets, and sedate him. In doing so, they release more of his demonic power, which in turn magically opens the doors of all the patients’ rooms. Lana seizes the opportunity and runs off with Grace. When Kit tries to join them though, Lana feels morally bound to prevent his escape. I would sympathize with her desire to protect the world from what what she believes is a crazed killer, but just look at that face! Does he look like a murderer to you? Ok maybe last season, but he’s much less creepy as a brunette.
At last demon boy dies, and it seems that he passes his possession onto Mary Eunice, which has some pretty rich possibilities for, thus far, the show’s flattest character.
I really hope she gets to dish out some revenge on Dr, Arden who is now forcing the prostitute into a nun’s habit, where she looks a lot like Mary Eunice herself. Luckily, this is waaaaaay above her kinky threshold, and she takes a moment to look at his box of porn, to get some idea of what she’s in for. It would seem his taste runs towards the very violent which: shocker. And suddenly $200 doesn’t seem worth it anymore. She gets caught looking though, and Doctor Arden commands her to lie on the bed and “slowly, show me your mossy bank.” And somewhere, Eve Ensler‘s ears prick up, sensing the birth of a new vagina euphemism. I salute James Cromwell for making this as terrifying as possible, like grabbing his junk and everything, but good god is it scary. Just when it seems like the poor sex worker is doomed, she bites his arm, knees his balls, and runs off.
F–K THIS, I’M GOING BACK TO GRAD SCHOOL.
Having the presumed victim triumph and escape is a brave and unexpected choice in a horror show, but if it hadn’t gone down that way, I’m not sure I would have the heart to continue.
The next day, Sister Jude decides to reward Lana for narcing on Kit by including her in a little sadomasochism, which is sort of like when your vegan friends decide to “treat” you to a spelt flour birthday cake. She gets to pick which rod Grace and Lit will be beaten with. Kit intercedes though, and takes both beatings himself, which hopefully persuades Lana of his goodness. I really need Grace, Kit, and Lana on the same team. Ugh, Shelley, I guess you can come too, but stop humping everything like you’re ODing on Spanish Fly. Jesus.
See you next week.