Now that’s how to make an episode of “American Horror Story: Asylum.”
It’s already been a strong season (or installment, or whatever it should be called), but as we head into the home stretch it’s great to see the show kicking into first gear and delivering an hour as stylish, thrilling and surprising as “Spilt Milk.” Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and writer Brad Falchuck really outdid themselves with this one.
Last week’s culmination of the Sister Mary Eunice possession storyline was strong, but now that she and Dr. Arden have left us, “Asylum” was able to focus in on three core “couples” Lana and Thredson, Sister Jude and the Monsignor, and Kit and Grace.
First up, we got what seemed to be some serious advancements in the alien storyline. Grace gives Kit a pretty heady information download: “Time works differently up there,” she tells Kit accompanied by beautifully evocative and downright eerie imagery from her time on the spaceship. “They’re not like us, Kit. They’re not cruel.”
But when Kit asks if Grace saw Alma, the mood turns somber. “They make mistakes,” she tells him and implies that Alma died under the aliens’ care. Grace has good news too: “You’re Special Kit. Our baby is special. He’s going to change the way people think.”
It’s very weird, and more than a little suspect (we find out later just how suspect when Kit sees Alma — alive — at their house after he’s released from Briarcliff), but Kit is a stand-up guy so he asks Grace to marry him so they can raise their baby together (this is still the early 1960s after all). Their brief moment of happiness is shattered when Monsignor Howard arrives with social services to take the baby away.
Later on, Kit’s able to retrieve the baby and bribe the Monsignor into letting Grace and him disappear without a trace from Briarcliff. But he’s only able to do that because of Lana.
Lana’s story is the core of the episode, as she finally gets a series of well deserved victories after weeks of torture and abuse. Sister Jude was able to convince Mother Claudia about the evils of Briarcliff, and while Jude is doped up on medications she herself ordered for the inmates, Claudia arrives to rescue Lana.
“I want it pulled down and the Earth salted,” Mother Claudia tells Lana about Briarcliff and immediately wins Lana’s trust. After a suspenseful escape (with clever use of split screen that director Brian De Palma would approve of), Lana walks right by Thredson and out of Briarcliff for good.
But it doesn’t end there. When Thredson goes home, Lana is waiting for him in the shadows. She’s holding a gun on him and proudly declares she’s given the police the recording she and Kit made of Thredson’s confession. “I’m actually relieved,” he tells her menacingly. “Living with secrets is not healthy.”
And then in a bravura sequence that switches back and forth between Lana and Thredson in the past and their “son” Johnny Morgan and a prostitute in the present, we see two generations of insanity in action (and hear the happy hooker deliver the night’s most hilariously twisted line: “I’d either say that you have a mommy fixation or a calcium deficiency”). As Thredson gleefully describes repeatedly raping the corpse of Lana’s dead lover Wendy, Lana finally goes berserk herself and shoots Thredson dead. (Did he bait her into it? He certainly had it coming.)
“I was going to do anything to get that story,” Lana tells her friends later at Wendy’s grave site. I just didn’t realize how much it was going to cost.” For now, at least, it seems that Lana has come out on top. The press is having a field day with her sexual orientation, but Thredson is dead, she’s out of Briarcliff, Kit is free and she even decides to keep her baby (oops!) as a symbolic way of ending the bloodshed.
That just leaves poor Sister Jude. Although Lana has vowed to rescue her, she’ll have to get past the Monsignor, who really doesn’t want an embarrassment like Jude ever getting out of Briarcliff. “I would’ve done anything for you,” a bitterly disappointed Jude spits at him. She mocks him for being seduced by the devil inside Sister Mary Eunice and declares: “I am more sane now as a madwoman than I ever was as the head of Briarcliff!”
So the Monsignor has her locked away in solitary. By the time Lana has obtained a court order and demands to see and talk to Jude, it’s already too late. The Monsignor tells Lana that Jude is dead. She hung herself in solitary.
And while the body count in Briarcliff has been so high lately you almost believe him, it’s revealed that he is, in fact, lying. Jude is locked away, waiting to be set free.
There’s still work to be done. And only two episodes left to do it.