Friday, November 23, 2012

American Horror Story, Season 2, Episode 6: Origins of Monstrosity

 After a couple of weeks break we’re back in the present – with Bloody Face calling the police to tell them to go down to Briarcliff to see the presents he’s left – bodies suspended from the ceiling in a morbid, artful display, all wearing the Bloody Face mask. Yes, we keep pushing the creepy

Back in the past we have a new candidate for Briarcliff, Mrs. Reynolds and her troubled daughter, Jenny, who she thinks killed her friend and kept a lock of her hair as a trophy. Sister Jude doesn’t want to help – can’t help – because Briarcliff has no facilities for children. But the mother begs her to see her child and see if she were born evil.

Speaking of evil, Lana awakes from her nap, surrounded by pictures of Wendy, all peaceful – until reality kicks in and she realises the person cooking for her isn’t Wendy – it’s Oliver Bloody Face. Obligatory screaming follows and he points out the basement is sound proof. Lana asks where Wendy’s body is and Oliver gives her cooking tips for the perfect croquet monsieur (my tip – if you didn’t think he was dangerously unstable before, the fact he puts nutmeg on a ham and cheese toastie should make it extremely clear) and we learn that Oliver grew up in an orphanage that showed no affection or caring or, most importantly to him, touch.

Which leads to us learning how he craves a mother’s touch, his mother abandoning him when she was 33 (same age Lana is now). His cracing for skin caused him to do rather disturbing things to a corpse in medical school since the body was the same age as his mother when she abandoned him. But the corpse wasn’t good enough, the skin was cold and stiff (even when he removed it… oh ick ick and more ick). He expounds about his obsession with getting warm, living skin (not attached to the pesky rest of the woman) and how he skinned the Bloody Face victims. But he’s not going to do that any more, not now he has Lana – who he calls mommy. Yes, my heebies are jeebied – helped along by some very good acting.

Back at Briarcliff, Nazi hunter Sam Goodman calls Jude to tell her that Charlotte/Anne was right-  and Dr. Arden was Hans Groper, a Nazi doctor at Auschwitz. To confirm and prove it, he needs Arden’s fingerprint.  He puts down the phone to leave Jude to her task – only she’s surprised to find Jenny Reynolds – her mother has left her at Briarcliff.

Meanwhile the Monsignor (remember him?) is going to perform last rights on a patient in a hospital that most priests are avoiding because it’s so disturbing. The patient? Shelley, or what Arden left of her – he recognises her.

Time for a flashback to 1962 when Briarcliff starting. As we recall, before Briarcliff was an asylum it was a TB hospital. Father Howard (as Monsignor Howard was then) applied the Last Rites to the remaining, incurable TB patients who were left in the hospital before it was closing down – and while there was introduced to their big stash of cremated ashes from when the epidemic was at its worse– and to the TB wards head doctor -  Dr. Arden.  Even back then he was experimenting on people and he talks to Father Howard about getting human trials for his immune-booster research. He doesn’t have many volunteers but he thinks there are people whose lives “serve no purpose” that could be sacrificed for the greater good.

Back to the hospital with Shelley where the Monsignor strangles her with his rosary. This rather… perturbs him (perhaps finally coming face to face with one of those who “serves no purpose” he gave to Dr. Arden) and goes to Briarcliff and throws that rosary at Dr. Arden’s record player, calling Dr. Arden a monster. Dr. Arden calls him a hypocrite and repeats his insistence that the inmates were worthless human beings and that their sacrifice is worth it for what he has learned about tuberculosis and syphilis. We also get a flash of Spivey, who we haven’t seen for a while (who exposed himself to children in the playground. But only girls, “he had standards” ugh, really?) who peeped on Sister Demon Lettuce and earned himself a place on Arden’s table. Arden shows off the diseased and altered Spivey to the Monsignor. Arden justifies that producing human monstrosities is a necessity of evolution to survive a nuclear war (he doesn’t have to make sense, he’s an evil sadist). Monsignor thinks Arden should be locked up – but Arden points out they’re in it together and the Monsignor helped him. Monsignor hesitates to have all his secrets revealed if he exposes Arden.

Jenny Reynolds, meanwhile, is being looked after by Sister Mary Eunice (Demon Lettuce) who claims to be the devil and tells Jenny that having “authentic impulse” and not caring what other people want is a gift. She talks about her Wet Lettuce days when she tried to be a good girl and please everyone and how that made her a victim. She talks about Jude’s drinking and trashy red lingerie, how god doesn’t exist and was created to control people – and how Jenny needs to defend herself so she can be free.

Sister Jude, your choice of baby sitters is questionable. Monsignor goes to see her after capitulating to Dr. Arden and gives her her marching orders – she’s being sent to a school for wayward girls instead. Jude instantly blames Dr. Arden and Monsignor leaves. Sister Demon Lettuce goes to see Jude and sees her packing and asks what they will do without her. Jude is determined not to leave her in the hands of Arden and asks her to bring her the special cognac from the kitchen – and 2 very clean glasses.

Jude goes to see Arden and proposes a toast to his victory, he won and she’s sportsman enough to acknowledge it. He won’t drink without her so she pours herself a drink – and we focus on Arden’s fingerprint on the glass

Unfortunately for Jude, while she’s with Arden Sister Demon nun, playing in Jude’s red lingerie, takes a call from Sam Goodman, pretending to be Jude. Sister Demon Nun goes to see Sam. And when Jude goes to him with the fingerprint she finds him brutally sliced on the floor of the bathroom with a shard of mirror in his neck. He desperately tells her it was a nun – one of hers.

Sister Demon Lettuce tells all to Dr. Arden who is more than a little perturbed (and doesn’t like to be called by his real name). Arden has a complete rant, reveals his anti-semitism, tries to discredit the Nazi hunters, tries to claims to be a visionary, that the Catholic church was once in agreement, claims for self-pity and loneliness – all while Sister Demon Lettuce gives him an awesome, disinterested look before breaking his rant to say she’s on his side. Sister Demon Lettuce urges him to trust her – with his entire soul.

Little Jenny has had an adventure outside of Briarcliff! Her mother and siblings have all been horribly murdered by a knife that looks very much like the one Sister Demon Lettuce was using when she was telling her about defence. The police asked her who killed her family and Jenny tells exactly the same story she used when  describing how her friend was murdered – and adds her family’s hair to the little braid she’s making.

In Oliver’s murder house, Kit, in prison, calls Oliver and asks him to help – to explain what the tapes were and that they weren’t a confession. Kit calls him a liar which seems to hit one of Oliver’s angry triggers. During the phone call, Lana is busy sawing away at her chains with Oliver’s tools (we don’t want to know what that file is usually used for. No no, we do not).  Oliver storms down to the basement, ranting – and notices Lana’s escape attempt. He accuses her of abandoning him and puts on his Bloody Face mask and picks up a scalpel.

Oliver reveals he’s been watching Lana from before she went to Briarcliff and when she first planned to report on the murders. Back then she even said that the murderer was once some mother’s precious baby and she wanted to know what would turn him into a monster. Back to the present, Oliver took this as a sign she’d understand. She protests that she does – even has he starts to rip off her clothes.  Lana plays her Ace “I don’t want you to feel guilty, a mother’s love is unconditional . you never had that, everyone deserves that, even you…. Baby.” Oliver takes off the mask, crying and… nurses. No, really.

Time to return to the present where the bodies of the three teenagers pretending to be Bloody Face are lowered from their hoists by the police. They find Leo’s body and, later, Leo’s arm clutching a ringing phone. Answering it, the detective speaks to someone who claims he only killed the imposters. It’s then the police realise they’re missing someone – Teresa. Who is strapped to a table with Bloody Face lurking over her.

I have to praise, yet again, the truly astounding acting on this programme – and the cameraman for settling down this week. The rest.. disturbing and creepy in spades. And that’s all I got, really – lots of creepy, lots of disturbing, incredibly well acted.

But, after a season of managing to erase mentally ill people or turn them into background freakshows in an asylum, we now have the old trope of the psychotic serial killer raising it’s ugly head – coupled with “it’s all mummy’s fault!” She made the monster!