Friday, December 14, 2012

American Horror Story, Season 2, Episode 9: The Coathanger

It’s the present for once and we open with a man, Johnny, speaking to a hypnotherapist, Dr Gardner, to get her help to curb impulses. His impulses? He skinned a cat as a child, then escalated to killing animals which he points our are predictors for psychopaths (serial killers more accurately) and those thoughts are getting harder to ignore. She becomes ever more uncomfortable as he talks about his roots – finding his real father (he now lives in his real father’s house) and his urge to hurt women and skin them. We flash to him as Bloody Face – modern Bloody Face – trying to skin Teresa at Briarcliff, but he’s not nearly as skilled as his father, Threadson. And he wants to go to medical school to learn his father’s skills.

Back to the past where in Briarcliff, Sister Demon Lettuce is upbraiding nuns for entering her office without knocking (aww, she’s all grown up). Even Lana comments on her “Jude imitation.” And Sister Demon Lettuce reveals that Lana is pregnant – and comments on a “drano margarita” to induce an abortion and calls her rape a lie (possibly because they have Threadson captured, Lana pretends she hallucinated).

Yes, Lana is pregnant. Who didn’t see this coming?

Lana declares that she can’t have this baby, she doesn’t want the baby but Sister Demon Lettuce says she can and will (and it’s an insane asylum, people hump like bunnies and they’ve had unwed mothers before… she has a way with words you have to admit) and the babies are taken to St Ursula’s home for lost children. Lana says she’s worse than Jude and Demon Lettuce threatens to restrain her.

Jude wakes up tied to a bed with the Monsignor standing over her telling her she’s become unhinged and paranoid. We see the process used to frame her with the Monsignor, Arden, Demon Lettuce and Leigh (yes, he survived) all conspiring against her to frame her for the death of Frank and accuse her of kidnapping and attacking Leigh. Even the Mother Superior testifies that Jude thought Sister Demon Lettuce was possessed by the devil. The magistrate ruled that Jude would spend the rest of her days in Briarcliff and she is stripped of her clerical status.

Mosignor and Demon Lettuce pack up Jude’s things – including her red camisole. And Demon lettuce reveals she knows all about Monsignor’s extreme ambition to become pope and offers her own service to the Monsignor to help him save souls.

Jude finds the nuns are no kinder to her than any other inmate - perhaps even harsher since she used to be the harsh taskmistress. Monsignor arrives with a visitor for her – Leigh. Oh I bet she’s thrilled. He has something to say which Monsignor thinks will help. He tells her he forgives her.

Jude is not amused and flashbacks to 1963 when they restrained Frank to his bed after he raped another nun (enough with the damn rape! And no, “Sister Chastity” being the victim is not ironic or funny or edgy, damn it). Leigh claims she has to forgive him, she says she doesn’t, she’s not a priest and he’s not a penitent. Back tied to her bed, Jude is not impressed.

Lana smuggles a wire coathanger to her room which she unfolds and goes to see Kit who is busy syphoning off his drip so he’s less loopy. Lana wants to kill Threadson again, but Kit still needs his confession.  Lana has an idea of how to make that happen.

Time to go see Threadson and show him her pregnancy results (“the ultimate cosmic joke”). He begs her not to give the baby up for adoption – since he himself was a child of the system. Lana holds up her wire coathanger – her “creative” abortion since she’s stuck there. Threadson starts begging and promising to change (imagine how little Lana believes that). She tells him how much she doesn’t believe him then begins asking about his victims, each one and why he chose them, getting confessions from him. All recorded by Kit. She does tell him that she was pregnant though – but she’d already given herself an abortion with the coathanger.  He calls her a monster for killing “an innocent child”, Lana’s not having it and tells him she’s going to get a knife from the bakery and slit his throat.

Arden, after his close encounter of the noisy kind, returns to the death chute to try and find Grace’s disappearing body and finds… footprints. If feet were odd and two toed. Actually they look vaguely like dinosaur footprints from Jurassic Park – NB: American Horror Story this is NOT A SUGGESTION! Aliens and demons are quite enough thank you.

Kit, going to hide the tape recorder, runs into Arden who insists he join the doctor in his office for some 18 year old single malt. Yes, even Kit, not the brightest spark, think this is a little unusual. Why? Because he’s seen the aliens and even taken a cast of their odd two toed footprints. Arden has a hypothesis – the aliens took Alma, Kit’s wife, after they had sex and took Grace after she had sex with Kit as well; they’re experimenting Arden guesses Eugenics (course he does). He has a great plan to bring the aliens back: bring Kit to the brink of death and the aliens will swoop in to the rescuetheir prime subject. And he’d prefer Kit to co-operate. For the sake of seeing Alma again, Kit agrees

Let it be noted that when a Nazi Eugenicist doctor suggests he play experimental medical death games with you in order to summon eugenicist aliens the correct answer should be “NO!” If you needed any further proof of Kit’s rather… limited intellectual capacity, this is it.

Leigh continues to play the repentance card to the Monsignor who falls for it. Well, this is the man who believed Arden was just a good doctor, that Sister Demon Lettuce is good and pure and that Sister Jude was qualified to run an asylum – let’s just say he has a “trusting” nature. Of course he has ambition and he thinks pushing Leigh as someone he saved will earn him kudos. He baptises Leigh – getting into the giant holy paddling pool, and Leigh then holds his head under the water.

Lana tries to smuggle her knife but is caught in the process and the orderly takes it off her. When she returns to her cell, she takes the coathanger she still has and practices stabbing her pillow with it. It seems quite effective – time for her to go on a visit to Threadson.

But he’s gone… instead returning to her cell she finds Sister Demon Lettuce. She touches Lana’s belly and tells her that the baby is a boy and still alive.

To the present! Where a new patient arrives to see hypnotherapist Dr. Gardener, finds the room in disarray, Dr. Gardener dead and covered in blood – and modern Bloody Face alive and also covered in blood.

Back to the past, Briarcliff and that damn Dominique playing! Dear gods I thought we were saved from the scourge of the singing nun?! And Jude joins the common room – to the shock of everyone there. And she sits down opposite Lana – who offers sympathy but Jude rejects it since she did exactly the same thing to Lana. She does take a cigarette though and apologises to Lana for what she did to her, it was wrong, immoral and criminal. And she will make it up by getting her out. Lana doesn’t trust her – she doesn’t trust anyone or anything (can’t say I blame her). Jude intends to earn Lana’s trust – she gets up and shatters the Dominique record.

And, in one beautiful moment, I became irrevocably Team Jude. Lana speaks for us all when she says “Hot Damn.”

Time for Kit to go under Dr. Arden’s care with a method of bringing him close to death and then, at the last minute bring him back – with drugs and science (and irritation over Kit praying). Her administers the injection and Kit begins to die. When he stops struggling, Arden checks his pulse – and the lights flicker. He opens to the door to searing bright alien light and loud noises. He follows them to his isolation cell

And finds… Pepper. Who talks normally and tells him that the baby is full term, it won’t be long. Behind Pepper is Grace – naked, alive and heavily pregnant. Pepper tells Arden Grace’ll need a room and Pepper will look after her.

Meanwhile, in the chapel, Monsignor is alive! But he’s crucified (literally – no really, nailed half naked to a cross. Even has holy backlighting) and in comes Scathach, the angel of death.

And with that I throw up my hands because I have no clue what is going on

I don’t like Lana’s words “I always wanted to know what it’s like in the mind of a killer, now I know.” I’d prefer “soon I will know” as it stands, the implication is her abortion made her a killer. I would be astonished and surprised that an abortion was shown on TV if it hadn’t so clearly failed.

So after being dehumanised and made a joke, Pepper is now an alien? The problem American Horror Story has is that it constantly casts the actually mentally ill inmates of Briarcliff as dangerous, evil or comic relief, usually without full names or personhood.

This is the extent of my commentary because my brain is insisting that I need much much more booze to understand this.And really, using the "aliens" and "angels" tags at the same time is... unexpected