'Welcome to Briarcliff,' where nutbags and nunsense, monsters and mad men abound. Also: Aliens. Seriously!  

By Jeff Jensen
Updated October 18, 2012 at 03:02 PM EDT
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American Horror Story
Credit: Michael Yarish/FX

The time is now, and the asylum is lifeless. Or so it seems. And certainly not for long.

Meet Leo and Teresa, videogenic twentysomethings about to pay the horror movie price for being hot, horny, and way too geeky-interested in the dark shadows of history. She’s a “horror freak.” He just wants to make her happy. They are newlyweds on a “Haunted Honeymoon” sex romp. The 12 spookiest spots in America. At each stop: Kinky consummation of the marital compact. We can imagine their previous visitations. Maybe some Bang-bang-bang at The Winchester Mystery House? Maybe some Rubber Man randyness at Murder House? Leo and Teresa – children of the Rocky Horror liberation, ironic and uninhibited and raised on the bonanza of hardcore-creepy picture shows that followed the collapse of The Hayes Code and the waning influence of prudish watchdogs like The National Legion of Decency. They are everything that Brad & Janet weren’t when those newly engaged buttoned-up squares stumbled upon Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s castle, and they are everything that Brad & Janet became after their Time Warp/Medusa Transducer rehabilitation/reconditioning, plus a little bit more. Maybe too much more. In the words of another American horror story: “Perhaps they need a good talking to.” Perhaps now they needed to be “corrrected.”

If so, they’ve come to the right place for it

Welcome to Briarcliff Manor Sanitarium. Once a Catholic mad house, now the final destination on the Haunted Honeymoon tour, located in rural Massachusetts. (The titular connection to the Briarcliff Manor in the state of New York — where one can find a certain road of American horror legend called Sleepy Hollow — must be just complete and total coincidence.) The overgrown grounds are littered with the debris and detritus of this marooned monument. A twiggy crucifix dangling from a branch like a soul catcher. A baby doll orphaned in the brambles. A figurine of a nun languishing in the mud. The Asylum itself is condemned and dilapidated, boarded-up and graffiti-splashed. There is a NO TRESPASSING sign, visible and legible. But The Asylum beckons. So do hormones. Into the dead space, The Lovers enter.

Leo is a photographer. He has a Hermes edition Leica M-7 camera. It is retro cool and rare and retails for $14,000. Clearly, Leo must be making crazy pop star/reality TV money. He snaps photos of his bride as she reads data off her phone:

Built in 1908, Briarcliff Manor was the largest tuberculosis ward on the East Coast. 46,000 people died here. They shuttled the bodies out through an underground tunnel called the death chute.

“We should totally do it in the death chute,” Theresa teases.

Leo clicks and clicks and clicks his Leica: “Ohmygod, you are so demented.” He wants her. Now. On the stairwell. She wants more exploring, more fearsome foreplay. More Wiki-Wiki:

The Catholic Church bought this place in ‘62 and turned it into a sanitarium for the criminally insane. Legend has it once you were committed, you never got out.

They trudge through the women’s ward. They ogle the tagging: A pentagram in spray paint; a crimson homage to The Asylum’s most infamous inmate, a serial killer named Bloody Face; blocky letters in lipstick red that spell FUN!

They find the shock therapy room. Teresa’s eyes go buggy. She lies on the board, asks to be restrained. Leo applies the electrodes. Teresa pretends to seize, play-acting a scene she’s seen who knows how many times in who knows how many cuckoo-creepy flicks. It’s all so stimulating. She needs to be treated for her “morbiderotomania,” and he has just the right “injection” for her. Translation: Daphne finally wants to get freaky with her Fred. Clothes are doffed. The photographer pushes in. They start to –

Stop.

Did you hear that?

Teresa did. Leo didn’t. She’s bothered. He’s bothered by her bother. Can’t we just freakin’ do it already?!? No, she says, not until after they Scooby the sitch.

Clothes are donned. They scurry down a hallway, tracking the creak to a locked door with a food hatch in the center. Leo sticks his hand through the portal – and pretends someone or something on the other side has grabbed him. Teresa loses it. Leo laughs. Teresa punches him – then dares him to do it again, this time rolling video using her smart phone. Leo balks. She insults his manhood, then rouses him to action by offering to make it worth his while. She drops to her knees, unzips his zipper…

Leo takes her phone.

He pushes his hand into the darkness of the cell…

And the screen lights up with something terrible. Something that grabs Leo’s hand. For real. Something that pulls on Leo’s hand. For real. Something that yanks and rips Leo’s arm out of its socket. For real.

Zoinks!

The horror freak screams.

The Asylum has awakened.

The rocky horror mystery machine has been activated.

FUN!

Welcome to Briarcliff.

NEXT: Close Encounters of the Crazy Kind

The history of The Asylum is the history of human beings putting their faith in things unseen to frame the visible, to bring order and meaning to a chaotic and cruel world, some more reasonable than others, and then fighting with each other, often unreasonably, over which unseen thing is “crazy” and which one is “real.” Microbes and sin. God and gravity. Even little green men.

October, 1964. John F. Kennedy is dead, The Beatles have invaded, Vietnam is about to go next level. LBJ has just signed The Civil Rights Act outlawing discrimination and abolishing segregation… but it takes more to rehabilitate the corrupt character of a culture. If only the process of refining change was as easy-peasy as the example presented by the year’s biggest film, released on Oct. 21, 1964: My Fair Lady. Now wouldn’t that be loverly?

Kit Walker is a young man making a scrappy living pumping gas in Nowheresville, Massachusetts. Population: Racist. We meet him as he’s taking guff from a cranky customer complaining about the station’s prices — 30 cents a gallon — and asking for a coloring book for his kid, the one shooting a toy gun at Kit, who is playing back, acting like a monster. The motorist tosses a 10 spot at Kit’s feet and drives away. “A—hole.” Still, Kit can’t be brought low. It’s a closing time at Woodall Gasoline, and he’s righteously in love. He cranks up The Drifters. He cuts loose joyously: There goes my baby/Moving on down the line/Wonder where, wonder where, wondering where/She is bound…

Soon, Kit Walker will be wondering the same thing.

He’s putting away the cash box when he hears a DING! DING! A new customer? No. No’s one there. Then the lights go out. Now Kit’s scared. He makes a beeline for the cabinet where he keeps the gun when BOO! It’s only his “friend” Billy and two other pals. They tell him they want to borrow the gun to pull prank on some guy’s sister. Kit — quite responsible, so much more mature than his former chums — says absolutely not. Billy feels disappointed, perhaps judged. And then he gets vaguely sinister. He asks about Kit’s income. He inquires about “the maid” that Kit is somehow able to afford. He grabs a candy bar, strips the wrapper, and takes a loud crunchy bite while staring at Kit with psycho eyes. “Mmmm,” he murmurs salaciously. “Chocolate.”

Kit gulps. Billy knows.

Kit goes home and finds the aforementioned “maid” setting the table. But Alma Walker is not a maid at all. She is Kit’s wife. She is also black, and he is white, and the newlyweds have not told a single soul about their union, not even their families, because this is 1964, and interracial marriage is still three years away from becoming legal in all 50 states.

Kit puts on his wedding ring – the one he leaves in a dish by the door whenever he leaves the house. It’s a ritual he hates. “Let’s do it, babe,” he says. “Let’s tell everyone.”

“The world will change one day,” Alma says.

“The world is wrong,” Kit replies.

“We need to keep it a secret.”

“That makes me feel like I can’t protect my own family.”

They kiss. The argument is tabled, and so is dinner. After they make love, Alma returns to the kitchen, and Kit smokes in bed, listening to “A Summer Song” by Chad and Jeremy.

They say that all good things must end/Someday…

The radio crackles weirdly. Kit bangs on it. Crackle gone.

Then a strobe of lights – car headlights? – strafes the bedroom window. Unwanted visitors. Kit thinks: Billy. He swears and dresses and arms himself with a shotgun and orders Alma to stay in the kitchen. He goes into the yard. He calls out to the shadows, tells Billy to stop playing games —

Hot white light blazes from the sky, accompanied by a crackle of electricity. He hears Alma scream. Kit runs inside. Alma is gone. Furniture and tables are overturned. A sustained sonic blast rocks Kit’s head. He drops the rifle, covers his ears, hits the floor screaming. The windows explode, glass flies… and then the sound stops. Kit catches his breath… and then gets sucked to the ceiling as if drawn by a tractor beam, and then rudely dropped. Hard. He rolls onto his back –

And now’s he’s naked and laying in a limitless otherworldly expanse of white space. He tries to sit up – and a long spindly alien finger flicks him back down.

Yes, we said aliens.

And Kit Walker screams some more.

And to think he hasn’t even met Sister Jude yet.

NEXT: Into The Hellhole

The Asylum, circa 1964. Metaphor for mid-century America, where culture war has begun to rage between new and old views on human nature and reality itself. Briarcliff Manor remains a bastion of the old, home to inmates who embody ideas considered perverse, insane or downright demonic by a society where moral standards have been shaped by a Catholic-Christian worldview. Masturbation. Homosexuality. The very notion of a sexually active woman. Interracial romance. Many things have changed since the sixties, thanks, in part, to the work and activism of renegades and reformers working in the realms of art, science, social justice and journalism. But other things haven’t changed as much, if at all.

Meet Lana Winters, a struggling journalist looking to leap from scribbling frivolous stories to doing serious journalism for national glossies like Life or Look. (Besides, she isn’t qualified to pen the local paper’s cooking column — she’s terrible in the kitchen.) Lana arrives at Briarcliff Manor Sanitarium looking to do a story about The Asylum’s well-regarded bakery, run by the institution’s commanding habit-in-chief, Sister Jude. Or so she claims. This plucky young woman hides at least a couple secrets, including the love that dares not speak its name. Especially in 1964. She makes a home with her “roommate,” a science teacher named Wendy, who fears losing her job and the good work of shaping young minds should parents discover she’s a lesbian. (She notes it’s hard enough just getting them to have an open mind about Evolution.) She adores Lana, even if she won’t kiss her unless the shades are pulled, and even if she hates her cooking. Lana feels that commitment, draws strength from it. “Anything I can do in life,” she says, “I can do because you love me.”

Soon, that belief will be tested.

The Asylum is in its prime. The lawn is verdant, the gardens blooming. The façade of the building its strong and unblemished, regal as a castle. (Curious: Briarcliff has three towers, evenly spaced, mirroring the three prongs on the crown logo of Woodall Gasoline.) Lana primps her hair and strolls toward the entrance in her conservative brown heels. Before she gets to the door she is accosted by a woman afflicted with what appears to be Virchow-Seckel syndrome. She’s part Koo Koo the Bird Girl, part Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead. “Play with me!” she begs, handing Lana a flower. “Play with me!” (FOREVER. AND EVER. AND EVER…) Lana takes it – and pricks her finger on the thorn. And we remember that once upon a time, a beautiful princess fell into an epic sleep thanks to the thorny curse of a wicked old witch…

Sister Mary Eunice arrives on the scene and shoos away Play With Me Girl. Lana deems her “harmless.” The nun begs to differ. “She drowned her sister’s baby and sliced his ears off.”

Sister Mary leads Lana inside The Asylum and up a spiral of stairs. “Sister Jude calls this her ‘stairway to heaven,’” Sister Mary boasts. Besides a certain Led Zeppelin song still seven years away from rocking the planet, “stairway to heaven” evokes the Biblical story of Jacob’s Ladder, and in general, the idea that the spiritual journey to regain the golden ratio of Edenesque pre-Fall perfection — sanctification — is laborious but progressive, rung-by-rung upward climb. But the look on Lana’s face, as she gazes around at suffering patients and listens to their cries, suggests that she doesn’t find the environs too heavenly, or the prospect of cultivating redemption here too promising.

The long and winding ascension into the Briarcliff rafters brings Lana to the austere offices of an imperious, control-freak woman christened with the name of the patron saint of lost causes. We meet Sister Jude as she’s shearing the dirty blonde locks of an inmate named Shelley — punishment for breaking Asylum rules. We aren’t told her crime, but we do quickly learn that Shelley has been diagnosed as a “wood nymph” – errr, nymphomaniac. “Take her to the common room so the others can see her newfound immaculacy,” Sister Jude instructs Sister Mary, tone dripping with condescension… and jealousy? Shelley remains defiant despite her diminished glamour. “You think I’m full of shame and regret for what I’ve done now, Sister? You can shave me bald as a cue ball and I’ll still be the hottest tamale in this joint!” Shelley certainly has a strong sense of self; whether she’s truly “sick” remains to be seen.

Sister Jude certainly has her doubts. She indulges Lana’s curious off-topic inquiry about the nature of Shelley’s condition by making it very clear that she considers the whole notion of “mental illness” to be theologically unsound. “Nonsense from the charlatans,” Sister Jude seethes. “That woman is a victim of her own lust. There is no other name for it. Mental illness is the fashionable explanation for sin.”

NEXT: Hey, Jude! Don’t make Lana Turner all bad!

A curious exchange occurs during the formal introductions between interviewer and subject. Sister Jude takes note of the writer’s name. Lana. Like Lana Turner. “There’s a train wreck of a soul,” snarks Sister Jude. “Jennifer Jones, now that’s a true lady. You’ve seen Song of Bernadette?” “A classic,” Lana replies, although it’s hard to know if she’s sincere…

Just as it was hard to know if these lines were fun non-sequiters or encrypted with meaning. Lana Turner: We may assume that the nun’s low opinion of the Hollywood icon has something to do with her proverbial Shelleyishness. Turner — born Julia Jean Turner; “The Sweater Girl,” famous for the myth of her discovery; a two time Oscar nominee (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Peyton Place), seven-time divorcee — was as infamous for her scandalous sex life as she was for her hot tomale femme fatale screen persona. In 1959, Turner’s daughter, Cheryl Crane, murdered her Lana’s lover, the mobster Johnny Stampanato, by stabbing him to death. Turner leveraged the infamy to score one of her biggest hits, Imitation of Life, yet her career petered out quickly afterward. Jennifer Jones/The Song of Bernadette: So many ironies worth noting here, beginning with calling Jennifer Jones a “true lady.” She was born Phyllis Lee Isley. Movie mogul and future husband David O. Selznick remade her into Jennifer Jones after she failed to become a star using her real name. Born again, Hollywood style, Jones won the Oscar for Best Actress in 1944 for The Song of Bernadette. Adapted from a novel that was inspired by historical events, the movie (according to Wikipedia) tells the story of a young woman (Jones) who frequents a cave – dumping ground for a hospital’s hazardous waste – and begins having visions of a woman known as “The Lady” (she calls herself “The Immaculate Conception,” aka The Virgin Mary) and becomes convinced that the water flowing from the (contaminated?) cave has healing properties. Bernadette is doubted, then vindicated. She becomes a nun, then dies of tuberculosis. Jones other films included Beat The Devil and Love Is A Many Splendored Thing. In her later years, following some personal tragedies (including a suicide attempt — something she also had in common with Turner), Jones became a noted activist for … mental health causes.

Lana gets Sister Jude talking about the bakery, which gets Sister Jude talking about the visionary mogul running her life, Monsignor Timothy Howard. When the Catholic Church took possession of Briarcliff two years ago, the joint was “a hellhole.” But a great work is underway, Sister Jude says, one that will rehab this proverbial dump site of toxic humanity into a veritable spring of holy healing, affirming anew the relevancy of The Church to an increasingly unbelieving, science-smitten world. “[The Monsignor] believes the tonic for a diseased minds lies in the three Ps: productivity, prayer, and purification,” raves the sister. “Oh, we have such dreams for this place!”

At that moment, Sister Mary blows in like an unwanted spirit and tries to discretely inform Sister Jude that “the bad man” has arrived. The scoop-seeking snake… er, journalist in their midst pounces, revealing her true agenda. She isn’t there to write a story about the bakery. She’s there to be at the right place and the right time to score an exclusive interview with the monster that has captured the imaginations and rattled the nerves of the community – a monster named Bloody Face. Preys on women. Decapitates their heads, wears their flesh for a mask. Lana wants just three minutes with him, and she appeals to something like the public interest to convince Sister Jude that granting the interview would be the right thing to do…

Sister Jude ain’t buying it. Just like she wouldn’t buy any recapper’s claim that the reason that we watch American Horror Story is for the meaningful themes, sly allegory, or insight into human or national character. No: We’re here for the electroshock jolt of ripped arms and kinky sex. We’re here out of filthy prurient interest. Or just Jessica Lange.

And so Sister Jude gets into Lana’s face/looks into the camera, bores deeply into her/our soul, and points an accusing finger at her/us. “I see you for exactly who you are.”

(Yep. She’s talking to you, Horror Freak.)

NEXT: Live from the mothership, it’s… Bloody Face?!

So no, Lana ain’t getting three minutes alone with the archetype of every single outrageously sadistic serial killer that will soon flood the popular culture in the post-Ed Gein/Psycho era, from Leatherface to Hannibal Lecter. “You’re out of your depth, Miss Lana-Banana,” Sister Jude spits.

But she does throw Lana a meager bone by allowing her to join the entire Briarcliff staff as they gather at the door to greet the fiend accused of being Bloody Face. Lana is primed to scribble notes, but she can’t seem to move her pen as she beholds the alleged incarnation of true evil:

It’s Kit Walker.

We bear witness to his institutionalization. He is stripped, power washed, powdered with stinging disinfectant. He is incarcerated and bound. And then the worst of all: Sister Jude. She informs the alleged mass murderer that he’s been remanded to her care for “observation” and “storage” until his trial, provided the he’s deemed him mentally fit for one. But Sister Jude wants something more from Kit Walker. She aims to make him repent to “the only judge that matters, almighty God.”

But Kit is no believer. He can’t embrace any God that would allow him and his beloved to be abducted, probed, worse. “They weren’t human,” he says. “They were monsters.” Sister Jude ain’t buying his bulls—t little green men blame-shifting. “All monsters are human,” she says. “You’re a monster.”

Of course, so is she, and she proves it with some monstrous offensiveness. “I wonder: Did her dark meat slide off the bone any easier than the other victims?” She means Kit’s secret wife, his beloved Alma; it seems she, too, was butchered by Bloody Face.

Kit spits in her face. Sister Jude canes his ass bloody.

Kit meets the other inmates in The Asylum during a respite in the Common Room, where, by Sister Jude’s orders, the 1963 novelty hit “Dominique” by Belgium’s “Singing Nun,” must be played, over and over and over. Koo Koo Bird Heather. Shelley the Nympho, who offers herself to him whichever way he likes, French or Greek. “Checkers” Willy. And Seemingly Sane Grace, who allegedly chopped up her family, and who warns Kit to not do what he wants to do, which is to turn that damn music off. She broke that rule once, among others. She tells him it isn’t worth it. (Kit — the budding Randle P. McMurphy to Sister Jude’s Nurse Ratched — does it anyway.) Later, Grace will try to help Kit again by visiting him in the night with food, smokes, and more advice. Why? Because: “What you put out in the world comes back to you.” This, from a woman named Grace.

And then there’s Spivey, a spunky mid-century he-man with a slick Don Draper haircut, who decides to take the measure of his manliness by challenging Bloody Face to fisticuffs. Sister Jude intervenes, puts the needle back on the record, then motions the orderlies to administer Kit’s punishment. The first baton blow goes right to Kit’s head. If he wasn’t bloody face before, he is now…

And even more so after meeting the acquaintance of Briarcliff’s other major power player, a man who happens to share Kit’s conviction that Sister Jude is a nothing but a brutal backwards-thinking meanie.. but also happens to share Sister Jude’s view that Kit is a whole lotta wrong that needs to be put right. Meet Dr. Arthur Arden, The Asylum’s newly installed chief physician. He’s also a veritable Dr. Frankenstein. A former Nazi scientist, too? We were given to wonder. He is, at present, the man of science counterpoint to Jude’s woman of faith, yet he is equally warped, the avatar of dehumanizing, reason-based modernism. In his short time at Briarcliff, four patients have died in his case, including “Checkers” Willy, whose passing leaves both Sister Mary and Sister Jude distraught — a rare flash of genuine humanity from the latter. When she demands answers, Dr. Arden shows her a pot of beautifully Hulked-out plants. “This particular strain of alstroemeria has never existed before,” he says. “It was created by bombarding the plant with gamma rays. It is an affirmation of the power of science over nature.” Sister Jude — clearly threatened — pretends to be unimpressed, and continues to press Arden for explanations. What did you do to Willy and the others? Is it just coincidence that all four of them happened to have no family, who have no one who will miss them or grieve them? Where are the bodies? Her unspoken accusation: He was experimenting on them. In a fleeting cutaway, we see a proof: A bowl of bloody chopped-up flesh — and some off-screen carnivore gobbling it up.

“I’ve dealt with far bigger monsters than you,” says Sister Jude. “Let me give you fair warning: I always win against the patriarchal male.” Arden’s ironic kiss-off: “Bully for you.”

NEXT: Date Night With Monsignor Timothy

Gravely concerned about the direction in which The Asylum is headed, Sister Jude decides to express herself to Briarcliff’s major domo, Monsignor Timothy, another patriarchal male capable of getting her hot under the habit, albeit in a different kind of way. We see her prepare a succulent meal of Coq Au Vin. We see her don a red negligee, then anoint herself with perfume in such a way that seems to suggest that Sister Jude doesn’t always have mastery over her domain. We see her sit with him and serve him and watch him move that mouth as he gobbles up her saucy chicken —

FOCUS, SISTER!

“When you put me in charge here,” she says, “I thought your faith in me was based on our mutually shared vision of madness as a spiritual crisis, an absence of god.”

Munchmunchchickenmunch. “That remains true.” Munchmunchmunch.

“I want you to know that wherever you found that man, he is not a man of god.”

Monsignor Timothy puts down his fork and issues a mild rebuke. Dr. Arden? He was approved by The Church, patriarchal males “better equipped to judge his godliness than you.” He asks her to open her mind to a different way of regarding the science that she believes is threatening their worldview. “It was God who put the idea into the doctor’s head to create the antibiotic that cured tuberculosis,” he says. “These are amazing times, if you just look at it in another light.” He then grabs her hands, strokes her flesh with his fine fingers, and sketches his vision of their shared future. “Here’s what I want,” he says. “I want this institution to become a place of such promise and renown that we are asked to become Cardinal of New York.”

We?”

“Wherever I go, you go. You’re my right hand,” he says. “You will become Mother Superior, overseeing thousands of nuns who will call you Reverend Mother. And then, with God and you on my side, I see no reason why I couldn’t ascend to the office of first Anglo-American pope. You would enjoy Rome, wouldn’t you sister?”

Oh, would she. Sister Jude is utterly seduced by the Monsignor’s proposal of death-do-them-part power and glory, and she loses it. She removes her habit, shake out her hair, removes her robe to reveal her sexy crimson underclothes, then straddles him and strokes his face —

She snaps out of it. Just a dreamy hot flash. Monsignor Timothy resumes his dinner, munchmunchchickenmunch. “I need you to be a team player,” he says. “The doctor needs to have full oversight of his domain. You look after yours.”

So to speak.

Sister Jude clears her throat, but is incapable of saying one thing more. Seduced. Neutralized. Oh, Monsignor! Thy kingdom come, indeed!

And with that, Dr. Arden goes to work.

The madhouse physician takes Kit from his cell and wheels him into his laboratory, where the shelves are filled with jars of brains extracted from the skulls of Briarcliff’s deceased unfortunates. He exults in his power, and relishes the prospect of ideological victory over the Sisters and their “fairy tale” perspectives on life and lunacy. “This is my time now. The time of science,” gloats Dr. Arden, who makes a passing yet conspicuous reference to one “Brother Abelard,” whom he claims was castrated for his belief in reason…

Although this is not quite true. Peter Abelard (1079-1142) was a philosopher and theologian who was actually castrated for the shabby way he handled an illicit romance with a brainy chick named Heloise, a prominent clergyman’s niece. Yet Abelard’s proto-Enlightenment theological work was indeed deemed controversial, even heretical, like his “moral theory of atonement” (souls are redeemed not by Christ’s triumph over death but by living lives of love inspired by Christ’s sacrificial grace; what you put out in the world comes back to you), and his skeptical critique of the doctrine of original sin as a supernatural stain, passed down from Adam and Eve…

A critique which Dr. Arden is intent to prove in his own unique way by experimenting on The Man Who Would Be Bloody Face. His ambition: To study Kit’s “cute blond melon,” which he believes contains an egg more spoiled than 10 of the brains on his shelf combined, and crack the secrets of the darkness that dwells within the human psyche. “The devil doesn’t reside in hell,” he tells Kit. “He resides here, in the frontal gyrus in the occipital lobes.” The frontal gyrus deals with go/no go tasks and risk aversion; the occipital lobes contain most of our visual cortex. The devil, then, resides in the proverbial theater of the mind. Is American Horror Story: Asylum implying that those who lack mastery over the images they put in their heads are at risk of being corrupted by them? In the words of the Sunday School song: Be careful little eyes what you see. Or, to quote a certain British Horror Story: “Viddy well, little brother. Viddy well.”

NEXT: It Gets Worse.

Dr. Arden adorns Kit’s head with a trio of bulbous jewel-colored electrodes. He pries open the unlucky lad’s peepers with specula — and we remember Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, and how Malcolm McDowell’s Alex DeLarge was converted from sociopath to obedient citizen via high tech cultural reconditioning/aversion therapy, i.e. “The Lodivico Technique.” (Instead of gamma ray bombardment to create a new strain of improved life form, horror-show bombardment — plus nauseating drugs.)

As Arden messes with him, Kit has alien abduction PST, flashing on (or escaping into?) a memory (or a fantasy?) of an E.T. probing him up the butt with one of its insectoid pincers. Ooooouuuch. Arden notices something bulging under the skin on the side of Kit’s neck. He cuts, and he extracts… a black microchip, which then sprouts six little legs and skittles away like a bug. Where to? What does it all mean? Wither Kit’s fate, as well as the future direction of Asylum’s subtextual commentary on media influence in the digital age? To be continued…

But we’re not done. As Arden executes one kind of operation, Lana is launching another. She’s determined to get her three minutes with Kit and get to the bottom of the many murky mysteries she beheld during her fraught time with Sister Jude earlier that day. She just needs to find a way back into Briarcliff..

And she finds it. While lurking around The Asylum in the dead of the night, she crosses paths with frazzled Sister Mary, fresh from running a cryptic creepy errand for Dr. Arden: feeding strange beasts who haunts the woods with… Chopped Willy? Slabs of flesh sliced from Arden’s other unfortunate patients? What are these beasts? Have Dr. Moreau’s hybrids migrated to the mainland? Sister Mary is most perturbed to be seen by Scoops McWinters, but then forgets all about the threat of exposure when they hear a sickening hungry howl. Sister Mary hustles Lana to the only safe place she knows — inside the asylum, specifically a subterranean tunnel (The Death Chute?), one that Sister Mary is determined to keep hidden from Sister Jude, along with the secret services she performs for the mad doctor. (Sister Mary playing Arden and Jude against each other? Glomming onto both, so she can survive their inevitable clash? Pursuing her own agenda? No, this sister ain’t “stupid” at all.)

Recognizing the opportunity for leverage, Lana offers to keep her mouth shut… as long Sister Mary takes her to see Kit. Sister Mary has no choice. She takes the reporter to the dormitory, but she runs off after suffering the indignity of getting Miggs-splattered by Spunky Spivey, that jerk with the Don Draper haircut. Alone, Lana finds Shelley servicing one of the orderlies, and manages to shoo him away by squeezing him the way she squeezed Sister Mary, by promising not to expose him. She ducks for cover in one of the cells when Sister Jude strolls through on her rounds, then pushes deeper into Briarcliff, and finds a certain locked door with certain food hatch in the center. She bends down to open the portal and peek inside — and a hand shoots out, grabs her by the hair, and knocks her out.

And in this way, the reporter who wanted the ultimate insider’s look at Briarcliff gets her wish, but not the Life-in-Bedlam way she was hoping for. Sister Jude — hellbent on keeping Briarcliff’s secrets secret (even though she herself doesn’t know all of them, including the existence and nature of The Thing Behind The Door) — decides to add Lana to the Briarcliff rolls. She even coerces Wendy to remand Lana into her care by ripping a page out of The Children’s Hour and threatening to expose the schoolteacher’s sexuality. Nasty. We left Lana strapped to a bed, locked in a cell, sweating the prospect of cruel treatments designed to straighten her out. “We both know what that so-called ‘monster in the closet’ really is, don’t you, Miss Winters?” teases Sister Jude. “We’re going to slay that monster together, you and I.”

Wicked Witch 1, Sleeping Beauty 0.

Legend has it once you were committed, you never got out.

And Lana screams.

+++

Time Warp again: The Present.

Teresa has cinched Leo’s bloody stump with a belt, but he’s still bleeding out, and now losing consciousness. She runs down the hall to get help…

And runs right into a frightful figure sporting a mask of human flesh.

Say, “BLOODY FACE!”

Zoinks!

+++

Glad to be trapped in The Asylum with you, my fellow Horror Freaks. The message board is now yours.

@EWDocJensen

Episode Recaps

AMERICAN HORROR STORY, (from left): Evan Peters, Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy, 'Home Invasion', (Se

American Horror Story

An anthology series that centers on different characters and locations, including a haunted house, an insane asylum, a witch coven, a freak show, and a hotel.

type
  • TV Show
seasons
  • 9
rating
  • TV-MA
creator
  • Ryan Murphy
network
  • FX
stream service

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