So. The American Horror Story: Asylum season finale. Yes, well that sure did wrap things up as neatly as a dick in a box. Or…did it? What about… And also…
Okay, rather than writing a straight recap of the episode (I’ll leave that to the most excellent Julieanne Smolinski at Vulture), let’s simply figure out where we stand with ALL OF THE THINGS:
So about five minutes ago we were all about coat-hangerin’, priest-rapin; and murder-Santa-in’. So how did I spend 20 solid minutes of the finale bawling my damn eyes out for Kit’s tender forgiveness and care for Jude, and for her redemption and ultimately peaceful Good Death after a lifetime of pain and waste, surrounded by people who loved her in spite of it all? Jesus. That was some straight-up Forrest Gump’s Terms of Endearment About Steel Magnolias shit, and I thought it was just lovely.
The Angel of Death:
The Angel made one final appearance for Jude, and it was a fake side-mouth stage-kiss if I ever saw one. Come on, ladies. Where’s your commitment to the craft and/or the fanfiction community?
Kit turned out to be the most straightforwardly “good” character this show had to offer. Even though his unconventional family fell apart under the weight of society and serial killer accusations and aliens and axe-murderin’, he raised his children and kept his promises to those he left behind at Briarcliff, and basically was the only one to hold Lana accountable to the promises she made. So his AHS: Asylum-style reward for all this human decency was to get pancreatic cancer at age 40 and be re-abducted by the aliens who basically ruined his life back in the 60s. Okay then! His vaguely magical kids seemed to be pretty chill with it, though, so hopefully he’s getting better, less-probe-y treatment up there this time.
Kit’s Vaguely Magical Kids:
Completely and remarkably well-adjusted for being the alien half-breed offspring of some polygamous escaped mental patient hippies who lost their earth mothers to axe murderin’ and Briarcliff and gained a surrogate “Nana” who occasionally mistook them for Bad Seeds and threatened them with a broom. Stayed in school, got good grades, parlayed their alien DNA into careers in law and neurosurgery. It’s the American Dream, really.
Dead. For real this time. Was actually really and truly axe murdered by Alma in a PTSD murder rage.
Died at Briarcliff after offing Grace. No one understands the stress of the modern-day axe-murderin’ polygamist, y’all. If only Big Love had the balls to go with a ending like that. I vote for Nicky to get axe-murdered by…well, anybody. Barb and Margie could team up. Maybe get the kids involved.
And Speaking of Chloe Sevigny:
Also actually really and truly dead of Dr. Arden’s Zombie Serum and the Monsignor’s Murder Rosary. And THAT’S WHY YOU DON’T DATE JAZZ MUSICIANS, LADIES.
Chloe Sevigny’s Cucumber:
Composted during the brief Briarcliff Goes Green Initiative.
Obviously dead and in Special Nazi Hell, but I guess he technically “got away” with his zombification experiments, thanks to Lana’s “controversial” (and inconclusive) expose. Doesn’t sound like she convinced many people with that one, mysterious bone fragments aside. Zombification-denial message boards and subreddits exist to this day.
Slit his wrists in the bathtub after being confronted by Lana about Arden, Briarcliff and his general weasely shittiness. Nice callback to the “crucifixion” scene from earlier in the season.
Sister Mary Satan:
Also dead; robbed of a Globe nomination; probably pretty pissed about it.
I refuse to believe she actually died at Briarcliff, but instead choose to believe she’s off traveling around the country in her own spin-off series, solving mysteries with Andre the Giant and the cast of Carnivale. Except for Clea Du Vall, because…
Dead. Though I’m sure the Wes Craven-produced sequel (Murder Santa II: Jingle All The Way…To Hell) will find some way to bring him back. How many times have they offed Michael Myers?
Mother Superior (who helped Lana escape):
OH HEY MY EXPOSITION PURPOSES AND ONE CONTRIBUTION TO THE PLOT ARE DONE. PROLLY GONNA GO DIE NOW.
Lobotomized Anne Frank:
Never seen or heard from again. Probably hanging out with Alexis Bledel’s character from Mad Men, ironing the same shirt over and over and over again, contemplating the yellow wallpaper.
Bad Seed Child:
HEY LOOK A SQUIRREL
Sister Jude’s Non-DUI’d After All Victim:
Official spokeswoman for Norwegian Canned Red Herring.
Briarcliff’s Bread Recipe:
Bought by Subway on eBay. Currently embroiled in a lawsuit over the meaning of “footlong” and our nation’s treatment of the mentally ill. Legend has it if you eat enough sandwiches, you can see the image of Bloody Face in the toilet later.
Adam Levine and Adam Levine’s Screamy Wife:
Both dead, though not until after we once again had to watch her go down on him pre-arm-hacking, which I found grosser than actually seeing the arm get hacked off by Dylan McDermott. THIS SHOW IS WEIRD.
Adam Levine’s Arm:
Is getting surprisingly good cell reception!
Bloody Face, Original Flavor:
Dead, obviously, though Lana’s book had the unfortunate effect of keeping his spirit very much alive and well and copycatted.
Bloody Face, The New Class:
Also dead. Shot by his own mother after wavering in his plan to kill her. THATZ COLD, SON.
Despite killing a good number of people (Catherine Martin, Milk Hooker, Adam Levine, Adam Levine’s Screamy Wife, three copycat Bloody Faces, some poor production schlub from the news crew AND my ability to ever hear him be all, “Shelllbyyyy, say yer gonna marry me” in Steel Magnolias without getting super uncomfy), the police were onto him. Probably because he didn’t have the sense to keep his killing confined to a sterilized high-tech Rape Basement like Thredson. And while Thredson could at least ACT like a normal, compassionate human being, Bloody Face Jr. seemed more like the type who would walk into a crowded room and immediately creep everybody the fuck out. I don’t think he could work a register at McDonald’s without someone making a citizen’s arrest on the basis of “I dunno, he just seemed kinda serial-killer-ish, you know?”
Geez. They really kept you guessing with her character, no? She turned out to be quite the complicated heroine, to say the least. Plucky, smart and yet desperately unlucky, thrown into situations that no one should ever, EVER have to endure. And ultimately as ambitious and cunning and ethically questionable as any of the other characters (besides Kit).
Lana was going to succeed and make a name for herself in investigatory journalism (no matter how many friends she lost or people she left dead and bloodied along the way), and she found a way to do that while APPEARING to be on a noble crusade to help people and right wrongs. Likewise, Sister Jude had ambitions for Rome and advancement in the church, ruling Briarcliff with sadism and corruption, while ALSO appearing to be noble and holy and doing God’s work for the most unfortunate among us.
That they were both seemingly punished for this ambition (and their respective sexualities) was a troubling undercurrent this season, and the show’s gotten a lot of “AHS HATES WOMEN” criticism, which can easily send you into a “NO, AHS IS POINTING OUT THAT THE HORROR GENRE HATES WOMEN” logic spiral. I think it goes deeper than their ambitions, and the show was really trying to explore their motivations and moral center: Who they really were and why they did things vs. how it appeared to outsiders.
Everyone this season played two parts, two lives: The demon-possessed nun, the Nazi doctor, the serial killer doctor, hell, even PEPPER was not who everyone thought she was. (I’d say Kit was the only one who doesn’t fit this trope, police accusations aside, though he did end up with two wives and thus, two separate lives he tried unsuccessful to merge.)
But I don’t really know. I admit I was a little baffled by the end tag of Lana’s original departure from Briarcliff and what the show was trying to point out there. That Lana and Jude were the same? That they were both evil? Or that they would simply both go on to confront evil?
Jude was ultimately redeemed by forgiveness and for trying to right her wrongs in the second half of the season. Lana decided against abortion because she wanted to put a stop to all the death (a noble, redeeming reason)…only to give birth to a child (and a bestseller) who continued Thredson’s legacy and resulted in many more deaths.
And in the end, Lana was our Final Girl. The one left to confront the killer and tell the story. Except that we learned:
1) She technically didn’t have to confront the killer at all, but CHOSE not to tell the police what she knew about her son OR sound the alarm and call the police the second Johnny arrived with the crew. She put herself in that it’s-him-or-me position on purpose.
2) The stories she tells are all motivated by her ambition for success and fame, and are exaggerated, inaccurate and incredibly self-serving. Does anyone doubt there’s another explosive bestseller in Lana Winters’ future, about how she had to kill the very child she just admitted existed for the first time ever minutes before?
Did she learn anything? Was she “redeemed”? Did she even need to be? Does confronting and vanquishing evil still count when your motivations are questionable? Was her post-Briarcliff life and personality simply a PTSD-fueled way of dealing with her past and she should actually just be commended for all of it, as she earned the right to some selfishness and happiness? (PS: HER NEW GIRLFRIEND IS HOT AND I WANT THEIR WARDROBES/APARTMENT/BAR CART.)
I honestly don’t know what I think quite yet. I’ll probably do what I did after the Murder House finale and give the show a rest for a few weeks, then re-watch all the episodes back-to-back to getting better sense of the scope and the themes of the season.
Wow, I’m sorry this is so long! I made two pages of (mostly jokey) notes last night and turned them into a research paper. With thesis shit and everything. Jeez. Anyway, I’d love to hear what YOU thought of the finale and the season as a whole in comments below!