American Horror Story 2×13 Madness Ends Recap and Review
In the surprisingly emotionally resonant season (technically series since this really is a mini-series) finale of American Horror Story: Asylum, every major character’s story came to a satisfying, if not entirely unsurprising, conclusion. We start with four months prior to present day (I am guessing around the time the season started to air). Johnny breaks into the ruins of Briarcliff whilst listening to a book-on-tape version of Maniac with Lana reading from her own work. While Johnny searches these discrepant hallways, he imagines seeing Lana in a bathroom. She tells him that he was conceived in hate since she was raped and doesn’t deserve to live.
We then see Lana writing about the Nor’Easter of 1964 and Dr. Thredson. Johnny then envisions Dr. Thredson and Lana in the hallways. Dr. Thredson tells him that he wanted to love him, but Lana took that chance away from the both of them.
Johnny then hides from view as Theresa and Leo enter as they did in the premiere episode. We see them investigate Johnny’s sounds. Leo sticks his hand in the room where Johnny is doing what he does best: drugs….whilst continuing to listen to Lana reading her book. Johnny then notices Leo’s hand and gets out his Bloody Face mask. He then gets out a machete when Leo photographs the room with his cell phone, and chops off his arm. Dr. Thredson would be so proud.
We then finally meet Lana in the present day. She has proven that she was no one hit wonder with her six best sellers. She is also known as the only journalist that male interviewees will talk candidly for the big interviews everyone wants to see. But, now, Lana is being interviewed by April, who we see is talking to Lana as the television crew is setting up. Lana’s current girlfriend, who is a big opera star, brings in wine like a good slave as she goes to her rehearsal. That Lana always knows how to pick ‘em. In fact, Lana also knows how to order the crew around so that her features look their best in the harsh television lights. Lana is, of course, about to receive a Kennedy’s Center honor for her body of work. April wants to ask about Bloody face, but Lana won’t have any of that. She will talk about getting Briarcliff shut down, which is a reasonable choice.
We see Lana being true to her word and leading a camera crew into the squalor Briarcliff has become through that secret tunnel entrance. Yes, Lana’s gone Barbara Walters now.
April then asks Lana where she got this sense of purpose. Lana then admits that ambition is the cause of all of her life decisions. Television is her natural destination since people need to see what they are being described; television was the future back then, after all. I wonder if Lana now has a blog or youtube channel?
We then see some scenes from the expose, cleverly entitled, “Briarcliff Exposed.” We see the inmates/patients living in their own filth with no guards helping them. Lana explains that the inmates/patients are left by themselves with no one to care for them now. Eventually, an orderly enters, looking most uninterested in helping anyone. Lana flashes the camera in her face and asks if this is hospital policy and where can she find Jude.
We then see Lana entering a dark cell with a camera with flash light attached. She sees Jude, who is malnourished and completely out of her mind. Jude doesn’t seem to comprehend what is going on. Lana tries to explain to her that she was put there to cover up how horrible the Catholic Church is as she leads her to freedom.
Cut to April. April asks what really happened, as Lana never did see Jude again. Lana explains Jude was gone by the time she finally did make that expose. Finding Jude was what she was hoping would be an amazing climax, but it wasn’t meant to be. Lana then asks for a break and requests some water. Johnny brings some for her.
Cut to Lana knocking on Kit’s front door. Briarcliff is now gone. Of course, Lana has come to Kit with a purpose: to expose him with her camera crew. Lana asks about Betty Drake.
Lana knocks on Kit’s door after Briarcliff is shut down. Kit sees her camera crew nearby. Lana explains she wants to know who Betty Drake is, and if she’s here. Kit refuses to speak about her on the record, but he will talk about it at the table. When Lana was filming the expose, she found a file that said that Jude was released to Kit’s care in 1970. This was after Kit and Lana reunited at the book signing. Kit isn’t sure what to think of Lana’s ambitious pursuits, but goes on anyway. Kit was so heartbroken after Alma died at Briarcliff that he actually started to see Jude on a regular basis. He could see Jude hadn’t completely lost her mind. Briarcliff was all too happy to get rid of her once Kit agreed to care for her at his house. Kit claims he did this so his children would have a mother. He needed to forgive Briarcliff for everything that went through and this was his way of doing it. Of course, they had to rehabilitate Jude. This did not go easily. But his children liked her. However, Jude kept thinking was still in confinement at Briarcliff and Kit was Bloody Face. Jude would fight with him with a broom. Only the children could calm her down and they led her outside. Apparently, the children were blessed by the aliens to have magical healing powers somehow. They got Jude to see the light and become sane again. Jude then taught Kit how to dance before getting strange nose bleeds. Jude stayed with them for six wonderful months…before dying of….something. Before Jude passes on, she advice Julia to not give in to men as times have changed and Thomas to do something he likes for a career instead of being money-motivated. Kit tries to feed her, but she refuses and tells the children to go and play outside. Jude says the Angel of Death has arrived, for real this time. The Angel kisses her and she is able to, finally, move on.
Cut back to the interview. April talks about how Lana then decided to expose Cardinal Howard and what Dr. Arden did. Cardinal Howard just gets in his drives away. Aril brings up that this might be what drove the good Cardinal to suicide, and the audience would agree. Lana, however, says it was just his guilty conscious since he had become so corrupt and power-hungry that he couldn’t live with himself. He believed his own lies.
Of course, Lana’s been doing some lying of her own. Lana then confesses that her son was born and did not die during childbirth, like she said all those years ago. Lana wanted him to have good parents. Johnny, of course, is listening in the other room to every word Lana’s saying about how guilty she felt about this and tracked him down as a child.
Cut to a flashback where Lana sees young Johnny being bullied by a larger child. She approaches Johnny and asks if he is alright. This is the only time she saw him…until now.
Lana then goes on to say that she was a godparent to Julia and Thomas. Julia is now a neurosurgeon at John Hopkins and Thomas teaches law at Harvard. Kit, on the other hand, isn’t so good. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 40. Considering what Dr. Arden put him through, he probably got lucky. Lana tries to visit him before his time, but, apparently, the aliens abducted him. Naturally, the precocious children told Lana not to mourn since they knew where he had gone.
Now, the interview is over. April thanks Lana and everyone clears out. Lana gets out two drinks and tells Johnny he can come out now. She knows he’s always been there. Johnny mocks her and tells her he killed a crew work bringing doughnuts to get into this interview. Lana basically says that she always knew it was him and that he is a much better person than his father was, which is why he can never amount to him or his antics. Lana says she always knew he’d come for her.
Of course, this intuition did not come out of the blue. We see two officers telling Lana about Johnny and all of the people he’s killed, including an elderly couple in Dr. Thredson’s old house. They warned her she might be next.
Lana then lights her cigarette and tells Johnny how much he resembles Dr. Thredson. Johnny then tells her that he had his own intuition when Lana helped him on the playground. He just knew she was his real mother. Johnny then says that he found the lost confessional tape on eBay. Johnny is very sure that Dr. Thredson loved him, but Lana bursts his bubble and tells him that he did not. Lana, in fact, really does love him, which is why she gave him up for adoption so he would have a chance at a much better life. Johnny then gets upset and screams at Lana, raising his gun at her. Johnny wants to do his father’s work justice, but Lana reminds him that he is as much a part of her as he is of Dr. Thredson. In other words, Johnny is a much better person than his sadistic father ever could be. Johnny doesn’t believe this and tells her that he has killed lots of people to find her. Lana tells Johnny that she blames herself for this, not him. She really should have killed him at birth. Lana has taken the gun from Johnny’s weak hands and turned it on him, killing him just as she did Dr. Thredson, without much regret or remorse. No jury would ever convict her, I’m guessing.
Now, the surprise epilogue. It’s 1964 again. Lana is meeting with Sister Jude at Briarcliff. Lana wants to see Bloody Face, who about to be admitted. Jude calls Lana “Lana Banana” and says she can tell Lana’s the ambitious type. Jude then warns her about what a woman alone with dreams has to go through in the modern world. Jude tells her not to look at evil too much, b/c it will devour you. Lana wants to hear Jude’s story of how she got to the top of this asylum. Jude then makes a comment so the effect that they are not destined to meet again. The young, much more innocent Lana then walks out the front door, and life at Briarcliff goes on as she if she never re-entered and the season had just been the product of Lana’s over-active imagination…or was it??? Of course, we zoom out to view the dark, seemingly unending, spiral of the asylum’s staircase with “Dominique” playing in the background. Such is ambiguity.
So, did the season actually happen? I’m guessing it didn’t. Even though it was after Lana was asking about the asylum’s bakery and Sister Jude kicked her out when she figured out what her intentions really were. It’s true that Lana snuck in and was captured….but I’d like to think that was just the beginning of her fictional book. And that’s really the only way all of these converging stories could’ve really been wrapped up satisfyingly. Remember that comment I made last week about possibly ending the mini-series on a weak note after last week’s disappointing episode? Well, forget it. I have been getting annoyed with the way they’ve been ending most of the characters’ arcs with an “and then they died” motif these past few weeks. But, I was really impressed with what the writers and actors came up with here. The overarching emotion achieved here might make this the best episode of both seasons. Internalizing the season makes the zany editing style feel appropriate. Normally, an ending like that would make me disappointed. But, here, it seems to make up for a lot. This was, after all, a season where we had a devil-possessed nun and aliens abducting totally random people for pretty much no reason…at the same time, not to mention scientifically-mutilated humans and women pretending to be Anne Frank. What else could it have been? Of course, the aliens could’ve been a metaphor for the Judeo-Christian God that the Catholic faith is opposed to. All that resurrection/watching over stuff is very obvious and ripe for good vs evil symbolism, but it never really worked for me. Even the not-so virgin birth the aliens engineered felt forced, es. since Kit had impregnated both Alma and Grace.
What could be said about the acting that hasn’t been said? It is some of the best performing I’ve ever seen in a horror- themed entertainment. It puts almost virtually every horror feature film I’ve seen in the past few decades to shame. The whole cast has been uniformly astonishing week after week and deserve any award or nomination they’ll be getting at the Emmys, even if Jessica Lange gets all the attention again.
The character development work here was the best it’s been all season. The playground scene alone makes the final confrontation all the more meaningful and ambiguous as it paints Lana as both creator and destroyer. She had either become evil or she was using storytelling to confront evil in a way she never could in person. Jude’s ending perfectly suited a big star like Jessica Lange. I just wish they hadn’t inserted so many new age-y touches. Kit’s end game worked better for me than I expected. I know I said another alien abduction would break me, but it somehow felt appropriate. After all, didn’t Jesus vanish after being resurrected? We wouldn’t want to watch him die of cancer, either. That would make him seem like all of the other characters. I didn’t mind how the answer to how did Leo’s arm get cut off was so simple. I never did buy the argument that maybe some of the creatures Dr. Arden made were still lingering around the asylum. That just made no sense to me. Johnny’s story never really worked for me, but I now feel actual sympathy for him as Lana never really gave him much of a chance, despite her good intentions. He seems to have real depth now, as all he wanted was a mother that Lana could never be after her experiences. Lana just comes off as a resentful cypher now. Dylan McDermott’s real darkness really came into good use here. Clean resolutions are not for this show and we are all the better for it. These are not fantastic characters, just ordinary folks who cannot decide to be good or evil. Sometimes, just knowing the difference makes us all higher beings.
Now, on to the clues for Season Three. After seeing Jude’s broom attack, I think witches are the only way to go with the speculations. We know Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, and much missed Taissa Farmiga are all coming back. It will be set in modern times in three different cities in the USA where horrible things happened with a lighter Romeo & Juliet style young love story. Well, Season Two was already in Massachusetts, where Salem is, but maybe Milwaukee, which has a witch house and where Jeffrey Dhamer was arrested. At this point, who knows? Alfonso Gomez-Rejon will be returning as a director for many episodes and that will make a huge difference. I must admit, I miss the campy fun of the first season. Season Two really was brilliant in so many ways and arguably the crowning achievement of Ryan Murphy’s career thus far, much the overload of angsty emotion and occasional sentimentality was a bit much sometimes. However, I doubt they’ll be able to create characters with as much as gravity and depth like Sister Jude, Lana, Dr. Arden, Sister Eunice, or the Monsignor and such creative, occasionally amazing storytelling. After what the USA is going through now with gun control debates, a lighter season of American Horror Story in October wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Let’s just hope they don’t skimp on the lesbians.
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