The season finale of “American Horror Story Asylum” is nearing, and viewers could not be more excited and confused. This season the series has led fans on quite the whirl wind ride of terror, madness, lust, and wondering what is real or illusion. Differentiating between reality and fiction has been the prime question of the season, especially with some of the elaborate plot points.
To start, last season the topic of ghosts and haunted houses were the focal point. This season has definitely blossomed into a complex array of topics that interconnect in a gradual parallel series of events that happen through the 1960’s decade and today. The show also does a stellar job using many of the same cast members from the first season’s story and creating new and complex characters.
Briarcliff Manor is a character within itself. As in season one, “The Murder House” that the Harmon family resided in was a major figure in the story. This season the insane asylum has served the same purpose and more. The imagery of the decrepit, dark, and despairing hallways and cells has impacted the tone of the story as significantly as many of the chilling characters that reside within the asylum. Not only does Briarcliff take its place as a central character in the show but provides an important setting for the debate between separation of church and state.
The Catholic Church runs the facility, but evil and apathy also have controlling powers in the building. From the first episode, physical and mental abuse is prevalent in the management of the asylum. However, the one beacon of government neutrality in the mix is state appointed Dr. Thredson, whom we come to find is a serial killer named Bloody Face. In a brilliant, maniacal plan to misdirect authorities Dr. Thredson becomes Kit Walker’s (who is the patsy for Bloody Face’s crimes) court appointed therapist to determine if he is sane enough to stand trial for the real killers crimes. The show makes an unfortunate true, yet exaggerated, correlation to the many corruptions of the Catholic Church’s dealings over the years. It is safe to say that the show has been a success in creating a powerful example of how government and religious corruption were, and continue to be, rampant in this country with the mistreatment of certain groups of hapless individuals who require special treatment and attention. The show also plays an important role in the question of treatments and practice towards mentally ill patients.
While mental health practices have made leaps and bounds from previous decades of recent past, the show touches on the importance of trying to treat people who are feared and therefore misunderstood. Many of the patients in Briarcliff are not mentally ill, but merely violent criminals mixed in with the truly insane or unwanted members of society. The female characters are especially intriguing with this situation.
Grace killed her molester father and mother with an axe out of revenge for years of abuse. Chloe is a sex addict who struggles with uncontrollable urges she must act on to fulfill. Lana Winters is completely sane; she is merely an unlucky aspiring reporter who attempted an expose that was out of her depth and she paid the misfortunate price of captivity and torture for it. Perhaps is it insight on the inequality of the treatment of women before the civil rights movement which started around the timeline of the story. Perhaps it is men fearing powerful women taking their position in the world so they decided to lock them up as Chloe’s husband did. The underlying themes of the show are vast and mysterious in nature, especially the references to aliens.
The element of alien abduction and experimentation is probably the most confusing, yet intriguing part of the story. One could argue that they are the real puppeteers of Briarcliff; seeing as they abducted Kit’s wife then impregnated her while Kit was framed for Bloody Face’s crimes, they abducted Grace’s dead body then reanimated and impregnated her as well. The alien’s true purpose for interfering with Kit’s life is unclear and may remain that way.
Like many elements of this season’s story the aliens are a source of mystery that is meant to leave the viewer with thought provoking questions to be determined in one’s own perspective and opinion. This kind of mysterious and intelligent writing is why the show has remained on many viewers’ minds and lips throughout the past two seasons. The cast must also be given high praise for their extraordinary performances.
Jessica Lange is by far the stand out superstar of the series. Her performance in “The Name Game” episode was one of the best of the season. The way she broke out in song with the juke box was intriguing and entertaining. It brought a moment of levity to a dark and depraved story line that only a seasoned and commanding actor can inspire. It also left the viewer asking the central question of what is real or fantasy; seeing as so many outlandish and depraved things happen in the storyline.
Another stand out performance this season was Lily Rabe, Sister Mary Eunice. Her performance as the possessed nun was marvelously nefarious. The way her character was tormented with being a sweet innocent girl trapped in her own body and forced to do evil and malicious acts by the devil was intoxicating to watch.
The female characters and performances were the highlight of this show this season and will give next season’s writers and actors something to aspire to. With the finale on the horizon this chapter of the story is drawing to a climactic close, however; the show will undoubtedly continue to draw in viewers with its daring and imaginative story and accomplished stable of actors.