What a ride this season of American Horror Story has been.
Tonight’s finale, “Madness Ends”, was an exhilarating ending to the latest installment in the hit anthology series and wrapped up nearly every storyline in a most fulfilling manner.
The fates of Kit, Lana, Sister Jude, Johnny (aka “son of Bloodyface”) and even Cardinal (previously Monsignor) Howard were all revealed so if you haven’t seen it yet, watch it and come back because spoilers will abound.
Thanks to a change of heart, Lana (Sarah Paulson) finally moved forward with her exposé, realizing that only television could bring the abject horrors of Briarcliff to light. The tale is told in flashback as Lana Winters (now much older and even more famous) is interviewed about how she brought down the infamous asylum and closed its doors forever. She refuses, however, to expand upon her torment at the hands of Dr. Thredson (the original “Bloodyface played by Pittsburgh native Zachary Quinto) and instead discusses her attempt to rescue Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) who had been set up then abandoned by the Monsignor.
Unfortunately, she failed as Sister Jude was nowhere to be found.
Her sleuthing skills led her instead to Kit Walker (Evan Peters), now a single father raising his two children after his wife Alma succumbed to her stint in Briarcliff. She asked him about someone named Betty Drake and Kit revealed that Sister Jude’s name had been changed to Drake by the administrators and he eventually rescued her. Kit brought Jude home and saw her through detox from the institution’s medication as well as her bouts with madness, the latter of which was mysteriously “cured” when his children accompanied her into the woods one day. Kit and Jude raised the children and were a happy family unit until Jude fell ill and finally welcomed a kiss from the Angel of Death (Frances Conroy).
Lana also revealed that Kit eventually remarried and, when he was 40, developed pancreatic cancer. One day, Kit simply up and vanished into thin air, never to be seen again. However, the viewer is led to believe that he was abducted by the same aliens that took Alma and his friend Grace and were responsible for their pregnancies with his children.
After succeeding in destroying Briarcliff, Lana next set her sights on Cardinal Howard (Joseph Fiennes) and exposed him for the corrupt charlatan he was. Her accusations of him allowing a former Nazi to perform human experiments on patients (as well as his committing Sister Jude) were too much for him to bear and he used a straight edge razor to open up his wrists in a bathtub.
In the end, Lana finally comes face to face with Johnny (Dylan McDermott), the son she conceived with Thredson/”Bloodyface” and gave up for adoption. Remarkably confident, she tells her son that the father he so adores was a “monster”. He tells her that he is there to finally kill her but she comforts him even as he points a gun at her forehead. In a soothing voice, she reassures him that there is a part of her inside him too and she always knew that he could never be as bad as his father. Her hand gently pushes the gun away and Johnny begins to weep, the sadness pouring out of him.
But it was all an act. Lana knows she’s looking in the face of evil and takes his gun away, turning it on him and putting a bullet into his brain.
Though this season was a bit uneven in comparison to the first, it nevertheless was filled with fascinating twists and turns. What made American Horror Story: Asylum completely watchable was the repertory company the producers have brought together.
While viewing the sequence where Jude teaches Kit how to swing dance, I was amazed by the chemistry between Lange and Peters and how it’s gotten even stronger since they played mother and son in the first season. Moments after that thought popped into my head, my wife echoed my belief. It really didn’t matter how ridiculous or over the top Asylum became (or threatened to become). What mattered were the performances and how they were able to sell it.
I was a huge fan of the first season and was a little concerned that I’d look at the actors and be reminded of the previous haunted house tale.
It never happened and it’s a credit to the wonderful cast (and writing staff) that they were able to pull it off. I’d like to see them all get nominations for their performances at next year’s Emmys.
A lion’s share of the credit for the success of “Madness Ends” has to go to director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. His seamless transitions allowed the finale to traverse several decades without confusing the viewer and his artistic touch made it a thing of joy to watch. He was able to capture a wide range of moods going from quiet and subdued to jarring and frenetic without missing a beat. I look for him to do great things in the future.
Finally, kudos have to go to the cinematographer, set designer and makeup crew for enhancing a wonderful script by one of my favorite all time writers, Tim Minear. Minear has been around for quite some time and has delivered some of my favorite hours of TV in critically acclaimed shows like Firefly (“Out of Gas”), Angel (“Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?”) and short lived series like Drive and The Inside.
Creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have been given a greenlight for a third season which they promise will be a little lighter in tone thematically as compared to Asylum. Whatever they end up doing, I know it will be well worth the viewers’ time.