Episode Title: “I Am Anne Frank, Part 2”
Written by: Brad Falchuk
Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Previously “American Horror Story: Asylum”:
Any of the above would be considered appropriate responses to this week’s episode of “American Horror Story: Asylum,” which kicked things up a notch with a particularly grotesque and effective installment that resolved at least one mystery while setting up more mayhem to come. After last week, the first half of this two-part episode and a jumble of exaggerated ideas and questionable plots, “I Am Anne Frank, Part 2” is a refreshingly focused hour of television with several moments that are likely to slacken the jaw whether you like it or not.
Anne Frank (Franke Potente) has Dr. Arden at gunpoint just before she’s knocked unconscious by the security guards at Briarcliff, waking up to find Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) taking her story seriously, having acquired the services of a former concentration camp inmate to look into her claims that Dr. Arden is a Nazi war criminal. Anne tells Sister Jude to inspect Arden’s laboratory to find the disfigured body of Shelley (Chloë Sevigny) in the closet, a thorough look reveals nothing suspicious beyond a series of brains in a jar, which I suppose were standard issue back in the 1960s. Anne’s story gets harder to believe when a man claiming to be her husband arrives to take her home, saying that she became obsessed with the real Anne Frank after reading her book during a spate of postpartum psychosis (Dr. Thredson’s diagnosis).
Sister Jude sends Anne Frank back on her way home, against Dr. Thredson’s recommendation, and suffers a particularly uncomfortable episode with Dr. Arden (James Cromwell), who tells her he’ll file charges against her for letting an inmate get her hands on a gun in the first place unless she grovels. When she refuses, she realizes her days at Briarcliff are numbered. Later, Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) tends to Dr. Arden’s wounds and reveals that she dragged Shelley into the woods to preserve his secrets, and allies herself with Dr. Arden, who by now seems destined to take over Briarcliff and needs a subordinate he can trust. Unbeknownst to both of them, Shelley has apparently crawled out of those woods and into a elementary school playground, scarring the younglings for life with her now terrifying appearance. Dude!
Meanwhile, Kit Walker (Evan Peters) allows Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto) to try a new form of therapy, in which he records himself explaining how he murdered his wife and several other women and listens back to it to reawaken his lost memories. Kit’s not very bright, obviously. But he’s not going to be “sterilized,” unlike his new love interest Grace (Lizzie Brocheré), who seems destined for surgery before she’s abducted by aliens, including one who appears to either be Kit’s wife, or at least wearing her skin.
Speaking of plot summaries you’d never pitch to “The Newsroom,” Dr. Thredson successfully escapes with Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), but when she gets to his house he suspiciously prevents her from using the telephone and does little to hide the human nipples on his lampshades. Thredson, yes, has been Bloody Face all along, and by the end of the episode has Lana chained up in his basement and forces her to make out with the corpse of her girlfriend. Dude…
The episode concludes with Anne Frank returning to the hospital, having tried to murder her baby, and Dr. Arden performing a lobotomy to make her more complacent. Sister Jude, knowing her time is at an end, leaves Briarcliff all dolled up to the nines and proceeds to sleep with a stranger she meets in a tavern. The last shot of the episode, in “Anne Frank’s” house, reveals a photograph of Adolf Hitler from her obsessive period – she’s not quite docile, thank you very much – with Dr. Arden standing dutifully behind him wearing a Nazi uniform.
So let’s see: aliens are probably real, Thredson is Ed Gein, the whole “Anne Frank” storyline was just an obfuscation to reveal Arden’s identity without actually outing him publicly, a limbless Chloë Sevigny’s on the loose and Lana’s about to get it on with the dead body of Clea Duvall. Say what you will about “American Horror Story: Asylum” – god knows it’s a mixed up, crazy and only sporadically effective horror thriller – but it’s not pulling its punches. The standalone season began as an anxiety-inducing trip to “Twin Peaks” land, and has quickly evolved into a collection of Video Nasties tributes that would have seen the series effectively banned from the U.K. twenty-five years ago.
Is it “good?” I’m waiting to see how it all shakes out, but at least it’s a flamboyantly disgusting geek show of a television series that never gets dull, though the enormity of its perverse grotesqueries occasionally dulls the senses. “I Am Anne Frank, Part 2” gets the balance right, pushing the story forward while taking time to mindf*ck the audience when we need it the most, and want it least. It’s as subtle as a limbless Chloë Sevigny crawling around a children’s playground, but decidedly more entertaining than forced necrophilia.
That was supposed to come across as a compliment. Dude… I think this show may be getting to me.
Photo Credit: Byron Cohen/FX
Follow William Bibbiani on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.