Episode Title: “Continuum”
Writer: Ryan Murphy
Director: Craig Zisk
Previously on “American Horror Story: Asylum”:
Oh, I’m sorry, are you still on the air, “American Horror Story: Asylum?” I almost forgot to watch you because last week you wrapped everything up that I cared about. I only watched this week to see if you could actually explain why the season hasn’t ended already, and I’m only writing now to explain that no, no you really didn’t.
Last week’s episode, “Spilt Milk,” was in such a damned rush to wrap up storylines that, by now, there don’t seem to be any left. The wrongly persecuted Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) and Kit Walker (Evan Peters) were freed from the Briarcliff asylum, Bloody Face (Zachary Quinto) was murdered, Lana had her baby and gave it up for adoption, and Kit even managed to spring Grace (Lizzie Brocheré) from the institution, find their baby and make a life together.
With Sister Mary Eunice and Dr. Arden quietly disposed of the week before, there just plain wasn’t much left to cover and yet, for some reason, two whole weeks left to cover it. This week’s episode, “Continuum,” introduces no new storylines that aren’t wrapped up by the end of the episode, and even manages to nullify the only new development from last week, the reappearance of Kit’s wife, Alma (Britne Oldford), and her own child, thought dead since the season premiere. Thanks for that, “American Horror Story: Asylum.” Why did you even bother again?
“Continuum” tells its story in a series of vignettes taking place in the years after “Spilt Milk.” The first installment, between the credits and first commercial break, shows the now-unconventional Walker family dealing with the aftermath of their ordeal. Surprisingly, both of Kit’s wives are pretty content to share him and the mothering duties. The only source of drama comes from Alma’s inability to overcome the trauma of being kidnapped by aliens (understandable), while Grace finds it so fascinating that she shares illustrations of her ordeal with their young children. Then Alma ax-murders Grace and gets sent to Briarcliff. And then dies in the asylum. Rarely has filler seemed so unfulfilling, since the only purpose of this subplot is to unceremoniously kill an interesting character, Grace, and then the character who only came back to dispose of Grace anticlimactically.
The show then shifts to a vignette at Briarcliff, where Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) remains, trapped and helpless. Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes), now promoted to Cardinal Howard, promises to set her free, but in the meantime Jude has to deal with an influx of new inmates now that Briarcliff is run by the state and not the Catholic Church. One of those inmates is played by Frances Conroy, who also plays the angel of death Shachath, but this also goes absolutely nowhere because Jude realizes she hallucinated the Conroy the whole time, at least as the surrogate face for her new roommate, and has in fact lost two-and-a-half years of her memory since Cardinal Howard left Briarcliff. Also, Pepper (Naomi Grossman), a character who was only just getting interesting, died off-screen. Thanks, “American Horror Story: Asylum!”
As for Lana Winters, her biography, Maniac, is a bestseller despite containing gross inaccuracies about her abduction by Bloody Face, and glossing over her lesbian relationship with Wendy Peyser (Clea Duvall). When Kit Walker approaches her at a book signing and asks why the hell she hasn’t used her clout to shut down Briarcliff, when she specifically promised she would and would be, you’d think, highly motivated to do so. Her response is that she’s too busy being famous, and although she’s surprised to discover that Sister Jude is still alive, it doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on her, at least as far as the plot is concerned.
Oh, and there’s yet another “Neo-Bloody Face” is still around sequence, where Dylan McDermott tracks down a signed copy of Maniac and vows to find his mother and kill her, which doesn’t so much qualify as a “scene” as a reminder that, hey, something interesting might happen last week, and an apology for wasting our time with “Continuum.”
Episodes of television don’t often feel more pointless than “Continuum.” This is “American Horror Story: Asylum” at its absolute worst. Although the acting isn’t bad, from a storytelling perspective, I’d even venture to say this is serialized television at its absolute worst. It contributes nothing of consequence to the series, and only exists to undermine the few plot points that could have actually elevated it to watchable status. Let us never speak of it again.
Photo Credit: Byron Cohen / FX