Episode Title: “Spilt Milk”
Writer: Brad Falchuk
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Previously On “American Horror Story: Asylum”:
“Wait… Is this it?!”
Those were the words I found myself repeating over and over again throughout “Spilt Milk,” last night’s episode of “American Horror Story: Asylum” which, by all rights, probably should have been the last episode of the series. Practically every damned thing gets wrapped up in a tidy little package, in an unusually cathartic episode from the otherwise cynical and unsettling horror series.
Then, of course, the episode actually ended, and I was left screaming words that rang rather the opposite.
“How can this NOT be it?!”
How can you not end the series with this episode? The only subplots that are still unresolved are only unresolved through sheer force of padding. There’s an intriguing twist right at the end which would probably have required an extra scene or two, and yeah, maybe Neo-Bloody Face won’t get his comeuppance, but the only thing left to do is free Sister Jude from Briarcliff and give everyone their final paychecks. “Spilt Milk” left me crying for someone at FX to let the episode run a little long, or at most be a “special two-hour season finale,” because seriously, there’s not much motivation to come back. The demons have been exiled, the wrongly persecuted have been freed and the oppressors have either been sent straight to hell or are, at most, only a handful of scenes away from their all-too-timely ends.
I suppose, given the otherwise monstrous sentiment that “American Horror Story: Asylum” usually espouses, that an episode like “Spilt Milk” could give the showrunners an opportunity to provide a hazily cathartic culmination to some of the more depressing ongoing storylines, while still giving them an opportunity to pull the rug out in the last two episodes, and end on a more “horrifying” note, but between this and “The Name Game,” which sent both Sister Mary Eunice and Dr. Arden into the furnace (don’t you get it, he was a Nazi hashtag-irony), there’s nothing left driving the series forward. Sister Jude (Jessica Lange)’s still in Briarcliff, but when you consider that for half the season the audience was led to believe she was worthy of that much punishment and more, it’s hard to see her as a modern day (or 1960s day) Jean Valjean.
Monsignor Timothy Howard hasn’t got his comeuppance, but what kind of horror story ends with every single bad guy getting their comeuppance? That’s not scary, that’s a reassuring parable. And Neo-Bloody Face? We don’t know nearly enough about him to care. Nobody else inhabits his world. There’s no one left for his murders to affect, unless you count a string of victims who never seem to last more than a single episode. Why should we care, damn it?
What did you miss this week? Quite a damned lot, but at least it’s linear. Lana (Sarah Paulson) finally escapes from Briarcliff with her file – and the confession of Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto) – in tow. She shows up at Thredson’s house, announces the police are on their way (funny how they decided to take their sweet time about it; what, did they say “Go on ahead, we’ll catch up after lunch?”). She kills him, naturally, and proceeds to bury her girlfriend (what little she could find of her), and attempt to abort Thredson’s unborn child. She can’t go through with it – something about there being too much death already (fair enough, I suppose) – and finally writes a book about Briarcliff and tries to expose the corruption within.
She only does this, mind you, after getting about halfway through her pregnancy at least. (The cops aren’t the only ones with procrastination issues.) Fortunately, Thredson’s confession and demise led to Kit Walker (Evan Peter)’s exoneration, and he manages to convince Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes) to led Grace (Lizzie Brocheré) go too, since legally she’s been declared dead already, so who cares what happens to her body? They also manage to reclaim their child, whom the aliens (or whatever they are) say is going to be an important historical figure, and whom Howard had taken to an orphanage at the beginning of the episode. That subplot’s barely worth mentioning, since it’s resolved almost as unceremoniously as it’s introduced, and within the same episode no less.
So. Lana escapes, gives birth, exposes the corruption at Briarcliff, kills Thredson, exonerates Kit, who then frees Grace. What the hell is left? The Monsignor insists that Sister Jude killed herself, although she’s actually in solitary confinement, and – in a pretty neat twist – Kit and Grace return home to find his wife, Alma (Britne Oldford), alive, well, and cradling his other newbown infant child. That just redefines awkward. Also, Neo-Bloody Face (Dylan McDermott) is suckling at the teat of prostitutes and killing them in the present day, but who cares? Not to sound callous, obviously the victim cares a lot, but dramatically speaking, it’s not like we’re surprised he has mommy issues.
If “Spilt Milk” actually was the season finale of “American Horror Story: Asylum,” going on maybe a half hour longer to wrap up all the loose ends, I suppose it would have felt a little bit rushed – and acharacteristically cathartic – but at least it would have made sense. Last week’s episode ended with me wondering where the series would go next. This week’s episode has me wondering why it’s going on at all. I’d stop watching if I wasn’t reviewing it. I’d feel vaguely satisfied. “Spilt Milk” resolves too much and introduces too little, especially with two whole weeks to go of this damned series. “American Horror Story: Asylum” may be one of the most awkwardly constructed weekly television series I’ve ever experienced. Soaring highs, drowning lows, and a whole lot of “why?!”
I honestly have no idea how to even rate this episode. As a season finale, I would grant it some mild approval. As set-up for a season finale in two weeks, it leaves way too little left to be explored. Let's just split the difference and admit that it happened.
Photo Credit: Byron Cohen / FX