You have to wonder what the conversation was like when American Horror Story: Asylum offered Chloë Sevigny the role of Shelley. “So you’re going to start off as a nymphomaniac, then we are going to amputate your legs and then we are going to disfigure you beyond recognition. You in?”
Shelley’s storyline took a dramatic and degrading turn for the worse in “I Am Anne Frank, Part 1,” but overall the episode was the strongest of the season. The unnecessary framing device, which stranded Adam Levine and Jenna Dewan-Tatum in a B horror movie (without even the moves like Jagger), was totally absent. More importantly, the series stayed away from schlocky clichés in favor of deeper character development and a compelling guest star.
Franka Potente (Run Lola Run) began her powerful guest star turn as a woman who believes she is Anne Frank. In her version of events, the famous adolescent survived the concentration camp, married a soldier and moved to America. But, given the popularity of The Diary of Anne Frank, no one could know she survived. “I could do more good dead than alive,” she tells Sister Jude. “What a relief it will be to millions of schoolchildren to know you survived,” Sister Jude drolly tells her.
Anne tells Sister Jude that Dr. Arden is a Nazi war criminal who she recognizes from Auschwitz. (The show did an excellent job of casting an actor who looks like a young James Cromwell). When police come to question Dr. Arden, they mention that they found Nazi paraphernalia in his home, and Sister Jude begins to believe that Anne is telling the truth. She takes her concerns to Monsignor Timothy Howard, who dismisses her. “All I know is that you’ve been drinking again,” he tells her. Am I suddenly starting to root for Sister Jude? I think so.
Sister Jude then seeks the counsel of her Mother Superior. The scene was the first time the show has indicated that perhaps everyone who led a religious life in the 1960s wasn’t completely diabolical.
Kit and Grace take their relationship to the next level by having sex in the kitchen (note to self: Don’t eat the rolls of the Asylum bakery). Grace tells Kit that she woke up to find her father and her stepmother murdered and that her sister accused her of the crime. Kit believes she is telling the truth until he’s given access to her file. Grace then confesses to Kit that she did kill both her parents because her father had been sexually abusing her for years. All of this makes Kit doubt his own innocence and he begins to wonder if he did murder his wife. Strangely Dr. Thredson, who last week was convinced that Bloody Face was still out there, tells Kit he can only help him if he acknowledges the crimes he committed.
Dr. Thredson sets about to “cure” Lana of her homosexuality as a way to get her released from Briarcliff. “You’re a fish out of water Lana, gasping for life. It won’t end well. Trust me,” he says. I think in English class this is what they called MAJOR FORESHADOWING.
Dr. Thredson uses aversion therapy, which consists of showing Lana pictures of women while giving her a drug that makes her throw up. Then he brings in a male patient (another excuse for the series to show a bare bum) and asks Lana to masturbate while looking at him. The scene was excruciating to watch. Lana completely falls apart when Dr. Thredson tells her he’s realizing aversion therapy won’t work for her. I guess viewers are supposed to believe that Lana has been so broken by Briarcliff that she has become convinced that her homosexuality is a treatable disease? But this is not the Lana viewers met in episode one. “I will not leave you in this place Lana. That’s a promise,” Dr. Thredson tells her. I’ve got my eye on you, Dr. Thredson. There’s no way you’re as nice as you seem.
In the end, Dr. Arden traps Anne Frank and accuses her of spreading lies about him, but Anne has a stolen gun and shoots his leg. She opens the door to find a disfigured Shelley imploring Anne to kill her. Next week’s episode is entitled “I Am Anne Frank, Part 2,” and for the first time I can’t wait to see what happens next.