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American Horror Story Review: "Madness Ends" (Episode 2.13)

January 24, 2013  |  1:39pm
<i>American Horror Story</i> Review: "Madness Ends" (Episode 2.13)

For a show that has featured aliens, human experiments, mutilations, torture, the wearing of human skin and (in an image I’ll never quite recover from) a grown man breastfeeding, American Horror Story: Asylum ended its season more like a Lifetime movie-of-the-week than the outrageous show it has been all season long.

In the present day, we learn that Lana Winters has become something of a cross between Barbara Walters and Truman Capote. She’s written six best sellers and is the country’s premier interviewer. She realized early on that TV was where it was at—that people needed the visual images.

Lana is now being interviewed herself in anticipation of receiving a Kennedy Center Honor for her journalistic prowess. I tried to do the math on how old Lana would be now. The show started in 1964, where let’s assume Lana was 30. That would put her at around 78 now. The show did a good job with aging Sarah Paulson, and Paulson did a fantastic job of changing her mannerisms, her gait and even her voice. It helped to have the line that Lana’s still youthful appearance was due to a “very talented surgeon in Paris and a great dermatologist.” In general, Paulson looked fantastic in the episode. Being a brunette really suits her, and I adored her hair, makeup and outfits. She needs to be featured on E!’s Fashion Police.

The Lana we met last week was a bit of a sell-out, but this week Lana redeemed herself. Lana did go back and expose Briarcliff, which had actually gotten worse since the state of Massachusetts took over. She also brought down Cardinal Timothy Howard. But she tells the interviewer that she lied about what happen to her baby. He didn’t die in childbirth. She gave him up for adoption, and when he was a young boy she found him in the schoolyard and defended him against a bully (which turned out to be her near-fatal mistake).

Viewers were also treated to Lana flashing back to Kit rescuing Sister Jude, who died peacefully in Kit’s house after befriending his two children (who did have some kind of alien magic powers). Kit rescued Jude because he realized the only way to get past Briarcliff was to find someone to forgive. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Kit also disappeared via an alien abduction (even in the end, the show just couldn’t let the alien storyline go). And we learned that both of Kit’s children grew up to be successful—one’s a law professor, the other’s a neurosurgeon. (So much for my theory that Kit’s son turned out to be Bloody Face. I still think it would have been a nice surprise twist). Kit and Jude both got happy endings of sorts.

Finally modern-day Bloody Face, or Johnny as he’s known to his friends, confronts his mother. He’s there to kill her but, of course, what he really wants is her love. In the end, the whole show boiled down to a guy with serious mommy issues. “It’s not your fault baby, it’s mine,” Lana says before shooting him in the head just like she did his father. Lana really is a tough cookie.

The show then immediately cut to the scene of Sister Jude and Lana meeting for the first time. Sister Jude warns Lana about the perils of ambition and tells her “If you look in the face of evil, evil is going to look right back at you.” So everything Lana went through is because she had ambition?

In general, I’m not buying what the show is selling. American Horror Story: Asylum is about shock value, gore, depravity and the occasional singing number. The show doesn’t have a larger message, and you can’t convince me that it does.

But for a series that had strong misogynistic undertones, it did showcase some brilliant performances from its three leading ladies—Lily Rabe, Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange. Paulson was always particularly inspired. And Lange was transcendent. Executive producer Ryan Murphy has already announced that Paulson and Lange will return for the show’s third installment along with Evan Peters. So until then, let’s all think happy thoughts and try to recover from the horror of American Horror Story: Asylum.

Other thoughts on the season finale:
• Seriously, what was the point of the aliens this season? We never really learned anything about them. Murphy has promised there will be no aliens next season—thank goodness.
• I would have liked seeing more of Johnny’s upbringing. Were the parents who adopted him so awful that he thought the only one who loved him was his serial killer father?
• We really didn’t need to see Leo and Teresa again. We knew Bloody Face got them, didn’t we?
• Johnny bought Lana’s tape of Thredson’s confession on eBay? I mean I know you can buy practically anything on the Internet, but still. It’s the most preposterous thing the show has tried to make viewers believe. I wonder how eBay feels about this unwanted product placement.
• Please let Lily Rabe be on the show next season.
• But I think we’re all set with Dylan McDermott, thanks.

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