Seriously though, this was yet another change of pace for the absolute insanity that is American Horror Story: Asylum and I suppose the ever-changing editing fits with the overall theme of the season. In the penultimate episode, titled “Continuum”, we’re treated to 3 extended segments (4 if you count whatever Dylan McDermott was doing at the end) of our three main characters: Kit, Jude and Lana. With each segment taking place in a different year (1967-69), it seems that Ryan Murphy and co. are rapidly driving us towards the present. The cold open, depicts Kit in his home wielding a bloody axe which is a rather obvious misdirection, as there’s no evidence that he would kill either Alma or Grace. I like that Kit’s segment never chastises the trio’s virtual polygamy, despite its end result. For Kit, the relationship with both women is real and almost equally passionate. Though tensions soon become evident when Grace wishes to show the children the real origins of their births (aliens!) I was genuinely surprised when Alma murdered Grace. Much like Mary Eunice and Dr. Arden’s deaths a few episodes ago, it felt like her story hadn’t fully resolved itself yet before being mercilessly killed. Alma is quickly placed in Briarcliff (since apparently no one in this universe goes to prison or any other mental institution for the crimes they commit) where she later dies. In less than half an hour, both women in Kit’s life are dead.
Poor Judy Martin. We’ve witnessed the once steely-eyed Sister Jude sink deeper and deeper into madness over these past few episodes through lobotomies and solitary confinements. And now with “Continuum” she has dived head-first down the rabbit hole, proceeding to enjoy a spot of tea with the Mad Hatter. Unfortunately for her, this isn’t Wonderland and there’s no sign that she’ll wake from her haze any time soon. The Monsignor tells Jude about his appointment to Cardinal in New York, and insists that he’ll set her free once and for all. Her elation is soon depleted when she sees the Angel of Death (Frances Conroy), now dressed as a prisoner. As a fan of Conroy, it’s fun seeing her act as a street-smart badass in a ’50’s woman’s prison movie, even if it’s clear that she is a hallucination. When Jude sits in front of new HBIC Mrs. Crump, it’s slowly revealed to both Jude and the audience that her perceived reality is almost entirely a hallucination. For one, Pepper is dead (NO!) and most notably, the Monsignor actually left Briarcliff years ago. This is a genuinely disturbing moment in a show that relies to heavily on shallow shocks and scares. We’ve been with Sister Jude through her gradual (now rapid) descent into utter madness, with her once proudly-owned institution ultimately doing her in. This is a true feeling of horror.
The third segment has caused a lot of stir on the Internet for the alleged character 180 of Lana. As she reads a largely-exaggerated segment from her book Maniac at a signing, she is visited by Threadson and Wendy (obvious hallucinations) who taunt her, causing her to break down. This is all well and good, but when she snaps at her assistant for getting her warm orange soda, it becomes clear that her personality has become that of a fame-seeking diva. Granted, this is five full years after we last saw her, but it’s a strange shift in characterization. The thing is, we saw hints of her desire to tell a juicy story in the first few episodes of the season, so such a shift shouldn’t seem too out-of-character. But when Kit visits and vocalizes his frustration that Lana sought out fame rather than following through on her promise to shut down Briarcliff, her response makes it seem like her quest for fame was ultimately more important than her quest for justice. Which doesn’t seem like the Lana we know and love. I have to side with the critics on this one, her segment feels bizarrely uncharacteristic, especially for a character that has been consistently written for the entire season. It makes me wonder if the writers have something bigger to reveal about her motivations in next week’s season finale.
Quick note: Even though it’s cliche, I always love when a show’s second-to-last episode leaves the fate of the season’s plot in one unassuming person’s hands, which beautifully sets up an epic season finale, and that’s exactly what happens here. And that person just so happens to be an increasingly-incoherent former nun who’s gone completely cuckoo-for-cocoa puffs and convinced that The Flying Nun was based on her life.
Grade: It just goes to show how nuts this show is that I’m going back and forth between an A-, a B, and a C. I think I’ll go with a B+. The extended segments gave everything more weight, letting each scene breathe rather than cutting between six different storylines.
MVP: Jessica Lange, Evan Peters