Contributor: Gregg Wright
Written by Jessica Sharzer
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
My comparison between Dr. Arden and Josef Mengele was apparently more apt than I realized at the time I made it. I really should have suspected this sooner, because there were some pretty big clues in previous episodes. What kind of person is so paranoid about being spied on by Germans, Jews, and US agents? A Nazi war criminal, that’s who. Turns out Dr. Arden may have once been a Dr. Hans Gruber. (I’m guessing the similarity in name with the “Die Hard” villain is coincidental.)
Most of what we learn about Dr. Arden’s past comes from an unlikely source. Well, the surprise is blatantly spoiled in the episode title. Anne Frank’s appearance is played pretty straight, but her mere presence (as well as her being named in the episode title) seem to suggest that Falchuk and Murphy are slyly winking at the audience; letting us know that they know how outrageous the idea (and so much of the show) is. It couldn’t be just any Auschwitz survivor. It had to be Anne Frank. This show does amuse me so.
And naturally, all the Auschwitz flashbacks are edited to resemble vintage black-and-white film, complete with spinning film reel sound effects. It is a bit cliché, but that’s probably the whole point. And besides, it looks fantastic and just plain works. There was a reason Spielberg couldn’t imagine letting “Schindler’s List” be anything other than black-and-white. The moment the black-and-white sequence started, I was instantly transported to the place and the era. There’s simply no mistaking it for anything else.
This may be a bit premature, considering how early we are into the season, but I’m calling it. I think we have enough clues to tell us who Bloody Face really is; at least in the 60s. It’s Dr. Arden. His issues with women and surgical skills make him a perfect fit. And his hideous experiment with Shelley all-but confirms that Arden is responsible for all those creatures out in the woods, and they seem to be a result of immortality experiments, meaning that anyone (including Arden) from the 60s could be the modern Bloody Face.
Or, this could all be a deliberate red herring. The first season of “American Horror Story” seemed to have an increasing number of excellent twists the further along the season went. Then again, we may be further along in the season than I previously thought. I’m still unsure of how many episodes it will contain. I can only find seven listed so far, but the previous season had twelve. I really hope that this isn’t a shortened season.
We still don’t know how the aliens tie into all of this, of course. But we know that they’re real, and that Kit’s self-doubt is misplaced (though understandable). You can see Sister Jude’s nearly invisible reaction when Kit confesses that the creatures that abducted his wife just had to have been imaginary. She may still vaguely remember her brief encounter with one of the aliens in the halls of the asylum. She seems less than 100% sure that her experience was a hallucination brought on by the alcohol.
And no episode of “American Horror Story: Asylum” would be complete without more depictions of the barbarically outdated and barbaric conditions at Briarcliff. Lana Winters has become determined to get out, even if it means becoming cured of her homosexuality. Perhaps ironically, the most progressive and compassionate character in the show is the one to conduct Lana’s therapy, which is itself pretty horrifying; so horrifying that Thredson eventually just gives up and decides that helping Lana escape is the better option.
The romantic relationship between Kit and Grace was pretty heavily telegraphed from the beginning of the show, but the reveal that Grace isn’t so innocent was also probably foreseen by a lot of viewers. The reveal isn’t earth-shattering, because her reasons for killing her father and step-mother are pretty understandable, even to Kit. So things will progress as usual. But it ties in well with Kit’s self-doubt, and it may be an important step toward whatever happens later with Kit and Grace.
Another reviewer pointed out that splitting this episode into a two-parter allowed for a slower pace, which they appreciated, given how much had been packed into the previous episodes. I’m inclined to agree. The show needed a chance to breathe a bit, though it’s hard to think of the episode as “slow”, considering how quickly the whole thing seemed to rush by. Either way, there’s still so much interesting stuff going on in this show that the words “boring” and “slow” are the furthest thing from my mind.