Image credit: Prashant Gupta/FX
Damn Plucky. Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) conspires to take control of her fate in "The Name Game."
And so, as Dr. Arden was about to zap Grace with X-rays and slice open her swollen belly like a cantaloupe, Pepper – charged with protecting her – dared to stop him. The arrogant egghead scoffed. He dismissed Pepper as nothing more than a pea-brained parrot that had been taught to mimic faculties she couldn't possibly possess. She returned volley with equally harsh words and nasty name-calling. She told this “stupid man” that his otherworldly betters were both amused and appalled by his “clumsy” attempts at building a better, stronger human, capable of surviving atomic holocaust and living forever. “They laugh at you, Dr. Arden. They make jokes,” said Pepper. “Knock, knock? Who’s there? Arden. Arden who? Arden you a quack who’d make a better duck?” She guffawed a defiant, toothy guffaw that was downright creepy.
Dr. Arden wasn’t amused, nor was he deterred. He finally got the point when the imperceptible forces safeguarding Grace caused a scalpel to fly out of his hand. Arden was confused and humbled. A terrifying threat also helped. “[I]f anything happens to Grace… they’ll take you, open up your head and stir your brain with a fork. And when you return, you’ll experience first-hand how you people treat us ‘freaks.’ Why don’t you go to your whore-nun. Have her soothe your deflated ego.”
He did, and that’s when Dr. Arden caught Sister Mary deflating Monsignor Timothy. (So to speak.) Defeated, the sad, emasculated Nazi decided upon a final solution. He pushed a wheelbarrow full of chopped meat out to his proverbial Garden of Eden – a last supper for his menagerie of crude, shambling transhumance, perverse products of an immortality project that no longer seemed relevant, that no longer meant anything to him. Having been shown up by his inexplicable alien superiors, having lost his Madonna-Whore prize to a younger inferior, having been humbled by inexplicable forces beyond his considerable ability to understand, Arden realized he had become profoundly obsolete. He intended to put his creatures out of their misery, then himself out of his own.
The Devil relished Arden’s despair. She caught up with him in the woods and goosed him further down the wintry road to hell by poking at his shame. She tried to assuage Arden’s broken heart (“He didn't mean anything to me,” she said of her adulterous roll with Father Howard), which just reminded him that he had one. She called him by his real name – “Hans” – the name he had spent years trying to suppress and deny. “Don’t call me that,” he snapped. When she begged him to give Judy Martin one of his expert icepick lobotomies, Arden refused. Why? Because she wished it. Because it reminded him how he and his science had been made yet again to serve inhuman ends. Especially those of a lowly, beastly woman.
He pulled out his revolver and shot three creatures through their empty heads. Sister Mary beheld the bloodshed and smiled. Her anticipation intensified as Dr. Arden put the barrel to his eyeball. “Finito la commedia,” said the horror show Pagliacci. The farce is over. But a final burst of pride – or weakness – took hold, and Arden couldn’t pull the trigger. He looked to Sister Mary, his fetishized icon of innocence, his only touchstone of hope in a hopeless world: “You don’t know what it means to have lost you!” Sister Mary – no longer smiling – got in Arden’s mug. “Jesus Christ,” she swore. “You’re being pitiful, Arthur.” Arden collapsed in a whimpering heap.
While the not-so-good doctor was losing his grip on his last shreds of self, the not-so-good monsignor was struggling to keep hold of his. Father Howard sought counsel – and fluffing -- from his own resident ego inflator, Judy Martin. But the Asylum matriarch-turned-Asylum patient was barely keeping it together herself. In another role reversal, Judy walked the story path reminiscent of the road she forced Lana Winters to travel during her first full day as a prisoner of Briarcliff back in “Tricks and Treats” (fittingly, the season’s other botched-exorcism outing, in which The Devil exited Jed Potter and entered Sister Mary). Sister Mary was bent on dehumanizing her enemy, be it by stripping Judy of her name (she was now just “Patient G2573”) or making her forget her name altogether by destroying her mind: In the moment that most resembled Lana’s suffering, Judy was subjected to electroshock violence – but much more severe than what she inflicted upon Lana -- following a haughty, defiant encounter with Sister Mary after a room search. The jolt left Judy so fried she could no longer perform the labor that once gave her joy, not to mention some local renown: Baking. No more newspaper article praising her fabled Briarcliff Marble.
So when The Monsignor found Judy in the kitchen, struggling to knead her dough, and offered a sincere apology for betraying her – for his “epic failure” -- it looked as if she could barely wrap her noodle around his words. But Judy understood enough to offer some advice when he asked to what to do about his predicament with Sister Mary. Should he run away? Should he renounce his vows and quit The Church and surrender his papal ambition?
"Kill her,” said Judy with a chilling garble.
NEXT: Sticks and stones may break The Devil’s bones, but Sister Mary’s name will always hurt her.