Image credit: Byron Cohen/FX
Livestrong and Prosper. Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) and Kit Walker (Evan Peters) represented two different kinds of confession, redemption, and happily ever after in "Madness Ends." One was worth modeling. The other... not so much?
The uplift of “Madness Ends” took a tonal turn once the story began to veer toward its endgame, and a darker, more ironic take on the individual’s responsibility to redeeming the culture: Lana’s showdown with the embodiment of Bloody Face’s demented, deadly legacy, Johnny Morgan.
Lana set the stage for the conflict with her most shocking disclosure to the Kennedy Center interview team. In her book, Maniac, Lana claimed that Oliver Thredson’s baby boy died shortly after she gave birth to him. But this wasn’t true, she said. After that hideous single nursing seen in “Spilt Milk,” Lana gave the infant back to the nurse. “Don’t ask me to do that again. He’ll have to learn to live without me.” It was the last time she ever saw him… until years later, when Lana used her skills as a sleuth (“which, we know, are myriad” – loved that) to check up on the boy during a period of her life when she felt wracked with guilt for giving him up. (The Kit Walker influence, perhaps?) She found her unwanted offspring – a dead ringer for Thredson – as he was being beaten and bullied by a brutish thug. Lana Winters, Crusader, to the rescue: “HEY YOU LITTLE SHIT! Back off before I hurt you in ways you never dreamed of!” The bully skulked away, leaving Lana and Johnny to a moment as awkward as it was charged. What was there to stay? “You know he’s the asshole, right?” asked Lana. Johnny – more embarrassed than grateful for the Good Samaritan save – said, “Yeah, I know!” and scooted away.
“It was the last time I saw him,” Lana told April. “I wasn’t his mother. But I thought about him so often, wondering where he was, and how he turned out.”
After the interview, Lana showed April and her camera crew to the door. She should have gotten ready to join Marion for “that Sondheim thing.” Instead, she walked to the bar and pulled out two glasses. “Can I pour you a drink?” she said. “Why don't you come out now? No need to hide. Not anymore.”
Johnny Morgan, skanky and scruffy, revealed himself. Smirky-triumphant. Looking as smug as Lana did when she ambushed Oliver Thredson in his apartment decades earlier during their final confrontation.
“Let's get this over with, shall we?” asked Lana.
They sat down. They drank. Burning questions were asked and answered. Lana: How did Johnny get on the crew? Simple. He learned about the interview from Lana's gabby doorman, then killed the first guy to arrive – the donut dude – and took his place. (Again: Like mother, like son. Lana worked a pastry angle to get to Sister Jude back in '64: She pretended she was interested in The Asylum's bakery biz.) Johnny: How did Lana recognize him? “Oh, Johnny,” she purred. “How could I not recognize my own baby boy?”
But this was a lie. In a quick flashback, we saw that a week earlier, detectives visited Lana and told her all about Johnny Morgan, and how he had killed five people. Among them: an elderly couple who owned the home where Thredson had raped and tortured Lana back in ’64, where she had shot and killed him with a bullet to the head in ‘65. Lana looked at the photo the adult Johnny and said, “I’ve never seen him before in my life.”
(I don’t know about you, but I gave brief consideration to the possibility that Lana made up that story about feeling guilty about giving up Johnny, about seeking him out when he was a boy and saving him from the bully. Could it have been an elaborate fib for eavesdropping Johnny’s benefit? A bid to manipulate his sympathy and weaken his vengeful resolve? And yes, I even briefly wondered if maybe, just maybe, Lana lied about lying about how her baby had died... which would mean Johnny Morgan was really some schizoid psycho/horror freak who wanted to believe he was the son of Bloody Face. Again: “brief” and “briefly.” As much as my theory-brain loves these alternate readings, my normal brain, who resents theory-brain, would rather just take the story at face value, because it’s spares him the headache.)
Johnny admitted that he didn’t think their confrontation would go down like this. “Funny,” said Lana, sipping her drink. “Because this is exactly how I pictured it. I always knew this day would come.” If that was true, then we should note that what Lana had always pictured was a showdown that mirrored her final showdown the Oliver Thredson: Taunts and revelations over drinks in a swanky sitting room. Regardless, I wondered: How was she going to get out of this? Did she poison his booze? Are BOTH glasses poisoned? Was this headed toward murder-suicide?
As prepared as Lana might have been for this close encounter with her alienated and angry child, she seemed genuinely surprised by three revelations. First: Johnny claimed he knew Lana was his mother that day on the playground. He could just feel it. Second: He found the recording of Oliver Thredson’s Bloody Face confession – on EBay! – and heard Lana's promise to abort. “My father loved me. I could hear it in his voice. That’s when I started loving him and hating you.” Third: Johnny had a gun.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” said Lana, suddenly nervous.
NEXT: Lana Winters once again takes responsibility for her mess.