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?
Lana had to rethink her strategy. Quickly. Ideas began coming together when Johnny went ballistic (so to speak) over a crack about Daddy Dearest. Lana: “Your father once told me he didn’t believe in guns. Of course, he was lying about that, too.” Johnny: “YOU DON’T GET TO TALK ABOUT MY FATHER!” Lana: “What are you so afraid of, Johnny? The truth about him or the truth about you?” (But what truth would that be? Theory-Brain: That he’s not really Bloody Face’s son! Normal brain: Shut up! SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!)
Johnny, swelling with emotion: “I just want him to be proud of me!” Lana closed her eyes. Was she trying to hide her disgust… or hide an epiphany? For the author of Maniac knew all about “the stunted male psyche.” And in Johnny’s deep want, I think she saw the solution to disarming him. It was the same strategy she used on his father in his basement dungeon, when she found herself on the verge of death and needed a Hail Mary to save her life: She would play mommy and give him the love he craved. For Oliver, love took the form of perverse intimacy (pseudo-nursing; pseudo-incest). Johnny was easier: He just wanted to hear his mother tell him he was a good little boy. “He was a monster. But that’s not you,” she said. “You could never be like him. Not that sweet little boy I met on the playground. Even then I knew you were a better man than he was.” As she spoke-seduced, Johnny lowered the gun and began to weep. “It's not just him that's in you. I’m a part of you, too.”
It didn't matter if Lana really believed that she thought of herself as an innately good person and that said goodness dwelled within Johnny. All that matter was that he believed it. And he did. Johnny moaned in despair – it sounded like “Mom” – and said, “I’ve hurt people.” Lana took away his gun and made one more true confession in a long day full of them. “It’s not your fault,” said Lana, raising the revolver to Johnny’s head. “It’s mine.” Chilling words in a season in which the monster who damaged and nearly destroyed Lana's life shamefully insisted that she only had herself to blame for the abuse he inflicted upon her. We debate: Lana's sense of culpability/responsibility: Healthy or tragic?
She pulled the trigger. Johnny’s brains blew. Then silence. We left her alone and lonely, the cost of her ambition bleeding out on the expensive carpet it had bought for her.
Farewell, Lana Winters. Livestrong and prosper.
Epilogue. We flipped to the past, one final time, for a jaunty, appropriately winky beat with Asylum’s two best creations, and the season’s two most valuable acting players. We were presented with a telling moment from Lana's first encounter with Sister Jude -- an interview, if you recall, in which Lana tried to get the Briarcliff grand dame to cough up details about Bloody Face. Judy -- burned by the deception; bummed that the local paper wasn’t really interested in her bakery business after all -- walked “the Sapphic reporter” down the Stairway to Heaven and toward the door. They bantered ironically about the struggle of being ambitious women – and the price of immoral striving, period -- as they spiraled downward together.
“I don't think you and I are destined to meet again,” said Judy. “But I do hope you know what you’re in for. The loneliness. The heartbreak. The sacrifice you’ll face as a woman with a dream, on her own.”
“You don’t have any idea what I am capable of,” replied Miss Damn Plucky.
Sister Jude got the last word. “Just remember,” she said, her eyes dead and cold, her face shaded with demon dark shadows. “If you look in the face of evil, evil is going to look right back at you.” Her advice was paraphrased Nietzsche: He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you. Judy Martin’s gloss on this wisdom shot across the divide between the two women and pinged Lana between the eyes the way The Devil hurled itself out of young Jed Potter’s dying body and into Sister Mary’s heart.
Lana replied with a smile.
“After you,” said Sister Jude, gesturing to the door and sending Lana out into the world.
As Lana exited, Judy looked at The Virgin Mary statue that towered over her. The idol was just days away from Dr. Arden’s lipstick desecration and obliterating shove off its pedestal. My translation of Sister Jude’s snarky expression: The shit I do for you. Then, Sister Jude stepped out the door to greet the new inmate that would change her life, and eventually, save her soul. Maybe. For the last time, The Singing Nun ripped into “Dominique,” and the camera ascended, capturing the Fibonacci spiral of the Stairway to Heaven. Fibonacci spiral = The Golden Spiral = The Golden Rule: The ethics of reciprocity. Treat others the way you would want them to treat you. It’s as good a moral as any to the saga of American Horror Story: Asylum. You’d think it would be easy. We wish.
What a long, strange, lunatic, disturbing and a thousand other adjectives journey it's been. Flesh-masked serial killers. Nazi mad scientists and undead supermen. Devil-possessed nuns and boundary-challenged aliens. Booby trapped psychotherapists, murdering monsignors, nympho jazz fans, murdering axe wielding Frenchies, ersatz Anne Franks, fake bad Santas, and of course, those insidiously eeeevil quick fix hypnotists with their cheap cures for weight loss. (Could I get that number?) I have enjoyed recapping every meaningful (and meaningless) moment, and don't mind for a second all my theories that proved wrongheaded and incorrect. Remember when I predicted that the season would end with the revelation that it was Sister Jude -- forever trapped in Briarcliff, ancient and feral and raging – who ripped off Leo's arm. Wrong! It was Johnny Morgan. And I am glad I was wrong, because we wouldn't have gotten the much better, far more inspiring conclusion than we got. I can't wait to see if AHS 3.0 can rise to the challenge of equaling this season’s accomplishment. I hope to be back recapping it... unless the aliens come to beam me up first.
Thanks for taking the ride with me. Once more into the message board abyss, Horror Freaks: What did you think of “Madness Ends?”