American Horror Story recap: Cinema No Paradiso

Devil-possessed Sister Mary turns Sister Jude's movie night into a bloody black mass in 'Nor'easter'
Ep. 03 | Aired Oct 31, 2012

What Evil Lurks In The Hearts Of Men? Only Sister Mary (Lily Rabe) knows. AND THE DEVIL INSIDE HER.

Byron Cohen/FX

The day’s post includes a newspaper, but not a local or recent one. It’s the Framingham Herald. The date: June 28, 1949. The banner headline: FRAMINGHAM GIRL MISSING SIX DAYS; THE SEARCH CONTINUES. The picture: The Little Girl In Blue; The Innocent; the child that The Nun Formerly Known As Trampy Judy ran over and left for dead. Sister Jude sees the newspaper and freaks. Where did you get this?! “The mailbox,” says Sister Mary. Yes, you ninny, but who delivered it? Sister Mary, facetious: “The mail-man?” FUN FACT! June 28, 1949 minus 6 days = June 22, 1949, which happens to be the day that two famous actresses were born: Meryl Streep, whose many credits include She-DevilDoubt, and Angels In America, and Lindsay Wagner, who became famous by playing a woman who lost her legs during a date gone wrong and became a super-powered secret agent/transhuman Frankenstein known as The Bionic Woman. Think she might have a referral for Shelley?

Sister Jude is convinced that someone is subversively punking her (I know what you did 15 summers ago, you naughty-naughty girl!), that someone is trying to spook her with winky-wicked coded messages, and that this sequence is subliminally alluding to the work of Neil Postman, the cultural critic who penned the books Amusing Ourselves To Death and The Disappearance of Childhood and coined the term “media ecology.” (FUN FACT! American Horror Story: Asylum premiered on October 17, 2012 – the 15-year anniversary ofI Know What You Did Last Summer.) Sister Jude does not consider that some divine conspiracy, heavenly or otherwise, is presenting her anew with an opportunity for confession, atonement, and redemption from the guilt that snares and warps her. Regardless: Sister Jude’s shame has flared anew – and it will lead her to a close encounter with the gray alien shadow that harrows her soul.

Unless that thing gray-faced thing was literally an alien.

What is this tempest about to sock The Asylum? Natural? Supernatural? (SatanStorm!) Unnatural? (Extraterrestrial Mothership, Inbound!) We get a specific word for this FrankenStorm in the very next scene, in which we find Dr. Arthur Arden, creature maker and beastly misogynist, experimenting with the exotic matter that he extracted from Kit Walker’s neck back in the pilot, the futuristic microchip-looking thing that sprouted six tiny legs and scampered away like a bug. IT’S ALIVE! Arden has dissected the (alien) mini-machine, and he’s examining the quartered pieces though a magnifying glass when suddenly, the seemingly sentient bits begin to stir and then SNAP! together. The mad scientist pops his eyes and recoils in shock. (In a scene that was cut from the episode, Dr. Arden then opened his diary and wrote these words: I was working in the lab late one night, when my eyes beheld an eerie sight. They did a mash! They did a monster mash!) 

Sorry. We were talking about storms, right? Arden has Faure playing on the radio, too, but a severe weather warning interrupts the broadcast: “There’s a Nor’easter storm approaching the entire Eastern seaboard. The eye of the storm is expected to hit Friday night…” And commence Wikipedia-assisted decoding! By my estimation, the Friday night we’re talking about here is November 6, 1964, the day that Greg Graffin – noted atheist and naturalist -- was born. He is also the leader singer of the influential Los Angeles-based punk-rock band Bad Religion, whose hits include “21st Century Digital Boy” (chip-headed Kit Walker!) and “The Devil In Stitches” (Bloody Face!). Nor’easter = Noir’Easter = Black Easter, Jams Blish’s 1968 sci-fi fantasy novel about an occultist who unleashes demons upon the world, and ends with Baphomet – a demon favored by the black magic set -- declaring that no power can command the hoary host back to Hell, for God is dead. Black Easter is the third in a four-part cycle that Blish called the “After Such Knowledge” series; the first was called A Case Of Conscience. It’s about a Jesuit priest who leads a group of Catholic scientists to a planet that’s home to an alien race that has an innate sense of morality despite lacking any kind of religion. Naturally, the Catholics deem this Utopian society to be Satanic, and therefore must be converted, exorcised or destroyed. The phrase “After Such Knowledge” comes from the T.S. Eliot poem “Gerontion” about a faithless, impotent post-war man wrestling with sin, sexuality, the weight of history, the relevancy (or lack thereof) of Christianity, and salvation. “After such knowledge, what forgiveness?”

It’s a question that nags at Sister Jude, as well.

NEXT: B.F Skinner; Bloody Face skin-heads. Is there a connection?

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