Image credit: Michael Becker/FX
GETTING BUGGY Sister Mary (Lily Rabe) and Frank (Fredric Lehne) try to make sense of current events in "Dark Cousin."
Miles Before We Sleep. “Dark Cousin” never once made explicit reference to the sociopolitical strife of mid-sixties America, specifically the Civil Rights Movement and the debate between civil disobedience and “by any means necessary” revolution. Still, the history was there in the subtext, and its concerns were dramatized. Is violence ever an option? Or must the oppressed and marginalized remain faithful, patient lilies and wait for society or a savior to give them the same rights, justice and opportunities enjoyed by everyone else? One could probably go crazy from being forced to internally negotiate these tensions, let alone live and suffer them…
And so we were introduced to Miles, a young African American man, an alleged schizoid and alcoholic stuck in The Asylum. We met this afflicted outsider as he was making sandwiches for his fellow inmates, and as he was suffering the fury of the invisible men in his head. You know what you need to do. You know it in your heart. Time to be brave and DO THE RIGHT THING and don't BLOW your ONE chance! Somebody has to be the HERO! So why not YOU for ONCE in your MISERABLE LIFE?You KNOW you’re NOTHING but a FILTHY drunk. You NEVER did NOTHING for NOBODY. Here’s your chance to DO something!
Miles snapped. “Shut up! Shut the hell up!” the servile sandwich maker said aloud. A nun working the electric slicer scolded him for his expressing his complaint with life and world with disobedient incivility. “I warned you about your dirty mouth! Cursing won’t silence anything!”
The impertinent chorus inside Miles' head did not take kindly to being pushed around and shoved down yet again by The (Wo)Man. So what’s it going to be? A life of pure s—t? Or the legacy of a brave soldier?
Miles listened. He decided he had had enough. He approached the nun and asked if he could examine the slicer. He believed the bread wasn’t properly cut, and he suggested the machine might be at fault. The nun allowed Miles to play handyman helper… and then she watched the beleaguered, conflicted soul expose his wrist to the spinning blade. He couldn’t be the rebel/martyr/hero the voices wanted him to be. But he couldn't continue suffering, either. And so he made like the trumpeter and improvised a third option: Revolutionary suicide.
But even the right to die was a right denied him. The nuns stitched him up and strapped him to a bed (a recurring motif in the episode). He told Frank, “I don’t want to be here no more.” Briarcliff? No: “I mean this world,” he said. Left alone, Miles despaired anew. Enter Shachath. “I am here to help you, if that’s what you want,” she said. It was. He used all of his strength to strain against his bonds and scrape at the stitch and tease the thread. The blood flowed. Shachath finished him off with a kiss, and Miles faded to black.
Who’s The Boss? Sister Mary, that’s who. And she made that abundantly clear to Dr. Arden during a summit in his dungeon of despair. She found the Butcher of Briarcliff trying to re-pot one of his plants, a salvium divinormum, also known as or “diviner’s sage,” prized by Shamans for its psychoactive properties… and considered by some Catholic converts as the leafy manifestation of the Virgin Mary. “It’s not thriving as it should, and I am determined to revive it!” said the faithless man of science. Was Clever Hans hip to the implicit "opiate of the masses" irony? And what’s Gruber doing growing drugs, anyway?
These questions did not interest Sister Mary. She wanted to talk about Grace. Hemorrhaging from what would eventually be diagnosed as a reckless hysterectomy (“All of her girl parts had been scooped out!”), Grace needed immediate medical attention, and Sister Mary wanted Arden on the case. After all: He had performed this botched sterilization, yes?
No! Dr. Arden had no clue who or what had gutted Grace, and he resented Sister Mary’s accusation that his “handywork” was to blame. “As the head of this institution,” thundered Arden, “I demand to be spoken to with a modicum of respect!” When Sister Mary sarcastically suggested otherwise, the mad doctor slapped her across the face. “You touch me again, you will die." Arden raised his hand – and Sister Mary telekinetically whooshed him across the room. Arden looked at her with unbelieving eyes. Have I been smoking too much Virgin Mary again? “I hope this clarifies the chain of command,” said Sister Mary, and left the doctor to go be a doctor for a change. (More on Grace later.)
NEXT: If God would send his angels, then everything would be alright. Right?