American Horror Story recap: Deliverance

An angelic femme fatale brings the promise of eternal peace to the suffering souls of The Asylum in 'Dark Cousin'
Ep. 07 | Aired Nov 28, 2012

GETTING BUGGY Sister Mary (Lily Rabe) and Frank (Fredric Lehne) try to make sense of current events in "Dark Cousin."

Michael Becker/FX

“We’re one/But we’re not the same.” Sister Mary had no sooner declared herself The Asylum’s chief priestess when she found her authority subverted by the arrival of her dark cousin. When she saw Shachath’s name written on the wall – an invitation, allegedly scrawled by Miles with his own blood (“allegedly,” because he denied doing it) --  the dragon coiled inside Sister Mary nearly crapped a fiery brick. (The three Aramaic characters resembled the word “ONE” and had me humming the U2 song for the rest of the episode.) She found Shachath just as the dark bird kissed Miles goodbye. “You did what you had to do. Now leave,” hissed the Sister. Shachath said she wasn’t going anywhere. She had been invited to Briarcliff, whereas her itinerant, squatting relative had not. Shachath, perhaps teasing, asserted that she could hear Sister Mary singing to her -- not the demon, but “the pure human girl you’ve taken hostage.” For a brief moment, that hijacked innocent reclaimed control of her body and begged Shachath for deliverance. Satan quickly shut that little rebellion down. “Oh, shut up you stupid sow!” she barked ay herself, a schizoid moment that linked Sister Mary to Miles and demonstrated a difference: She was the heroic adversary –the violent counter culture revolutionary – the Black Panther – that Miles refused to become.

“She likes it here. We like it here,” insisted the double-minded devil.” We have work left to do.” Shachath replied that she did, as well, and she promised that they would meet again. We were left to wonder: Can Sister Mary be saved? Can she separate from the devil holding her captive? And just what the hell is their endgame, anyway? Are they pursuing an ideological agenda? (Up with womanhood! Down with hideous men! Piss on religion, science, and all the bogus utopian hero-projects of modernism!) Is Satan picking a fight with God on our behalf? Perhaps trying to bully him into giving up the absentee landlord thing and reclaim This (Neglected) Island Earth? Or is she just being bitchy-mean?

The Sleep of Reason Produces Abandonment Issues. Last week, Lana Winters had no choice but to subvert her identity and live the hideous lie of playing Oliver Thredson’s substitute mommy in order to survive. This week, Bloody Face’s outrageous Oedipal madness and the rape of Lana’s intrinsic meaning went next level, and literal. The spectacle of sexual violence was hard-to-stomach awful, as it should have been, but I resented having to watch it, anyway. I had to stop and walk away for a bit, and I was still in a funk long after I resumed. At least we (and Lana) got some avenging catharsis in this episode. Hopefully there's more to come.

As Thredson indulged his second most vile mommy fantasy (the first, coming up), Lana detached and despaired… and after it was all over, and Lana was left alone, Shachath approached. “You heard me calling,” Lana said to the spirit. “I don’t think I can do this anymore. Death might be better. I used to be scared of it. I’m not afraid anymore.” The saintly succubus gave good bedside manner and tried not to drool. “Just let go,” she said. “I’m right here with you.” But as Shachath leaned in for a kiss, Lana suddenly pushed her away. She wasn’t ready to surrender. “Not yet,” she said. And POOF! The Dark Lady vanished.

Then: “LANA? Are you DECENT?”

It was Thredson, returning to the basement for an after-rape post-mortem. He bounded down the stairs with an agitated gait, nattily attired and scrubbed clean yet feeling dirty from the transgressive guilt of icky surrogate incest. He didn't blame Lana. It was his bad. Still, she’d be the one paying the price. “If there’s one thing you need to know about me, Lana, is that I’m tenacious. I don’t like to give up, and that kind of stick-to-itness has served me and my patients very well,” explained Thredson. “But sometimes it also prevents me from acknowledging when we’ve reached an impasse, like the one I think we’ve reached here.”

Lana didn’t like the sound of “impasse.” Thredson, a delusional narcissist, perceived her anxiety as a judgment against him and got huffy-pissy, precipitating one of Thredson’s more darkly hilarious moments. “Don't look so frightened! I don’t want to hurt you,” he said, utterly sincere (at least in his mind). “I want this to be as painless for you as possible. So I will give you a choice: I can either cut your throat or I can strangle you. I don't believe in guns.” It was a break-up, Bloody Face style. But at least he offered her the courtesy of knocking her out with a shot of sleepy stuff first. It was frightening how Thredson thought he was being so merciful and even reasonable with his indecent proposal.

And so he initiated his most vile mommy fantasy: Matricide. You quit me, Mommy? No: I quit YOU! Thredson climbed atop Lana with his drippy-pricky needle. He encouraged her to gaze upon the photo of her true love Wendy, told her to take solace in the afterlife reunion that seemed imminent. Lana did look to the picture – and it gave her strength. She grabbed the frame and smashed it across his face. She snatched the syringe and plunged it into this thigh. She choked him into near-unconsciousness with her chains, then grabbed the keys and freed herself from the bonds. Lana bolted for the stairs. Oliver pushed through the druggy fog to lunge and grab her ankle. Lana shook him loose and kicked him onto a surgical table. Thredson: Out. Lana: Up.

NEXT: In which we learn anew why it’s never smart to get in a car with a stranger.

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