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."
Before we part ways with Judy for the week, we must discuss this: The growing number of parallels between Judy’s story and the other Briarcliff stories. Like Shelley, Judy had a troubled relationship with her mother, cavorted with jazz musicians, and had a husband who abandoned her. Like Grace, Judy wrecked her lady parts and lost the ability to have children. Like Sister Mary, Judy found her role in the community that gave her identity (the jazz-blues band) subverted by a cousin. Lana? The motif of mechanized death and miraculous survival. This is all to say: If the big twist of the season is that all of this is happening in Judy’s head – if many if not all of these characters are different aspects of a fragmented, schizoid self – and what we're watching is a fantastical representation of her psychic reconstruction and reintegration… well, I’m ready for it.
The Passion of The Grace-Christ. From the get-go, Grace was ready to die. As she lay bleeding out in the Briarcliff infirmary, she saw Shachath and reached out to her. “I’m ready,” she said. But then one of those Lilie field nuns -- The Moviegoer -- pounded on her chest, and she was forced back to life. “We almost lost you, Grace,” said the nun. Grace replied, “You should have let me go.” Soon, the story would give her one compelling reason to be grateful that they didn’t.
Dr. Arden was the next Briarcliff administrator to spoil Grace with unwanted salvation. He promised to restore her to health with a strict regimen of medicine and around the clock care. But his motives were purely selfish. “I have been accused of this savagery, but I will not be the one who takes the fall for this,” said Arden of Grace’s mysterious and mangled hysterectomy. “You will live, Grace. If only to set the record straight.”
As Grace endured Dr. Arden’s two-faced do-gooding, her madhouse lover and accused Bloody Face rogue Kit Walker was getting some equally suspect assistance from the public defender charged with representing him. His strategy? Insincerity. “I am not asking you to lie,” said the lawyer. “But maybe we could build a defense that would get 12 people to be confused that you can’t tell the difference between right and wrong…” Kit Walker went Hall + Oats, said I can't go for that, no can-do, then bashed the lawyer over the head with a phone, jumped out the window and dashed away like O.J. Simpson through an airport. (I know: Groan.)
“Dark Cousin” reached is provocative, tragic climax in The Asylum's kitchen, the place where at the beginning of the episode a troubled young man was egged to play the role of world-redeeming revolutionary martyr and chose death instead. We found Grace on the mend and playing with dough. “I’m Dr. Arden’s little miracle,” she told a nun, “except when I open my eyes, I’m still at Briarcliff. Can't say it’s much of an improvement.” The nun replied with a line which, however trite, seemed to sum up the moral of a story about those who opt for easy exits and yearn for saviors that may never come: “You make the best of what life gives you.” It helps, though, to have a little grace – given or self-generated – and this was expressed via the moment when the nun tried to shoo Grace back to bed (where she surely would have been tied down for the night), and Grace begged to stay in the kitchen for just a little while longer (she hated being restrained), and the nun granted there wish. Meager love, for sure. But you take what you get in The Asylum…
Just when Grace thought life couldn’t get any better, it did. Enter Kit Walker. The man-child whose name means Christ-bearer, come to play Personal Jesus and rescue her from the Briarcliff hellhole. “I couldn’t let you die here,” said Kit. They turned to run, then ran into the nun. She screamed. Killer in the house! Monster Alert! Walker tried to shush her, but he didn't have to work too hard: Little did he know that when he entered Briarcliff through the death chute – the show’s symbol for the promise of escape, and more, the happily ever after of heavenly afterlife – Kit Walker allowed something else to infiltrate The Asylum, too: One of Dr. Arden’s cannibal cretins – one of his hideous test subjects for his invulnerability/immortality serum. The creature chomped on the nun’s neck, then threw her across the room. The inhuman thing then set its sights on Grace, but heroic Kit lured the beast away, then gutted it like a fish with a kitchen tool. (Not so imperishable after all, these creatures. Not quite thriving as they should. Memo to Dr. Arden: You might need to go back to the drawing board.)
Kit and Grace needed to clear one more obstacle: Frank. The problem? Briarcliff’s one-man security force had received a bulletin from state patrol reporting Kit’s escape – and instructing any officer with a gun to shoot on sight. And so he did. Frank pulled the trigger – and Grace jumped in front of the bullet. As Frank led a despondent Kit away, we were left to assess Grace’s motivation. A selfless sacrifice, an extraordinary act of lifesaving grace? Or was she being selfish? Did she take that bullet as the means to fulfillment, i.e., a way out of Briarcliff, by any means necessary? How about both? While Grace’s heroic action seemed sincere, she clearly chose death when Shachath descended upon her. Surely Dr. Arden could have worked another miracle cure. But she didn't want to live to fight another day. She wanted peace.
“Are you ready for me?” asked Shachath. Grace accepted her kiss, then made a declaration. ”I’m free.” We were left with the haunting image of two corpses, two symbols: Grace (liberation through death); and The Creature (heroic immortality project). The people will be grieved. But the ideas they represent? Well… that’s why God invented message boards. Debate! Your thoughts, opinions, complaints are wanted, my dark cousins. What did you think of this week’s superfuntime American Horror Story?