American Horror Story recap: Humbug

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. But he's a devil-lovin' psycho who just hates the 'Unholy Night' of Christmas. Sorry.
Ep. 08 | Aired Dec 5, 2012

THE DEVIL'S LITTLE HELPER Sister Mary helps Jean Valjean -- er, I mean Monsieur Lee Miserables get suited up for a Briarcliff slay ride in "Unholy Night"

SABOTAGE! Dr. Arden seemed compelled to take down Sister Mary before she did any further damage to herself or Briarcliff. And when he sought Sister Jude, his arch-nemesis, for assistance, I confess I totally fell for his lines and lies. “You're right. I don't believe in God. But I do believe in evil. I have seen it. Up close and personal,” said Arden. “That’s why her purity meant so much to me. She had this light in her. And that light has gone out. Please -- and that’s not a word I use often – please, help me.” Hook. Line. Sinker. What can I say? Like Sister Jude, I’m a sucker for redemption narratives. I was also enamored by the marvelous metaphor of their team-up. The man of science! The woman of faith! Putting an end to partisan rancor and teaming up to stop Briarcliff from tumbling off the fiscal cliff into the abyss! Together: Viva La Restoration! Sister Jude was much more skeptical, but she had no choice: Arden was her best chance at getting another shot at Sister Mary… as well as save the Briarcliff Christmas from idolatrous horror show of Rudolph the Red Nosed Blasphemist!

But it was a trap. After bringing Sister Jude into The Asylum via the death chute, Dr. Arden brought her up the Stairway to Heaven and back to her old office, and left her to wait for Sister Mary, so she could liberate the poor girl's captive soul by murdering her. Which is really kind of twisted, the more I think about it. Sister Jude girded her soul for the final battle with prayer. She heard the door open and prepared to face Satan. Instead, she saw “Santa Claus,” dressed to kill. Dr. Arden was never on her side -- he was setting her up for execution. His loyalty proven, Sister Mary rewarded Arden with an affectionate stroke of the cheek. Arden's eyes popped wide. A Christmas miracle! But when they began to hear Lee beating and beating and beating on Sister Jude, Arden got queasy. He deemed the brutality tedious and decamped to his dungeon of despair, dreaming of better, whiter Christmases from long, long ago.

Before we chronicle the loaded, multi-dimensional scuffle between Lee and Judy (Secular vs. Sacred! The mercenary of Satan/Science vs. The soldier of God! “Santa Claus” vs. “The Bride of Christ!” Irony vs. Irony!), a word about the examples of heroism – admirable, decidedly humanistic heroism – that provided some dim hope amid the darkness. Frank, who wanted to “do right by Grace” and bring her justice by going to the cops and telling them everything at the risk of personal and professional cost. He told Arden, “I’m ready to accept the consequences of my actions.” Lana, who realized that Sister Mary had broken her promise to go to the cops, who could have bolted from Briarcliff but stayed to help free Kit Walker, who continued to live up to his Christ-bearing name by saving Lana from Dr. Oliver Thredson – and who stopped her from killing him and damning her own soul with Bloody Face evil. For the moment, at least. (Yes, I am giving Bloody Face some short shift this week. More, next.)

And then there was Sister Jude. At first, I found it weird to the point of distraction to see her back in the habit in the wake of what has happened over the past couple weeks. (I also really need a status update on her Pittsburgh transfer. That's still happening, yes? When?) To be honest, I really don't know how much I trust Judy's re-embrace of faith -- a faith which I'm not sure she ever really had. Maybe she's still just play-acting a nun, albeit this time toward selfless, humanistic ends? And yet, she insisted she was a new woman. (“Look at me!” the lady protesteth. “Don’t I look different I’m not running anymore!”) And she certainly walked her talk by trying to redeem Sister Mary and the fallen Briarcliff culture. In short: She was the spirit of Christmas, made incarnate. Time will tell how authentic, how true.

This week, at least, she enjoyed a victory. “Santa” got some violent licks, scored some lascivious quips. From Lee’s holey yet not wholly unreasonable perspective, Sister Jude deserved to be bedeviled: She had been brutal to him in Briarcliff, and such, she was part and parcel of the oppressive, corrupt society that took away his dignity, self-esteem and spirit, that made him into a monster. “There is no God, but there is a ‘Santa Claus!’” he roared as he whipped his persecutor with her own canes. But Sister Jude got the last jab, if not a final word. She allowed him to come in close for a kiss in advance of worse, then rammed a letter opener into his neck. Down went old St. Nick…

But in the scrum, Judy Martin had once again lost her habit. She also had a blood all over her hands. We left her alone and frazzled, struggling for words, trying to figure out her next move, wondering anew what she had become…

Meanwhile, somewhere far below the Stairway to Heaven, Lana was hiding Bloody Face, bound and gagged, in an old Briarcliff junk room, and she seemed to be locking herself in there with him. “One day, I will bury you!” she spat as the episode cut to black. How long Lana will be able to wait? What horrors are about to occur in this room in the episodes to come? And who will inflict upon what onto whom? Is Lana carrying a Thredson-sired Dylan McDermott in her womb as so many are speculating? And Hark! you angel aliens! Where the hell did you take Grace’s dead body? So much to look forward to; so much about this episode to talk about now. The message board is yours.


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