Sunday, November 25, 2012

American Horror Story: The Origins of Monstrosity (2.6)

Origin stories are generally a double-edged sword. For every Godfather Part II, in which flashbacks and past misdeeds only help enrich a narrative universe, there's a Star Wars: Episode I -- where mystical concepts are elaborated upon in such a way that it all becomes laborious and overly confused, reduced to a bunch of scientific particle hooey. Horror is another genre that frequently says too much a lot of the time. Is there anything scarier than somebody just being psychotic? Regardless of a tangible explanation, the idea of a person going out of their way to maim and terrorize others is terrifying enough on its own. Only that's not good enough for Ryan Murphy, who carefully details a lot of Bloody Face's history this week, along with most of the rest of the cast.

It's only really with Thredson that the info-dump backfires, since so much of his back-story feels painfully generic... lifting straight out of the Norman Bates handbook. It turns out that his mother didn't love him enough, that he grew up in an orphanage and was told that any form of human physicality was obscene, and now seeks out young women to act as potential surrogate mothers. Or, you know, gals who would look great as furniture. Asylum has so far been operating as a gothic thriller vehicle, all about psychological scares and ambiguous mystery. This left-turn is a little jarring in comparison, a lot more lurid and garish in its sensibility. It's then no surprise that this is the season's first Ryan Murphy script, since Lana breast-feeding her creepy captor only came off like an abandoned Nip/Tuck story. Meh.

Further revelations were a little more palatable. We got a clearer idea of Arden's mad scientist experiments, while there was an implication that the Monsignor is something of an ally due only to Arden's blackmail over his 'secrets'... which could be that he's gay? Hmmm, I got a vibe from that other young priest he was chilling with at one point.

Sister Mary Eunice continues to be crazy fun, too. It seems that her presence hasn't been entirely removed since the Devil moved in, but more that she's now a kind of amalgamation of both parties. So while the Devil has free reign of her body, she's still aware of Mary Eunice's history and her old emotions. There was a cool B-movie quality to Mary Eunice's high school prank flashback, and how it set her on a track of sexual dysfunction and habit-ry, while I continue to love how the show seems to just be having fun with the whole possession angle. Do we need to see her singing You Don't Own Me to a crucifix while dressed in Jessica Lange's slinky underwear? Not at all. But it sure is a good time, heh.

One of my minor complaints at the start of the season was that Asylum seemed to lack a real protagonist most of the time, that the story bounced between an array of characters with no discernible 'lead' to latch onto. Sister Jude, over the weeks, has more often than not assumed that traditional role, and I really love that she's becoming the hero of the piece. She remains deeply flawed and has displayed a sadistic edge in the past, but she also seems proactive and determined as a woman, gradually coming around to believing that Briarcliff is a terrible institution and that Arden needs to be stopped. With Goodman dead and his last words being about the nun who killed him, Jude is now in a position of power that should aid further stories. I like the idea of Jessica Lange investigating the mystery and hopefully saving the day, all the while becoming a better, stronger person in the process.

The Origins of Monstrosity is probably the weakest episode so far this season, but still bristled with narrative propulsion and a sense that this is headed somewhere striking and interesting. I'm a little concerned about the Thredson/Lana story, but I guess I prefer what we saw here rather than something straight out of Saw, which last week's twist ending seemed to imply. B-


- So is the murderous little girl a recurring character now? Adored her friendship with Mary Eunice, particularly how upfront and casual the latter is with her evil: "I'm the devil." Hee.

- I thought it was Zachary Quinto narrating the modern-day scenes, implying that Thredson is still alive and out there slicing up newlyweds, but online resources tell me that the voice actually belonged to (highlight to spoil) Dylan McDermott, which is... interesting. I think they need to bring these stories closer together, though, since the Mrs. Channing Tatum thing remains a little detached and stylistically dull compared to everything else this year.

- Somebody mentioned in the comments last week that the show has underused Chloƫ Sevigny this season, and in light of her brief demise here, I'm inclined to agree. For an actor of her stature, and a character who seemed primarily absorbing and vulnerable, it's a little disappointing to see her wind up as such a generic horror movie victim. Eh. Maybe she'll come back next season with better stuff to do.

Guest stars
Chloƫ Sevigny (Shelley); Jenna Dewan Tatum (Teresa Morrison); Mark Consuelos (Spivey); Mark Margolis (Sam Goodman); Amy Farrington (Mrs. Reynolds); Nikki Hahn (Jenny Reynolds); Bob Bancroft (Harry Kirkland); Eugene Byrd (Detective Perko); David Gianopoulos (Detective John Grayson); Kirk Bovill (Phil); Kasey Mahaffy (Father James)
Writer Ryan Murphy Director David Semel

1 comment:

  1. Maybe Thredson and Lana have a child - Dylan McDermott - who carries on the family-father-tradition of psychotic murder?