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”God always answers our prayers, Judy. It’s just rarely the answers we’re looking for.””
It’s displeasing tonight’s episode is called “I Am Anne Frank: Part 2.” I certainly hope it shows up as a single episode on the DVDs, because this was honestly one of the most joyously exploitative hours of television I’ve ever sat through. I can’t even take an objective step back to consider it from any angle that isn’t drowning in dumbstruck glee. I’ll try to tone it down a notch, folks.
Speaking of glee, one of Glee’s frequently-used directors, Alfonso Gomez Rejon, directed tonight’s fun fest, and his work, along with the cinematographer and editor, are a huge part of what made it so effective. Every scene seemed to feature a story element with a visual or aural flourish to accompany it. Actually, I think that’ll be this week’s theme.
Extreme Close-Up on Jude/Revolving Camera Around Sam’s Room
The opening shot drives straight into Jude’s face as she arrives to meet with Sam Goodman (Mark Margolis), to tell him about Arden’s supposed Nazi past. He explains Operation Paperclip, the OSS’ post-war Nazi Scientist employment program. The camera circles the room, capturing mostly reflections of Sam speaking, focusing on the plentiful set dressing the room has to offer. For her proof, Sam says Arden will have a tattoo of his blood time, but it would normally be covered by a shirt. I assume she won’t invite him to a hot tub anytime soon. This may be her only hope, should she care to continue hoping, to stay under Monsignor Howard.
Old Sitcom Look/Rise to Arden Atop The Stairs
Though Jude believes her now, Anne Frank turns out to be just another bonkers housewife who tried to kill her baby. Frank the guard stops the Dr. Arden hostage situation, and Anne is attached to a bed the only way AHS knows how: with straps. Her husband visits, proving Charlotte Brown is her real name, admitting their colic-ridden son’s incessant crying is what sent her into her Auschwitz-researching binge,
When the Brown’s home life gets a flashback, the filmstock reverts to the color-saturated video look from the late 1950s and early 1960s. The cheery appearance is antithetical to the dark acts witnessed, such as Charlotte self-applying her prison camp tattoo, or the husband discovering her obsessive shrine to German war atrocities. Deflated by this realization, Jude allows her back into the husband’s care, though Dr. Thredson is against it, since she obviously needs institutionalizing. Her absence is short-lived before she tries smothering her baby, and she’s sent back post-haste, in the most gorgeous shot of the episode.
The camera slowly drifts through, sparse piano notes replacing her vicious fight against restraints, panning up the twisting staircase and stopping at the white-suited demi-god Dr. Arden, revenge flaming in his eyes. Many of the more subdued asylum patients have lobotomy scars, so it’s no surprise Arden’s best solution for her is a lobotomy, which we get to watch as it’s performed in tune to the orchestral score, slightly recalling Nip/Tuck. Later, she seems happy and docile at home, but for a momentary switch back to the old filmstock as we hear the blippy sound of a tube TV being turned off. It’s a wonderfully dark moment, leaving viewers with the uneasy feeling that the crying baby’s days are probably numbered. Eesh.
Even worse, as the husband takes her war-centered collection to the trash, we see a picture tacked to a bulletin board that clearly shows Arden/Grouper standing behind Mein Fuhrer himself. Assuming this photo also gets tossed, it has to come down to that tattoo he has. Or maybe they’re leaving the Nazi angle behind for a while, which would make the opening scene pointless.
Continuous Shot Through Thredson’s House Leading Up to Big Reveal
This is the moment that twists everything into the fantastically bizarre. Thredson’s promise to free Lana from Briarcliff is made good as he sneaks her out, right around when the camera starts showing Thredson from low angles, giving him a sense of power. Frank tells him Jude wanted to talk about the re-admission of Anne/Charlotte, and Thredson cryptically says, “I don’t work here anymore. In fact, I never did. You can tell her I said that,” before he drives the hidden Lana away.
Thredson dodges all of Lana’s mentions of going home or calling someone, using the consequences from her disappearance to prove their hiding necessary. He assures her of a meeting with a detective in the morning to plead their case. He further proves his refusal of outside contact by disconnecting a phone call Lana tries to make.
The camera then pulls back, leading them into the living room, where it swivels around so that the characters are split by the middle of the screen. As Lana drinks a glass of wine he poured for her, Thredson expresses the importance of Lana being the one to tell his story, which she misunderstands, thinking he’s talking about Briarcliff. Tsk tsk.
Then she notices the dried up lampshade with the nipples on it. Then she sees that Thredson’s eating candies out of a bowl made from the top of a skull. Avoiding panic and using the bathroom as a guise, she looks for an escape down the hall, stumbling into his little medical lab, with all its scattered bones and shiny surgical equipment. After learning Thredson’s hobbies include beach walks and making furniture out of skin, Lana is dropped through a trap door into the hidden portion of Thredson’s dungeon.
In a Saw-esque manner, she wakes up next to the frozen corpse of her ex-lover Wendy. Thredson was “hoping she’d be a little more pliable” by the time Lana came to. Normally he’d have already removed her skin and head, but he kept her fresh for more therapy, which must begin with Lana kissing Wendy’s cold dead lips. “She won’t bite,” he says as he finally brings out and puts on the Bloody Face skin mask, pointing to the mouth. “I took her teeth.” Fucking amazing. There are loads of corny lines on this show, and that was definitely one of them, but it was done with such reckless abandoned after introducing necrophilia to the situation. Rarely am I so giddy while being creeped out. Strange that this plotline has already gotten to this point, but not surprising.
Alternating Shots of Kit and Grace Together In Solitary
As Kit and Grace talk through the cell walls, the normal shots are interspersed with each character imagining they were embracing the other as they talk. It’s as close to tender as this series gets. Mary Eunice soon interrupts, sparing Kit from Jude’s sterilization plans. Grace isn’t so lucky. After much screaming in disbelief, Grace sees a white light under the door, and after a beautiful close-up of her eyes dilating, she goes through that whole white room alien thing that Kit went through. But a pregnant-looking Alma is there also, introducing herself to Grace, who is covered in so much salve she looks like a bear claw. And of course, there are lots of quick shots of aliens.
Meanwhile, pre-nipplelamp Thredson makes Kit record a confession, explaining the purpose is to play it back for Kit to listen and judge how convincing his confession sounds. So like the dope he is, Kit records himself saying he killed his wife, thinking Thredson will prove his insanity somehow so that he stays in the asylum and not the electric chair. Later, Kit finds Grace in the public room, bleeding from her private parts. As he’s calling for help, cops storm into the room and arrest him for the women’s murders, since of course Thredson gave them the confession tapes.
As they’re taking him away, Grace yells out that she experienced what he did, and that Alma is still alive. My question is this: Is Alma an alien herself? It would explain the abductions only happening to Kit and Grace, so far. But that wouldn’t explain the shitty police work that identified her headless corpse, nor that alien that showed up behind Jude’s back a couple of weeks ago. But you know, pardon me for not understanding the extraterrestrial angle in a show set in a religion institution.
Side-view of Shelley Climbing Up Steps
Mary Eunice cleaned up Arden’s lab before Jude and the cops could go through it, which Arden is thankful for. She plays the part of the ambitious underling, and he eats it up. He expresses his disbelief that she got the legless Shelley out by herself. “You’d be surprised. She weighed very little.” Mwahaha, such a twisted line.
I was certain she had only tossed Shelley out into the woods with the other experiments, but no, Mary Eunice dumped her at the bottom of an exterior basement stairwell at an elementary school. It was a joyously gruesome moment when the first little girl saw the pus-covered half-being clawing her way up the stairs, and was more joyous still with an entire group of kids, along with the teacher, sees Shelley, all screaming simultaneously when she raises her head. As if one needs eye contact to be freaked out by the abomination Shelley has become. The truly amazing moment is the static shot of the side of the building as Shelley emerges from the depths, climbing to the top step. As cinematic a moment as any in the episode.
Rapid Edits As Arden and Jude Talk
Jude admits to Arden that she looked in his lab, and he’s pleased with his assurance that she didn’t find anything. He plans on pressing charges against her. On Jude’s watch, a patient got a gun and held him hostage, and Jude let her walk out the door without any repercussions. Jude sidesteps an apology and tries to begin their relationship fresh, but he’d prefer she grovel and prostrate herself for his forgiveness. “You’re through here, Sister, and you know it.”
I’m fairly certain between each line of dialogue, the camera would quickly cut to the blazing flames in the fireplace. I’m not sure if this was just a simple metaphor showing us that Jude’s fragile sense of personal morality is burning up with each of Arden’s convictions, or if it serves as foreshadowing, pointing to one of these characters getting burned in the future. I’m guessing Arden, because you know what happens when you play with the devil…
This scene inspires the last major moment of the episode, and though it isn’t filled with mind-blowing imagery, it’s a Jessica Lange monologue, so absolutely nothing else is needed. Sensing her impending dismissal, she expresses her fears to Frank, telling him a story about her lonely childhood. After finding a baby squirrel outside, she keeps it, only to later find it dead due to her forgetfulness about feeding it. She set it on the kitchen table and prayed for hours for God to give it life again. Her mother arrived home, screaming in horror before tossing it in the trash. Jude sympathizes, saying her hard-working mother couldn’t have known how cruel an act it was to a young girl. It was Jude’s first realization that God does not heal all wounds, and now she may be fully convinced of this.
Because no one in AHS acts within reason between two extremes, Jude immediately relapses, dressed like a hooker, drinking and smoking in a bar before picking up a man. She sleeps with him in a room roughly the size of a lawnmower’s gas tank, and then leaves before he wakes up. The fact that Jude’s past and present show a Lange free of time-central make-up, this scene actually could have happened twenty years previous.
I may have to watch it again when I get home. There won’t be a list of randomness at the bottom here, as I’m short on time, but I’d like some input on what anyone thinks will happen with Shelley now that she’s out in the real world. Can she even communicate enough to blame Arden for her appearance? We shall find out one day, and I’ll be there with brain matter slowly dripping out of my trepanation hole.