American Horror Story: Asylum Watch: Episode 7 - Dark Cousin

When I tell unaware people about American Horror Story, it’s about the bizarro storytelling style, and the amped up climaxes appearing around every corner. But there’s no way to explain the feeling I have when a plot twist is revealed, and seconds later, I rewind the show to see what I missed due to being lost in thought over how this newly discovered information fits contextually within the growth of the affected character. Why would I do this to myself? I watch this show to see Jessica Lange personify pathos without having to otherwise actually care about any of the characters as human beings. And yet…

Specifically, I refer to tonight’s left field reveal that Jude isn’t really a murderer. Her recent guilt-ridden relapses are for naught. I mean, she did still hit a girl with her car without reporting it, but Missy didn’t die! Continuing last week’s discovery of Sam Goodman’s dying body, Jude notices Kentucky’s bourbon and accident-related newspaper clippings Mary Eunice left around the room. Flashback to the swinging ‘40s.

Not cool, daddio! Jude gets kicked out of her band for missing a gig on top of all her other recent shenanigans. Her bandmate messenger, whom she tries to hit on before being denied due to having vomit breath, tells her a detective wants to talk to her about the hit and run. Panicked guilt then drives her to a life in the church, quite literally and drunkenly. She wakes up to nuns surrounding her crashed vehicle, asking after her health. She is saved, ladies and gentlemen!

Presently, Mary Eunice calls and says she knows all about the accident, and that Jude had better stay away from Briarcliff. With little else to live for, Jude goes to a diner, imagines slitting her arm open in the bathroom in a most crimson fashion, and then has a renouncing of faith while conversing with an Angel of Death, which to outsiders looked like a haggard old woman practicing a poor man’s Shakespeare. How amazed I would be inside a Waffle House, given the opportunity to watch the degradation of a human mind in real time. But before she really lets that Angel, who we’ll discuss soon, take her, she must do something first, like visit Missy’s parents.

Initially posing as a Sunday School-teaching nun, Jude collapses into a clouded confession of how the accident guided her to God’s graces. And then Missy walks through the door, knocking Jude’s brain’s socks off, as she whimpers, “I’m so confused.” She wasn’t alone. I never considered the girl living through it all, so of course she did. The aloof mother says the monster who did it has to live with himself (pronoun fun), but I believe the father has found, in Jude, the target of a few emotional demons plaguing him. I’m interested to see if this pans out.

I’ve missed you, Frances Conroy, and your pale, black-clothed Death Angel was welcome at first, but then I grew tired of your wings expanding, and your constant appearances. She was (possibly) summoned by an insane black guy who shoves his wrists against the blades of a bread slicer (because the voices in his head convinced him it would make him a hero) and wrote – I kid you not – ancient Aramaic on the walls; I assume it was the angel’s name. I don’t know why this would make him a hero though. I keep a list of the eccentricities that AHS hasn’t brought out yet, and now I can cross “Aramaic” off of that list.

Essentially, she just appears to characters on the brink of death, asking if they’re ready. If they are, a wing expansion and a death kiss. Most aren’t though. Grace is, though she’s resuscitated by nearby nuns. Grace is as pale as Morticia Addams’ waistline, and it’s assumed Arden is responsible. I mean, “all of her girl parts have been scooped out,” Mary Eunice says while blithely accusing Arden of it. His insulted demand for respect includes slapping her across the face. “You touch me again, you will die.” He tries, and gets his ass telekinetically thrown into a wall. “I hope this clarifies the chain of command.” More on Grace later, because I want to quote Mary Eunice some more.

The current and fallen angels meet in the suicidal man’s room. She calls Mary Eunice the titular dark cousin, and that the human in Mary Eunice sings to her. Lily Rabe kills it with a short schizo moment where she tells her human side, “Shut up, you stupid sow,” before staring ahead and vacantly saying, “She likes it here. We like it here. We have work left to do.” There was the slightest bit of warning when the other angel tells her they will meet again. I hope it’s at a Hell in a Cell. This scene ended a pretty average twelve minutes of AHS, which then gave way to Lana’s ridiculous comedy of errors.

It isn’t so ridiculous that we first witness her being raped by Thredson. But it slowly gets there when, after she refuses the Death Angel’s help, Thredson appears at the top of the basement stairs and asks, “Lana? Are you decent?” They’ve reached an impasse. He can’t help her and she can’t help him, so he’ll either cut her throat or strangle her. “I don’t believe in guns.” Ha! He then produces a needle and decides she’ll be knocked out anyway. Before he can use it, she knocks him over the head with the framed picture of Wendy. (Why hadn’t she done this while he was grunting atop her?) She chokes him out with the chain, and uses his keys to unlock her shackles. Before she can escape, he comes to and grabs her on the stairs, where she kicks him backwards, and he crashes to the floor, soon unconscious. Wow, so she escaped! This is a pretty novel idea, AHS writers. Where’s she gonna go? Into the car of a man who’s gone wrong in the head after catching his wife cheating on him, throwing away ten years of marriage. She hops into his car after he narrowly avoids hitting her. Things are immediately awry after she thanks him for picking her up, and he says, ‘Well you didn’t really give me much of a choice.” He then uses Lana as a vacuum for all of the hatred caused by his wife’s betrayal. He brandishes a gun, but before he threatens Lana with real harm, he uses it on himself, and the out of control car crashes.

Like a microcosm of television series that renege on an entire season’s worth of events by explaining it all away as a dream, Lana’s adventure comes full circle as it ends in a hospital bed being looked after by Mary Eunice. Her escape actually led her to worse conditions than those of the asylum’s captivity. Curiosity hasn’t killed the cat yet, but it got her raped, milked, and electroshocked. She tries telling Mary Eunice about Thredson, saying “Kit Walker is innocent. Oliver Thredson is Bloody Face,” with the silly effectiveness that only Sarah Paulson can achieve. Though I thought she’d keep the intel to herself, Mary Eunice shares it with Frank the guard, but he dismisses it due to recent news about Kit.

Kit sat down with a judge who tells him the confession tape will get him convicted, but that a few crazy incidents might save him from the chair. So Kit beats the man senseless with a paper cutter after the guy mentions Grace not doing well, and he escapes the jail. For being a suspected violent murderer, Kit is certainly allowed free reign when it comes to interiors of buildings meant to subdue people.

Arden, using whatever chemical concoction he has that doesn’t turn people into monsters, injects Grace with something revitalizing that rids her of the death look. Lest his morality be championed, he only did it to avoid being blamed for her massive hysterectomy. She sits while a nun does laundry, as Kit runs through the tunnels beneath Briarcliff. Remember compulsive masturbator Spivey, Arden’s latest experiment from last week. Not quite the next step in evolution, he’s now a lumbering mass of muscle and pus chasing unbeknownst Kit through the tunnels.

Kit surprises Grace, and they’re able to get one hug in before Spivey’s snarling rippled self crashes into the room, tearing the laundry nun’s neck open before going after Kit, who disembowels him. One crisis averted. Frank the guard, however, is the second. I’m not sure how he didn’t see Spivey at all, being so close, but whatever. The next moment makes less sense anyway.

Frank holds Kit at gun point, making him freeze, but in no way does he move to actually shoot him. The ever-dramatic Grace dives in slow motion in front of Kit, and Frank inexplicably shoots her, I guess because he was shocked by her movement, and then threatens to shoot Kit if he moves. So Grace would have lived had she just stayed fucking still. This was a story fail to me. And then Grace and Spivey’s bodies are just left there as Frank hauls Kit away. How does he not react in revulsion to the gutted boogeyman on the ground?

I’m bound to be sorely disappointed by the time the season’s end gets here and plot strands are left dangling between Zachery Quinto’s legs. I’m sure creating this show is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces are all square; you’re not limited to placement or even using pieces solely from that puzzle. Go ahead and take a piece out of the alien abduction puzzle, that’ll be fun. See you next week for Psycho Santa!

The Inane Asylum

Hindsight is this show’s enemy, as it causes me to re-process everything we’ve seen. How did Jude stay in town immediately after the hit-and-run accident and not know the girl never died? If Alma really is “alive” aboard a spaceship, is it just a clone, or was the corpse Kit was accused of skinning not her own? Are the aliens interested in her pregnancy, and if so, why did they remove all of Grace’s babymaking facilities? How was Thredson able to show no signs of insanity at all (except for the tumescence therapy) and now he can’t contain even the slightest bit of it?

I’d really like to understand the connection between Kit and Thredson, and why Kit is taking the fall for this and not some other sap before or after that murder. I know this series is produced using the Coincidene-Tron 3000, but there needs to be some deeper meaning behind it all. I just want to understand the aliens, Ryan Murphy. Just them, and you can have the devil possession no problem.

So the Angel of Death shows up to the bread slicer guy, Lana twice, Grace twice, and Jude. I didn’t notice if she went for Spivey or not. It seems like he would be the one most in need of mercy. Is she sticking around? Is this asylum indeed just like the house from the first season, always inviting guests in without kicking them out? And why is she like Tori from Saved by the Bell in that we’ve never seen her before, but everyone knows her? If she had to be summoned, then she obviously isn’t loitering around the halls, so what is she actually doing for dying people that isn’t done already? Are these people forever merciless? Are there no geographical restraints, since she visits Lana at Thredson’s house and in that douche’s car?

“He’s been trying to get his fat cousin in there for months now. This is a conspiracy. This is a conspiracy against me.” Lange reads these droll lines as if they were as common as saying “hello” and “goodbye.”

What does Arden have salvia for? The namedrop means it has to come into play at some point. Is everyone going to hallucinate together? Man I hope so. The potential…

A nod to the sound design for this episode, which was largely non-gratuitous. The ambient sounds and piano plinks during the rape scene dull the urgency, as they do during Jude’s faux suicide, and it’s a great technique when paired with the smudgy camera focus. I also enjoyed the jazz horns giving way to church organs during Jude’s mental transformation.

Here’s how I pictured this conversation in my mind.

Grace: Kit, what are you doing here?

Kit: Shut the fuck up, bitch. Run!

Yes, Jude is a bitch, and I’m fine with people being bitches. But did she have to be that way because her husband left her the day before their wedding because she told him he gave her syphilis and she was thus unable to bear children? Did this story, given no attention outside of Jude’s mentioning it, really need to exist? I think it should be against the law to say syphilis in a place that serves omelets.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.