American Horror Story: Asylum – The Coat Hanger Review

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Despite feeling extremely slow at parts, this was an eventful episode of American Horror Story: Asylum. Too eventful, even. Overstuffed. Which made it hard to care about everything that was going on.

Sister Jude being framed as insane by Dr. Arden, Mary Eunice, the Monseigneur, and deranged Santa Claus is a brilliant plot. It should have been one of the most riveting of the season. But despite Jessica Lange’s obviously brilliant acting, all of the scenes revolving around this storyline felt almost tedious this week. Even when Jude attempts to befriend Lana and earn her trust, it was underwhelming.

Ian McShane’s character appealing to the Monseigneur’s ambitions and then attempting to kill him was another storyline that sounds more exciting on paper than it did on screen. I feel like Joseph Fiennes’ quiet performance and Ian McShane’s over the top scenes, it could have been executed in a much better way. But again, as with Sister Jude, I cared less than I should have. Especially when the dark angel shows up again. I was really hoping she wouldn’t be a recurring character, but apparently her absence last week was just a glimmer of false hope.

I’m going to be honest: this alien abduction narrative is becoming a bit much for me. It’s too sci-fi, too odd, too constant, and too out of place in this show. This week Dr. Arden consults with Kit about their alien experiences and convinces Kit to travel to the brink of death as he believes it will bring the life forms back. Requiring minimal convincing, Kit agrees. Who arrives, via the extra-terrestrials, are Grace and Pepper. The former is pregnant with a baby (or creature) who’s full term, the latter seems suddenly far more intelligent and competent than when we last saw her at Briarcliff. The whole thing just seemed ridiculous. I prefer the scares and the drama that, while far-fetched, do not borderline on ludicrous.

Which brings me to my favorite storyline of the week: Lana and Threadson. The opening of the episode was amazing. We haven’t been thrust into present day in quite a few weeks now, and I can think of no better way to bring us there than with Dylan McDermott returning to the series as the son of Bloody Face, burdened with his same horrific desires and tendencies. Back in the sixties Briarcliff, Sister Mary Eunice tells Lana she’s pregnant. Lana tries unsuccessfully to give herself an abortion, yet another scene this season that begs the question, “How does FX get away with airing this?” She reveals to Threadson that she’s pregnant, knowing how extreme his reaction would be. It prompts a rare string of truths from him. When she asks him why he chose his victims, he tells her, and Kit secretly records his confessions. Just when Lana finally has the means to clear Kit’s name, and no more reason to keep Threadson alive, she finds that Sister Mary Eunice has freed him. Lana Winters just cannot catch a break. Which is maybe why she’s the only character I still felt fully invested in this week.

Aside from the great portions revolving around Lana and Threadson, this week was perhaps the least engaging episode of American Horror Story yet. I know that every show requires some filler episodes, some time to build momentum and set up scenarios, but this week was just too busy, too distracting. Things that should have felt grand, Sister Jude’s lockup in particular, fell flat and deserved more attention than this episode allowed for. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an episode of television that was simultaneously boring and so full of plot-relevant activity. The bottom line is that overall, this week didn’t work. Grade: C-


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