After an episode which dealt on very human terrors, it’s suitably shocking when the second part of American Horror Story: Asylum‘s first double bill features our first on-screen alien abduction since the pilot.
Last week’s cliffhanger is resolved pretty briskly, but as entertaining and headline-grabbing as it was – like the aliens and demons, it’s not really what this show is about. The Nazi war criminal stuff and any genuine belief that Anne Frank would actually be Anne Frank (Franka Potente) disintegrates fairly quickly, giving way to her real back story – a tale of post-natal depression recalled through her beleaguered husband in the style of a Fifties drama, all artificially static kitchen scenes that deflates the overly dramatic black and white Schindler’s List flashback last episode.
Mainly though, ‘I Am Anne Frank (Part 2)’ sets about with some fairly big reveals for the core cast, as the possessed Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) sets about covering up for the sadistic Doctor Arden (James Cromwell) – complete with an air of seduction as she sets herself down between his legs. Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) is manoeuvred out of the titular institution, Briarcliff, by the frosty Arden, who is holding her wholly responsible for his shooting in the previous episode by the would-be Anne Frank, so she resumes the path of lush – red dress on and one-night stand instigated. Even poor, legless mutant Shelly (Chloë Sevigny) washes up in a school playground, and something major spoiler-klaxon goes on with Lana (Sarah Paulson) and Doctor Thredson (Zachary Quinto), and to a lesser extent poor old Kit Walker (Evan Peters) that makes ‘I Am Anne Frank (Part 2)’ feel like it’s leading straight into the finale instead of sitting half-way into the season.
We’ve been here before, though, both with this season and Season 1, where we’re not sure how they’re possibly going to pull any more story out of the bag, and then pre-emptively criticise American Horror Story for “being confused” or “not knowing what it wants to be” to cover for the fact that is we, as an audience, who are confused and don’t know what it wants to be. American Horror Story has no shortage of jaw-dropping moments that take us to the sort of narrative precipices and emotionally fraught highs that in a lesser series would be the hallmark of finale, but this isn’t one of those lesser series, and it doesn’t take them 22 episodes to build up emotional resonance and plot threads to boiling point.
American Horror Story: Asylum has been simmering on the hob ever since it began, and this time next week it will stun and confound us all over again.