American Horror Story: “Madness Ends”

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Grade: A+

Airdate: 1/23/12

What makes American Horror Story different from any other show on television is that we know there is a set end from the first episode. Though “Madness Ends” was the finale for season two, it also felt like the epilogue of a 13-hour movie that has been part of our lives for the last four months.

Season two started where it began with someone breaking into an abandoned Briarcliff Manor in the present. Only this time it was Johnny (Dylan McDermott) listening to the book-on-tape version of “Tales of Braircliff” by Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson). Johnny walks around Briarcliff and imagines everything Lana is saying, but he adds Lana telling him she hates him and Thredson (Zachary Quinto) telling him he loves him.

Then Leo (Adam Levine) and Teresa (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) break in and what happened to them four months ago is fully explained. Johnny was sitting in the room Leo put his arm in. Johnny smokes a bowl, puts on the Bloody Face mask and cuts his arm off with a knife.

The episode has a different vibe from this point forward. There was a greater sense of realism in the cinematography and meaningful and rich dialogue took over for the violence that is usually such a strong part of the show. We join Lana in the present about to be interviewed by a television crew in her home. Slick exposition in this scene, tells us that Lana is a bestselling author, well-known investigative broadcast journalist and openly gay now. The interviewer April, played by Camille Chen, says she wants to go back to the start of her career. Lana says she will not talk about Bloody Face, but will about her television special that closed down Briarcliff.

Back in the early 1970s, Lana leads her cameraman and sound guy through the tunnel into Braircliff with the intent of showing the terrible conditions and finding Sister Jude (Jessica Lange). The conditions Lana finds Briarcliff and its patients brought back the more disturbing historical horror that was in the earlier episode. Showing it as a grainy 1970s newscast quality film made it even better.

Lana asks the first worker they see where Judy Martin is. Lana goes to her cell, finds a worse than ever Jude and leads her out. April said she doesn’t remember that scene. Lana says that’s because it didn’t happen. It was the ending she wanted but she didn’t get it. When she got there all she was able to find was a patient file for Betty Drake, who was released to Kit Walker (Evan Peters) in 1970. There is then a break in the interview and Johnny, posing as a crew member, hands Lana a drink.

After she found Betty Drake’s file back in the 70s, Lana went to Kit’s house. Kits says he will talk to Lana, but not to her camera crew. The realism and simplicity was the best part of this episode. Lana and Kit sit at a table, mostly filmed in a simple two-shot as Kit tells her about Jude.  Lana said she knew the Monsignor (Joesph Fiennes) faked her death. Kit says he went back for her and Lana asks why in a childlike way as to say she really doesn’t understand. Kit said he needed someone to forgive so he could forget about Briarcliff.

Flashbacks show Kit and Jude playing checkers in the common room as Kit tells Lana if Jude stayed the only life in her would die. He then brings her home. He tells Lana she had to go through detox and sometimes thought she was still in Braircliff. In one flashback Kit is worried and tells the kids to go outside. But, Thomas says no and he and Julia take Jude’s hands and lead her into the woods. He doesn’t know why, but it is made clearly the aliens cured her of the madness.

The regular Jude comes back for a while and becomes the kids’ “Nana”, but then she starts dying. Just before she dies in her bed Kit says he will not leave her alone. She says she isn’t alone. Kit and Lana are now sitting on the floor in the dark drinking tea and he says he didn’t know who she was talking about. A tears runs down Lana face when she tells him, “I do.” The Dark Angel (Frances Conroy) asks Jude if she is really ready this time. Jude says she is. Her bed starts to pull away from the wall and surrounded by black Jude says “kiss me” to the Dark Angel. She slowly walks over, opens her wings and kisses her. Most beautiful death scene and I’m almost crying thinking about it.

Back in the present, Lana quickly tells April about her next project. She got Dr. Arden’s (James Cromwell) files and found out he was doing human experiments. She corners Cardinal Timothy Howard with her camera crew and asks if he knew about it. He refuses to answer and committed suicide shortly after.

Lana then tells April she wants to come clean about a lie in “Maniac.” She says her and Bloody Face’s son didn’t die and she tracked him down in the mid-70s. Lana walks onto a school playground and watches a young Johnny getting picked on by a bully. Lana quickly goes over and confronts the bully after he calls Johnny a faggit. She tells Johnny that she shouldn’t worry about the kid. Lana in the present says she never saw him again.

April asked her if she even thought of having other children. She says no, but she was very close to Kit’s kids. We then see a classically bad 1970s home video of Kit’s wedding. Lana tells us Kit remarried and Thomas and Julia might have loved his new wife as much as he did. The video shows us Kit with his wife and Lana dancing with teen-aged Thomas and Julia. Lana tells April Kit would be proud of them today.

Lana says Kit got cancer when he turned 40, but he didn’t die from it he simply disappeared. We see that the aliens took him. Lana says Thomas and Julia told her they didn’t need to have a funeral because there was no reason to mourn Kit.

The camera crew then leaves Lana’s house. She goes over to make herself a drink and tells Johnny he can stop hiding now. Lana tells him she knew this day would come ever since she meet him on the playground. Johnny says that was when he knew she was his mother. He bought the confession tape off eBay and knows how she felt about him. It plays over part of the scene, stopping after “nobody should have to grow up knowing their father is Bloody Face.”

Johnny holds a gun to Lana’s head saying he wants to make Thredson proud. Lana is able to make him lower the gun by playing the mommy role just like she did with Thredson. She takes the gun and says him being the way he is is her fault too and shots him just like she did with Thredson.

Lana then flashes back to the first time she met Sister Jude. Sister Jude says Lana is too ambitious and she better be prepared for the life she will have to lead. Lana tells her she can do it. The last line of dialogue is Sister Jude saying, “If you look in the face of evil, evil is going to look right back at you.” There is a close-up on Jude’s face, then one on Lana’s. Lana walks outside. Jude looks at the face of the Virgin Mary statue then turns and walks outside as “Dominique” starts playing and the camera zooms up giving us a bird’s-eye view of Braircliff and what Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) called “the stairway to heaven.”

So is evil Christianity, Briarcliff, God or is it a mixture of all three?

I could write whole other post about this episode. It tied up every loose end in a bittersweet and real sort of way. It was one of those endings that has you laying awake at night trying to think of why it was so good and why you are so sad that it is over. And I really am sad that it is over. I mean, I couldn’t even be snarky about this episode I liked it so much. Rest in peace, Kit. Rest in peace, Sister Jude. Rest in peace, American Horror Story: Asylum.

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