This may seem like a self-evident statement, but ‘American Horror Story’ can be a very pessimistic show. I’m not even referring to the general dread and depravity on display any given week. The message imparted by the season’s penultimate episode seems to be that there’s no way to escape a cycle of terror, and one awful act will always beget another.
Episode ‘Continuum’ presents us with a quartet of stories that take place some time after the revelation and capture of Dr. Thredson. The first opens with the implication that Kit has turned into the axe murderer that everyone accused him of being. We then flash back a bit to find him living as a polygamist with Alma, Grace and each of their sons. Things appear happy at first, but tensions soon arise in the home. Grace is obsessed with aliens, and believes that her abduction was like a religious experience. She thanks the aliens for their beautiful children and eagerly awaits their return. Alma, on the other hand, is still traumatized by what the aliens did to her, and is terrified by the prospect of them coming back. Eventually, Alma freaks out and murders Grace with an axe. Kit was innocent after all, but now one of his wives is dead and the other gets committed to Briarcliff.
In the second story, Sister Jude has apparently been let out of her hellhole dungeon into the asylum’s general population, but is officially now registered as “Betty Drake” (because Monsignor Howard faked her death). The Monsignor has been promoted to Cardinal of New York, and promises Jude that he will get her out. Needless to say, he doesn’t follow through with that. With his exit, the church has donated Briarcliff to the state, which transfers in overflow from its other prisons. One of the new inmates looks just like the Angel of Death (Frances Conroy). She’s a tough cookie who intends to run the joint and make Jude her bitch. Jude is convinced that she is the Angel, and attacks her, whereupon we realize that Jude has lost her mind. The woman she attacked doesn’t look anything like the Angel. Two years have passed that Jude has no memory of. She’s become just as crazy as the inmates she used to abuse.
Now a bestselling author, Lana has turned into a fame whore. She exaggerated and falsified some of the stories about Bloody Face in her book (called ‘Maniac’), for which she has happily sold the film rights. She’s pretty much forgotten her crusade to shut down Briarcliff, and is moving on to write about other sensationalized serial killer stories. Kit visits Lana on her book tour to inform her that Alma died in Briarcliff but that he saw Sister Jude alive there. He asks Lana for help in getting Jude out, but she’s too caught up in her new celebrity lifestyle to care.
Finally, we jump forward to the present day. Johnny (Dylan McDermott) visits an old, run-down book store (possibly the same one that hosted the book signing earlier) to find an autographed first edition of Lana’s book. The owner refuses to sell at first, until Johnny informs her of his plan to find his mother, confront her with the lies in the book, and shoot her in the face. The woman lets him have her copy. Johnny is an unpleasant guy.
I find it kind of amusing how imposing and threatening a figure Dylan McDermott is this season, considering that he played such a weak-willed douchebag last year. In fact, I’m impressed with the way that most of the actors have shed their characters from last season to establish a fully convincing new narrative. The next episode is the season finale. I can’t even begin to imagine what the show has in store for that.