A citywide curfew threatens to shut down the Freak Show. A strongman from Ethel’s troubled past arrives at camp. Gloria arranges a terrifying play date for Dandy. The Tattler Twins reveal a talent that could knock Elsa from the spotlight.
One of the only surviving sideshows in the country struggles to stay in business during the dawning era of television. When police make a terrifying discovery at a local farmhouse, the eccentric purveyor of the freak show sees an opportunity that will lead her troupe either to their salvation or ruin.
Compared to last season’s finale, this year’s seemed relatively low-key and subtle. Since the beginning of the season, I wasn’t really a fan of the modern-day story, and when it came full circle with a 70-something year old Lana Winters prepping for an interview, I was ready to dislike it. However, and although it wasn’t nearly are great as the first season’s, this finale was surprisingly heartfelt and satisfying.
Excuse me for a lack of details as I only got a chance to watch the episode once the night of, so this recap is purely based from memory. But at least I had a chance to sleep on it and I feel better about the episode. I just needed the time to think about it and mull over what happened. So, present-day Lana has six bestsellers under her belt and is about to be honored at the Kennedy Center for her prolific journalistic work. This interview is the foundation for the episode, as it’s told mostly through flashbacks. Lana asks for a glass of sparkling water and who hands it to her but her own son, Johnny. Wuh oh!
“Madness Ends” served more as an epilogue than a finale. We learn that after Alma died, Kit started visiting Jude at Briarcliff and brought her back to life, so to speak. Seeing how he helped her was heartwarming, especially the shot with him putting his arm around her. He ended up taking her home with him and she helped raise his alien kids, who are blessed with some sort of power that brings sanity to those who are crazy. When Jude was becoming delusional, thinking she was back at Briarcliff, Kit’s children took her by the hand into the woods, where they probably smoked some pot. I’m guessing that’s what brought Jude back to her senses. Yeah, that’s totally it.
Everything was great at the Walker residence. The children loved Jude and she loved them in return. Unfortunately, after six months of bliss and swing dancing, she got sick and passed away. The scene with The Angel of Death (Frances Conroy) was beautifully shot, and I just sat there watching with my eyes wide open, filling up with tears. I know she’s a fictional character, but I’m just glad she got her happiness in the end. Kit remarried later, his kids went on to become a big shot lawyer and neurosurgeon, and when he was about to die from pancreatic cancer, the aliens took him back. I’m glad one of the monsters this season was good. Right? We can all agree that the aliens were benevolent?
Criminy. Last week’s episode, “Spilt Milk,” rushed us through a bunch of months so that we could see Lana give birth and Jude rot away in solitary. But if that wasn’t disjointed enough, “Continuum” speeds us through years; feeling more like an epilogue to this season’s tale which, up until now, had all taken place in the span of a year. Sure, we’ve also been following modern-day Bloody Face – crack smokin’ Johnny – but I never would have guessed it would have been such a race to the finish in these final two episodes.
Not that anything was overtly awful, but the pacing was such that you could just never get a hold on what was going on. And then, with Jude experiencing three lost years, it just made the entire episode feel like bits of old Tales from the Crypt addendums; the parts of the show where you learn, via a dark, humorous twist, that no one was getting a happy ending.
But which part of AHS is lying to us now? The records held by Dr. Clump, showing the fact that the state took over Briarcliff in ’66? Or the title card that read 1968 right before the scene where Monsignor Timothy told Jude that he’s leaving and that the new owners were going to overflow the place with patients?
Was the point here to play with the format of the show in order to make us feel the sort of disconnect from reality that Jude feels? Are we to assume that most of what we were witnessing were figments of Jude’s fragmented Betty Drake-mind? I mean, I’m assuming there was a reason Frances Conroy popped back up as a bullying, shanking patient and that there was a point to her looking like the Angel of Death that many of our show’s characters had seen and interacted with.
American Horror Story has never been shy about diving into meta territory, both with its musical cues and in its shooting style. This week’s episode, Spilt Milk, did both of these things with its nods to Candyman (the music was repeated pretty often this week to great effect) and the work of Fake Hitchcock himself, Brian De Palma. I always enjoy when the show gets referential, especially musically, and this week was definitely a treat.
This was, from beginning to end, the most visually interesting episode of American Horror Story this season, thanks in no small part to director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. There are so many clever edits and tricks this week, from multiple time-jumping match cuts involving the Bloody Face gang to a brilliant tracking shot through the asylum as inmates are being fed their meals of carbs and (especially) the way in which Lana’s escape is filmed that if I started naming all of the great camera work, I’d run out of space. Suffice it to say, the show has never used so many interesting angles, filming techniques (Dutch angle, fisheye lens, both in the same scene), and editing tricks (split screen) in the same episode to such great, dizzying effect. The whole thing felt like waking up in the middle of the dream, shocking and disorienting, and it does not let up for a moment.
In many ways, this visual weirdness makes up for the fairly sedate (by AHS standards) dialogue this week. Brad Falchuk’s pen did produce some great lines this week, particularly those delivered by the brilliant Dylan McDermott (who should be a part of the show for its third season, if only because he’s so great at delivering the craziest stuff imaginable) and the always reliable Zachary Quinto. The twists and turns this week’s episode took weren’t tough to follow, but even with all the strange twists the show seemed… strangely serious. That’s not a bad thing, just an odd thing for a show built on insanity and repulsiveness (though it has its moments, all involving McDermott).
The straightforwardness actually helps tie into the interesting visuals by reinforcing the episode’s dreamlike quality. It seems like a strange fantasy, and even when things take a turn at the end, it still seems like something out of, say, Lana’s mind (and they even tease this within the episode). I’m still not entirely sure what we’ve seen over the past two episodes is real, though I really hope it isn’t some sort of post-lobotomy St. Elsewhere moment in the mind of Pepper. I doubt it is; I think I’m just overly suspicious.