'American Horror Story: Asylum' Recap: Like Mother, Like Son - Rolling Stone
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‘American Horror Story: Asylum’ Recap: Like Mother, Like Son

Johnny finally confronts his mother, while Kit and Sister Jude discover life beyond Briarcliff

American Horror StoryAmerican Horror Story

Sarah Paulson as Lana Winters and Evan Peters as Kit Walker in 'American Horror Story'.

Byron Cohen/FX

While I’ve been ready to start handing out Emmys to AHS: Asylum since the second we first laid eyes on Pepper (R.I.P., Pep!), I’d like to send a special shout-out to the makeup artists who aged Sarah Paulson 30 years for tonight’s finale. Top-notch neck work on the elder Lana, you guys!

As you may have guessed, we finish the series in the modern day, as the internationally recognized investigative journalist Lana Winters, host of America Unmasked, sits down in her opulent New York apartment with a film crew for an interview celebrating her Kennedy Center Honors win. (Is this an inside joke, considering that the Kennedy Center Honors are actually for people who work in the performing arts?) “Who drew this picture of you?” her interviewer inquires, admiring a sketch on the wall. “Bono,” Lana replies with a smile.

While Lana is busy making witty bon mots and introducing her longtime partner, Marian, Johnny is reliving his life, too, by prowling around the abandoned Briarcliff and rewriting history. “I loved you even when you were in your mother’s womb,” the specter of Thredson tells him amidst the ruins. “I had so much love to give you.” Yikes, his foster parents must have sucked. I guess we all need a serial-killer father-God to believe in, and at least Johnny’s psycho walk down memory lane revealed that all-important detail: who or what took off Adam Levine’s arm? It turns out. . . it was Johnny himself! Yes, he was just getting high when the newlywed couple from the first episode wandered in to fornicate, and he lopped off Adam Levine’s arm with a machete. Well, I guess I buy that. I was certainly hoping it was a creature, but I accept the things I cannot change, etc., etc. On a unrelated note, is Son of Bloody Face the first stoner serial killer?

Back in New York, we see the trajectory of Lana’s career on grainy Super 8 footage while she explains her successes and failures. This includes how, after getting coffee with Kit that one time, Lana realizes that her whole life is a shame and decides to go back to Briarcliff. Giving us a chance to say goodbye to the Death Chute one more time, Lana and her film crew record the pustulating horrors of a poorly maintained sanitarium and successfully shut the whole foul place down. The whole sequence made me wonder, “Why am I writing recaps and not devoting my life to helping the severely mentally ill?” Anyfart, during her investigation, Lana finds Sister Jude in a cell deep in the bowels of Briarcliff and rescues her. Just kidding! Sister Jude is long gone and Lana’s memory is just a fake-out. Fortunately, Lana is able to use her superior sleuthing skills to track Jude down all the way to Kit’s house.

No wonder the aliens picked Kit. The man is a saint! He explains the process of rescuing “Betty Drake” and rehabilitating her with the help of his two possibly magic children. Drug-addled and psychologically scarred, Sister Jude is not doing too well until Kit’s kids Thomas and Julie take her into the woods and. . . ostensibly use alien powers to cure her. While I doubt the state would just let some random dude sign a patient out of a sanitarium, and you really shouldn’t make your little kids live with an erratic, violent mentally ill person after both their moms die, I thought the scenes of Kit’s family helping Sister Jude were so artfully done and sweet. “The only way I could leave Briarcliff behind was to find a way to forgive. To find someone to forgive,” he tells Lana by way of explaining why he went back.

Six months later, Jude passes away, but not before making me weep. “Julie, don’t you ever, ever let a man tell you who you are or make like you are less than he is. It’s 1971, and you can do anything you want,” she tells Kit’s kids from her deathbed. “Thomas, find something that you love. Do something important.” The Angel of Death shows up soon after to kiss her home. I guess we’re never going to get the episode of pure, blistering revenge I was hoping was in Jude’s future, but a redemptive ending turned out to be just as gratifying, and probably a whole lot classier.

I also wish Kit’s kids had turned out to be alien Jesus babies. Instead, Thomas is a law professor at Harvard while Julie is a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins. One of the morals of the finale seems to be to not put your audience expectations on the characters, even if they were sent back from space. Just in case you thought Ryan Murphy was subverting expectations for every character, Kit disappears from his deathbed as well. Mused Lana, “Kit’s children insisted there was no reason to mourn.” Wow, I did not think I would be okay with not knowing why the aliens picked Kit, but here we are!

All of which is basically foreplay once we realize Johnny has gotten himself. . . hired as a PA on Lana’s Kennedy Honors documentary? Oh, no, it turns out he just slit the donut guy’s throat and hung out all day. Lana looks back on her exposè on Cardinal Timothy Howard‘s time as a monsignor at Briarcliff, an investigation that resulted in him slitting his wrists in the bathtub rather than admit to himself that he is the worst. “Lies are like scars on your soul. They destroy you,” Lana says. Lana then comes clean about her child with Bloody Face, how he survived and how she found him years later as a nerdy, bullied child. “You want to suck a Brontosaurus’ dick?” his bully sneered. Haha, bullies are the same no matter what era they live in. Lana scares off the bully, and little Johnny scampers away. . . to become a serial killer.

After the crew leaves, Lana finds herself locked in her apartment with Johnny. “I always knew this day would come,” she sighs. Turns out Johnny found the recorded confession of Dr. Thredson on eBay, ignores the part where his father admits to being a deranged homicidal psycho murderer, and narrows in on Lana’s vow to get an abortion. “So what’s it going to be, Johnny? At my age, I don’t think you’d be that interested in my skin,” Lana retorts. Mom zing!

The “twist” to the finale, if that’s what it is, is that Lana knew exactly who Johnny was as soon as she saw him chowing down on an éclair at craft services. Detectives investigating the murder of the couple who owned Dr. Thredson’s former home (and probably the murders of his therapist, Adam Levine, Jenna Dewan and Pandora) tipped her off about his appearance and whereabouts, which suggests Lana orchestrated what came next. With Johnny’s gun pointed at her head, Lana finally turns on the mom charm. “You could never be like him. Not that sweet little boy I met on the playground,” she reassures Johnny, slowly taking his gun. ” In a moment of weakness, Johnny blubbers, “I’ve hurt people, Mom.” Says Lana, “It’s not your fault, baby. It’s mine.” Then she blows his head off.

Guys, I’m not exactly sure if I understand what this ending means. It’s clear that Lana planned to kill Johnny. If she hadn’t wanted to, she would have had the interview crew quietly alert the police as soon as she spotted him. So after all this time, Lana took it on herself to end Bloody Face’s legacy.  While it makes sense Lana would be the sole survivor, the brief flashback to Briarcliff 1964 at the very end of the ep seemed to be a commentary on Lana’s ambition. During their first meeting, Sister Jude warns, “If you look in the face of Evil, Evil’s going to look right back at you.'” In the end, it was ambition that drove Lana to Briarcliff in the first place. As she admits to her interviewer, it was her ambition that sent her back to Briarcliff and into TV. It was ambition that brought her success and kept her alive long enough to put her son in the ground. “You need something that people can see,” Lana explains wryly about her decision to go into television. “There is nothing more stimulating than crazy people.” I can’t wait to read her next book!

I wish there had been a better, more insane creature behind Adam Levine’s arm removal. I wish Sister Mary Eunice‘s demon had leapt into someone’s baby. I wish Kit’s kids had crazy alien powers. I wish there had been more inmates spider-crawling backward up the stairs. As an ending, however, I found the low-key finale to be ultimately satisfying. Like a haunted house, the terrors of Briarcliff were contained mostly within its walls. Once they escaped, its former inmates could move on with their simple lives.  Oh, and murder their serial-killer offspring if they have to. Which they almost certainly will.

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In This Article: American Horror Story


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