“I’m not a monster. I’m a visionary.”
Opening in present day, a 911 operator receives a call from Bloodyface, reporting the imposters. He has festooned the foyer with them, in one of the most metal scenes of the season thus far.
Back in 1964, Sister Jude has returned to her habit and is trying to explain to a mother that Briarcliff doesn’t have a children’s ward. Mrs. Reynolds is desperate; her daughter Jenny’s friend Josie was stabbed to death with scissors by a “bearded man with a brown coat,” but Mom doubts Jenny’s story when she finds a lock of Josie’s hair in her daughter’s pocket like a trophy. “Where does this evil come from? Could she have been born that way?”
Lana is still imprisoned by Thredson, though it takes a moment for her to realize it upon waking; his soundproof murder basement has been furnished with home touches–a big bed, lamp (without a skin lampshade), and a framed picture of Wendy. Oliver is in an undershirt, making croque-monsieur and tomato soup. “The perfect mommy snack,” he romances, “only I didn’t have a mother to make this for me.” He explains how he was abandoned to grow up in the system, where he received rudimentary basic care, food, and water, but no affection, as “touch would certainly spoil the child.”
Either out of sincerity of smart self-preservation Lana tries identifying, thanking him for the act of kindness and saying she knows what it’s like to feel abandoned. He seems annoyed, like he might deny her comparison, then grows giddy. “I was right about you. You’re the one.” Thredson continues with the nonchalance of a man talking to his biographer. He is incredibly intelligent, and self-aware enough to realize he is wildly damaged. “It wasn’t until medical school that I had my first breakthrough…. The woman on the table wasn’t my girlfriend. She was my mother.”
Thredson considers it “poetic justice that I’d be meeting her for the first time on a slab in my gross anatomy class.” He laments how he was deprived of her touch, of skin to skin contact, and explains the Harlow Studies to Lana because “even monkeys know the difference” between the satisfaction of basic needs and emotional nurturing. “That cadaver did nothing to quiet my craving. I needed someone a little more lively.” Dr. Arden hired a prostitute to try and sate his desire for Sister Mary Eunice, but Thredson goes a different route because his needs aren’t quite sexual. While he doesn’t show remorse for the murders, exactly, Thredson does express a desire to move forward. “It’s okay because now that you’re here, all that work is behind me… Mommy.”
Sam Goodman confirms Anne Frank/Charlotte Brown’s story of Arden’s history, but needs Arden’s fingerprint to confirm. Jude realizes Mrs. Reynolds has abandoned Jenny, and sets Sr. Mary Eunice to babysit.
Monseigneur Timothy has been called to perform last rites on a tuberculosis patient, and discovers it is Shelley. He recalls 1962, first meeting Arden in Briarcliff’s transition from TB hospital to mental ward. In Arden’s desire to continue work on his “immune booster” he plays to Father Timothy’s obvious ambition, saying it would be “A good that would not go unnoticed, even in Rome.” Timothy prays and kills Shelley before returning to confront Arden. “Jude was right about you. You’re a monster.”
“Briarcliff is a receptacle for human waste, each patient a perfect example of an evolutionary failure.” Arden recalls Mr. Spivey touching himself as he spies on Sister Mary Eunice. “When they arrived here these patients were less than men. Now, because of me, they’re more than human.” He considers himself to be improving the human race to withstand nuclear war, speeding up the evolutionary process. When Timothy threatens to expose him, he counters, “If you open that window the light will illuminate everything… And I do mean everything.” The only answer is to eliminate their common threat.
Sister Mary Eunice watching Jenny quickly proves a terrible idea. Mary Eunice admits to being the devil, telling the little girl, “You were born with the gift of authentic impulse,” and that time spent trying to be ‘good’ and loved is a fruitless waste.
There’s a flashback to Mary Eunice being humiliated at a pool party, and she surmises, “I was just everyone’s victim.”
Timothy exiles Jude to Pittsburgh, where she’ll oversee a home for wayward girls. Inspired by Mary Eunice’s farewell, Jude is determined to fingerprint Arden before she goes.
Kit uses his one phonecall for Thredson. Lana tries to escape while he’s busy with the call. Kit calls Oliver a liar and he reacts strongly to the term. Upon returning, he catches Lana’s escape attempt. “I knew it. You were gonna abandon me, just like my real mother…. It’s such a disappointment when people don’t live up to expectations.”
Mary Eunice, wearing Jude’s trashy red lingerie, is having a private singalong to “You Don’t Own Me,” as she strips off bits of her habit. She casts her ring away on the dresser as Jude did in “I Am Anne Frank, Pt.2” before pretending to be Jude when Goodman calls. As Jude and Arden toast “to God’s will,” Sister Mary Eunice meets Goodman. When Jude arrives with the fingerprinted cognac glass she finds Goodman’s room stripped clean of his research, and the man dying in the bathroom with a shard of mirror in his neck. “The nun… One of yours.”
Satan Mary Eunice gives most of the evidence to Arden, but has hidden some away, “In case you try and double-cross me.” Arden defends his work, lamenting his lonely path as a visionary, but she cuts him off, saying he’s preaching to the converted. He sees through her pretending she’s in love, but she says, “All you need to do is trust in me with your entire soul.” If the devil is expending so much effort to court Arden’s soul, perhaps he’s not yet beyond redemption.
Jenny is under the bridge where she killed Josie, this time with an entire dead family at what used to be a picnic. As she tells detectives about the bearded man with a brown coat, she twirls a souvenir lock of hair in her fingers.
Bloodyface lingers over Lana with a scalpel, explaining he was watching her before Briarcliff as she covered Kit Walker’s arrest. In a last effort to save herself, she comforts, “That’s alright, Oliver. I don’t want you to feel guilty. A mother’s love is unconditional. You never had that, did you? Everyone deserves that. Even you, baby.” He removes the Bloodyface mask, emotionally telling her that baby needs colostrum before nursing at her breast.
In present-day, detectives find Leo’s car and lower the imposter Bloodyfaces. As they receive another call from Bloodyface explaining he only killed the imposters, he is shown with a still-alive Teresa.
“Origins of Monstrosity” juxtaposes various characters and their growth progressions. Jenny, being the youngest, is obviously at the beginning of her journey into monstrosity, and is nourished by Sister Mary Eunice’s encouragement. Monseigneur Timothy also seems a neophyte under the ambitious wing of Dr. Arden. Though the former is beginning to reconsider his involvement, Arden threatens him with exposure, leading one to wonder what other dark dealings Timothy has become involved in. Arden is firmly locked in his path, determined to see it through. Meanwhile, Dr. Thredson seems willing to put his monstrous deeds behind him and work toward recovery, if Lana will sacrifice herself to fulfill his need of a loving mother (Though judging by the 2012 scenes reminding us Bloodyface is still in action, this will not go as planned).
A multitude of options are presented for the creation of evil here. With Jenny, who has a concerned mother that has raised two perfectly normal siblings, the theory of bad seeds is explored. Thredson presents the nature vs. nurture argument, in which killers are not born, but made. In his case the lack of nurturing in his childhood left him with a longing for human contact and an unhealthy means of achieving it. Arden and Monseigneur Timothy have compromised their knowledge of what is morally right and good in favor of what will benefit them the most; they are willing to perform despicable acts out of self-interest. Finally, Sister Mary Eunice suggests that one can simply become possessed by dark forces, and knowingly abandon the pursuit of good.
(sorry for the late post, holiday excuses, but extra screen grabs for you!)