American Horror Story: Asylum, S2:E7, “Dark Cousin”

“Shall I kiss you… and make this all go away?”

A merciful death

Amidst discussing the merits of Sidney Poitier in 1963’s Lilies of the Field, nuns discover Grace hemorrhaging. Grace reaches for a woman in black. As wings appear and the figure leans in for a kiss she murmurs, “I’m ready.” The nuns jar her back to life. She moans they should have let her go; they’ve just denied her escape from Briarcliff.

Dr. Arden is tending his formerly thriving radioactive plants from “Welcome to Briarcliff.” He’s determined to revive them, but Sister Mary Eunice notes, “I worry less for your plants than I do for your patients… But since you appear to be all thumbs surely one of them is great.” Her complaints are news to Arden, and ironic after what happened with Shelley: “We can’t really afford to let the outside world get a hold of your botched handiwork.” Grace’s ‘girl parts’ have been ‘scooped out’ in the failed sterilization, and she thinks Arden is ‘back to his old tricks.’ In the power struggle that follows he slaps her. “As the head of this institution, I demand to be spoken to with at least a modicum of respect.” She flings him across his lab in a show of demonic power. “I hope this clarifies the chain of command, Arthur.”

Miles hears voices leading him to slit his wrists on a meat slicer. When Mary Eunice arrives she sees an Aramaic word painted on the wall and demands, “Did you summon her?” Miles is confused, and Frank (ever the voice of reason) insists they get him stitched up. Miles is restrained, moaning, “I don’t want to be here no more…. I don’t mean this room, Frank. I mean this world.” As Briarcliff’s lights extinguish Miles is no longer strapped down, and the angel appears again. “You know who I am, Miles. You summoned me…. I’m here to help you, if that’s what you want.” As he rips his stitches open to bleed out, she bestows the kiss of death.

Mary Eunice appears, angry. “You did what you had to do. Now leave.” The angel appraises her. “Something else resides in you… One like me, but fallen. Cousin.” There’s some debate over this, and the angel points out, “I was invited here, unlike you.” It becomes clear that Mary Eunice is still in her body somewhere, begging the heavenly host for release before her spirit is again overpowered by the possessing demon. They have work left to do.

Arden administers medicine to Grace, insisting he won’t take the fall for her condition. “You will live, Grace, if only to set the record straight.”

Lana is enduring rape by a sweaty, naked Oliver Thredson. She sees the angel in the plastic curtains, ethereal, not solid like she was for the others. When Thredson has finished and left her alone, Lana cries. “Death would be better. I used to be scared of it, but I’m not afraid anymore.” Still, she isn’t ready, and the angel retreats as Thredson returns to have a little talk. He’s conflicted. His tenacity has led to an impasse, and he can’t reconcile his feelings of Lana as a mother or lover or patient. “I can cut your throat or I can strangle you. I don’t believe in guns.” Syringe in hand, he tells her to stop fighting.

Lana’s not ready to die, and hits him with Wendy’s framed photo before choking him with her chains. She escapes, almost getting hit by a car. It’s hardly an improvement; the driver assumes she’s fought with her boyfriend and asks what she did to deserve it. “Of course it wasn’t your fault. Women are always the victims.” Railing about his wife flushing 10 years of marriage and cheating on him he adds, “You brought this on yourself.” Death is in the back seat and Lana pleads, “No. Not you. Not after everything.” But the man shoots himself and crashes the car.

Lana wakes, bound and battered. Sister Mary Eunice says she’s had ‘quite the adventure,’ but that she’s ‘safe’ now at Briarcliff.

Kit, meanwhile, disputes his confession with a detective or lawyer, insisting Grace knows the truth. The man notes, “She’s a patient in a mental institution. What she saw’s not likely to convince a lot of people.” Kit gets twitchy at the suggestion that he acts crazy, and beats him with a hole punch from the desk.

As Jude calls the police to report Goodman’s murder, there’s a flash of Mary Eunice killing him reflected in the fractured mirror. Jude sees a liquor bottle and thinks she glimpses Death, but gets distracted by the TV: illuminated by white noise, “murderer” is written in blood, accompanied by the newspaper clipping of the little girl in the blue coat. She recalls 1949, when she is kicked out of her band and told, “You’ve been slipping for a long time.” She arrives at an angelic statue, viewed through the cracked glass of her windshield.

1964, a now-drunk Jude answers the phone. “It’s your conscience calling.” Mary Eunice has made the scene look like Jude killed Goodman for investigating her hit-and-run, but she’s left parting gifts of Kentucky bourbon and a straight razor. At a diner Jude fantasizes slitting her wrists as she cleans up in the restroom. The angel joins her. “You jumped the gun again…. Never trust a drunk. I’m just the little girl who cried wolf.” As she laments her past, other times she wished to die (left by fiance Casey, unable to have a family, syphilis, hit and run), and God’s plan for her, she adds, “Sooner or later He was bound to figure out I never really rose to His challenge.” Death tells her peace is close, but Jude says she needs to do one last thing. The waitresses see her talking to herself and discuss calling Briarcliff.

Jude goes to see the Stones, and learns Missy didn’t die in the accident. As the grown woman and her baby loom dressed in white, Mrs. Stone says, “The monster who left her there has to live with himself.” Perhaps Jude won’t be granted the easy peace of death after all. It reinforces that the monstrosity of the act wasn’t the murder, but rather her self-absorbed refusal to get out of the car, check on the girl, and own up to her accident.

Lana tells Mary Eunice about Thredson being Bloodyface. With a flashback to “Tricks and Treats,” the Devil-in-Mary-Eunice knows this and clearly has no interest in righting things–it loves Thredson’s work. Frank says Kit escaped custody and orders have been issued to shoot on sight. Kit is racing through the Briarcliff tunnel, but so is a creature. Grace tells a nun, “Didn’t you hear? I’m Dr. Arden’s little miracle.” Kit finds her, determined to take her away, but the nun raises the alarm. The creature attacks her. Kit guts it. Frank arrives mid-chaos, and as he tries to shoot Kit, Grace jumps between them. As she finally receives the kiss of death, she murmurs, “I’m free.” and Kit tries to flee once more. Grace’s deaths bookend the episode.

There were so many nuns in this episode, finally a reminder outside Sisters Jude and Mary Eunice and Monseigneur Timothy that Briarcliff is a religious-run institution. They, like Jude, don’t care much for Arden as they consider calling an ambulance for Grace in the opening scene. Arden, in spite of his rude realization of Briarcliff’s new hierarchy, is determined Grace won’t sully his reputation. You’ve got to hand it to the man for only wanting to accept his own successes and failures. It also goes to show he is actually competent; he doesn’t err as much as he makes morally reprehensible choices. The death of his plants gives the idea that he’s less in control now than he was under Jude’s administration; Arden has gone from frying pan to fire, and is unprepared for the consequences.

Thredson fucking Lana caught me off-guard; I didn’t expect his mommy issues to manifest sexually with her, it seemed more like the next step in his conversion therapy to ‘cure’ her homosexuality. Hence his remorse for his tenacity, he has mixed work with sexual gratification, and can only reconcile this by removing Lana from the equation entirely. While it unfortunately means he loses his biographer and the chance to rationalize his actions by making Lana ‘understand’ it does seem the safest way for him to proceed.

Contrary to initial expectation, it seems the ‘Dark Cousin’ in question isn’t the black-clad angel figure depicted above; rather, this Angel of Death is a merciful counterpoint to the fallen angel/devil/satan residing in Sister Mary Eunice. Presumably Mary Eunice’s fear/anger at the summoning rests in the eternal battle for souls; if Death takes them as a mercy, perhaps they won’t count for the devil’s tally. Mary Eunice’s soul sings for release, but the Devil refuses to release her.

Still, there’s something slightly unwholesome about Death; sometimes she seems benevolent and merciful, while others she almost urges characters to surrender. The act of taking lives seems to give her some pleasure or satisfaction. That she has been ‘invited’ to Briarcliff makes sense, as death is the only permanent escape for its residents. Kit and Lana have both returned, after all. There’s still conspicuous silence about Pepper’s absence, though; she went missing in “Nor’Easter,” along with The Mexican (killed by Sister Satan) and The Pervert (now one of Arden’s creatures), and is the only one who hasn’t been heard from since. There’s also no update on Teresa.

Also, anyone got some insight into what Mary Eunice calls Death? I ran through the episode three times, scoured the internet, and even tried to string together aramaic, to no success. I’m stumped. And not quite how I envisioned, another of my predictions has come true! [edited to add: There are some really helpful comments about the Aramaic in the comments on Fister Roboto’s recap!]

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10 thoughts on “American Horror Story: Asylum, S2:E7, “Dark Cousin”

  1. Victor De Leon says:

    This episode was intense. Great recap! The show just gets better and better. I loved the Angel of Death lady. There are so many theories going around about Bloodyface but the one you have of Thredson and Lana is pretty interesting.

    Like

  2. Gerard says:

    I’m not sure the angel was totally merciful. I got the impression that she thrived on taking lives, whether the person needed to die or not.

    And yes please – can we have a theory about present-day Bloody Face? Are we sure it’s not just an ageing Zachary Quinto?

    Like

    • fissionerror says:

      Totally agree about the angel; there were points where she seemed coercive, like she benefitted somehow from her job.

      I’m willing to bet Bloodyface is just Thredson, now that he’s been denied closure with his perfect-mommy-substitute by screwing it all up. HOWEVER, I did see on someone else’s blog (wish I could remember) a theory that Thredson just impregnated Lana, and their unfortunate rape baby will become his protege. I thought it was interesting, especially when that person suggested Bloodyface v.2.0 ought to be played by Dylan McDermott.

      Like

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