“Lies are like scars on your soul.”
A poetic, touching and thoroughly satisfying end to this very twisted chapter of horror. The much anticipated season finale of American Horror Story: Asylum does an amenable job at wrapping up one of this year’s most compelling tales, full of terror, violence, sex, and insanity. “Madness Ends” is an unexpected, odd and ambitious end that might leave many fans and viewers debating its significance and overall message. After the madness, what is there? A happy ending? No, not so much. Much like last season’s ominous and slightly open-ended finale, this one is a dozy that manages to hold some imperative messages on notions of sanity, humanity, and evil.
Lies have been told all for the sake of telling a story–Lana’s story. But in those lies are vague truths and mysteries of the human and inhuman psyche. Whatever concepts of sanity and insanity we think have been setup are completely dismantled in this final episode of Asylum. Opening from the beginning of the end, back in the present where we witness Johnny’s venture into his breaking point and stumbling upon the depressing devil’s playground that is Briarcliff Manor and the poor souls, Leo and Teresa, who become his victims. All while listening to an audiobook of one of his mother’s books. It all leads us to Lana in the present day, still famed and very much intertwined in Briarcliff madness. An older Lana Winters takes part in a very important and revealing interview at some sort of Kennedy Honor Center. The story that Lana finally tells fills in the final holes of this tale and wraps up the remaining survivors’ stories, including Jude and Kit.
Now this installment doesn’t exactly mark a happy ending for everyone, but as opposed to the foreboding beginnings full of dread and violent darkness, this ending is probably the happiest we’ll ever get from a season of AHS and its characters. After her moment of fame-whoring, Lana remembers her mission to expose Briarcliff Manor and embarks on the mission utilizing her power in media to do so. The old footage Lana and her crew use is quite captivating and does well to strike a distressing note to the eyes of America, as it finally shuts the place down. However the horrors are still far from over. Lana tells a story in which she finds a severely mentally shattered Jude, which is a moving moment that definitely sticks out in the episode, unfortunately it’s just all for show. Lana never found Jude because Kit took her in his custody. From there the story gets weirder and moves into some surprisingly touching territory that is rather daring even for a series like this.
Sister Jude’s journey this season has been quite a ride. She started out with a great deal of power and held pious intentions that she attempted to exact with a medieval iron fist and then she fell. And she fell hard. The patriarchal devils revolving around her (Dr. Arden and Monsignor Timothy Howard) contributed to her fall and her altered sanity; however, she also made her own mistakes. Just as Dr. Arden and Monsignor Timothy, Jude thought her path was the righteous one. Again, it’s all about perspective. Before Judy was ever Sister Jude, she was a debatably unstable woman whose sanity could have been in question. Yet when she became a woman of the cloth and was given power over the asylum, everyone was convinced she was the appropriate authority. It’s funny how a person can fall from grace simply because of perspective and title. Which makes us wonder if order, passion and power might alter certain aspects of human sanity as well. Kit, by taking in Jude–someone who overlooked his torture at Briarcliff is an exceptional move of trust and forgiveness that again recalls the previous assertions that Kit is a special kind of person. It’s why these mysterious alien figures choose him and gave him the gift of two unique children, even through his entire horrorshow.
Kit tells Lana of his time with Jude, which is extremely eventful and full of moments that test the audience’s view of what sanity is. Jude’s fall into insanity has opened up her mind and made her more inclusive towards individuals. She’s not judgmental or inflicting punishment. She’s occasionally aggravated, yet still open. Kit takes a huge risk in having Jude around her kids; however, these kids being what they are (which is a mystery), they have an open mind just as this mentally unstable Jude does. It’s mildly depressing and rather harrowing to see Jude’s erratic behavior as it slowly kills her, but as it happens, she ends up having the time of her life. Whatever event happened in the woods that sent Jude on her final transition did so for the best, but it limited her time even more. Maybe Jude couldn’t find happiness until her time became limited and she lived her life in the best way. It’s another weird twist that is unforeseeable, but this show has a track record of taking characters in odd directions that actually pay off. Jude is an suitable surrogate grandmother and Kit is lucky to have found a loving figure to enhance the kids’ lives. A surrogate grandmother that does well to give her surrogate grandchildren sage advice and adulation, all before she finally allows the ominous Angel of Death to end her strange journey. It all transpires like dark poetry that stay with a person for quite a time. It shouldn’t work as well as it does, but it serves as an astute and beautiful end to Jude’s story.
Kit’s life continues, as he meets and marries a new woman and lives a happy life with his kids. His last whereabouts were at his home, alone and withering with cancer. And appropriately, the alien scientists come back for their experiment at his last moments in life. Thankfully, this alien storyline, which has perplexed many fans and has had them split on its purpose, comes to an eerie and open end. Kit’s life on earth, while interrupted with a horrific interlude, was rather loving. Kit has been developed as an open-minded, forgiving and loving man in a time where prejudice, close-mindedness, and judgment ran rabid. Kit fell in love with Alma, accepted Grace, and forgave Jude and even stayed by her side when she finally passed on. Even after facing the horrors he did, Kit never became a monster. It’s all reasons why the aliens chose him in the first place, and apparently why they have returned for him. And maybe one day, when it is his children’s time to go, they will return for them.
Lana’s interview continues with the reveal that Monsignor–sorry, Cardinal of New York, Timothy Howard has finally caved in from the guilt of his multiple lies and manipulations and took his own life. A fact that nearly everyone blames Lana for, after her interrogation during the continued shooting of her exposé on Briarcliff. The lies that have been told by Timothy Howard have only continued the terror for everyone at Briarcliff Manor. His need for polarization and powerful recognition turned him into a corrupt monster trying to compensate for a very human emptiness. He’s a man who fell under his own lies. Timothy created his own path to failure, lying dead in a pool of his own blood, which is one of the episode’s most memorable and chilling visuals. Through this continued interview, Lana’s estranged, homicidal son happens to have found his beloved mother, with intentions to finally take her life. The reveal that Lana has in fact met little Johnny before even complicates the situation even more. The meeting is brief and happens to be surprisingly tender. It also proves as a defense against the very real threat that Lana faces now.
The interview is over and done, but the big confrontation is yet to be had. This is a mother and child reunion that is exquisitely tense and engrossing, but shockingly subtle and full of substance. We look at Lana now and she’s not the same person she was in 1964. Going back to the first meeting between Sister Jude and Lana Winters, there is a statement that concerns evil–a statement Sister Jude makes what is ultimately prophetic and a message that sends Lana on her survivor’s journey. In the penultimate episode, I was somewhat appalled with Lana’s fame-crazed behavior, but now it is justified. After all of her trials, Lana has ultimately deserved her “happy” ending. “If you look into the face of evil, evil is gonna look right back at you.” Lana was impregnated with evil by an evil man and had the courage to stare evil down and kill it once again in this finale. She may not be an entirely likable character, but Lana is a conqueror and one of the most sympathetic characters of the series next to Kit. The consequence of Lana’s survival and conquers is that the evil she’s fought has hardened her, but much like everything else, it is a double-edged sword. Lana has been forever marked by the horror she has overcome. Briarcliff Manor may have been a concentrated hell on earth, but it gave Lana a will to survive and fame, it gave Kit an unimaginable experience that gifted him two special children, and even let Jude live her final days happily and with a family, which is something she’s always wanted.
Sanity is mostly based on perspective. Lana, Jude, and Kit all managed to survive Briarcliff Manor and the evil within it. Evil in the form of a seemingly innocent nun, a former Nazi doctor, a dangerously pious and power hungry man of the lord, and even through concepts of power, lust, prejudice, passion and hate. Did our misfits of society maintain their human sanity in the end? That all concerns perspective. Are these happy endings? Again, it’s based on the viewer’s perspective. And maybe even their sanity. Despite the horror, this is a beautiful hour of television that is majestically directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and wondrously written by Tim Minear. Ryan Murphy and his team have created another horror masterpiece with this chapter in the American Horror Story series and I cannot wait for more next season! “Madness Ends” gets 5 out of 5 stars!
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© Patrick Broadnax 2013