This week's Asylum was the first of a two-parter, and for a horror series it sure did keep the fright down to a bare minimum.
The newest resident of Briarcliff claims to be Anne Frank. You know, one of the two dead teenage girls your English teacher made you read the diary of... except hers was the one that was actually real. Her story, backed up with an actual Auschwitz wrist tattoo, is that she survived in a mass grave, and lived on the streets of Germany after the war. Once she saw her diary was published, and that she had become a martyr to millions, she decided that she must remain dead so that the story would continue its powerful effect...
OK, look. I love Franka Potente, who plays "Anne Frank" with all my heart. She's Run Lola Run for God's sake, and that makes her more awesome than anyone you've ever met. That someone put this dismal writing in her mouth is just slightly less offensive than giving her coffee with body fluids in it. Her entire tale is ridiculously contrived. She kept her identity secret, but spills it the first time she knifes some anti-Semitic jackass and gets thrown in the loony bin? OK, squire... whatever gets me to the next scene.
Things get metal when she recognizes Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) as a Nazi doctor from the camps. In a fun bit of flashback we see a young Arden (Played by John Cromwell, who I can only assume is James' son or grandson named after his famous director father) maliciously experimenting on female inmates of the camp with a mysterious disease. Anne confesses everything to Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) who pieces it together with accusations from local cops that Arden roughed up a prostitute that discovered Nazi memorabilia in his house.
When Sister Jude confides in her Monsignor (Joseph Fiennes... that's right, he's actually in the show occasionally), he dismisses her accusations as drunken delusions. He then secretly phones Aden to let him know people are onto him and to clean up any messes he may have lying around.
All this sounds really interesting, and it is despite being ridiculous. All parties involved play this bit of weirdo Nazisplotation to the hilt, but that's not how we spend the majority of the episode. Nope, instead we get to watch Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) go through aversion and conversion therapy to cure her tribadism. That's an archaic word for lesbianism, y'all, and I use it any chance I get.
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Where was I... oh yeah. Wanna see a woman spend 15 minutes puking and crying because Zachary Quinto made her masturbate while touching some mental patient's dong? Hey, me neither. Wow, they really should've asked us before filming that because all it made me want to do was throw rocks at the grave of Ronald Reagan for cutting the funding for mental health in California since these writers could have really used some of that sweet, sweet therapy, yo.
There is one very well done scene, though, thanks to an always surprising Evan Peters. His Kit Walker is utterly adrift, wondering if the aliens he saw were real or if it was in fact a psychotic break to protect his mind after violently murdering several women including his wife. He breaks down in tears with Sister Jude, asking if God knows the truth. When she assures him God does, he asks to be forgiven because he honestly doesn't know what happened, but maybe he is a maniac.
Lange and Peters manage to carve sheer brilliance out of the ether during their interaction over the nature of religion, madness, and sin. It's an open moment from two great actors who rarely get a chance to dial it down in the show and make the most of a dramatic moment while surrounded by whatever over-the-top antics make up the rest of the plot.
In the end, though, it's one veeeeeeeery slow buildup to one final scare as Shelley (Chloe Sevigny) who Arden has maimed and begun experimenting one, is found by Anne in his laboratory asking to be killed and looking like she caught zombie. Overall it was a meh-pisode, but promises plenty of needlessly gratuitous fun to come.