American Horror Story Asylum, S2E13: Madness Ends
Original Airdate: January 23, 2013
Recap by Sarabeth Pollock
Well, fellow inmates, they say that all good things come to an end, and tonight’s episode was an end to the madness. Literally.
I suppose it’s only fitting that in order for the series to come to an end, we have to revisit the beginning.
Johnny Morgan breaks into Briarcliff Manor. It’s the present day and he’s listening to an audiobook version of Lana Winters’ book Maniac. Chapter Six: The Gathering Storm. With his machete in hand, he wanders through the dilapidated asylum listening to his mother’s voice as she talks about how time has no meaning in the asylum. He comes across the old hydrotherapy room and sees a vision of his mother in one of the tubs. She tells him that he wasn’t conceived in love, but in hate, and he’s nothing more than an abomination.
The audiobook moves on to the story of the Nor’easter of 1964, three weeks into Lana’s stay at Briarcliff. She talks about seeing Oliver Thredson for the first time, and how his handsome countenance put people at ease. However, it was his “mask” of benevolence and sanity that fooled people. Inside, he was a monster. Johnny walks down the stairs in the present day while we see Lana back in 1964 looking down at Thredson as he ascends the spiral staircase. He stops in front of Johnny and tells him that he loved him while he was in his mother’s womb, and it was his mother who robbed them of having a relationship. As Johnny stands there reflecting on the vision, he sees two people breaking into the asylum: Leo and Teresa. Talk about bad timing…. As the newlywed duo walk through the halls, recounting the asylum’s haunted history, they have no idea that they’re being watched. When Leo straps Teresa to the table, it’s Johnny who makes all of the noise in the hallway. Hearing them talk about Bloody Face sends him into a frenzy. When they come to the door at the end of the hallway, Johnny is already inside getting high. Before long he pulls out a replica Bloody Face mask and puts it on, then he takes his trusty machete and hacks off Leo’s arm.
Ah, that explains it!
We continue in the present day. Lana is giving an interview prior to being recognized at the Kennedy Center Honors. Her house is opulently decorated with crisp red walls and white trim. April, the reporter conducting the interview, notes a drawing of Lana made by Bono. Lana laughs and said Bono made the drawing on his cocktail napkin during a flight. April marvels that Lana has written six bestselling books and has a way of getting people to open up to her. Lana’s lover, Marion, teases that she’s still upset about the interviews that got away, namely, with Julian Assange, Mao and Rielle Hunter. Marion isn’t going to be included in the interview, and she gives Lana a kiss before leaving. Lana watches her leave, remarking that she’s the “luckiest woman alive.” In the blink of an eye, however, Lana criticizes a member of the lighting crew for the work he’s doing. April uses that moment to comment on how good Lana looks for her age, and Lana credits her plastic surgeon and dermatologist. Her vanity really has no bounds. Before April begins, Lana remarks that she hopes this doesn’t turn into a eulogy for her just because she’s being honored at the Kennedy Center. April reassures her that it is far from a eulogy, and while she wants to get into the “notorious Madoff interview,” April really wants to delve into the Bloody Face saga and Lana’s time at Briarcliff. Lana refuses, saying that Bloody Face is too much of a household name and more closely resembles a Heath Ledger-esque movie villain than the monster he truly is. So April shifts gears and focuses on the Briarcliff expose that launched her career.
Years after the Church sold Briarcliff to the State of Massachusetts in 1965, Lana takes her film crew to the asylum. They have been denied access to the facility numerous times, so intrepid Lana is going to use her inside knowledge to get inside. She leads her crew through the Death Chute. She tells them to film everything. Her goal is to “shock the public out of complacency.” This is Lana the crusader.
Back in the present, Lana admits to the reporter that ambition was really the driving force that took her back to Briarcliff. She knew that she was never meant for print media. Television was the future of reporting the news, and she needed to break though. Eventually, she ended up with her own news segment, “America Unmasked,” which drew on her experience with crazy people. The television audience needed more than crazy, she says. They needed a hook. And she was just the person to deliver it.
As the news crew follows Lana through Briarcliff, Lana narrates the horrid conditions they find. Inmates walk around naked, covered in their own filth, with no supervision to be found. Through it all, Lana tells her television audience that she’s there to rescue Jude from the “snake pit” that Jude once locked her in. These conditions are abysmal, she reports, and it’s an indictment of the State of Massachusetts, which has abandoned some of its most needy residents. However, Lana Winters is still the budding reporter. She chastises her crew when they get distracted by the inmates wandering around them. You can’t blame the crew, really. The place reeks of death.
Eventually an orderly finds Lana and her crew, and he seems surprised to see them. Did they have permission to be there? Lana straightens up and demands to see Judy Martin.
Lana is taken to a cell, where a woman is rocking absently on the cot. It’s Jude. She’s unkempt and filthy and she can’t bear the light from the camera in her eyes. “I’m going to get you out of here, Sister Jude,” Lana proclaims. She leads the frail woman from the cell. “Lana Banana,” Jude whispers. Lana beams at the camera.
Back in the present, April admits that she doesn’t recall this story in Lana’s book. And that, Lana replies, is because it didn’t happen. Lana acted too late. When she shut down Briarcliff, Jude was already gone.
It’s time for a break. Lana wants a sparkling water. She’s a total diva, and it’s sick to watch how she treats the people around her. A bottle of sparkling water appears beside her. “Thanks, you’re a doll,” she tells the man. “My pleasure, Ms. Winters,” the man replies. Holy shit. It’s Johnny Morgan. They lock eyes, but there is no recognition in her expression. His eyes, however, are cold and calculating.
As they return to the past, Lana shows up on Kit’s doorstep. It’s 1970. “You shut down Briarcliff!” Kit exclaims, hugging her. Then he sees her film crew. He doesn’t want to talk on camera. Lana explains that she wanted to capture their reunion…and she also wants to know the real identity of Betty Drake. Inside the house, away from the cameras, Lana explains that Monsignor Howard made sure that Judy Martin ceased to exist. She found her file while going through the offices at Briarcliff (what was left of them; files and papers littered the floor, hiding a sleeping inmate underneath the stack). In 1970, Betty Drake was released—to Kit Walker. That was only a few months after Lana’s book signing. What was Kit thinking?
Kit explains that he helped Jude because he could. It was all he could do. Lana was the one destined to shut down Briarcliff. He started visiting Jude after Alma died. He saw life in her and wanted to be there for her. They played checkers together. At first it didn’t seem like she knew who he was, but eventually her old self started to shine through. The staff at Briarcliff didn’t think twice about Kit’s visits; for all they cared, that made her one less patient to worry about. Soon he was able to get her released, and Julia and Thomas watch from the house as she gets out of their dad’s truck. He did it for the kids, he tells Lana. He couldn’t focus on his kids until he put the past behind him, and part of doing that was offering forgiveness to the one person who was still around: Jude.
The first thing they had to do was detox Jude. She’d writhe on the bed for days on end as all of the meds passed out of her system. Eventually, she felt well enough for the children to be near her. They brought flowers to her from their garden and did what they could to cheer her up. Jude seems to blossom under their kindness. However, things had to get worse before they could get better. One day Kit returned to the house to find Jude chasing Thomas with a broom, yelling that there was no children’s ward and he shouldn’t have been left at the asylum. Kit grabs her and tells her she isn’t at Briarcliff, and she can’t hit his children. He tells Thomas to take his sister outside, but Thomas and Julia approach and take Jude by the hand. “It’s ok, dad,” Thomas says. They lead her out into the woods, and when they get back she’s a different person. Kit and Lana are sitting together and he tells her that he never knew what happened out there, but Jude was a different person when she returned. Grace always said the children were special.
Later, Jude teaches Kit and the children how to dance. It’s great to watch the “family” dance around, giggling and laughing and having fun together. Julia moves to dance with Kit, while Jude spins Thomas around in circles. She and Kit lock eyes as her nose starts bleeding.
Kit laughs at the memories. In the six months she was with them, she taught the kids to dance and swear like sailors. She taught Thomas to sew and took away Julia’s dolls in favor of trucks so that Julia would grow up tough. Kit feels that she was happy in the end, though it was anyone’s guess whether or not those six months made up for the lifetime of horrors she both suffered and inflicted. The children lay in bed with her during her final days. Jude says there are so many things she needed to tell them. To Julia she advises her to never let a man tell her who she is or make her feel like she’s less than he is. She tells Thomas not to take a job just for money; find something he loves, something important, and do it because he wants to do it. Kit comes into the room with a tray of food, but Jude says she doesn’t need it. This is the end. He sends the kids outside but they want to stay with “Nana.” Jude tells them to go, and when they’re alone, she tells Kit that he’s a lucky man. “You’d better not screw them up,” she warns. Kit smiles. He promises not to leave her alone in her final moments, but she replies that she’s not alone. Kit tells Lana that he never understood what she meant, but Lana gets it. After all, Lana met the Angel of Death back in Oliver Thredson’s house.
The Angel tells Jude that they have done this dance so many times over the years. After all this time, is she ready? “I’m ready now…kiss me,” Jude whispers. The room fades away and we only see Jude in her bed with the Angel poised above her. The piano music plays in the background, signaling an impending death. The Angel’s wings spread over them both and she kisses Jude. And that is the end of Sister Jude.
Back in the present, April clicks her pen, signaling to Lana that the tough questions are coming. After all of the drama shutting down Briarcliff, it was her next expose that caused the most controversy. Cardinal Howard. Lana snorts. The state of New York wanted to lynch her, she replies. She’s been trying to get the Cardinal on camera for months, but he kept evading her. Finally they caught him in the parking garage after his Easter Mass. He was heading for his shiny Mercedes when she caught him. The Cardinal, it seems, was at the pinnacle of his career. He was the rising star in the Church. But Lana was preparing a report on Arthur Arden’s medical experimentation at Briarcliff, and she tells the Cardinal that the authorities would be turning to him for answers about the bodies and body parts found outside the asylum. He brushes her off, stating that those patients were not his concern. April asks if Lana feels responsible for what happened next. Lana is not remorseful for what the Cardinal’s conscience led him to do next. He was found in a bathtub, wrists slashed. The tub was full of blood. So ends the life of Cardinal Howard.
And now, Lana says, she’s ready to come clean about a 40 year old lie. She talked in her book about the rape and the pregnancy, but she wrote that the baby died. The child lived and was raised by someone else. We return to that scene in the hospital as the nurse takes the baby away. Lana tells the nurse never to bring him in again. “He’ll need to learn how to live without me,” she says. Marion is the only one who knew the truth, until now. She admits to feeling remorse in the mid-70s when she felt bad about giving him up. She uses her reporter-sleuth skills to track the boy down, and she finds him one day in the school yard being bullied. He has dark hair and glasses, and he’s the spitting image of his father. The bully calls the boy a “faggot” and pushes him. That’s when Lana swoops in and threatens the bully. She kneels down and touches the boy’s face with her gloved hand. “You know he’s the asshole, right?” she asks. “Yeah, I know,” the boy says. He gets up and runs away. Johnny sits in the next room listening to the story. Lana still wonders how he is and how he turned out.
She didn’t have kids because it was such a different time for gay women back then, but she embraced Kit’s children. Kit made her their godmother. She tells April that Kit remarried a lovely girl he met at the co-op. The children were so happy with their father’s new wife. And the children went on to live very fulfilling lives. Julia is a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins, while Thomas is a law professor at Harvard. If only Kit could see them. Lana explains that when Kit turned 40, he was stricken with pancreatic cancer, and it spread before anything could be done. The children offered to stay with him, but he told them not to come. Lana went to visit him, and she noted that he seemed more at peace than ever before. Then, one night, he disappeared. There was no explanation. We see Kit sitting in his wheelchair, and then lights fill the house. The aliens returned for him. He smiles. There was no funeral, and his children told people not to mourn him. He was at peace.
That ends the interview. April thanks Lana and says she’ll see her at the Kennedy Center. The camera crew clears out, and Lana slowly walks back into the room. She goes to the bar and grabs two glasses. “Can I pour you a drink?” she asks. “You don’t need to hide.”
Johnny steps out of the shadows.
“Let’s get this over with, shall we?” Lana asks. She’s unflappable. Nothing fazes her a bit.
Johnny informs her that her life is about to end.
Lana remains calm, settling in a chair. She wants to know how he got onto the film crew. Johnny explains that he got friendly with her doorman, who told him about the interview, and then he killed the guy who was bringing donuts to the set. His body is out in the dumpster. She tells Johnny that she knew this day would come. Johnny wonders how she knew who he was. “How could I not recognize my own baby boy?” she replies. Then we have a flashback to police officers sitting in her living room. They tell her all about Johnny Morgan. They suspect that he killed five people, including the elderly couple that lived in Thredson’s house. But Lana had never seen him before.
She tells her son that he has his father’s good looks. He’s very handsome. She asks how Johnny knew who he was. He says that she told him, way back on that day at the playground. It was how she cared about him. He found out as much as he could about her and went around telling people that she was his mother. He dreamed that she’d come back from him…until he heard the tape. It turns out that he bought the secret confession tape on eBay, and it was at that moment, hearing his father’s voice, that he started to love his father and hate his mother. Lana admits that she never loved him and didn’t want him. She gave him up in hopes that he would have a chance at a better life.
But enough of that. It’s time to end this.
Lana is curious about what he plans to do. She can’t imagine that he’s interested in her skin at her age. Johnny sits on the coffee table in front of her and tells her that he’s thought a lot about this moment. He reaches into the waistband of his pants and pulls out a gun, pointing it at her forehead. This seems to surprise Lana (finally, she looks appropriately concerned about the whole situation). His father didn’t like guns, she tells him.
“I just want him to be proud of me,” Johnny says, his voice cracking. He’s afraid that he can ever measure up to the man his father was.
Lana tells her son that he isn’t a monster like his father. She calls him “baby,” and his expression falls at the maternal consideration. She tells him that she knows he’s a better man than his father. Johnny’s eyes fill with tears and he lowers the gun as she caresses his cheek. She is present in Johnny as much as Thredson was.
“I’ve hurt people!” Johnny cries.
“It’s not your fault, baby, it’s mine,” Lana says. She puts the gun to his forehead and pulls the trigger. Blood splatters all over her face. She sits back with a blank expression on her face.
That is the end of Johnny Morgan, the son of Bloody Face.
We flash back to Lana’s first encounter with Sister Jude at Briarcliff. She’s begging to get an interview with Bloody Face. Jude laughs at the young woman’s idealism. “You’re out of your depth, Miss Lana Banana,” she taunts her. Jude has seen women like her, women who like to dream large. Ambition is dangerous. Jude knows that Briarcliff is already in Lana’s rearview mirror. Lana tells Jude she’d love to hear her story, how Jude came to work at Briarcliff. Jude laughs, telling Lana that she doesn’t believe that they’re destined to meet again. She hopes that Lana knows that she’s in for: the loneliness and sacrifices of a woman alone with a dream.
Jude turns and holds Lana’s gaze. “If you look in the face of evil, evil is going to look back at you.”
Lana smiles. She turns and walks out of Briarcliff.
Jude turns away from the door and glances at the Mary statue in the entryway. “Dominique” plays in the background as the camera rises away from Jude, showing us an aerial view of the great staircase of the house of horrors known as Briarcliff Manor.
And that, friends, is the end of Season 2 of American Horror Story: Asylum. The madness ends with a shot of Jude presiding over her domain.
Well, what did you think? Were you shocked that Lana was the only one left standing? Did you think she was going to die? Did Cardinal Howard get his just reward? Were you surprised by the return of the aliens at the end of Kit’s life? I’ll admit, Lana shocked me. The producers said she was the heart of the show…but I didn’t see it ending like that….
Please leave your comments below, and join me in the fall for the next chapter of American Horror Story!