TV Review: American Horror Story 2.8, “Unholy Night”

Rating: With Asylum’s final third coming upon us, I suppose that now is as good a time as any for...

Alex Trivilino

Contributor

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Rating: ★★★★★

With Asylum’s final third coming upon us, I suppose that now is as good a time as any for a more standalone episode. While last year had quite the affinity for these single-serving stories, Asylum has been zipping along with breakneck speed (to the point where the plots of the fourth or fifth episode seemed to come all too soon). Whether or not you have liked the speed of the season thus far, there’s no denying that the episodes have not been nearly as repetitive as many of last year’s installments. So while “Unholy Night” functions rather as a slice of life in Briarcliff, it’s a dementedly exciting one, and one that’s so much fun, I don’t care if any of its ramifications don’t even matter next week (though I hope that they do).

Last year’s season ended on family domesticity around a Christmas tree. This is still American Horror Story, so said family members were all dead, but after the woes and despair that plagued them, they had finally found peace amidst death. Asylum’s foray into the holiday cheer began with what is certainly the most messed up Christmas story in recent memory: Ian McShane’s Lee Emerson, raped multiple times in prison, how dons a Santa outfit and murders family members in cold blood. It’s chilling and just as over-the-top as one would expect in American Horror Story, furthered only when Sister Mary lets an Emerson even more crazed after solitary confinement out to spread some holiday jeer. And bites.

As I’m sure many will feel, we can only hope that McShane will nab another role on American Horror Story’s next season, with as big a role as possible hopefully. This comes not only due to McShane’s never-diminishing entrancing screen presence, but also because Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have continued to prove themselves as more than capable of finding great actors to fit the distinct flavor of their show.

I particularly liked the spark of chaos that was born between the crazed Santa and the demonic nun (how’s that for another sentence?) after the latter murdered that poor guard. Santa’s eyes widened in a joy not unlike a child looking at his own stock of presents. And for Lee Emerson, that present is the revenge towards Sister Jude, the very woman who drove him further into insanity. Of course, no one would wish such vile violence on anyone, but at the start of the show, I may have wanted Jude to receive some comeuppance — particularly at the hand of a former patient — but here, I only had the greatest fear for her. One of my favorite elements to Asylum (an element that the Murder House season was sorely lacking) was compelling characters who changed over the course of their run. Jude has recently grown on a redemption path, but in a myriad of ways. It is not just the threat of violence that made me care for her, but a mixture of many other factors that range from her inner guilt to being screwed over by the administration. All in all, Jude’s growth towards righteousness is far from over, and her own internal battles will continue now that she has actively killed a man on her own old turf.

Lana, on the other hand, has Dr. Thredson at her own disposal, but won’t kill him due to a reason that makes enough sense that I’ll buy it (particularly when the way to get her back in the Asylum was so sloppy). But she and Kit are certainly already seen with such skepticism that a respected psychiatrist’s dead body turning up at their hands will certainly only implement them further. Of course, this means it’s only a matter of minutes before Bloody Face 2.0 escapes and causes more terror, but for now, let’s pretend the episode ended with a small victory for the good guys, shall we?

And finally we have a fairly big mythology boost, which was well-placed in an otherwise standalone story. Arden has sent Grace’s body in some mine car towards oblivion! That’s right; the aliens have zapped her away! This may mean that there’s still hope to see her yet in manners other than Kit’s bizarre dream. Unless of course, aliens nabbing Grace means that they’re probing his visions so he could see that, which takes us to…

Crazy Horror Conspiracy of the Week: Kit’s vision of Grace in the place of his wife is where Grace really is! Alternate reality dimensions where he’ll inevitably try to escape! There, the two of them can set up Christmas trees with the Harmons and be happy/dead/in another existence of reality.