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Is there anything more disappointing than a lackluster season finale? After a relatively uneventful season, the last two episodes of Asylum promised the kind of ending we were all waiting for—creepy, unsettling, and thrilling. Yet somehow, defying all odds, “Madness Ends” turned out to be more of a feel-good story than the wrap-up of a horror show.
Make no mistake, I remember that the Season 1 finale was essentially positive, too. But in that case it was about the protagonists learning to thrive in the environment that had caused them so much terror and misery, and preventing history from repeating itself. “Madness Ends” however, seems to have a weakly executed theme of breaking cycles, which, aside from seeming terribly cliché, made the entire episode feel more like an ABC Family version of the show.
Case in point: the plotline following Kit Walker and Sister Jude. As it turns out, Kit ends up rescuing Jude from Briarcliff, where she learns to trust and becomes a grandmother-figure to Kit’s children. She passes away happy and surrounded by love, welcoming Shachath’s kiss. Now, this makes sense if we’re thinking about the theme of breaking the cycle, since she’s ending the misery she both inflicted and received, and that would be fine if it wasn’t so terribly cheesy. Her final parting words to the children, which are supposed to be touching and dramatic, seem more like a soap opera than anything else.
And of course, they had to get in one last alien abduction before they could put it to rest. I was hoping and praying that we had seen the last of the aliens, but as Kit Walker nears his forties, he develops cancer. But rather than dying like a normal person, he simply is taken by the aliens and disappears. I suppose that’s positive, depending on how much you like aliens, but how is that breaking any sort of cycle, except the cycle of death itself? And why did he need to get cancer at all? It felt like an obvious excuse to bring the aliens back..
The Lana Winters/Johnny Morgan plotline, however, takes the cake as the most disappointing. With Thredson out of the picture for a while now, I was really hoping Johnny would take up the reins and become the almost-scary-enough serial killer his father had been. And the entire episode seemed to be leading up to it. Most of “Madness Ends” takes place in Lana’s home 40 years after the main storyline, as she is interviewed on her groundbreaking work and personal life.
Yet throughout her storytelling and peacocking, Johnny is there, lurking in the background as a crew member. Obviously he’s there to kill her, so one would rightfully expect this to happen. And soon enough the crew exits, leaving Johnny alone with Lana. I found myself thinking, “This is it. This is the moment the whole season was working toward. It’ll make everything I had to endure worth it.”
But no. They had to give us one last denial of satisfaction. Lana ends up reaching out to Johnny and finding his weakness: the insatiable need for a mother figure. She uses it to lower his guard enough to take the gun from his hands, and just as he’s beginning to trust her, she kills him. Just like she killed Thredson. Lana Winters, you rob me of yet another compelling character.
But looking back, even Johnny and Thredson weren’t enough to make my skin crawl. Perhaps Sister Mary Eunice was, and maybe Sister Jude, but overall none of the characters truly frightened me the way the Season 1 characters did. Remember Tate, and his horrific unpredictability? It was almost painful to watch Evan Peters play such a flat character like Kit Walker after his incredible portrayal of a troubled homicidal teen. I want those characters back.
One compliment I’ll pay to the finale is that it was visually interesting. The use of 1970s-esque video, constantly rotating cameras, and the lovely blackness of Jude’s death scene were all quite nice to look at. I give credit where it’s due for that.
Look, I know I’ve been hard on this season as a whole, but that’s only because the first season was SO GOOD. Is American Horror Story doomed to the dreaded Ryan Murphy effect, peaking in its first season and become a downhill slide from thereon out? I sincerely hope not, because no matter what, I’m still holding out for the show that scared the pants off me last year.