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American Horror Story – Madness Returns Review: A Slightly More Positive Second Opinion

It doesn’t surprise me at all that there would be mixed responses to the season finale of American Horror Story: Asylum. When you have a show so completely riddled with horrifying vulgarity from the get-go like this season's Asylum storyline, it would only make sense for the show to leave the viewers feeling unhinged to the end credits. So if you told me after just watching the season premiere that the distraught adventures of the Briarcliff survivors would end on a more upbeat and satisfying note, my expectations would’ve immediately plummeted.

And yet, even though the appropriately-titled Madness Ends was not “creepy, unsettling, and thrilling” as my site colleague, Samantha said in the site's first review of the episode, I thought this epilogue episode wasn’t just good, it was downright superb. While the episode right before it had severe issues in laying out the heavy exposition by pushing the fast-forward button, the ending itself took its sweet time in its resolution.

It’s odd, really. Even though I’m allergic to the ABC Family and Hallmark Channel brand of melodrama that gives you cavities from their oh-so sweetness, I have to disagree with Samantha’s thoughts that the scenes with Kit taking care of Jude in her final months were very soap opera. The acting from Evan Peters and Jessica Lange as they danced together in their first moment of happiness in what seems like forever felt real and appropriate as these characters were souls who were begging to forget that asylum.

But while I thought Jude’s final moments were bittersweet and touching…yeah, I agree with Samantha that Kit was wrote off in one desperate way for the writers to say, “Hey look viewers, aliens! You loved how confusing and muddled they were just slapped onto this season right?!” I mean, why was Kit just magically vanished? From what the show revealed early on, the aliens wanted Kit to be alive for…something, so why not just cure his cancer instead of a random kidnapping? Is it because his alien-hybrid kids have already grown up to be normal, intelligent and successful so the sci-fi goons wanted to just study his disheveled, cancer-ridden body? Oh yeah, and what happened with Kit’s second (or third, I guess) wife that he married while he was BFFs with Lana? The Kit aspect feels very incomplete.

For me, Lana vs. Johnny was a letdown, but the biggest disappointment goes to the fate of Cardinal Howard. It was one thing to have the creep go back to being selfish and power-hungry despite being literally crucified and raped by a demon. But, seriously, he just killed himself because Lana and her camera men interrogated him for the Briarcliff events? I can understand that his past has been eating at him over the years, but was Lana’s shoddy news show really looked at as a major threat to him?

But onto Lana confronting her son after all the build-up, it was very disappointing. Not in the sense that it wasn’t a bloody brawl right out of a slasher film that we all thought it would be, that whole scene was just so…boring. As if the writers just copy/pasted the confrontation scenes from several other stories, the way the two characters were saying how their reunion was “by no surprise” and “inevitable” was just painfully cliché. I could already see Lana shooting Johnny from deceit eons away.

So, yes, I was disappointed by those moments, but I wouldn't say that the entire episode was a mess. I loved how everything from the past was resolved as a retrospective from Lana’s words from a TV interview. It made all the explanations clear and easy to grasp—a complete departure from how this show usually handles flashbacks. This method was also brilliant because it showed just how Lana’s character developed over the years. Yes, she remained to be the diva that she became after writing that harrowing piece of half-fiction, but there were definitely little touches that showed her resolve. I appreciate that the infiltration of the cesspool remains of Briarcliff in the 70’s for the scoop that would shut down the place for good wasn’t as drawn-out and exploitive as it could’ve been.

And while it did leave a bad taste in my mouth when she visited Kit in the aftermath of that with cameras, the perfect reaction Sarah Paulson had as Lana when Kit just said “no” showed that her heart wasn’t completely consumed by journalistic hunger as their conversation about their lives was just as them as friends. And while the mother-son chat in the final moments was overly cheesy, I got a real sense of the regret Lana had in the flashback scene where she saw Johnny a second time as a normal child. Her killing him in the end was just a sign of closure after seeing that Johnny had more of his father in him than she had hoped.

So that was my thoughts on how the Asylum story arc of American Horror Story ended its run. I actually thought this season was much better than the first season’s “Murder House” storyline. Samantha would disagree, but I felt like the show’s first year was far too unclear on what kind of identity it wanted to be. The characters were bland and too selfish to care about, the shifty camera work and use of jump scares was nothing short of pretentious, and the slow pacing on how the family took forever to notice their house was haunted was beyond annoying.

Asylum, however, I felt was a great improvement where the characters had far more depth and the heights in which the story went was interesting in how unpredictable it transpired. I definitely am looking forward to buying the blu-ray set when it releases so I can experience it all again with a new perspective in how far it really goes. Here’s hoping Ryan Murphy and co. make their rumored Romeo-and-Juliet-esque third season to retain what we all liked about the first two seasons and much, much more.

 Who knows? Maybe Samantha and I will both like it equally.



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