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The swooping highs and lows of this series–often within the
same episode—would of course lead to the Anne Frank two-parter differing
greatly in quality. Taking in stride the lackluster and ludicrous first half
(aside from Lana’s supremely tough aversion therapy), AMERICAN HORROR STORY
aired one of its best episodes in “I Am Anne Frank, Part 2,” a tale in which
almost our entire main ensemble got out of Briarcliff and into much worse
The most striking member of team ASYLUM was director Alfonso
Gomez-Rejon, who managed to take all of the show’s penchant for stylistic flair
and homage and hone it into something visually exciting and engaging, but not
without merit or relevance. Dutch angles notwithstanding, Rejon made some
fantastic choices in left-of-center close-ups and disorienting spins to lend an
atmosphere ASYLUM’s been lacking, that of being discomfortingly off-balanced,
and not look how crazy this is!
His more subtle, but striking approach played wonderfully
between Kit and Grace, both in solitary, talking through a wall of stone. The
space they create with genuine affection was beautifully realized by Rejon,
sliding back and forth between human contact and reminder of isolation. The
scene also saw one of the episode’s most notable pieces of dialogue. When Grace
tells Kit to blame Sister Jude, whispering “I think she’s the devil,” it’s at
first darkly comedic, knowing Sister Mary Eunice to be actually demonic. But
more than that, it’s a verbal indicator of just how far off course missing one
beat can take you; over the line of insanity, into the clutches of serial
killer, debilitating self doubt.
Once a week had gone by and we realized that Ryan Murphy
& co. were, in fact, really going for this Anne Frank business, the character
(whose identity was naturally disputed) was allowed to become gripping. A
husband appears, claiming his wife has slipped into believing she’s a holocaust
survivor, is ignoring their infant and is frighteningly obsessed. His close-ups
aren’t sympathetic, though. They’re unsettling and further flashbacks prove
even more so. Charlotte’s pre-Briarcliff life is presented as that of a ‘60s
television drama, coated and corroded in sickly green, old wallpaper yellow.
The mounting evidence Charlotte is not Anne Frank proves
especially damaging to Sister Jude, who’d begun work on taking down Dr. Arden
and proving his Nazi past. Hurt by her seeming folly, Jude lets Charlotte slip
right into Dr. Arden’s lobotomy chair. Once again, it’s a matter of being just
off the mark. Even if Charlotte is delusional about her identity, it seems she
isn’t about Nazi hunting. Does one cancel the other out? And Sister Jude’s
doubt only leads her out of a job and into a bar. Still, I imagine we haven’t
seen the last of Mark Margolis.
Speaking of off the mark, the biggest reveal of “I Am Anne
Frank, Part 2” was just how shady Zachary Qunto’s Dr. Thredson really is, both
in character and hobby. After sneaking Lana home, his aversion to phone calls
and human skull mint platter lead to the fact that he is the skin-masked Bloody
Face, using his victims’ bodies for furniture-crafting.
Separately, Grace is now the third character to encounter an
alien outside of Kit. About halfway through the season, hopefully some of these
choices (the Bloody Face reveal, Chloe Sevigny’s monstrous, legless form scaring
schoolchildren, more abductions) are of the no-turning-back variety and
AMERICAN HORROR STORY can make some focused headway toward where this is all
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