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American Horror Story: Asylum 2.09 "The Coat Hanger" REVIEW

TV REVIEW A suitably grisly end to the year

American Horror Story: Asylum 2.09 "The Coat Hanger” TV REVIEW

Writer: Jennifer Salt
Director: Jeremy Podeswa

THE ONE WHERE Jude becomes an inmate at Briarcliff. Arden makes contact with the aliens, and we discover the identity of the modern-day Bloody Face.

VERDICT Okay, let’s get this out of the way: ick! As the last episode of the year (if not the season – Asylum still has another four episodes to run in 2013), “The Coat Hanger” is a memorably grizzly hour to go out on.

So, Lana is pregnant with Thredson's baby. That leads to the truly disturbing image that gives the episode its name. A woman self-aborting using a coat hanger is not the sort of thing you see on TV every day. It’s a measure of this show's confidence that the production team had the guts to go there. The A word is still hugely controversial in certain sectors (just look at the insane response an abortion storyline in the Buffy comic caused), and this was a particularly gruesome example.

It was also a fake out. We know from the pre-titles sequence (see below) that Thredson does have a son, so for a while you're wondering who else the mother might be. As it turns out, Lana simply failed (though poking about with a bit of wire probably wasn’t very good for her). Still, she did at least get a confession out of Thredson using the classic hidden tape recorder method. Hmm. Okay, sure, it works, but it's such a cliché!

The other big shock this week was finding Jude now locked up as an inmate in Briarcliff. And hang on – isn't that Ian McShane? Yep, Lee Emerson survived Jude’s attack. It’s great that he’s sticking around for a while, but also rather odd that he appears to be have quickly recovered after being stabbed in the throat. Is he just remarkably hardy, or is there something more to this? Whatever, the sequence where Lee, Eunice and the rest of Jude’s enemies (and some former friends) testify against her is excellent. Nicely edited and with another great performance from Jessica Lange. You could argue that her apologies to Lana come perhaps a little too quickly; Jude is nothing if not stubborn and dogmatic. Then again, after the way that she's been torn apart over the past few episodes, she's clearly reconsidering everything in her life. This season has been a catalogue of female nightmares. If the payoff to that is Lana and Jude working together to bring it all down, that will be deeply satisfying.

But what about the aliens?! Arden is certainly intrigued after his close encounter last week, and his plan to bring them back was suitably bonkers. Convinced that they are protecting Kit, he poisons him, taking him to the brink of death. That Kit readily agrees to this is kinda funny, but hey, it works. They return with Pepper (who seemed to have just fallen out of the show weeks ago) and a newly revived (and pregnant) Grace. Fabulous and weird.

A few quibbles aside (c’mon, not even the Monsignor is thick enough to accept that Lee Emerson is a changed man) this was a really strong episode. And it sets up the season’s end game in fine style. Jude and Lana working together? Pepper sane and back from a trip to outer space? Monsignor Timothy crucified? Yep, I'm good with all of that...

And we haven’t even mentioned the opening sequence yet…

THE PRESENT DAY Another fantastic pre-titles sequence set in the present day. We meet a troubled (and clearly nutso) chap called Johnny. And hey, it's Dylan McDermott – Ben from season one. As he slowly reveals that he used to get his kicks from skinning cats, it becomes clear that this is the new Bloody Face – Thredson’s son. Fans have been speculating that it was McDermott on the phone to the police a couple of episodes back, so it's not a huge shock to see him back, but I love the way the show just casually tosses this revelation out there in the opening five minutes of the episode.

BEST LINE
Jude: “You'll spend the next couple of days here, reflecting on your behaviour.”
Emerson: “How can I reflect when my hand's tied down?”

Will Salmon

New episodes of American Horror Story: Asylum air in the UK on FX, Tuesdays at 10pm

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