American Horror Story: Asylum 2.04 "I Am Anne Frank" REVIEW

TV REVIEW A history lesson

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American Horror Story: Asylum 2.04 "I Am Anne Frank" TV REVIEW

Episode 204
Writer: Jessica Sharzer
Director: Mike Uppendahl

THE ONE WHERE A Jewish woman comes to Briarcliff, claiming to be Anne Frank – and immediately declares that Arden is a Nazi who she knew back in Auschwitz. Meanwhile, Dr Thredson tries to help Kit and Lana.

VERDICT The best episode of the season so far – possibly of the show itself. “I Am Anne Frank” consolidates everything that we know about the characters, while setting the stage for the next part of the story.

It’s also the most subversive episode to date. The most unsettling scene here isn’t a scissor attack, rape or mutilation. It’s Dr Thredson’s attempt to “cure” Lana’s homosexuality with aversion therapy. After drugging her so that she pukes every time she sees a naked woman, he invites a disrobed chap in and encourages Lana to masturbate while touching him. It’s gut-churning stuff. By the end of the episode, Thredson seems to have realised the error of his ways and vows to help Lana escape. But the message here is clear: this was a backwards attitude in 1964. In 2012, why aren't things aren’t much better? How great that this show – a big, mainstream American horror series, watched by a huge variety of demographics (a fair chunk of whom will have, er, less progressive viewpoints) – is tackling this head on.

So, Arden was a Nazi after all – at least if “Anne” is to be believed. There’s certainly a few holes in her story. Still, even with her likely-false assertion that she is the famous (and long dead by this point) author, she’s got to be more trustworthy than our hack happy doctor, doesn’t she? Good performance here from Franka Potente, and from James Cromwell as Arden. But that goes without saying.

Sister Jude meanwhile, takes a step towards, if not redemption, then certainly becoming more of a sympathetic character. Here we see both her (misplaced) loyalty to Monsignor Howard (newly revealed as a wrong ’un – he smokes and everything!) and her willingness to try and help Kit. Admittedly, a lot of that comes from her own desperate need for forgiveness, but it's a start. She’s also clearly horrified at the thought of Arden being a Nazi. There’s gonna be a showdown there, methinks.

Finally, Dr Thredson gets a purpose. It has to be said though, at the moment he's as much use as Dr Chinnery in The League Of Gentlemen . Putting aside his terrible treatment of Lana, he also advises Kit to own up to the murders he didn't commit – just as it's looking like they will be pinned on Arden. Great timing, doc.

FLASHBACKS We see several scenes of Arden in Auschwitz as Anne tells her story. These scenes are really nicely presented – in wobbly black and white, newsreel style. You can even hear a projector running in the background.

FLASHFORWARDS? It’s almost certainly just a fantasy, rather than a premonition, but Lana sees herself accepting an award for the part she played in bringing the Briarcliff atrocities to light.

BLOODY FACE Is entirely absent. There’s not even a tacked-on present day scene. Did we miss him? Surprisingly not. The events of this episode where quite compelling enough. There's very little of Sister Eunice too.

Kit: “Wait, you're confusing me. You're saying that if I'm crazy, then I wouldn't believe Dr Thredson, but if I'm sane, then my crazy stories would be true?”

Will Salmon

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Will Salmon
Comics Editor

Will Salmon is the Comics Editor for GamesRadar/Newsarama. He has been writing about comics, film, TV, and music for more than 15 years, which is quite a long time if you stop and think about it. At Future he has previously launched scary movie magazine Horrorville, relaunched Comic Heroes, and has written for every issue of SFX magazine for over a decade. He sometimes feels very old, like Guy Pearce in Prometheus. His music writing has appeared in The Quietus, MOJO, Electronic Sound, Clash, and loads of other places and he runs the micro-label Modern Aviation, which puts out experimental music on cassette tape.