American Horror Story: Asylum 2.13 "Madness Ends” TV REVIEW
Writer: Tim Minear
Director: Alfonso Gómez-Rejón
THE ONE WHERE We catch up with Lana and Bloody Face Jr in the present day, discover the fates of Kit and Jude, and piece together the final days of Briarcliff.
VERDICT The final episode of American Horror Story: Asylum wraps things up with only a couple of (small) surprises and none of the left-field twists that have characterised the rest of this season. That's not necessarily a bad thing; in a show this incident-packed, more last minute developments could have undermined the emotional resonance needed to close the story. Still, it's hard not to come away from “Madness Ends” feeling a little bit, “Oh... is that it?”
The pre-credits sequence takes us back to the beginning of the season and Maroon 5 guy's fateful encounter with Bloody Face Jr – this time from the murderer's perspective. He's on a killing spree and working up to the main event: finding and dispatching his mother, Lana Winters. It's a brutal, funny scene, and not just because I hate Maroon 5. Killer Johnny is wandering around listening to an audiobook of his mum underneath the Bloody Face mask! No wonder he's mad.
Lana, meanwhile, is now a popular TV personality and filmmaker, following her exposé of the asylum. Much of “Madness Ends” is told in the form of a TV interview, with snippets of the films that she's been involved in. The use of a faux- documentary style worked well here, and added to the list of horror sub-genres that this show has played with over the last 13 episodes. Kudos too for giving Lana real depth. I criticised her sudden transformation into a fame-hungry caricature last week, but she’s rounded out here. She may claim to only be in it for the money, but her actions tell a different story. There's a lovely flashback where we see her try to save her son from bullies, only to make things worse.
There are a lot of nice touches to these scenes: Lana makes a quip about having had surgery, which neatly explains her (impressive but not 100% convincing) age make-up, and we discover what happened to the Monsignor after he left Briarcliff (in a nutshell: horrifying guilt and death). But the best bit is the chance to see Jude again. We find her as a mad, skeletal figure haunting the asylum. Except – as with “Continuum” last week – that's not quite the truth. It quickly becomes clear that Lana hasn't been entirely honest. Jude wasn't really there at all... Cue flashback to the 1970s...
Yep, Kit rescued Jude, took her home with him and renamed her Betty Drake. His kids, Thomas and Julie, are growing up fast, and they need a new nan... Sure, she's a bit mad and ranty, but they soon see to that by taking her into the woods to meet the aliens, who restore her to sanity. It sounds corny (and, well, is ) but after a relentlessly bleak season, it's a delight to see Jude redeemed. We still see her eventual death (that was inevitable, surely?), but it's peaceful. A moment of (mildly creepy) triumph not tragedy.
Unfortunately, this thread did highlight one of the season's big shortcoming: the lack of any real explanations. Did we discover the aliens’ grand plan? Did we find out why Kit's kids were so important? Did it all tie together? No. The episode pulled a Lost on us. And while we got some fine emotional payoff, this plot thread is still flapping about in the wind.
The final few scenes were equally frustrating. With the documentary filming over, and the flashbacks done with, it all comes back to Lana, sitting in her room, facing her murderous son. It's a tense scene, but as soon as Lana starts to talk Johnny out of killing her, it's clear who will be left standing. Lana shoots him, just as she shot his father. It's so quick, so casually done, that you're waiting for something else to happen... but no, that's it. Roll the credits. There's no shaking the sense of an anticlimax.
Tim Minear's script was strong, and there were some fine standalone scenes in “Madness Ends”. I'm delighted with the way Jude's arc panned out, and that we got a bit more of the old Lana back. This episode – and indeed this season – was heavily flawed, but it was also a helluva lot of fun, surprisingly subversive and – at its best – sincere and moving. See you next year.
Jude (to the Angel of Death): "I'm ready. Kiss me."
American Horror Story: Asylum airs in the UK on Fox
• Read our other American Horror Story Asylum reviews