AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM 2.4: “I Am Anne Frank Part 1”

Yes, AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM actually went there. Twice, really.

The show went ahead and made Dr. Arden a former Nazi scientist who experimented on victims in concentration camps. This is quite a cliché origin story for the guy, but then again AHS:A is not known for stretching itself I terms of originality, but rather employing familiar tropes in new ways. Let’s see if it can put a new and interesting spin on the secret Nazi war criminal.

The series doubled down on its Nazi horror by not only invoking mad scientists from pulp stories, but also by using a real-life historical figure, Anne Frank. Young Frank is an icon around the globe, so the-powers-that-be better be careful how they handle her. At this point, I’m skeptical that the new patient really is Frank, but we shall see.

The story opens with Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) in his lab, telling the now-legless Shelley (Chloë Sevigny), “You’ll probably live forever,” as he jabs a needle into her eye! In the kitchen with Grace (Lizzie Brochere), Kit (Evan Peters) recalls being beaten by Arden, who was looking for the missing microchip. Kit eggs Grace to tell her story. She flashes back to seeing her father killed by a man named Red and being framed for the murder by her stepsister Patsy. Kit insisted he believes her. Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto) tells Lana (Sarah Paulson) that he believes she doesn’t belong at Briarcliff,  but she scoffs that she’s always been a lesbian – which, in 1964, was considered a mental illness. Thredson offers to help by “curing” her. Later, Thredson told Kit he’s using a story of alien abduction to deal with the guilt from killing his wife and those other women.

In the day room, Lana sees a new patient (Franka Potente) writing in a diary. When the patient sees Dr. Arden walk in, she attacks him, calling him “Nazi” and crying, “I am Anne; Anne Frank!” She is brought before Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), where “Anne” claims she survived Bergen-Belsen by hiding among dead bodies and then living as a post-war street urchin. A U.S. soldier married her and brought her to America, where she was surprised to learn that her diary had been published. She didn’t come forward, however, because as a martyred 15-year-old, she had become a powerful symbol to the whole world. Anne insisted Arden is Hans Gruber, a Nazi surgeon who experimented on women at Auschwitz.

Later, in the kitchen, Kit worries that Thredson is right, but Grace assures him she doesn’t care if he’s a killer. They start having sex on the bread table until Frank (Fredric Lehne)  walks in. Sister Jude orders a harsh punishment for them both: sterilization. But before anything happens, Frank says detectives are questioning Dr. Arden. As Frank took Grace to solitary, Sister Eunice (Lily Rabe) gives Kit a file about Grace.

Jude is delighted to discover the detectives are questioning Arden about an attack on a prostitute. After Arden storms out, a detective asks Jude if Kit has surgical skills to remove woman’s skin and head. Jude went to Monsignor Howard (Joseph Fiennes) to accuse Arden of being a war criminal, but Howard is skeptical – given that the accuser claims to be Anne Frank. Then he threatens to fire her over her drinking on the night of the escape. Sister Jude later confesses her drinking to her Mother Superior, who alludes to a mystery person who might help Jude. Meanwhile, Howard phones Arden to warn, “They’re on to you!”

Back in the dayroom, Lana hallucinates about getting an award for her expose of Briarcliff. The dream Lana “recalls” that she escaped by accepting therapy with Dr. Thredson. So the real Lana agrees to begin aversion therapy. Basically she is injected with a drug that makes her vomit when she sees “certain triggers” – in her case, sexualized women. Then Thredson began the “conversion” part: He brings in patient Daniel to stand naked so she can “regard his physique.” Then Thredson forces Lana to masturbate and touch Daniel so she can “relate” her pleasure to “his tumescence.” But she pukes. When Kit is delivered to solitary, he tells Grace he knows she lied. So Grace tells the “real” story: She was molested by her father, so she took an axe and killed her stepmother for letting that happen. Then she killed her father – not for the molestation, but for selling her horses. “I admire you,” Kit told her. When later goes to Sister Jude to confess his “crimes,” she flashes back to killing the Girl in Blue.

Thredson meets Lana in the dayroom to apologize for trying aversion therapy. He gives her the photo of Wendy and tells her he’s leaving on Friday and taking her with him. Meanwhile, Arden drags Anne into his lab, but she pulls a gun she lifted from one of the detectives shoots Arden in the leg. Anne opens a door only to see a mutating Shelley. “Kill me!” Shelley gasps.

Truth or lies, which do you believe? Grace lied about the circumstances that brought her to Briarcliff (or did she?). Dr. Thredson believes that Kit is hiding behind a lie, and suggested a (possibly fabricated) explanation for his guilt along with a promise to lie to the courts about Kit. Lana has been living a lie by hiding her lesbianism, and Thredson subjected her to the lie of aversion therapy as a “cure.” Is the new patient lying about being Anne Frank? Had Dr. Arden been fooling people for decades with a false identity, or is “Anne” lying about him? A demon is pretending to be Sister Eunice and, finally, Sister Jude is lying to herself about the Little Girl in Blue, trying to pretend she isn’t really dead.

Is anyone telling the truth on this show?

I don’t think AHS:A is trying to argue similarities between the patients at Briarcliff and victims of the Holocaust so much as trying to draw parallels to the idea of the strong preying of the weak – especially the weak who put such a vulnerable position as being captives. It would be bad enough if Arden were merely experimenting on human beings, but to be taking advantage of mentally disabled people who cannot even run away is beyond the pale.

AHS:A almost seems to be begging for controversy by using Anne Frank in this story. Judging by part one, there is no real reason why the new patient would have to be Anne Frank; she could be any death camp survivor who Arden as a Nazi officer. Unless the idea is to discredit the woman by painting her as already delusional because she believes she’s a dead historical figure?

I hope the truth about Arden will come out next week. I can handle the truth.

BRIEF OBSERVATIONS:

“Hans Gruber” was the name of the terrorist in the original Die-Hard movie.

In Grace’s story, her stepsister was named Patsy, but Grace herself became the patsy for the murder of her father and stepmother.

Had an instant image of Shelley as Bloody Face almost 50 years later – she might live forever, remember – but without legs she would need some bloody good prosthetics to be an effective serial killer. Unless maybe her legs grew back?

Grace walks around nude and gets busy in the kitchen, but Shelley is the nymphomaniac?

Thredson made Lana puke at an image of Wendy, which is unthinkably cruel.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK:

“So, Anne Frank, is it? What a relief it will be to millions of schoolchildren to know you survived.” –Sister Jude

“You’re a fish out of water, Lana, gasping for life. Trust me, this won’t end well.” – Dr. Thredson

“I was never in Auschwitz; I’m from Scottsdale!” – Dr. Arden

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