You know what they say: Behind every serial-killer’s mask made out of human skin there’s… well, somebody’s face. In the case of AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM, the face behind Bloody Face belongs to Dr. Oliver Thredson. They also say that every old black-and-white newspaper photograph hides the face of somebody still alive today – like Dr. Arden the Nazi mad scientist.
The Thredson/Bloody Face reveal was a little bit surprising, but not really too shocking, given his medical training and exposure to the thought processes of maniacs. It’s almost logical – especially since the pool of suspects was so tiny; who was it going to be – Frank the guard? Monsignor Howard? But a corollary question lingers: Is there more than one Bloody Face?
This week, Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) went to Nazi hunter Sam Goodman (Mark Margolis) to send him after Dr. Arden (James Cromwell), who was at that moment being held at gunpoint by Anne Frank (Franka Potente) – until Frank (Fredric Lehne) stopped her. Later, Anne woke up in a straitjacket, babbling about a “thing” in Arden’s lab, but Jude assured her the lab had been searched and nothing found. Then a man named Jim Brown (David Chisum) appeared, claiming to be Anne’s husband and saying her real name is Charlotte. She became obsessed with Anne Frank and the idea of babies being gassed at Auschwitz. Anne/Charlotte refused to go with Jim until he convinced her with a family snapshot.
Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto) was furious Sister Jude had ordered sterilization for Kit (Evan Peters) and Grace (Lizzie Brocheré) – who both languished in solitary. Sister Eunice (Lily Rabe) opened Kit’s cell to announce that Jude changed her mind, and he’s released. But Grace will still be sterilized! Later, during the night, the aliens appeared to Grace. In the dayroom, Thredson told Lana (Sarah Paulson) to meet him under the staircase at 6 p.m. so they can leave. Next, Thredson told Kit he will testify on his behalf as long as Kit faces what he did and confesses to the murder of wife Alma. As Thredson recorded the confession, Kit had a vision of Alma (Britne Oldford) being tortured by the aliens in a bright, white room – and Grace was there.
Later, Sister Jude called Goodman’s number, trying to call him off. She then told Arden her investigation had turned up nothing. Nevertheless, Arden insisted on pressing charges with the monsignor against Sister Jude for ineptitude. Later, as Sister Eunice changed the dressing on Arden’s GSW, he thanked her for hiding Shelley. Eunice said she wants to be his right hand when he’s eventually put in charge. But she neglected to tell Arden that instead of feeding Shelley to the cannibals, Eunice dumped the deformed Shelley at an elementary school – where she was discovered by kids and staff. Kit found Grace bleeding in the dayroom after her operation, but suddenly detectives Byers (Matthew John Armstrong) and Connors (Joel McKinnon Miller) appeared and arrested Kit for killing all the women – based on Dr. Thredson’s evaluation and Kit’s own taped confession. As they dragged him away, Grace screamed that she has seen Alma alive.
Anne was brought back to Briarcliff because she tried to strangle her baby. Elsewhere, Thredson gave Lana a coat to wear and boxes to carry and they walked right past the guard. Frank later told Sister Jude that Lana is gone. Jude told a story about a pet squirrel she forgot to feed. It died, so she prayed for God to resurrect it, but God didn’t answer her prayers. Dr. Arden suggested a trans-orbital lobotomy to Jim, who assented to the operation. As Arden performed the procedure on Anne, Sister Jude changed into civilian clothes and went to a bar, where she picked up a stranger. Thredson brought Lana to his place. His swinging bachelor pad comes complete with lampshades made if human skin (including nipples) and a candy dish fashioned from a human skull. She tried to look for a way out and ended up in his skinning workshop – where Thredson dropped her through a trap door. Lana awoke chained to the floor next to Wendy’s frozen dead body. Thredson announced they would continue their “therapy.” He then put on a mask of human skin – with Wendy’s! Elsewhere, Jim came home to Anne acting like a perfect housewife – staring at an old newspaper photo showing Arden standing behind Adolph Hitler.
This episode threw a lot of important information at us, and the animated camerawork combined to inducer an unsettling feeling, like a viewer’s head might be spinning from the rapid-fire sequence of events. The direction by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon was very self-conscious and showy: He used a swinging, rocking even spinning camera to keep the view off-balances; he focused on images in mirrors with Nazi hunter, suggesting that he and Sister Jude are only reflections of the people they once were. The worm’s-eye view of Thredson lent his a sense of bulk, gravitas and menace as he entered his office, but the switching to a bird’s-eye view of Thredson and Kit made them both seem small at the same time. Even Rejon’s basic two-shots of characters talking were crooked and oddly angled. That fish-eye lens leading into Anne’s lobotomy suggested the distorted view of the world she was facing under the influence of the drugs. And what could heighten the Sister Jude/Dr. Arden argument more than a fiery backdrop?
I have to admit, I did not expect the reveal of Bloody Face’s identity so early in the season. Which makes me more than a bit suspicious: Was it real, or did Lana hallucinated it all? I’ve been confused about what’s real for/with Lana ever since her dayroom hallucination about winning a Pulitzer Prize. Remember when Dr. Thredson predicted that she would win a Pulitzer? Perhaps that’s a hint that this is all a dream. DreamLana was making her Pulitzer acceptance speech when she mentioned getting out of Briarcliff by undergoing Thredson’s therapy (which turned out to be shite).
If it is true that Dr. Thredson was Bloody Face in 1964, is he still behind the skin mask in 2012? If it’s not him, then who is it? I’m holding out for Shelley, because Dr. Arden made her practically immortal with his injections, and she certainly has the right to hold a grudge against Briarcliff – and women, I suppose, if you consider the death camp experiments and the hookers Arden hired as motivating factors for his madness. But it would be more interesting if the 2012 version is someone else — and it would also stretch the plot a little longer.
Operation: Paperclip was very real. It was a plan by the U.S. Office of Strategic Services to recruit Nazi scientists to work for the United States after World War II, in part to keep advanced scientific minds from going to work for the Soviet Union but also keep them away from post-war Germany.
Why did Arden emerge from Anne’s cell holding a derringer?
Dr. Arden sitting with his cane reminded me of a similar scene in the movie Angel Heart.
Lana awakened chained to a bathroom floor next to a corpse, just like the set-up in the original Saw.
“Whisky: the Martin cure for everything.” – Sister Jude, quoting her mom
“I see you found my little hobby.”
“You make furniture?” – Dr. Thredson and Lana, discussing his Bloody Face workshop
Don’t worry. [Wendy] won’t bite; I took her teeth.” – Dr. Thredson