American Horror Story: Asylum: Everyone Leaves
The two greatest endings in television are Angel and Six Feet Under, and they are defined as endings that leave everything forward, and endings that close the book forever. In Angel our heroes stand looking out onto an oncoming war with smiles on their faces, ready to battle on. In Six Feet Under, all the characters we've fallen in love with are taken to their final graves. Every other television show conclusion fails in comparison. Endless futures or ultimate goodbyes. That's how you define a saga.
Now, this wasn't a series finale, obviously. American Horror Story is already confirmed for a third season, but the nature of the show means that each season is self-contained. The Harmon family was left behind for the tale of Briarcliff, which will in turn be forgotten next year. That first season finale was, to put it mildly, a cop out and a let down which felt like little more than an excuse to use a sure draw to promote upcoming horror films. How did Asylum measure up?
Well, much better than season one, that's undeniable. While last season we were left with a weird, maudlin ghost Christmas that felt as tacked on as a child's drawing on his bedroom wall, here we were given honest conclusions about the fate of the characters we've encountered.
Evan Peters continued his amazing portrayal of Kit Walker, rescuing Jude (Jessica Lange) from Briarcliff and making her "Nana" to his weirdo space children until she finally died happy and loved. Kit himself was reclaimed by the space aliens as his life wound to a close from pancreatic cancer. No further explanation is given into his story, and that is probably the biggest cheat in the season.
Kit Walker's steadfast morality made him arguably the only truly heroic figure in Asylum, and Peters invested such a calm humanity in the character that he more than anybody felt real. Yet he was constantly tied to a weird alien subplot than in the end still seems only half-thought out and abandoned. I do like to believe he survived his illness through their intervention. It gives hope where the rest of the show allows only hopelessness.
Lana (Sarah Paulson) is now an old woman, living a life of luxury as a bestselling author and cultural icon. Her work is being celebrated in a myriad of ways, but she's haunted by the child she put up for adoption. He, by the by, has become an inferior copy of his serial killer father... if you call killing fewer people in less grotesque ways inferior. He certainly does. Honestly, though Paulson delivers her role well, and Dylan McDermott does his best with what has always been a somewhat ridiculous character, the effect is largely pointless.
What the hell were we supposed to learn from all this? That just because one of your parents was an insane murderer that you're destined to become a crack-smoking copy of a copy of a copy? That if you don't abort the child of a rapist you'll still end up killing them with a gunshot to the head 48 years later?
I may be looking too deep into this, but I firmly believe that a horror film more than any other type of film is supposed to have a message. Even if the message is, "The world is random. Run," there is still a core lesson.
It felt as if the entire story of Johnny Morgan, Bloody Face 2 was simply cobbled together for a wrap around tale to aid and abet that fantastic opening scene so many episodes back. What we got in the end was a pathetic man living in the shadow of his killer father, breastfeeding from prostitutes, and getting his brains evacuated by a woman in her seventies who managed to disarm him by basically being slightly nice. Also, that we cannot escape our heritage, and if that heritage is violent or evil we are better off having never been born.
I like American Horror Story, and Asylum was a great step forward for the series in general. But the writers need to take a step back and try to figure out what the hell they're going for. Scares? The finale has none. We're left looking for an escape that's denied. It tries for an Angel ending, but makes future struggles seem worthless. It tries even harder for a Six Feet Under ending, and fails to reach closure. Maybe next year will be better still. Until then, there's a long way to go.