In any given serialized drama there will be a “big bad” of the season; the one overreaching menace that stands in the way of what our protagonist wants. But sometimes it takes a while to figure out what that big bad is. Last season American Horror Story threw out many false leads of what the core evil might be, but ultimately it was what we all guessed from the previews; the house itself. This season AHS has gone a similar route. Only two episodes in and the candidates for the big bad include aliens, a sadistic nun, a more sadistic doctor, the devil, and the infamous, immortal Bloody Face. Every time one evil seems to be absolute an even more sinister force rises up to take its place, and like I said, we’re only two weeks in.
This week we were introduced to a new threat; possession by the devil. An overly accented couple was worried about their son and thought their only hope was Briarcliff. So clearly they were screwed. At first his symptoms sounded like routine adolescent woes, except for the speaking in tongues and slaughtering livestock to eat their raw organs. Strangely that part wasn’t covered in the sex ed video. Our newest cast member Dr. Oliver Thresdon (Zachary Quinto) suggested medication. Sister Jude suggested an exorcism. Guess which one won out in this send up of classic horror.
The kid was a goner from the moment he walked into the scene, but the demon processing him was the ultimate match for Sister Jude. He saw into her heart and it turns out Sister Jude is hiding a multitude of sins behind her habit. It seems before she gave herself over to God, she was a wanton jazz singer with a weakness for military men and hit and runs. Her staunch black and white views are little easier to understand (they are her only way of keeping herself in check), but still pretty awful.
The good sister may think her secrets are buried with the body, but demons rarely give up that easily. And thank God that the immensely talented Lily Rabe now has more to do that nervously flit around Sister Jude and obliviously let herself be lured in by Dr. Arden. It’s interesting the level of restraint this demon is able to show within Sister Mary Eunice compared to his heart eating within the teenager. I can only assume this calm before the storm (literally, according to the previews), means it has something epic in mind.
But that might not be the biggest concern for the patients or the staff of Briarcliff. Dr. Arden made it clear last week that he has as many screws loose as the patients he mutilates, but this week we got a deeper glimpse into his depravity. He hired a prostitute and commissioned her to act the opposite of a prostitute, more accurately he made her dress as a nun. AHS will be hard pressed to create a visual more disturbing than the farmer from Babe telling a nun to slowly show him her “mossy bank”. But given the pictures of trussed and battered women the Dr. kept along with his porn, the girl is lucky that’s the most damage she escaped with.
All of these are great candidates for the big bad of the season, but so far the overreaching evil being lambasted is society. The show may be set in the past, but the sins condemning these characters are still very much a part of the social conscious. There is still a gross double standard of sexuality between men and women, homosexuality is still feared, interracial couples still looked down upon, S&M still taboo, strong women still ignored or reduced. People who don’t understand these behaviors fear them and those who commit them fear the condemnation of those that don’t understand. There have been giant leaps forward in each of these respects, but it is also fair to say these mutual fears have been ingrained into out culture for centuries. By exaggerating these characters and placing them next to serial killers and monsters it forces us decide what we consider evil. What’s the biggest bad?
– Devin Mainville