To say that American Horror Story deals with themes of death is simplifying things, to say the least, but this week it brought back original cast member Frances Conroy and with her the idea of death as salvation. Often in the horror genre death is perceived as the ultimate end, but for those who are long suffering (just about everyone associated with the asylum) it can be the last chance at peace. And in a show that has dedicated itself to showing us the terror of having your rights and freedoms taken away, the added terror that even the peace of death can be denied was chilling.
Our noir inspired angel of death was first called to Briarcliff by Miles, a man desperate enough to tune out the voices in his head that he took his wrists to a bread slicer to silence them. And written on the wall in his blood was a name in ancient Aramaic (whom it was written by is still a mystery). The name translated to Shachath , which means “destroy” or “spoil” or “go to ruin”, but it was unclear just how sinister this sprit was. The mere mention of her name spooked Sister Mary Possessed, who set straight to ridding the asylum of this second spirit. Anything that threatens a demon out to destroy has to be made of good, right?
It certainly seemed that way as the Shachath presented herself to irreparably damaged souls begging to be spared more pain. Miles, being denied success at his first attempt, continued to call to the Shachath until she appeared again and gave him the strength to wriggle free from his restraints, just enough, to pick apart the stitches standing between him and death. Shachath gave him a final kiss and he was granted his wish to die, peacefully and on his own terms.
Shachath soon discovered that Briarcliff is the perfect place for a spirit that feeds off of despair; she had her pick of souls to claim. Next up was Grace, whose soul I’m guessing had been crying out for a while, laying in her hospital bed still bleeding profusely from the botched hysterectomy (again, by whom still remains a mystery). She began to slip off and eagerly awaited a kiss from the Shachath, but she too was denied, first by the dutiful nurses and then by an indignant Dr. Arden who refused to be associated with subpar work. And so Grace was saved. For now.
And the Shachath moved on to look for more troubled souls. She came to Lana, who rightfully had called out to her while the last bit of her freedom and strength was ripped from her as Dr. Thresdon worked out some more twisted mommy issues. Although Lana claimed she was ready for death, at the last moment she changed her mind; she wasn’t ready to give up, she still had some fight left in her; which was lucky because that’s exactly what she got. Dr. Thresdon returned with the age old “it’s not you, it’s me” speech, but the concession did little to ease Lana’s worries since a break up with Bloody Face isn’t a choice between remaining friends or going your separate ways, but a choice between having your throat slit or being strangled (he doesn’t believe in guns. Such a pacifist!). But Lana takes neither of these choices and instead opts to bash him in the head, inject him with his own sleep potion and make a run for it.
She makes it to the road where she flags down a passing car and thus the message to never get into a stranger’s car is driven home quite effectively. The driver of her perceived rescue mobile is far from a knight in shining armor. In fact, Lana has caught him on the night he caught his wife sleeping with another man, spurned by his love he feels no sympathy for Lana and is determined to carry out his suicide mission with or without her along for the ride. This results in a gruesome crash and lands Lana back at Briarcliff. I predict she’ll be calling out to the Shachath again fairly soon.
Now, over halfway into the episode, we check back in with Sister Jude, who last we left at a crime scene. So much had happened already that the detective’s death was a shock once again. Judy was dealing with a lot of information at once; a murdered detective, learning it was“one of her” nuns that did it, the shrine to her hit and run hanging on the wall, and a phone call from the devil herself, so it was no shock that she turned to her only proven coping mechanism; the bottle. Burying herself at the bottom of it, Judy high tailed it out of the motel and found a diner bathroom to wash the blood off her dress. But, like Lady Macbeth before her, she found the blood could not be washed away so easily. The words of the devil rang in her ears and the memories of all the horrible things she had done forced her to consider following Mary Eunice’s suggestion, but in the end it was “only a passing thought”. (Or was it? Perhaps she’s pulled a Violet Harmon and is in fact dead now. Perhaps we shall never know).
Once emerged from the bathroom Jude found the Shachath waiting for her in the booth. And here is where she began to look less like an angel of mercy and more like an over eager vulture circling the distraught and luring them to death with a siren song. She calmly urged Jude to give up, to find the peace she could never find on earth. Jude seemed resigned to the fate; she just had one small thing to take care of. She needed to, at last, clear her conscious.
So she tracked down the family of the little girl whom she had abandoned to die so many years ago. She posed as a former acquaintance of Missy Stone, thenwho should walk in the house, but Missy Stone herself, all grown up and decidedly not dead. All the years of guilt and shame, of recreating her life and devoting herself to God had been in vain. When Judy crashed into that little girl and drove away without a backwards glance, the only life she ruined was her own. What she will do with this newfound relief remains to be seen.
The Shachath may have been denied the soul of Sister Jude, but she wasn’t quite done collecting yet. Free from Briarcliff, but still not free, Kit Walker took a meeting with his lawyer who proposed the defense of perpetuating the idea Kit didn’t understand the difference between right and wrong. Kit took this a little too literally and knocked the lawyer out with a phone in order to escape through the window. And once again, a free man chose to return to Briarcliff, this time in order to save Grace (since he couldn’t save Alma, this would have to do). But he wasn’t the only one sneaking into the asylum; following him was one of Dr. Arden’s cannibalistic super-humans.
The reunion between Grace and Kit had barely begun when it was cut short by an observant nun who screamed the way any person would if they thought a fugitive serial killer was in the kitchen, but her screams alerted the creature quicker than security. A fight ensued and Kit managed to gut the monster (not so immortal now, huh Dr. Arden?) only to be cornered by the ill-timed Frank who was under orders to shoot Kit on sight. But Grace was still prepared to die and dove to take the bullet for him. Finally, when the Shachath came for her Grace was allowed to leave, uttering her final words; “I’m free”.
But she is the only one. Frank took Kit back into custody (why the order to shoot him didn’t still stand I’m not sure), Lana is imprisoned once again, and even Sister Jude is caught not know how to live without the guilt that has come to define her. Perhaps that Shachath shouldn’t wander off too far.
– Devin Mainville