American Horror Story, a show built around surprising twists, disturbing violence, and over the top plots managed to do the most shocking thing of all; give us a truly touching and poignant season finale. After all the Devil nuns and Nazi war criminals, the super human beasts and even the (still) mysterious aliens, AHS reminded us that for all the flash and dazzle, it’s always been a simple story. Last year, the grand finale culminated the way it told us it would from the beginning; it was just about a house that no one could survive. This year, we were once again reminded we’d been told the ending in the very first episode; this was a story about the effects of facing evil.
The final moments of the show took us back to how this whole saga began, when Lana Winters came to Briarcliff in hopes of an exclusive on Bloody Face. Sister Jude warned her, one ambitious woman to another, that she was in over her head, but Lana didn’t listen. The final shot, spinning from woman to woman as Sister Jude warned “when you look into the face evil, it looks right back at you”, had me thinking about good and evil as an unending spectrum. Each of these women started their journey at one end of the spectrum, only crossing during that shady, grey middle known to us as Briarcliff.
Lana began her journey naïve, and full of hope of the better world she was going to create through her reporting, yet her interactions with evil left her calloused and hallow, but it also gave her power. To maintain the power she decided to lie, to edit the facts of her story to better fit the image she wanted to portray. But the actions she took, while affording her a wonderful life, lead to a life of guilt, first for abandoning her only son and the knowledge that in not aborting her fetus, she was responsible for his evil.
Sister Jude started on the other end, with no thought for others she lived a wonton life until her great, guilt inducing mistake sent her hiding into the convent, where she too was greeted with power she was more than eager to abuse. The abuse and the commitment to corrupt ambition caused Jude to enact evil on others until it broke and she was the one being imprisoned by her own unjust system. But eventually, she was freed and granted a few moments of peace.
Both women’s lives mirror each other; both were falsely imprisoned, but while it damned Lana, it was Jude’s true salvation; both made unethical decisions in order to accelerate their careers, for Jude her’s caused her torture, while Lana’s were a result of her torture. We weren’t spoon fed the answers to any of the many questions this season, but the key to understanding the point lay in that very first scene that introduced us to both women. They were both hurtling down their path, on the same trajectory in opposite directions, and they met for one brief moment beneath the most holy woman of all.
The finale wasn’t perfect (though it was pretty close thanks to brilliant directing by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon), there was really no explanation for the aliens, but it still felt like a perfect summation to what was, at times, an uneven season. No one would have guessed at the beginning of the season that we would be crying at Sister Jude’s death or that Lana would be shooting her son in the head and we’d fully support it. Neither was predictable and yet now that they happened it feels like there was no other outcome. Because as Lana and Jude slid past each to their own end they found redemption lay on each side of the spectrum.
While Jude had already discovered her hit and run wasn’t the life ending event she once thought, she was truly redeemed by loving and caring for Kit’s children and by their love and care for her. She was a woman who had lived only for herself, but in the end she was able to care about others and they about her. Lana, once determined to rid the world of Briarcliff’s evil, suffering from the guilt of knowing she had unleashed its last bit of evil on the world in the form of Johnny Morgan, was able to at last achieve her once lofty goal by killing her son the same way she killed his father. They’re two extreme paths to liberation, but they both made it.
– Devin Mainville