“American Horror Story: Asylum” Recap: So I Married an Axe Murderer

Okay, so… whaaaaaaaaah?

Seriously, did someone secretly replace the gourmet insanity at this fine dining establishment with Folger’s crystals?

Or, to put a finer point on it: What the f*ck was this bullsh*t?

Let’s review:

It’s now 1967, and Kit (Evan Peters) is living the American dream with his two sister-wives and their two alien-babies. Until they aren’t: after a charming montage of his-n-hers high chairs and dish towels, we catch up with our lovably dense hero, whose bold wardrobe choice of pristine tidy whities and a wife-beater (HEY I DIDN’T NAME THEM) is distracting me from the fact that he is calmly pulling the axe out of someone’s back in his living room.

He stumbles, blood-spattered, and drops into his Barcalounger. A young voice calls from off-screen: “Daddy?” He tells her Daddy will be there in a minute.


Okay – guesses on who that was in the red robe? Alma? Grace? Sunny Von Bulow?

We then flash back a bit (I’m guessing), as Grace (Lizzie Brochere) – in a red smock, mind you – is sketching with charcoal at the kitchen table and Alma (Britne Oldford) is bringing in vegetables from the garden and chattering about corn. Ah – we’re on the cusp of the Age of Aquarius, I see – which is confirmed when a shaggy-headed Kit enters talking about demonstration marches – sorry, “mahhches” – and nontraditional families and college students. Their nontraditional family makes them the children of the New Age, see? Plus they’re aliens.

Speaking of which, Alma isn’t happy that Grace is spending all her time lately sketching the creatures that abducted them and messed with their baby-makers all those years ago – which leads her to make this face a lot:

She tells Kit later that evening. She stresses to Kit that Grace clearly needs him, and that he should go to her. He does, and when he tells Grace to let go of those bad memories, she reminds him that her other memories – of murdering her family with an axe – are even worse. The lady has a point.

Kit tells her that she’s a different person now, and then they do it. Alma hears them through the wall – and suddenly the room shakes and the lights return, just like when they were abducted. Alma freaks out and Grace runs to her – and suddenly the living room curtains are on fire. Kit puts out the fire and sees Billy’s pickup speeding off into the night. Awww – see? It wasn’t aliens, it was just a murderous lynch mob! Now go back to sleep.

The cops come and when Kit tries to press for them to arrest Billy, the cop reminds Kit that polygamy is as illegal in Massachusetts as hard “r” sounds. Grace tells Kit that Alma freaked out because she thought the aliens were back – and more than that, Alma is repressing her memories and needs Kit’s help. She tells him to go to her. He does, and they probably do it – because that’s Kit’s answer to pretty much everything. I hope they never need him to change a light bulb!

Anyway, I’m already tired of the alien-sister-wives sending Kit back and forth to one another like a pair of traveling pants. Hey – wouldn’t it be great if Shelley (Chloe Sevigny) were still alive and she could be the Barb of this here Big Love situation? No? Okay then.

Later, Grace and Alma clash again over Grace’s artwork. Grace reminds Alma that the aliens brought her back from the dead, and Alma reminds Grace that the aliens stole her out of her home and then let her husband bring home a resurrected axe murderer. This is all intercut with shots of Kit chopping wood, for no reason other than to introduce the axe. Alma slaps Grace because … well, because the script told her to. Grace breaks a glass, drops the mic, and peaces out. Kit is predictably useless, and clearly worried that the problems between his wives may sully the mood at the Renaissance Fair:


That night, Kit awakens (with Alma) and sneaks out into the living room, where Grace lies before the fire in a tell-tale red robe drawing her alien friends. She tells Kit that she loves him, and Alma, and their babies, and that everything is just great, but something has changed, and they need to think about the future. WHACK!

Alma buries the axe in Grace’s back.

Several times.

Alma babbles “We have to hide!” and Kit yanks the axe out of Grace’s back and sits down. “Daddy?”


Back at Briarcliff, Judy Martin nee Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) has evolved into the boss of a cutthroat high-stakes Candy Land ring (“Gumdrop Mountain is mine, chickens!”) and Pepper (Naomi Grossman) is her trusty right-hand man. I almost wish I were making this up. We see the news reports of MLK’s assassination on the television (uh, poor timing, AHS!). Oh – and there’s a television. See how far we’ve come along since “Dominique”?

Jude is treating patients quietly from the inside – at least she thinks she is. She looks up to see that Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes) has entered and is making a beeline for her. He speaks to her but she reminds him that Judy Martin is dead and she is Betty Drake now – he should know, because he renamed her. He asks to speak with her alone – off to the side, he tells her that he is leaving Briarcliff to become Cardinal of New York, and the Church is donating Briarcliff to the state to take on overflow from the penal system. Oh dear. Tim says that the cruelty stops here – he’s getting her out.

We then join Jude – sorry, Judy – oops, Betty – in the bakery, where, in a psychadelic haze, a new group of “patients” (read: prisoners) are brought in. Among them is the delicious Frances Conroy, who of course previously appeared as Jafar, the Angel of Death. This time she’s playing a brassy female convict who kind of resembles a darksided Laverne DiFazio wearing several of Roy Orbison’s wigs:


She is, in a word, transplendent.

Laverne and her heavies (pun intended) shake down Betty, who – thinking that this is Jafar again and not just some street thug – is too terrified to understand what the hell is happening. Laverne tells Betty she has one chance to join her gang – “or become one more dumb cluck”. Were chicken references really this rampant in 1960’s slang? Now I understand what JoAnn Worley was always so upset about…

Betty confides in Pepper, telling her that she hopes Papa Tim meant what he said. Pepper tells her not to hold her breath. Downstairs, we see new patients being checked in… and one of them is Alma. Wait, didn’t she go all Lizzie Borden on Lizzie Brochere in 1967? “Grace? She died a over year ago!”

Betty retires to her cell, only to find that it now boasts a bunkbed and a predatory Laverne. Those scamps at Extreme Makeover: Sanitarium Cell really know how to make a girl feel special! Laverne purrs, “Hello, gorgeous – I’m on top.” Yes, she is her new roommate and has already helped herself to Betty’s smokes. She is also TOTALLY F*CKING AMAZING. She comes on to Betty and tries to back her in a corner, but Betty ain’t having it.

In the common room, Laverne enters with her heavies and she goes right for Alma – “My little chocolate bunny.” They then shake down a male patient who was supposed to squirrel away his pills for her but didn’t. She stabs him in the gut. Betty watches in horror as Laverne blows the dead guy a kiss – yes, she still thinks this is Jafar.

Judy-Judy-Bo-Betty wakes in her cot to find Jafar – in all her Comme Des Garcons, Chicken Lady glory – leaning in to steal a kiss. She FREAKS OUT. When the orderlies pull her off, she’s beating up some random lady (or is it one of Laverne’s heavies?) – turns out it’s her roommate, and she’s had a number of them.

Betty finds herself in a strait jacket in her former office. She notices that all the crucifixes are gone. Damn that Ty Pennington!

The new head chicken at Briarcliff is Dr. Miranda Crump, a name that clearly escaped a Harry Potter book by the skin of its muggle. Betty tries to explain her Bad Girls Club moment in the cell, but comes up short – any explanation will make her sound even crazier than she clearly is. She learns that Monsignor Timothy is now the Cardinal of New York – and has been for some time. She learns that she’s lost track of whole months of time – and worse than that, she’s lost Pepper. SAY IT AIN’T SO!

Yes, poor Pepper died two-and-a-half years ago, in the winter of 1966. Wait – didn’t we just see her in 1967? So Betty’s bonkers, clearly. Betty is upset that Tim never left word for her or tried to get her out. Dr. Hufflepuffle McDumbleshanks assures her, “Everything’s going to be alright.” Betty isn’t so sure:

We are then whisked away to a bookstore, where a highly-buffed Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) is reading from her bestseller, Maniac: One Woman’s Story of Survival. It looks kind of like The Joy of Cooking. I hope she included Oliver’s recipe for Croque Monseur!

Lana begins reading from her book, and it’s clear that she took some huge liberties with her account of what happened. Suddenly Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) stands up in the audience to challenge her book, saying that she’s making parts up:

Lana counters, “I’m a writer – it’s my job to write the essence of truth.” As Oliver had always planned to bring home another victim to join Lana, she just went ahead and wrote that he did.

Another audience member stands to challenge the authenticity of Joy of Cooking: It’s Wendy (Clea Duvall)!

She calls out Lana for never acknowledging that they were lovers. Really, Lana? After all that, the Sapphic Reporter got cold feet? What a disappointment.

Lana snaps back to her senses, muttering that she lost her place:

They all applaud anyway.

Later, Lana is an outright bitchface to her ginger assistant, snapping at her for serving her cold Tab and not packing nuts. No, that’s not a euphemism. She looks up to the next person in line to get their book signed, and it’s Kit Walker. Fancy that! She apologizes for not reaching out with condolences after hearing about Grace – she was far too busy overhauling her character for the final two episodes, apparently.

What the hell is going on? Did motherhood turn her into a fame whore? Or was it the electroshock? I bet Lois is behind this.

They grab coffee and Lana has major diarrhea of the mouth about her newfound awesomeness. Ugh. I’ve never gone from loving and rooting for a gal to wishing she’d wind up on a meathook faster than this. Thanks, AHS! Only eleven weeks of investing in a character wasted, no biggie. Longer than I lasted with Glee!

Lana is working on a book about Bad Santa – who killed seven nuns after escaping Briarcliff – not that anyone cares. Kit’s actually a bit upset with Lana for not following through with her plan of taking down the joint. She makes excuses, and he tells her that Alma is there. Well – was there, technically – because one day she just up and died with no explanation. I guess the aliens forgot to recharge her batteries?

Anyway, we see Kit visit her in a haunting turtleneck ensemble, and then he IDs her body. On the way out he sees someone familiar in the completely overrun common room: It’s Jude/Judy/Betty, who doesn’t recognize him and is preoccupied with watching The Flying Nun.

She tells him that they stole her life story for the show, and her hat – but not to worry, she can fly without it:

Aww – come on, Betty, let’s give them the full jazz hands – for old time’s sake?

Atta girl.

Now be a good girl and eat your checkers.

Lana protests, insisting that she thought Jude was dead – she even saw her death certificate! She tried, it’s not her fault. Kit reminds her that she swore she’d use her freedom to shut the place down, and thinks she’s gone hard. Lana reminds him: “I’m as hard as I have to be – it’s what’s kept me alive.” Ugh.

We then rejoin Johnny Face (Dylan McDermott), who is visiting the same bookstore in the present.

Sadly, it is closing, like many bookstores in this day and age. He tells the lady that he’s after their signed copy of Maniac – the only one of its kind that he could track down. She counters that it is not for sale – it’s her mother’s personal copy.

Even waving a wad of cash and his exquisitely muscled upper arm in her face isn’t enough to convince her, so he changes tactics. He just wants to see it, to see the signature. She shows it to him and he tells her that Lana Winters is his mother. She says that Lana Winters only had one child, and that was the child of rape she had with Bloody Face. Nice to meet ya.

He tells her that it’s his fate to find Lana and tell her, “I’m the piece of trash you threw away 48 years ago.”

And then kill her.

She gives him the book.


Okay, this might be the first episode all season – maybe even both seasons – that I flat-out didn’t like. Were it not for the hilariously over-the-top performance by Frances Conroy, it would have been a total disaster.

Turning Lana from savior and survivor to emotionally bankrupt whore on a dime? Not cool, and not the least bit convincing.

Letting Jude simply waste away may be an appropriate enough fate, but it’s not particularly interesting or bold in terms of storytelling. Does this woman deserve punishment for her sins, or is she worthy of redemption? They’ve spent a season making a case for both – now they should sh*t or get off Gumdrop Mountain.

And the alien story has amounted to absolutely nothing. Alma’s return? Pointless. Wouldn’t Grace’s batteries have died at some point on their own accord anyway? Ugh. Unless they pull a shirtless Ryan Reynolds out of a hat in the finale, this is pretty much the worst thing ever.

Blood – 8/10

Well, at least we got a decent axe murder out of the deal. See, I can joke about it because Grace was already dead to begin with. And also I no longer care about any of these people.

Beasts – 0/10

Lots of talk of chickens, but no actual cluckers to be had.

Buns – 3/10

I’ll give them a few points for Evan Peters’ scenes in the pristine white briefs. Watching him walk away from the camera was like watching two ping-pong balls make sweet, sweet love.

Blasphemy – 0/10

Eh, not much there.


Clearly this season was about three episodes too long, and what started out as a risky but potentially promising approach – throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks – didn’t really pay off. At this point I feel like we’re in a distant sequel to the first half of the season. What the hell was the point of half of these storylines? Will we ever find out what ripped off Adam Levine’s arm?

I think this episode suffered from delusions of grandeur and dementia. Or, as patron saint Barbra Streisand would say, a low five outta ten Nutses:

Bonus Caps!

SO! Am I Briarcliff-ready for not liking this episode? Is there any hope that this season is going to end in a satisfying manner? Sound off in the comments, chickens!

In 2003, Brian launched the world's first website devoted to horror film from a gay perspective (CampBlood.org), mining an untapped (and occasionally unintentional) source of entertainment and bringing together a huge and colorful population of gay horror fans and filmmakers. When he's not pulling skeletons out of closets, Brian writes reviews for horror megasite Bloody-Disgusting.com, general film site Freezedriedmovies.com, and can be found on the ever-informative RottenTomatoes.com. Brian is also a filmmaker, having produced, written, and directed two shorts (the dark romantic comedy An Apple a Day and the eerie suspense piece Two Story House) that have played at film festivals worldwide and left audiences generally uneasy. A born-and-bred Midwesterner, Brian studied Mass Media and Film at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. (I know – crazy, right?) before fleeing the district for the warm and occasionally stinky shores of NYC. Brian is a proud member of the Online Film Critics Society, loving husband to illustrator Andy Swist, and benevolent overlord of their two cats.