American Horror Story Asylum: Review: Season 2 Ep 4

FX, 7 November 2012

A patient claiming to be Anne Frank alleges that Dr Arden is a former Nazi, while Dr Thredson uses aversion therapy on Lana.

This is a slightly less coherent episode of American Horror Story, with no single lead focus, but many storylines spanning several genres, some simultaneously. Picking up from last episode’s shocking conclusion, things don’t get any better for Shelley, Dr Arden’s latest scientific subject. Having had her legs removed, she’s now been subjected to injections that bring her out in boils. Can it get any worse…?

Two storylines dominate: is Arden a Nazi and can Lana fake a response to aversion therapy in order to escape Briarcliff. The casting of James Cromwell’s son, John Cromwell, as his younger self in the concentration camp flashbacks is a stroke of genius, as he is so like his father that it gives an uncanny effect, as if digital rejuvenation of actors was finally a reality.

There is a question to be asked whether a show as lurid as American Horror Story can legitimately tackle a subject as serious as the Nazis and the camps. However, it fits right in with the other real world issues (such as the now outmoded ‘treatments’ for mental illness from the 50s and 60s), and there is a long history of tawdry entertainments based around the subject (such as a host of SS-based video nasties).

Franka Potente makes for a great would-be Anne Frank (based on real cases of disturbed people who claimed to be the adult diarist), while Jessica Lange’s Sister Jude is slightly sidelined this episode, as is the possessed Sister Mary Eunice. Joseph Fiennes Monsignor has a brief but effective appearance, as his knowledge of Arden’s past is revealed.

Verdict: A little bit of everything in television’s maddest show.

Episode 4 ‘I Am Anne Frank, Part 1’: 8/10

Brian J. Robb

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