Can we all just take a moment and breathe? "Dark Cousin," the seventh episode of American Horror Story: Asylum was possibly the series' best yet, a tense nail-biter that threatened at every point to be a game changer. After all, when the first season ended with the deaths of all the major characters, there are no rules in the AHS universe. Just how all-around-excellent was this hour? Every plot was so well crafted that flashbacks to Jessica Lange's messy big band singer, who "smelled of vomit," were greeted with impatience.
Lesbian Lana escaped Bloody Face Zachary Quinto. After he made love to his ersatz mother, of course, then decided that he couldn't trust himself around her anymore and offered her a choice: He slits her throat or strangles her. Lana had just been chatting with the Angel of Death (Frances Conroy, the goth version of the Angel in Angels of America, complete with oversized wings) but decided to fight for life instead, knocking Bloody Face Quinto out with a framed photo of dead Clea DuVall and jumping into the first passing car she encountered.
Poor Lana can never catch a break, though, because the man in the car was in no mood to listen to an abused woman. "Victims," he snorted, before railing against women in general and his wife in particular. Frances Conroy popped up in the backseat just in time for him to jam a gun into his mouth and blow his brains out. Long story short, Lana ended up back in Briarcliff, where possessed Sister Lily Rabe was intrigued by her tale of Bloody Face Quinto and his human-skinning basement.
Sister Lily Rabe was fairly busy herself, though she wasn't on the receiving end of powerful thrusts from Zachary Quinto. After mocking Nazi Dr. Cromwell for the botched hysterectomy she thought he performed on Grace (it was the aliens!), she threw him against the wall using her demonic powers after he slapped her twice. "Hope that cleared up the chain of command, Arthur," she simpered on her way out.
She also encountered Frances Conroy, an unwelcome visitor in her estimation. "We are cousins," Frances Conroy says calmly, as the real Mary Eunice screams to be freed from the clutches of the demon. "She likes it here," the demon says after regaining control. As for Kit, he escaped from his lawyer's office (no chains on this serial killer? Really?) and headed straight back to Briarcliff to rescue Grace, who miraculously recovered in a single day from almost bleeding out. Alas, he led one of those creatures straight from the woods into the bakery and was caught literally red-handed after disemboweling it. A guard threatened to shoot him, a notorious escaped killer, but Grace took the bullet and died. The inmates are dropping like flies these days!
Having already dispensed with the Nazi hunter Sister Jessica Lange hired, Sister Lily Rabe gave his hotel room a call. She had staged the scene to frame Sister Jessica Lange, making it look as if he had been investigating her past and that infamous hit-and-run accident in which Sister Jessica Lange left a girl for dead on the side of the road. "There's a bottle of Kentucky something or other," she tells Sister Jessica Lange over the phone. "I also left something else."
Sister Jessica Lange contemplates slitting her wrists in the grimy bathroom of a diner, and we're treated to a dizzying visual of her lying in a pool of her own blood. But she pulls back after a moment, and marches back to her table--and bottle. Frances Conroy is waiting there for her. Turns out, they're old friends after years of false alarms. "Never trust a drunk," Sister Jessica Lange says self-mockingly. She first thought about killing herself when her fiancee left her after she told him he gave her syphilis and left her unable to have children, then again after she ran over that little girl. She's finally ready to give up, though, after she does one last thing.
That thing turns out to be another riveting set piece from Lange, when she goes to visit the parents of the child she hit with her car. She tries to confess...and then the girl, now a grown woman, walks in from her shift at the hospital. Not dead after all, this can mean only one thing: Sister Jessica Lange has straightened her spine and will prepare to battle the forces of evil for control of Briarcliff once more. Better look out, Sister Lily Rabe!
The contents of Mark Peikert's brain play on shuffle at.