While I always knew I wanted to be a writer, for a short time from the 7th grade into high school I considered journalism. I envied the life, the jetsetting, but mostly the drive to get all the facts and report them. I idolized Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday and Lois Lane. One of my greatest accomplishments was writing for my high school paper, and I fancied myself a (future) righter (writer) of wrongs.
I remember when my ride to the Pulitzer was derailed: during the airing of The Ryan White Story. I became horrified as a mob of reporters cornered this poor sick kid in the hall of his school for info on his HIV. Though I continued to work on school papers into college, the love for that life was dashed. When I look at the state of journalism today, I know I would have been eaten alive.
I bring this up because of the evolution of Lana Winters, our dear Lana Banana, revered author for her expose on Bloodyface, “Maniac”. Unfortunately, her best-selling includes selling out, fabricating details of what happened in Thredson’s basement, footnoting Wendy’s status in her life to a friend instead of lover. When Kit comes to visit her at a book signing, she is fully regaling him with the film adaptation and her next book on Killer Santa Leigh Emerson, who went on to kill seven nuns after his escape from Briarcliff. Kit is angry, because she had promised to expose Briarcliff, but she nonchalantly tells him that priorities change, and hers have. Even though she knows she could still be behind the asylum walls, she’s embraced her life with snippets of it polished up for drama. That includes telling everyone her son died in childbirth, but Junior knows the truth, and he outlines that truth to a bookstore clerk that owns a signed copy of Maniac, which he will present to his mother before he “finishes what my father started”.
I’m disappointed in Lana. I don’t wish her death at the hands of her evil son, but I wish that she’d stayed truer to the virtue of the story she set out to write. Instead, she embraces the possibility of this being her “In Cold Blood” moment; and while I can appreciate that in her time it might have been harder to be honest, I feel disheartened at her perpetuation of sensationalism in the media. Even though my logical side understands this is a fictional character I’m admonishing, Lana is someone I’ve invested in enough to be entitled to my disenchantment. We won’t know her fate of life or death til next week’s season finale, but I’m not sure how much I care anymore.
I am also upset with Ryan Murphy, who promised happy endings, yet the episode begins with Kit covered in blood with an ax in his hands. Aloud I said “Dammit Kit” but by episode’s end I meant “Curses, Ryan Murphy”. While I was relieved to know Kit did not all of a sudden become a murderer, it still bothered me that the victim at the end of the bloody blade was poor Grace. Ever since the reveal of Alma and her Kit baby in last week’s episode, the three had been living a poly-amorous life. Alma was getting twitchier and twitchier that Grace seemed obsessed with the aliens, while it was clear Alma wanted those demons to be exorcised from her regained life. Grace say it as a spiritual awakening, wanting to teach her son his origins. While it’s inferred that Grace might reach a breaking point like the one that landed her at Briarcliff, it’s actually Alma who grabs the ax and embeds it deep into Grace’s back. As a cruel full circle of faith, Alma is interned at the Asylum both Kit and Grace tried so hard to escape. It’s this reason – and the sighting of the not quite dead Jude – that propels Kit to seek Lana out.
Jude is heartbreaking. She is now Betty Drake, since the Monsignor “killed” her off before Lana could get her released, and nothing she’s seeing or experiencing can be taken at face value. By episode’s end we realize her conversations are with those long gone – Pepper has been dead two years, and the Monsignor – now a New York Cardinal – sold Briarcliff to the state and it’s been overrun. Jude has visions of the Angel of Death at every new roommate, where she revels, screams and begs that she is “not ready”; but they are all just the broken fragments of hallucination as Jude’s mind loses more and more reality. Jessica Lange again does a fantastic turn here, the subtleties in her ticks in reactions to what is revealed to her as being fact from fiction, her wide eyed determination to cling to the realities she has to believe to continue to survive there. She’s right when she tells the Monsignor that Jude is dead – the nun we knew is long, long gone, and in her shell survives this broken Betty.
I’m remiss to believe Ryan Murphy’s assertion that I will need tissues for the season finale. I’ve been wishing for some light at the end of these tunnels, not the alien abduction kind, but some real silver linings in the darkness. Instead, to paraphrase Robert Lowell, that light seems more like an oncoming train that continues to crash through the flimsy walls that hope builds.