AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM Episode Recap: “Unholy Night”

     December 5, 2012


No one does Christmastime quite like FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum. The first season featured quite the climax with the Harmon family gathered round the Christmas tree; the feel-goods are not so joyous this time around. Featuring Ian McShane (Deadwood) as a deranged Santa Claus, tonight’s episode wasn’t just a fantastic addition to the series so far, but a stand-alone dark holiday classic.

American Horror Story: Asylum stars Jessica Lange, Zachary Quinto, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe, along with newcomers Adam Levine, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, James Cromwell, Joseph Fiennes, Chloe Sevigny, Lizzie Brochere and Clea Duvall. Hit the jump for the recap and review of tonight’s episode, “Unholy Night.”

ian-mcshane-santa-claus[You have entered spoiler territory.  Turn back now or commit yourself to the insanity.]

American Horror Story: Asylum sure has a fun way of saying, “Happy Holidays!” The episode starts off with an introduction to Mr. Emerson (McShane) as he puts a few bullets into a store version of Jolly Ol’ St. Nick. We then get to see Emerson terrorize (and eventually kill) just six days before Christmas. Jumping back to our current time in 1964, Christmas has come to Briarcliff. Sister Mary Eunice’s influence continues to swell and Dr. Arden appears to have second thoughts about trusting her. He forms a false alliance with Sister Jude, who ends up fighting for her life against the deranged Emerson in a Santa suit. Meanwhile, Thredson and Lana are reunited in a rather creepy fashion, but Kit manages to save the day (and Lana’s literal skin).

I can’t say enough about McShane’s performance in this episode. It comes at a point in the season when things were starting to get just a touch too serious for how irreverent this show can be sometimes. Christmas wasn’t just lampooned in “Unholy Night,” it was put on the cross and burned. You’ve got the devil, inside Sister Mary Eunice, who takes hair samples from each of the patients (or their dentures…) to use as ornaments for the tree, basically collecting tokens from each of them like some sort of voodoo practitioner. Then there’s “Santa” himself in Mr. Emerson, a man put in jail for stealing bread, only to be raped by inmates while the guards were out caroling on Christmas. (I would love to see McShane’s version of Bad Santa/Silent Night, personally.) The tree-topper, a Star of Bethlehem ornament brought in personally by the Monsignor, is used by Emerson to damn near kill Frank the Guard and an orderly. To top it all off, there’s a battle to the death between Emerson and Jude near the end of the episode, which you can interpret as either paganism vs Christianity, commercialism vs religion or just a really out of hand costume party. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the writers don’t have the fondest memories of Christmases past.

ian-mcshane-american-horror-storyMeanwhile, Dr. Arden was showing his true colors as the Devil’s right hand man in this episode. While Sister Mary Eunice was impressing the Monsignor, encouraging Emerson’s rampage and eliminating Frank’s threat of confessing that he killed Grace while trying to shoot Kit (bye bye Frank), Arden was fixing to betray Sister Jude under false pretenses. Jude really put that habit back on quickly, didn’t she? I didn’t expect her to pop up in the asylum so fast, especially not with a razor blade to Sister Mary Eunice’s neck. At least Jude knows what is possessing the normally pious Sister and will hopefully continue to try and dispel the Devil. (The real question is whether she’ll keep those “shitty” earrings for herself.)

After Lana tells Kit about the true identity of Bloody Face, she goes to find a phone and ring up the police to share her story. Too bad Thredson finds her there and plans to put an end to her meddling, though it’s cost him dearly. He monologues for a bit and tells Lana that he’s destroyed any evidence that Bloody Face ever existed so that, even if she manages to get to the authorities, it will be her word (a mental patient) against his (a psychiatrist). Though Thredson appeared to have the upper hand, Kit saved the day with an old fashioned fire extinguisher to the dome, knocking Thredson flat. Though they probably should have just killed him (as we argued in the comments section last week), they tie him up and keep him in a spare room. This couldn’t possibly go poorly, could it?

Rating: 9/10 Ladies Dancing

Quotes and Musings:

  • Susie: “Santa, what are you doing here? It’s six days until Christmas?” Emerson: “That would explain the lack of milk and cookies!”
  • Emerson: “This isn’t Santa’s blood.”
  • Emerson: “I’m Santy Claus! I’m here to bestow a little Christmas spirit! Let me tell you what you’ll find under your tree: a little terror, a little rape.”
  • Emerson: “I’m not feeling very Christmasy.”
  • Sister Mary Eunice: “Did you celebrate Christmas in your Nazi household?”
  • Dr. Arden: “I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in evil.”
  • Emerson: “I’m here to open my present.”
  • Emerson: “I’ve had a long time to think about shoving a giant crucifix up you ass.”
  • Thredson: “Your skin will be the start of a whole new Bloody Face.”
  • Jude: “I’m not your enemy.” Emerson: “You’re not the only enemy, but you’re the one I’m focusing on right now.”
  • Lana: “One day, I’ll bury you.”