American Horror Story: Continuum

Posted on January 17, 2013

We’re getting a strong whiff of “Final season of Lost” from our television lately.

We were two of those people who didn’t hate the Lost finale as much as the internet told us we were supposed to. No, instead we reserved our ire for its final season as a whole; a rambling, pointless exercise that asked its audience to shift their focus away from all the things that made the show so engrossing, and focus instead on former side characters or brand-new characters who ultimately had little impact on the story before they were (usually violently) dismissed from it. Over on Friday nights, Fringe is currently drowning in “final season of Lost” -isms, which is why we ultimately abandoned weekly reviews of it. The show got deadly boring and self-indulgent and we didn’t feel like ranting about it every week. We may pick up the finale and review it, though.

But American Horror Story doesn’t have to suffer from the same problems, mainly because it doesn’t ask its viewers to hold on for any longer than a dozen-plus episodes before ending the story for good. It’s why the show can get away with such uneven efforts and tonal shifts. If we’d had to wait five seasons to find out the final fates of all these characters, you can bet the vast majority would have left in annoyance several seasons back. But this episode represented such a massive shift in the storytelling, that we almost felt like we were watching an entirely new season of AHS and all of these familiar faces were playing new characters. We found ourselves missing Sister Mary Satan, Doctors Thredson and Arden, and even lesser players like nympho Shelley. And in their place, we were stuck with a bunch of post-traumatic stress disorder sufferers and the threat of alien invasion.

And strangely? It worked.

Granted, when you’ve got people like Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange helping you to bring your tonal shifts and left-field story exercises to life, you’ve got an advantage. And since one of the things the show did very well this season was to get us to care about the fates of such disparate characters as Sister Jude, Kit, Lana, Grace, and even Pepper, it’s not surprising to us that we spent this episode holding our breathe, just as much as we did back in the days when Lana was having a basement dance party with Thredson. The settings and storytelling lacked tension in the way they were presented, but the simple fact of them was enough to induce tension in the audience. What, exactly, the hell is going to happen to these characters now? That question hung over every scene, making even a Candyland session or a book reading seem fraught with potential dangers.

But what probably made it work more than the acting and the inherent tension, was the bold move to shift the story up by several years, showing what happened to these characters post-Horror Story. That’s not something audiences are normally treated to, and we found the glimpses of the lives of these supremely damaged people to be the most interesting part of the story so far. Say what you will about AHS, it’s not a show that spins its wheels. It moves and expects you to keep moving with it. If you cast your mind back to episode one of this season, you certainly weren’t in a position to predict that Sister Mary Jude would be completely insane by the end, or that Kit would be a loving polygamist father with a strong moral center, and Lana would be a successful, polished, and ultimately empty woman. What makes these fates work so well is that they all had their roots in the story and even though you probably couldn’t have predicted them, now that they’ve happened, you couldn’t see them happening any other way. It’s a great little trick Ryan Murphy’s pulled off. We’re surprised to hear that this season is not being well received. In many ways, it’s a far more daring and complex story than the one they tried last year, and while it hasn’t been perfect, this penultimate episode has us thinking they might pull it off.

Having said that, we’re not entirely thrilled that the climax seems to essentially be coming down to Dylan McDermott’s scenery chewing and … aliens.  Never have we missed Sister Mary Satan so much.

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  • RussellH88

    What I don’t understand is how Briarcliff is still operational after the release of Lana’s book. Did she lie about getting forcibly admitted to the hospital? Did she change how she met Bloody Face? I mean, the title of the book suggests she focused more on her relationship with Threadson, but Briarcliff had to factor in somehow, I’d imagine.

    • Sobaika

      Right? Wasn’t that her mission, to bring Briarcliff down? I guess it can be explained away because she didn’t have any corroborating evidence or paperwork, but it’s weird.

      • RussellH88

         Didn’t the Mother Superior give her her files to back up her claims? I can understand (but I still don’t like) the direction Lana has gone into, but wouldn’t it make for an even more exciting book if she shut the place down? Maybe they’re going to try to explain that in the finale, that she was saving it for when she needed more book sales.

        • MissMariRose

           I assume all the blame went to Sister Jude, who everyone thinks it dead anyway.

          • RussellH88

             That’s possible, but when Lana left Briarcliff, Jude had become a inmate and Sister Mary Satan was running the show and hiring Dr. Threadson knowing who he was. I guess since Lana lied in her book, it allows you to sort of hand wave that kind of stuff away as being a lie that wasn’t specifically mentioned.

  • MilaXX

    While this season has held my interest more than last season, I can’t say it is better. Maybe I was tired, but by the end last night, I was thoroughly confused. Alma was alive and living in the house all the time Kit was locked up? She was okay with Kit bringing home another woman and having another child, but then one day snaps and kills her? Knowing the place is a hell hole, why would he place Alma at Briarwood?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/L6QSFAMNYCYKHL6MA4TTMBFE3A Elaine

       Alma was okay with sharing Kit with Grace, but she was getting tired and resentful of Grace’s obsession with the aliens, and after getting spooked by Billy’s harassment, which she thought were the aliens coming back to take away her child, she snapped.  Kit didn’t place Alma at Briarcliff, the state did. Briarcliff had become a state-run overflow facility.

    • http://twitter.com/Goldielox73 Goldie

      She wasn’t living in the house while Kit was locked up, the aliens had her.  Grace saw her there when she was abducted and Alma talked briefly about what they had done to her.  My guess is the aliens dropped her off there because they knew Kit was coming back.

    • roadtrip1000

      There are times you just have to suspend logic with this show. I mean, basically Kit was living with two women who had both been declared dead. Plus the house they lived in hadn’t changed at all during the whole time Kit was incarcerated. Also, was he still pumping gas for a living? I guess when the focus is on Satan, aliens and serial killers you just can’t sweat the small stuff.

      • MilaXX

        When you put it like that I guess thinking too hard is a bit of a. Uzzkill

      • Perfect Liar

         This is the part that makes no sense to me. Alma just turned up alive and no one asked any questions? The police are pissed that Kit’s a polygamist, but they have nothing to say about ALMA COMING BACK FROM BEING HACKED UP INTO A BUNCH OF PIECES AND SKINNED?!?! And Lana even acknowledged it saying, “I was sorry to hear about what happened to Grace.” WHO ALSO CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD. Yet no one is asking what the hell happened, or acting like anything actually did happen. It makes me wanna tear my hair out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1245406754 Tracey Magyar

    Looking back on both seasons of AHS, I think that I like this current storyline better then the first season as well. I’m wondering if they can successfully tie everything together with only one episode left. I hope that Pepper ends up being the head Alien and takes over the world with Kit’s mini-alien babies as her minions!

  • Sobaika

    I’ve enjoyed the show and keep wanting to know what they will do next, but I do think that last season might have been a stronger overall story. Maybe it’s just a result of hindsight, but there was a central thread to that story that helped the viewer – it always came back to that house and Connie Britton’s character. You were always meant to root for her, and we haven’t entirely had it that here. It tended to shift between Kit, Sister Mary Jude, and Lana.

  • l_c_ann

    OT
    If you can find it, the Wall Street Journal has T and L on a panel right now (real time noon, Wednesday) talkinga bout fashion blogging.

    Happy searching

    • Sobaika

      It’s at spreecast dot com /events/how-to-make-it-as-a-fashion-blogger

  • notterriblybitter

    It feels a bit like they set up all these plot lines and then realized that they didn’t have enough time to do them all justice so they’re just rapping them up as quickly as possible. “Okay, we’ll have the Monsignor kill Sister Mary Eunice and then we’ll have Dr Arden kill himself (in an oven so it’s ironic!). Then we’ll have Lana kill Dr Thredson, we’ll have Alma kill Grace (with an axe so it’s ironic!), then Alma will go Briarcliff and die for no particular reason (because we’re running out of time). Who’s left? Pepper. She’ll die while Jude is in a drug induced fog so we don’t have to explain it. Let’s see, that leaves who? Jude, Kit, Lana, the Monsignor and Bloody Face Jr. All in one episode? We can do that. Do you think people will mind if we never explain what the aliens were all about? Yes? Too bad.”

    • pawtley

      Apropos screen name.

    • Qitkat

      Comments like this are better, and funnier than the show ever was. But then I bailed out very early.

  • http://www.lifeinspice.com/ rose88

    I also enjoyed this season more than the haunted house season.  It’s a more complex and weird story with more characters that I’ve had an emotional investment in (me last night “Noooooo!  Not Pepper!  Kill them all, except for Pepper, you bastards!”)  I loved all the scenes with Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy – I could watch the two of them read the phone book together and still be mesmerized! And Ms. Lange is THE QUEEN OF CANDYLAND BITCHEZ!

    • Leah Burns

       I thought the characters this season were much more likeable and better fleshed out than last season. Part of what made it hard to sympathize them was that they were so selfish, stupid and one-dimensional. It was much easier to feel sorry for Kit, Grace, Lana, or even Sister Jude than any of the Harmons or the ghosts.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/XPWSQ2BDU5XJIA23AMYVBRWZBA Eric

         I agree. The Harmons were awful people, even the daughter was a basket case, almost waiting for disaster. Death actually improved them.

  • pawtley

    I’m not sure if others have explored this, but I am waiting for the finale so that I can figure out all the symbolic meanings of the “asylum” title. And that’s what I like about the show in general; I love me some tv, and AHS is one show that I love to turn over afterwards (not that all tv has to make you think).

  • snich11

    Jessica Lange is MAGNIFICENT.

  • mhleta

    I had to bail on it halfway through. It’s wayyyy too dark and porny for me. 

  • http://kingderella.tumblr.com/ kingderella

    sadly, i agree with you guys on fringe, even if i wouldnt be quite as harsh about it. even more sadly, this is no surprise. both season 3 and 4 abandoned their weirdness for conventional schmalz towards the end.

  • Jennifer Coleman

    I like this season more than last. The characters are more compelling and the storytelling is is more complex. That said, the train has been veering dangerously off the track for most of the season, but since last week, it has snapped back down on both tracks as it heads into the station. I love how the horror has shifted to the more mundane episodes of daily life from the past’s nazis, devils, aliens and mass murderers. The asylum is just as deadly and awful without Drs Thredson & Arden; Murder still follows Kit with his lovers killing each other and Lana is stalked now by her guilty conscience. Jude’s insanity is casually horrible-she loses years at a time and blanks out the loss of Pepper. The only dramatic holdover was imprinting the Angel of Death’s face on her roommate.
    Right now the season has a feeling like what you have when you are waking up from a crazy dream-things are becoming more normal but not completely there yet. I’m not sure if we’ll get a final jolt or a fade into oblivion next week.

  • http://twitter.com/Goldielox73 Goldie

    I really thought that Kit was going to end up back at Briarcliff.  I thought for sure he’d take the blame for killing Grace to spare Alma.

  • ghopping

    This show started out deep as a satire of American beliefs and fears, and it got lost in the plot. Murphy would have to pull off a miracle in one episode to make this show mean anything more than erratic entertainment.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MA5IBD6SO2P2DNFC76IFHFFQ74 Emily

    I have to agree with most of the criticisms, but I still love this show. It’s ridiculous. Devils, aliens, etc.  But let’s not forget the line way back in ep. 1 from Sister Jude: (and I paraphrase), the monsters are all human.  So maybe Grace was right and the aliens didn’t mean to harm people? And I just can’t see Timmothy getting out of this season alive. Maybe the devil jumped to him? After all, the angel of death said “both of you,” maybe the devil managed to shove Tim out of the body and he’s dead and the demon is now a cardinal? But, overall, I love the sheer, uneven craziness of the whole mess.  So long as the ending makes some sort of narrative sense, even if it is bleak, I’ll be okay with it.  (I loved the ending of season 1, when the truth was that the family was happier, and better off, dead than alive.)

  • http://twitter.com/DarrenNesbitt Darren Nesbitt

    Well what a bunch of BS. I feel like I’ve taken a girl on a date spent all my money (time) and after walking her home she gives me a peck on the cheek and says text me. I feel used AHS. . . This ending is wack. 

    • PaulaBerman

       I thought it was the finale too, but we have one episode left!

  • claudemtl777

    I can’t say that I enjoyed this season less or more than the last one. I think I enjoyed as much, but for different reasons. Watching Jessica Lange put her Frances Farmer on was, for me, a delight. (The Frances Conroy scenes were also amazing…)

  • http://twitter.com/bstolemyremote bitchstolemyremote

    Definitely also on the “boo” train that everything comes down to a Lana vs Bloody Face Jr showdown. That should be interesting to watch, but not an entire episode…

  • MissJRS

    maybe i missed it, but whatever happened to shelley? the last i remember, she was disfigured, crawling up some stairs and scaring the crap out of a bunch of kids.

    • http://twitter.com/Goldielox73 Goldie

      She ended up in the hospital and the Monsignor went to see her and administer last rites.  Sister Mary Satan later implied that he had used his rosary to strangle Shelley.

      • MissJRS

        how did i miss that?!!?!?! ok… thanks… i’m going to go back and re-watch the end of that episode now.

      • http://www.facebook.com/eric.e.zhang Eric Zhang

        You see the Monsignor finish Shelley off with the rosary. It’s not just “implied.”

        • MissJRS

          thanks! turns out i actually missed that episode which is why i kept expecting shelley to pop back up. (i save them to watch after the original air date because of my schedule)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5UQHEKG5EDX4T6NMARUC565TPQ Amy

    I suspect the aliens will be more captivating actors than Dylan. Without Connie Britton to prop him up, there just isn’t much there. Maybe she can make a cameo and sing a country duet.