American Horror Story: The Coat Hanger

Posted on December 13, 2012

My goodness, we’re getting awfully spoiled now. Two episodes in a row with linear narrative techniques and events following each other with something that resembles a natural progression. In fact, when the episode opened with a whole bunch of characters framing Sister Jude for the murder of the security guard, it was all so well-presented and straightforward that we almost believed she actually did it. Is it too much to hope that the ADHD style of storytelling has now been purged from the writers’ systems and we can expect a fairly conventional manner of storytelling going forward?

HaHa! Psyche!

Sister Jude is stripped of her habit and accused of murder, which means that, because this is AHS, she goes straight into a mental institution because that’s how the law works in this world. Lana finds out she’s pregnant with Bloody Face, Jr.  She steals a coathanger and does a little home-aborting. She and Kit tape Thredson admitting to the Bloody Face murders. Dr. Arden reveals that he knows about the aliens and thinks he understands their motives. He gets Kit to agree to temporarily die. Sister Mary Satan releases Thredson from his little home-made prison. She also tells Lana that she didn’t quite finish the job on Bloody Face, Jr. The Monsignor is naive, preening fool who winds up getting crucified by Killer Santa. Also, Grace is alive! And REALLY pregnant! And pinhead girl is suddenly lucid and intelligent! Also, Bloody Face, Jr. is a hot, grownup serial killer in 2012 who seems to know that Dr. Thredson was the original Bloody Face.

See? TOTALLY straightforward.

We suppose we’re lowering the bar a bit when we praise an episode like this. After all, if, say, Mad Men tried to use the storytelling techniques on display here, we’d howl long and loud in protest. But you have to take a show on its own terms and AHS would be nothing without its frenetic, hyper manner of relaying information. Part of the reason why this works is because the cast is composed of some seriously talented actors and because the show just plain looks great. And part of the reason it works is because it provides some truly engrossing or thrilling scenes every now and then. In short: it’s not the kind of storytelling we’d like to see replicated anywhere else, but the show knows what it is and in the end, manages to entertain, even if it occasionally frustrates or veers off into very silly territory.

At any rate, it seems like the drawstrings are being pulled ever tighter and all the disparate elements that earlier made no sense or seemed to have no connection to each are slowly starting come together. Sure, we’re still dealing with zombie-making Nazi doctors, serial killers, Satan-possessed nuns, Angels of Death, and aliens – all in one story – but against all odds and reason, it’s actually starting to feel like one story instead of a half-dozen unrelated ones. As always, we truly have no idea where it’s going to wind up, but as the season starts to head into the home stretch, we find all our earlier complaints and eye-rolling to be fading away. We’re in for the long haul and we can’t wait to see Judy face off against Satan, Lana face off against Bloody Face, and Kit … well, we honestly have no fucking clue what’s going on over in that corner.

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