American Horror Story season 2 episode 9 review: The Coat Hanger
American Horror Story departs for its holiday break on a belter of an episode. Here's Ron's review...
This review contains spoilers.
2.9 The Coat Hanger
It's a shame when a show decides to take some time off in the middle of a season because of the holidays, or for any reason really. Programmes, like American Horror Story: Asylum, work very hard to build up momentum to a fever pitch during the course of a thirteen-episode season, and to break it up for no good reason seems excessive to me. Just last week I praised AHS for its willingness to confront the holidays, but it turns out that I was wrong and that the show will be taking a break here in the US. Fortunately, it's only until after the New Year and not for a few months like The Walking Dead.
Still, it's a bad time to take some time off, because there are only four more episodes remaining in this season and the show keeps getting crazier and crazier. Even when the twists are ones you see coming (thus making them not twists), they're so cleverly executed and fun to watch that I don't think anyone can complain. Well, anyone can complain, since this is the internet, but it's great to see Dylan McDermott back on American Horror Story where he belongs. It's also nice to see Ian McShane and Frances Conroy back for second appearances.
The thing about American Horror Story is that you can never be sure which characters are officially gone from the show and which characters are waiting to make a dramatic return, because that can be pretty much anyone you don't see for an episode or two. The show just keeps thinking of reasons to bring people back from the dead—or at least the brink of death—like how Dr. Arden used a particularly juicy hunk of bait to bring the aliens out of hiding. We know that the aliens were there, and probably always are there, but they need encouragement to show up. Kind of like the show's recurring guest actors.
Writer Jennifer Salt is one of the stronger scribes for the show, and this week she's really bringing the crazy with her episode. It's brilliant stuff with some of the best lines of the season, and it's really brought into full focus by director Jeremy Podeswa. There are multiple brilliant moments this week when it comes to impressive camera decisions, with Lana's fainting spell being a particularly solid choice on all parts. The camera movement and subtle disturbance is perfect foreshadowing of what's about to happen, and that's not the best moment of the episode. The mash up of testimonies about Sister Jude to the authorities is very well done, and the Dutch angles used throughout the episode are employed judiciously and not overused.
Really, it's the little things as much as the big things that make AHS brilliant, twisted television. Most of these are decisions the actors make in the heat of their scenes. Tonight, Jessica Lange did some of her most subtle, brilliant work. When Sister Jude is strapped down into her bed and Timothy moves to leave her alone with Lee, she does this great work when she grabs his hand and then locks it into a death grip, with the panic on her face increasing with every attempt to Timothy to pull away. And the moment near the end of the episode in which she tears the filter off a cigarette? Sheer brilliance; that gesture tells you everything you need to know about Sister Jude, doesn't it?
It's just a shame we have to wait at all for the next episode. A week was bad enough, but three weeks? That's going to be a tougher pill to swallow. Just ask Jude how hard it is to swallow pills you don't particularly need.
Still, perhaps the time off to reflect on the show will give me some clarity when it comes to just how I think this situation is going to play out. I have my theories, as we all do, but I'm not sure just how accurate they might be.
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