American Horror Story: Asylum, Season 2, Episode 8: Unholy Night, Review

Ian McShane has some to us as a Christmas Miracle on AHS: A fabulous, homicidal Santa Christmas Miracle . . .

American Horror Story’s gift to you this holiday season is Ian McShane. The terrific character actor dons a red suit to play a murdering Santa, bringing a little yuletide joy and some serious acting chops to the tired and worn patient of the week trope that the series seems so hell bent on bringing to every episode. McShane isn’t the only actor who brought his A-game to this Christmas-oriented episode of AHS because it seems that all the cast got in the spirit and delivered some of their best work of the season. Lily Rabe, who plays the possessed nun Sister Mary Eunice, seems to be having a ball, manipulating an equally game James Cromwell and tormenting a distraught, back-against-the-wall Jessica Lange. Though the actors deliver, the writers don’t quite meet the same standard, presenting an episode that does very little to further the plot and at times can be a tad boring; a feat never before achieved by this insane show. McShane, who is so deranged and despicable in his performance that he lights up the screen whenever shown, delivers most of the episode’s highlights.  Don’t count on AHS remaining this stagnant for long though, because the show is in midseason and killing time before what is sure to be an over-the-top ending for this completely over-the-top series.

The show begins this week outside a store with a Salvation Army Santa ringing his bell. The Santa is quickly shot dead by McShane’s character and when it cuts to the next scene, we find McShane, wearing the red suit, in the home of a family. He ties up the family and they reach the same fate as the Salvation Army Santa. We presume these actions took place in the past. The show turns to Briar Cliff, where Mary Eunice is decorating the asylum, particularly the Christmas Tree, with belongings from the patients, such as their false teeth and hair ribbons. Once she returns to her office, she is surprised from behind by Sister Jude and held at knife point. Jude reveals that she is aware Mary Eunice is possessed and tells the demon that she knows that she is using Mary Eunice’s purity as a way to be immune to all the crosses and religious iconography around her. Before things turn serious, Arden appears and escorts Jude out of the building. Mary Eunice then travels to the cell of our Murder Santa, giving him the gift of a new Santa suit and freeing him from his solitary confinement.

Arden meets up with Sister Mary Eunice later that evening and gives her a Christmas present. Mary Eunice opens her present to reveal gorgeous ruby earrings, but the earrings have a story that’s truly gross. Possibly taking inspiration from the infamous Pulp Fiction watch scene, Arden tells a story about how the earrings belonged to a Jewish woman inside a concentration camp who swallowed the earrings every day to hide them, then retrieved them through her stool. The gross out story is delivered with such conviction by Cromwell that it actually is one of the better scenes of the episode. Mary Eunice doesn’t react at all to Arden’s story, thanking him for the beautiful present. At this, Arden laments Mary Eunice’s lack of innocence once again. He had hoped that the disgusting story would bring some sort of disgust or horror from the once pure Sister.

From here, Arden meets secretly with Sister Jude, telling the Sister that something must be done about the obviously disturbed Sister Mary Eunice. The two enemies agree to team up and later that evening Arden helps Sister Jude sneak back into Briar Cliff. The same evening the Monsignor is visiting the asylum during their Christmas celebration, and he expresses to Sister Mary Eunice what a good job she has done with the asylum. During their chat, the now free Murder Santa attacks Security Guard Frank and the Monsignor orders he be put back in his cell. The guard walks the murderer back to his cell, but before he can be locked up for good, Mary Eunice appears and slits Frank’s throat. The action then cuts back to Jude and Arden, with Arden leading Jude to Mary Eunice’s office so she can presumably surprise the evil nun. The whole plan turns out to be a set up, as the only thing awaiting Sister Jude behind the door is the Murder Santa, and we cut back to Arden, asking Mary Eunice if this solidifies his allegiance to her. Jude and the Murder Santa tussle for a while, with McShane having fun in the role torturing Sister Jude, but Jude gets the last laugh, unsuspectingly stabbing the man in the neck with a letter opener.

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The other main action this week revolves around Lana, who awakes in the asylum infirmary, wondering whether Mary Eunice called the cops on the news about Threadson. Lana discovers Kit in the infirmary as well and realizes that if no one knows that Kit is in the asylum, then no one has been alerted that she is there as well. Nervous, Lana searches for the nearest phone to call the police, but ends up finding Threadson, in the flesh, at the asylum. He reveals he read of Lana’s readmittance to the asylum in the paper and that he also disposed of all of the evidence linking him to the Bloody Face murders. Threadson seems genuinely excited, revealing to Lana that this is his chance to act as a phoenix, restarting the Bloody Face mask with skin from Lana. Before he can attack the girl, Kit appears and subdues Threadson and the two tie him up and create a makeshift cage to contain the maniac.

With Mary Eunice and Arden creating a united front and taking over the asylum, what sinister plot do the two villains have hidden up their sleeves for the patients of Briar Cliff?

The Best of the Rest

  • In backstory sequences it is revealed that McShane’s character killed five families, 18 total people, in one night. They also uncover his motive for hating Christmas. When in prison previously, the man was gang raped while guards were distracted Christmas caroling.
  • When Arden is going to dispose of Grace’s body, he is confronted by bright lights and the aliens seemingly snatch her body.
  • While sleeping, in a bizarre dream sequence , Kit fantasizes about setting up his Christmas tree with his wife, who then morphs into Grace.