There's an undercurrent to FX's sumptuous and disturbing "American Horror Story: Asylum'", one that shows the oppressive lives women, minorities and gays have had to endure for eons while men in charge get to make the rules and call the shots.
The showrunners, Ryan Murphy, an openly gay man, and Brad Falchuk, a nerdy Jewish geek from Newton, Mass. draw on their own lives and experiences for many of their creative TV endeavors. This series plays in the shadows of the days of yore when these two might have had tremendous difficulties achieving what they have. It's part of what makes this entire series resonate with so many. Especially with the "Anne Frank" arc which began last night on 'AHS: Asylum.'
'I Am Anne Frank, Part 1' furthers the story of the series most loathsome character, Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) who is also impressive in "Boardwalk Empire" right now as a guest star playing financial scion Andrew Mellon.
Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) continues her quest to figure him out, as she smells the evil and knows he's not right. We discover the cahoots in play of her lustful object, Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes) who knows exactly who Arden is and has obfuscated his true identity, as the newest female charge (Anne Frank) of Briarcliff comes with veracity and venom for the former Nazi who now is chief medical officer of this repository of lost and forlorned humanity. Chilling moment when he calls Arden to let him know that more people are on to him.
"I Am Anne Frank, Part I" explores that sad realization of reality warring with fantasy and questioning one's sanity. Grace (Lizzie Brocheré) and Kit (Evan Peters) are both tragic figures, as we know Kit adored his late wife, Alma, but after being artfully therapized he now doubts his own actions. Grace claims sexual abuse that drove her to kill. What to believe?
Anne Frank (Franka Potente) joins the patients and immediately spots Arden from her alleged stay at Auschwitz. She is believable and her lucidity is evident in her fierce gaze which is what Sister Jude picks up on; you can spot crazy, and Anne is most certainly not. Hans Gruber is Arden's Nazi name, and you can bet Sister Jude will continue to press for the truth.
Meanwhile, poor Shelley (Chloe Sevigny) is in hell, as Arden is transforming her slowly and agonizingly into a sub-human thing, legless, and now desperate to die. Her disfigurement and pleas to "Kill me, kill me," to Anne who shoots Arden in the leg and tries to escape were the capper to this incredibly melancholic episode of AHS.
During the episode, our lesbian reporter, played by Sarah Paulson, was given conversion therapy as she was essentially tortured into wretching at imagery of female form and then made to pleasure herself with a fellow male patient, which of course goes nowhere. The sad truth is that homosexuality was and still is considered by some religious zealots as a treatable mental illness.
This is a large messy and delicious story with so many moving parts that are both entirely believable and absurdly far-fetched, it remains to be one of the better efforts this fall on television.
"American Horror Story: Asylum" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.