The great thing about the first part of "American Horror Story: Asylum's" duel episodes titled "I Am Anne Frank" is that it wasn't an episode filled with in-your-face craziness, but rather it unraveled mysteries and dug deeper into some of the characters' pasts. "American Horror Story" can often border on -- if not completely cross the line -- into outlandishness. And when it does, it can either work in its favor or work against it. However, when it strays from absurdity and focuses on the characters, the show can do some really great things. (Here's looking at you, Sarah Paulson.)
"I Am Anne Frank, Part I" really focused on the battles between reality versus fantasy and insanity versus sanity. What's real and what isn't? Actuality appears to be in the eye of the beholder. Kit knew that he didn't kill his wife, Alma, but after being bombarded with accusation after accusation, he felt no choice but to start believing them. Anne Frank (or faux Anne Frank, depending on whichever side you fall on) believes she's Anne Frank, and that's her reality, even if no one around believes her. I, for one, think she actually is Anne Frank, just because she totally could be, and the evidence seems to make sense. Having her recognize Arden from her supposed stint at Auschwitz was a nice touch, and only adds to his ever-growing list of evildoings. And it also makes sense because I know the Nazis performed experiments on the prisoners there, and Arden could have continued those experiments at Briarcliff.
It's a good thing we can take the backwoods creatures off the supernaturals list, as they are just the result of Arden's inhumane experimentations. I'm not sure what he injects into them, but it creates boils and disfigurement and it seems pretty awful. His latest subject, Shelley, has already begun her transformation. Wow, what a rough end for Chloe Sevigny's character. Okay, well she's technically not dead yet, but a "special guest star" billing can only get you so far. Seeing Anne open the door to her on the floor, spouting "Kill me, kill me," filled me with equal parts sadness and disgust.
Speaking of sadness and disgust, let's go ahead and dive into Lana and her attempt at convergence into heterosexuality. At the time, homosexuality was considered a psychological disorder, and some thought it could be cured with intense therapy. Dr. Oliver Thredson (Quinto) tells Lana he doesn't think she's crazy and she's going to get out soon. But Lana knows that people think she's mentally ill due to her sexuality, and if she's not "cured," she won't be released. So she asks for treatment, and that means aversion/conversion therapy. First, she's pumped full of drugs that react negatively to her body, causing her to vomit as she looks upon pictures of women, including her partner, Wendy. Then, Thredson brings a patient into the room -- a young, attractive guy -- and asks him to disrobe. Lana then is told to touch herself while looking upon his member and then while touching it. It ends up not working, obviously.
Sarah Paulson, man. During this scene, sure, I was like, "This is awfully sad to watch," but Sarah Paulson delivered, I think, her best performance to date. My heart was completely torn in two for those four minutes. She could totally upstage Lange at the Emmys next year. Lana just wants so badly to get out of that damned asylum that she's willing to subject herself to this kind of torture, and you can see that conflicted determination all over Paulson's face.
Obviously the first part of "I Am Anne Frank" isn't the finest hour of "American Horror Story" and didn't really do much to propel the story forward, but damn if it wasn't entertaining. Most of the happenings in the episode could technically be confined to just this hour and never addressed again, but that's what's great about it. It unearthed some secrets, like Arden's supposed past as Nazi Hans Gruber, Grace's murderous history, and the origins of the backyard cannibals, but those are things that, while mildly fascinating, have no real impact into the entire season. But what really is the season-long arc? Lana, Grace, and Kit's escape? Getting Briarcliff shut down by exposing its various atrocities? Bloody Face? ALIENS? I don't even know, but I also don't care because I'm just happy to be here.
Grace officially revealed that she killed her father, stepmother, and stepsister. Did it make any difference? Of course not. At least Kit got killer sex before finding out (get it...killer? Because they're both accused of murder. I really am too much sometimes).
Lily Rabe only made two short appearances and that was not all right. At least she shot those sinister smiles that I love.
Joseph Fiennes' character is in cahoots with Arden and (yawn) that's exciting.
OK, in retrospect, the Holocaust storyline is probably a little too farfetched; but that's what makes it great, because it's farfetched while still retaining some sense of reality and possibility. Hey, at least it's not more alien abductions.
"American Horror Story: Asylum" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.