American Horror Story, Ep 2.12,“Continuum” – Lies, Visual Tricks and Caged Heat

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American Horror Story Episode 12: “Continuum”
Written by: Ryan Murphy
Directed by: Craig Zisk
Original Airdate: 16 January 2012

Each week I watch American Horror Story; I’m completely blown away and decide this is the best episode I’ve watched. Just when I thought it couldn’t possibly get any better cinematography wise, Continuum took the show in an entirely new direction with a new, extremely well done shift in style courtesy of director Craig Zisk, and that direction is upside down and hanging off a crane.

This week’s episode featured all the visual tricks we’ve grown to enjoy such as unusual shot framing, time-jumping match cuts and the classic Dutch tilt but this week’s not-so-simple crane shot is easily one of the most impressive shots of the season. Kit walks under the camera, gets into his truck and drives off where he is replaced by a smoking Johnny Thredson blasting an aggressive rock soundtrack whilst sitting in a car park.

Where the second season of American Horror Story has spent the majority of its time set in asylum Briarcliff, this episode focused on the remaining characters and how even though they’re free, the institution is still a heavy influence on them.

In typical fashion, the episode opens with a brutal scene, which is an excellent lesson on how to construct misdirection for all you amateur filmmakers out there. The audience are subjected to Kit covered in blood, and out of breathe with an axe in hand leaving the audience on the edge and expecting the worst until the creepy title sequence is out of the way.

Last week Kit, Grace and the audience discovered that Alma was alive and kicking. This week we see the three of them, and their alien kids living together in a ‘Big Love’ situation, where Kit has to divide his time between the two ladies. Whilst Grace is fixated on the alien abduction, Alma is keen to forget it. Cautiously exploring how a single event can affect two people in completely different ways, there is an entirely unexpected twist kicking off this episode. Alma takes axes to Grace, when Kit picks it up we are where the episode started.

In this episode we leap from modern day to 1967, then again to 1968, and 1969 all within the same storyline. This week Alma’s storyline fits in nicely with Jude as Alma is now imprisoned in the asylum. In brilliant ‘Caged Heat’ style, we see the return of Frances Conroy still looking like the Angel of Death as queen bee of the prison, looking to reign over Briarcliff and taunt Jude on her way up.

When the Monsignor becomes Cardinal in New York, he promises to release Jude as his final act of authority. Trying to fight off Death, Jude is taken away by the asylum guards and woken up to find that it had been two and a half years since the Monsignor left and that Pepper is dead. In this brilliantly dark and claustrophobic sequence, there is a strong feeling of being disconnected from reality but it isn’t confirmed if Jude is crazy or not. Did the new top prison bitch really look like the Dark Angel or was she hallucinating it? When she discovered Pepper was dead, she was heartbroken. Once again Lange provides an outstanding performance, amazing throughout both series she seems to top herself each week.

This week also follows life after Briarcliff for Lana, and shows the “Maniac” she has turned into. The good-hearted Lana that we grew to like and root for is sadly nowhere to be seen in this episode. She wrote the book Maniac about the Bloody Face ordeal but with exaggerated, made up stories. Becoming this self-absorbed and unlikable character, Lana’s conscience gets the better of her during a reading. In a very well done scene, she and the audience see visions of Wendy and Dr. Thredson in the audience screaming allegations at her when she states they distracted from the essence of truth.

Her bittersweet reunion with Kit was superbly performed but sad to watch. She has completely changed, and gave up on her promise to close Briarcliff leaving its patients behind to suffer. Lana is too self-involved now and barely seemed sorry when she heard that Alma ended up there and died. If the audience ever doubted Kit previously, this scene where he puts Lana in his place completely changes our minds.

The episode ends with an extremely, tense scene with modern Bloody Face, revealing he is Lana’s son but given American Horror Story’s track record, this could be false, and Jude could actually be sane.

With one episode left, I think it’s safe to say the audience are definitely in store for an explosive ending.

 

Tara Costello

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