Aptly titled “Dark Cousin,” the episode was themed around parallels on numerous levels. From Sister Mary Eunice (and the Devil presiding within her) encountering the Angel of Death, Lana Winters’ escape from the “Bloodyface” serial killer, to Kit’s escape from jail, “Dark Cousin” brings together parallels and contrasts that could only be forged by master storytellers.
The decision to place the actress who played the maid Moira O’hara from Season 1 makes clear the larger picture slowly coming to life in Season 2. By casting the dead as the Angel of Death, the minds behind this series are showing their audience just what they are capable of. Similarly, the decision to cast Jessica Lange (Constance Langdon, adopted mother of the Antichrist) as Sister Jude, the nun desperate for redemption, Evan Peters (the misunderstood yet troubled Tate) as Kit, innocence corrupted by his institutionalism, and Lily Rabe (the desperate, barren mother) as Sister Mary Eunice, exemplifies the writers’ desire to create a confusion between past and present, season to season, and good and evil.
Sister Jude’s moral dilemma over having run over the innocent child, Missy, which drives her to become a nun, is a prime example. Jude joins the convent in an attempt to redeem her soul, only to learn years later that the child she had hit during her drunken bender survived. She had dedicated her life toward saving those whom she deems in need of a second chance—hoping she might save herself in the process from a murder she unwittingly committed in her past—only to find that her intentions have been driven by mere perception. In the process, she brings in Nazi hunter Sam Goodwin, hoping to find the truth behind her lead doctor, only to put him directly into harm’s way—possibly even placing undue guilt upon herself in the eyes of authorities, uncannily similar to Kit’s plight.
In the meanwhile, Kit, who is adamant of his innocence, is driven to murder when he learns that his recently newfound love, Grace, is on death’s door. By killing his attorney, he adds credence to his perceived guilt. Similarly, his escape from jail parallels reporter Lana Winters’ escape from psychopathic Dr. Thredson’s deadly basement, her successful flight only landing her back into Briarcliff Asylum.
Sister Jude’s guilty conscience nearly leads her to give in to Death’s finishing kiss, and when she resists, a waitress observing her horror and confusion observes to another waitress, “Maybe we should call Briarcliff. They could give her a bed for the night.” This full-circle logic plays against the full circle she has embodied in her attempt to reconcile with her past. As Missy’s parents declare, unknowing they stand before the perpetrator, “We get to live with our daughter. The monster who left her there has to live with himself.”
Sister Jude is a monster, although she strives to be a saint, just as Kit incriminates himself in his desire to make right the wrongs against both him and Grace. Her awakening from her binge in front of the monastery, with black and white clad nuns moving through black and white film, illustrates the contrast demonstrated throughout the rest of the episode. The whore becomes the nun, the innocent bystander becomes the killer, and the Angel of Death comes to challenge the Devil himself.
I look forward to the coming episodes, certain that each will offer more than the one before it. The writers responsible for this season and the last have proven their merit, showing they can entertain while enlighten, tell a story while painting a complex picture, and surprise their audience with a level of genius and intensity that only grows as each episode builds upon the last.