American Horror Story: Asylum Review: “Unholy Night” (Season 2, Episode 8)

It’s never too early to get into the Christmas spirit, is it? Holiday songs start playing sometime after Halloween, Black Friday is moving up by a day or two each year, and the crazies in American Horror Story: Asylum are all more than ready for a little bit of holiday cheer. Since this is Briarcliff, any semblance of a sane celebration is thrown out the window in about two seconds.

Unholy Night features a fantastic performance from guest star Ian McShane as Leigh Emerson, a psychotic inmate whose claim to fame is his love for dressing up as Santa and being a general madman. His stay at the asylum has been spent inside solitary confinement after an incident involving the loss of an orderly’s face and the gaining of a tasty snack for Emerson. And even though that’s all in the past, the revelation that this guy is genuinely insane isn’t built up for nothing.

Sister Mary Eunice is still possessed by her deranged demon, and it’s having a ball setting up Christmas in the asylum for her. Ironically, the demon seems much more giddy about putting up decorations than any of the inmates, orderlies or security guards are. The menace that Sister Mary holds over the asylum has slowly been building ever since her possession, and to see her practically run the place with those under her cowering in fear is awesomely devious. Taking devilish delight in acting exactly as a nun shouldn’t, Sister Mary has come to the forefront of the series as a character that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Sister Jude, who has worked her way back to Briarcliff, is quickly put in her place, losing her power and becoming a victim just like many of the inmates. Her history with Emerson comes out from the shadows, revealing that even if she is a bit of a nut, perhaps Jude was in the best position to run the asylum. Seeking to end Mary’s rule, Jude and Dr. Arden decide to team up to take her down. However, Dr. Arden is still securely in Mary’s grasp, albeit unwillingly.

Lana finds out that Kit has returned to Briarcliff, and she reveals to him that Dr. Thredson is the real Bloody Face, leading to them trying to find a way to prove Kit’s innocence. This isn’t too hard since Thredson returns to the asylum to finish Lana, but after Kit manages to knock him out, they tie him up and leave him in a storage closet until they can find a way to get Kit off the hook for the murders. This is easier said than done since Dr. Thredson has gone to great lengths to destroy all evidence of Bloody Face that he has held on to.

Sister Mary releases Emerson from solitary and gives him the greatest gift of all: a brand new Santa suit and the ability to walk the asylum freely. Within minutes he attempts to slash a security guard to death, but just as he’s returned to his cell, Sister Mary reveals her true intentions for releasing him. She sends Emerson into Sister Jude’s office and locks them in so that they can have a nice little get-together and reminisce on his multiple canings at her hands. Sister Jude’s escape is nicely orchestrated, but we’ll have to see exactly how it plays out next week.

Finally, Dr. Arden has quite a run in as he’s wheeling Grace’s corpse away in the basement. What this all means hasn’t been made even remotely clear yet, and with only a few more episodes left in the season, Ryan Murphy and company have a lot of explaining to do.

Even though Unholy Night was an extremely fun romp through Christmastime at the asylum, there’s still way too much story left to explain before the finale. None of the plot threads are advanced at all, and it looks like at the rate that American Horror Story: Asylum is going, the conclusions might be rushed into the last few episodes. This isn’t to say this was a bad episode, though, since McShane’s performance is pitch perfect, matching and even exceeding those of the cast regulars. That being said, here’s to hoping that the series can finally start pumping out some answers one at a time so we don’t get an influx of revelations in one brief forty minute episode.