|Episode no. Season 2
Written by Ryan Murphy
|Directed by David Semel|
Production code 2ATS06
|Featured music "You Don't Own Me (feat. Claus Ogerman)" by Lesley Gore|
Original air date November 21, 2012 (2012-11-21)
"The Origins of Monstrosity" is the sixth episode of the second season of the FX anthology television series American Horror Story. The episode, written by series co-creator Ryan Murphy and directed by David Semel, aired on November 21, 2012. This episode is rated TV-MA (LSV).
In the episode, a 911 call directs the police to the modern-day asylum. At the past asylum, little Jenny Reynolds (Nikki Hahn) becomes a new patient after her mother (Amy Farrington) believes she has killed someone. Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) finally gets evidence of Dr. Arden's (James Cromwell) horrific past, but puts someone's life and her career at stake as Arden, Monsignor Howard (Joseph Fiennes), and Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) indirectly form an evil union. Lana (Sarah Paulson) remains a hostage of Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto), but is told what set him off onto his dark path. Chloë Sevigny guest stars as Shelley.
Monsignor Howard meets Dr. Arden when the asylum was a tuberculosis hospital. Arden talks of working on an immunity gene but cannot pursue studies because the hospital is soon to be an insane asylum.
A mother drops her daughter Jenny off at the asylum, believing the girl has killed a friend and blamed it on a "bearded man with a brown jacket." Sister Jude wishes there was a children's ward but there is none and suggests prayer to the mother. Asked to monitor the girl, Sister Mary Eunice sympathizes with her, reflecting on her own previous humiliation at a pool party. There, she expects the guests to remove their overcoats and dive in naked, but learns she is the only naked one. Mary supports Jenny's dark side. Later, Jenny kills her entire family and, when asked by the police who has killed them, gives the same lie as when her friend was killed.
Lana wakes in a bed to happily see nearby pictures of Wendy (Clea Duvall), until she hears Dr. Thredson cooking croque-monsieur just a few feet away. He tells her of spending his childhood as an orphan and never being shown affection. She sympathizes with his abandonment issues and he calls her "the one." He relates his psychiatric-student days and the first time he skinned a corpse that resembled his birth mother. Repulsed by the odor of formaldehyde, he decided to only practice on living victims. Kit (Evan Peters) phones him to say Grace (Lizzie Brocheré) had seen Alma and then calls him a liar when the doctor denies future help. Thredson finds a sweaty Lana and discovers she has tried to cut through her chain. He dons the Bloody Face mask and prepares to punish her betrayal. He admits to Lana that he was present when Kit was originally brought to the police station. At the time, he overheard reporter Lana state that her goal was to learn if the killer's possible maternal neglect caused the murders – his moment of clarity. In captivity, she grudgingly plays the motherly role to calm him.
Monsignor Howard is called to a hospital about a disfigured patient with symptoms of tuberculosis, a disease thought to have been cured. He enters the woman's room and recognizes her as Shelley (Chloë Sevigny). The monsignor chokes Shelley to death with rosary beads to cover up his asylum's mistreatments. He then confronts Arden about his "research" and is shown a new subject – a now mutilated Spivey (Mark Consuelos), who was caught spying as Sister Mary Eunice bathed. Arden tells Monsignor Howard that his studies will make "superhumans" who will survive almost anything. He blackmails the monsignor to keep his work a secret and to fire the suspicious Sister Jude.
Sam Goodman (Mark Margolis) has called Jude to tell her he has found evidence that Dr. Arden was, in fact, Nazi war criminal Hans Grüper. However, he needs Arden's fingerprint to complete the case. She complains again to the monsignor about Arden and is told that he has arranged for her to run a home for wayward girls in Pittsburgh. She then tells Mary of her transfer and has her get cognac and two glasses from the kitchen. Jude drinks with Arden one last time, capturing the needed fingerprint.
Meanwhile, Sister Mary Eunice, in a celebratory mood from Jude's leaving, impersonates her in a phone call from Sam Goodman. She then goes to his apartment. Jude later arrives there with her new evidence to find him bleeding from a stab wound to the neck with a shard from a broken mirror. He is able to speak of one of her nuns. Mary Eunice shows the Grüper evidence to Arden, adding that she has kept some for "protection." He asks why she is protecting him and she asks for the trust of his soul.
The police are summoned via a 911 call to Briarcliff, where three bodies with masks are dangling in the main lobby. These are the three "copycat" killers. The police find Leo's (Adam Levine) body and missing severed arm, which holds a ringing cell phone. The same 911 caller calls this phone to tell them he only killed the three in the lobby. After learning Leo was on his honeymoon, they now search for his missing bride. Elsewhere, Bloody Face stands over a strapped-down Teresa (Jenna Dewan-Tatum).
"The Origins of Monstrosity" was watched by 1.89 million viewers and received an adult 18-49 rating of 0.9, marking the series' lowest numbers, until "She Gets Revenge" from the fifth season.
Rotten Tomatoes reports a 90% approval rating, based on 10 reviews. The critical consensus reads, ""The Origins of Monstrosity" is not as engrossing as its predecessor, yet several plot machinations serve to fill in the gaps." Joey DeAngelis of The Huffington Post thought the episode was high quality, calling it "my favorite episode of the season (or maybe even the series)." He then praised many aspects of the episode, including the cast, stating, "Since episode one, the show has been built on these strong female characters. It doesn't matter whether they're battling for good or evil. Lily Rabe, Jessica Lange, and Sarah Paulson are in a whole league of their own." Geoff Berkshire of Zap2it called the episode "overly talky...and not quite as compelling as the rest of the season so far." Todd VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club stated, "What's disappointing is that "The Origins of Monstrosity" is a dull and listless episode. It's easily the most boring episode this season, and it spends lots of time offering origin stories for characters who either already had them or didn't particularly need them."