Was it all a lie?
The second-season finale of "American Horror Story" brought most of its stories full circle, but the final scene had many in the audience wondering just how much of the recap we could believe. The final confrontation between Lana Winters and her murderous son with Oliver "Bloody Face" Thredsen, that ends with her shooting him in the head, is real – but the final scene set in 1964 throws everything that came before into question. Sister Jude, concluding Lana's tour of Briarcliff, warns her that looking into the face of evil means that it looks right back at you. Then she walks away, and Lana slowly turns to look at the front entrance, bathed in white light and perfectly accessible to her.
Did Lana actually leave Briarcliff unharmed back then? Did she make everything up to further her career? What's true, and what's a twisted product of Lana's ambition?
Twitterers couldn't decide. Many found the episode as "moving" as Sarah Paulson predicted in our conversation with her. Others shrugged it off as "uneventful" and asked, "[W]here's the shock?" Still others expressed bafflement, or disgust that the "AHS" writers toyed with us, though a few dismissed the final sequence, saying it wasn't intended to make us question Lana's version of events.
And Lana's version is a corker. "Madness Ends" delivers the final updates on the characters in the form of a Barbara-Walters-style TV interview with Lana, now in her seventies and a grande dame of TV journalism thanks to her reports on both Briarcliff and Cardinal Howard's malign-neglect policy on the abuses that occurred there. (Her account of the conditions at Briarcliff looks almost exactly like Geraldo Rivera's report on conditions at Willowbrook – and her description of the awful smell inside sounds very much like it too.) Hounded by Lana to account for the crimes committed on his watch, the Cardinal opens his wrists in a bathtub.
Jessica "Sister Jude" Lange confirmed for "AHS" S3; see more here:
Jude, meanwhile, is rescued from Briarcliff by Kit; healed by the aliens with an assist from Kit's children; and taken by the Angel of Death six months later. Kit himself is ransomed by aliens, from a hospice he's living in thanks to end-stage pancreatic cancer.
Lana herself, in a long-term relationship with an opera singer, uses the interview to admit that she'd lied about her baby dying in childbirth. Said child, Johnny, is lurking in the background as a member of the crew, of course, and our favorite moment of the finale – besides seeing the guy who played Ohhhhndrea Zuckerman's hapless husband Jesse on "Beverly Hills 90210" as a Briarcliff attendant – was Dylan McDermott eating a craft-services cruller with maximum glaring menace.
Our take? Lana really did spend time in Briarcliff, and really was captured by Bloody Face – but she got herself into that pickle, and after she got out, she did whatever she had to to become a public figure.
Here's a sampling of the Twitter reactions: