‘American Horror Story: Asylum’: Ryan Murphy’s Aliens are Secretly Brilliant

American Horror Story

So how about them aliens, huh?

In Wednesday night’s season finale of American Horror Story: Asylum, all of our favorite characters found a perfect (if at times bloody) ending. Everything, it felt, was in its place; things were explained in a way that wasn’t forced, but rather fitting. And then Kit disappeared.

For the entire season of television’s most horrific miniseries, the alien abduction sub-plot has befuddled and bewildered many. I must admit that I, too, was in this camp — until the finale. Because during the final 39 minutes of Briarcliff, I noticed a few juxtapositions here, an interesting correlation there. But with so many questions left unanswered, could any sort of theory really be substantiated?

Unless, of course, those unanswered questions were exactly the point. After watching a screening of the finale last week before a Q&A with Murphy, I thought about why such a seemingly throw-away sub-plot would make its way into a show already chock-a-block with American horrors. And then it hit me like a ton of epiphany-laced bricks: the alien storyline is a direct foil to the religious control that runs throughout the entire series. Ryan Murphy is making a commentary on religion through [not-so] little green [or opaque-ish?] men.

The comparisons start with the ambiguous nature of both. Religion, like aliens, can be a hard pill for people to understand. It’s all so unknown. And people either do or do not believe in both — oftentimes feverishly so, something that can be rather off-putting to people who feel the opposite. Religion and aliens, both outside of this earth’s literal sphere, explain things that are out of grasp. Or, at least, provide answers and insights to what really is going on out in the great beyond.

And then there’s Kit. Kit, the most selfless, forgiving person on the show. Also the most progressive (his marriage to Alma, for instance, was before interracial marriage was deemed legal in 1967). Oh Kit, always the ultimate Good. It’s Kit who puts Lana on her destined path. He does right by both of his wives (Alma and Grace) and his two children (who were, Grace said, meant to “change the way people think” — something they quite literally did to Sister Jude). And, in the ultimate act of redemption and selflessness, he takes it upon himself to get Sister Jude out of Briarcliff and cares for her until her last dying day. Kit was AHS‘ moral compass and guiding light: the savior for every person around him.  As we mentioned in our recap, Kit is the only one who could truly forgive. “After all the indignity she made you suffer,” Lana says of his relationship with Jude. Forgiveness, Kit explains, is what helped him move forward. Forgiveness: one of the ultimate tenants of Christianity-laced religions.

Christianity, of course, plays heavily into the season’s backbone. Briarcliff Manor is originally a Catholic-run institution. All around are nuns, the Monsignor, and the word of God. (Oh yeah, and that pesky little devil.) And every single one of them — these beacons and stalwarts of religious truths — rallied against Kit. When he was believed to be Bloodyface, it was these people who were the quickest to condemn him. And still he allowed himself to be the sacrificial lamb, all in the name of helping others — namely Lana: the one who brought down Briarcliff.

Plus there’s the literal. Kit Walker. A kit is defined as (according to Merriam-Webster) “a collection of articles usually for personal use,” “a set of tools or implement,” or “a set of parts to be assembled” and used for a specific purpose. Not to mention the origins of the name Kit itself. The name is Greek in origin, and derives from the Grecian word meaning “carrier of Christ.” St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers was also believed to have carried Christ across the river. And how would St. Christopher have carried Christ? By walking. Suddenly the name Kit Walker feels a lot more symbolic.

The comparisons don’t end there: there’s also the fact that the alien storyline is vague as hell. It’s been the one overwhelmingly clear complaint of the audience from the onset. People don’t like the unknown. Some might even argue it’s the fear of the unknown that causes people to turn to religion (in some instances). Grace’s adulation for her alien experience makes Alma uncomfortable. Alma, who’s scared of the aliens, eventually goes mad from that truth, and murders Grace for the fact that she “acts like it was a religious experience.” Grace is ready for the future, she says, and wants to keep looking forward. Alma wants to look back; to focus on the time before the invasion. Before she knew the truth.

But the aliens also perform miracles. They brought Grace back to life and re-impregnated her with Kit’s child. Any time someone related to Kit was in danger, the aliens returned. They also gave Pepper the ability to speak again, and it’s my belief that when the two kids brought Jude into the woods, they fixed the damage done to her mind by the electro-shock therapy (hey, Grace did say that they were going to change the way people think. In this instance, that fact could be taken quite literally). And then, there’s Kit’s disappearance — right when he’s on the cusp of death from Pancreatic cancer. Never to be seen from again. But funeral services? Not for him, his children insist. There was no reason to mourn. Because Kit was with the aliens — these ultimate saviors who frightened many, but were the least deadly force on the entire show.

Religious imagery pops up all over the season — even when there’s no religion in sight. Kit himself mentions his inability to “lead them [the patients]” out of Briarcliff “like Moses.” And while being interviewed during the finale, Lana’s interviewer mentions her “nailed to the cross interview with Madoff.” Lana is the one that tells stories; it’s been the one thing to drive her ambition forward. But it’s not just Dr. Thredson who gets the Winters’ treatment, because ultimately, it’s Kit’s story she tells the most. She discusses him more than once during her Kennedy Center Honors interview — she’s like the pied piper of Kit Walker’s subtle good. Is Murphy suggesting that worshipping deities is misguided, or does he believe more along the lines of ‘whatever gets you by?’ (I personally believe it’s the former.) The biggest difference between the two, of course, is the idea of looking forward (the aliens) versus looking back (religion is one of the oldest historical entities within humanity). The storyline’s ambiguities lead me to believe that Murphy wants you to make up your own mind, but feels more pro-alien than pro-religion, for sure.

But would Murphy really do that? Would he dare be so controversial and blasphemous in a culture where the religious right are more than a little bit protective and combatant? Of course he would! In fact, it’s the last frontier for him, really. This show in particular has pushed the boundaries of what is or isn’t OK to air on television throughout its entire run. Really, all of Murphy’s shows are notorious for this. By doing it so subtly, though, Murphy allows his commentary to slip under the cultural radar without that controversy. And in a show that many felt was over-saturated with story lines and general information, subtlety is a wonderful addition.

Hollywood.com has reached out to Ryan Murphy for comment, but had yet to hear back at the time of publication.

What do you think of our theories? Are the aliens and religion connected? Sound off in the comments!

[Photo Credit: FX]

Follow Alicia on Twitter @alicialutes


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