Thredson grew up in a government-sponsored orphanage after being abandoned by his thirty-three-year-old mother at a very young age. "The System", as Thredson called the orphanage, was a hard place to grow up and he had suffered the company of other children who he believed to possess inferior intelligence. Upon adulthood, he attended medical school, where one of the first cadavers he worked with was the corpse of a thirty-three-year-old woman. He deluded himself into thinking it was his mother, but when he tried to embrace her, he became repulsed by her cold skin, which reeked of formaldehyde.
Realizing his longing for a maternal presence, he sought out the touch of a live woman to replace his lost mother. He began kidnapping women whom he thought had maternally potent skin (skin that feels like that of a mother's). Any woman he found inadequate, he skinned and beheaded, disposing of the corpse and turning the skin into furniture and/or his "Bloody Face" mask. However, to the public, Thredson appears to be a calm and somewhat friendly doctor who listens to his patients.
Personality and Appearance
Unlike most of the staff at Briarcliff, Dr. Thredson was stoically calm and clinical around patients when he first arrived. He also had a less barbaric outlook towards treatment, saying that more compassion would greatly improve conditions for the patients. He was willing to look at the patients as more than just insane criminals in comparison to the sadistic treatment of Sister Jude, or those implemented by Dr. Arthur Arden. Needless to say, Dr. Thredson's methods were in line with the psychological precepts of the period, including conversion therapy to cure homosexuality.
However, all that was just a mask, perfectly studied to hide his alter ego, which was known as "Bloody Face". When fully embracing his persona, Thredson reverted to his darker side - an unhinged, sadistic murderer with deep-seated maternal abandonment issues. These issues intensified into deranged behavior, resulting in episodes of necrophilia, rape, and mutilation at the detriment of his victims.
After his own experience of being abandoned at an early age, Thredson can't stand the idea of his own child being aborted or abandoned. The abandonment syndrome is deeply rooted in his personality.
Thredson first came to Briarcliff in order to judge Kit Walker's sanity to stand trial for murder. Thredson first led the investigators to believe that Kit to be guilty and delusional and diagnosed him as insane. Later, Thredson complained to Sister Jude about the barbaric methods she employed upon her patients, further straining their already frail relationship, as Dr. Thredson is more convinced in the power of science than religion as a psychiatric tool. He offered his medical opinion to the parents of Jed Potter when they tried to have him admitted to Briarcliff. When an exorcism was called upon Potter by Monsignor Howard and Father Malachi, Thredson was invited to participate and tend to the boy's medical needs.
When someone planted a newspaper relating to Sister Jude's hit-and-run accident on her desk, she accused Dr. Thredson. Though he in fact intended to discuss Jed's death, by guessing that she was trying to protect her own guilty conscience he accidentally implied that he had planted the newspaper. This leads Jude to demand that Thredson leave Briarcliff within two weeks. Lana, who had grown to trust Thredson's calm, clinical manner, begged him to send a letter to her ex-girlfriend Wendy. However, when he later reported back to Lana, he claimed to have found her house empty and disheveled, a tell-tale sign that the Bloody Face killer had visited. He lied and claimed to not know Wendy's whereabouts or fate, despite having killed her and taken her back to his playroom. But with this evidence, Thredson told Lana that he was now unsure of Kit's guilt. During the movie night, he noticed Lana, Grace, and Kit's disappearance during the film, but did not report it, perhaps suspecting that the storm would drive them back inside.
Thredson later tried to question Lana about her disappearance, but she did not admit that she had tried to escape. He confided that he did not believe that Lana belonged at Briarcliff, and offered to help treat her homosexuality with more benign methods than Sister Jude. He also believed Kit was neither guilty nor insane, but hoped that he would admit that the story of aliens abducting his wife, Alma, was a delusion. Thredson attempted to "cure" Lana of her lesbianism through chemically-aided aversion therapy but eventually realized that the attempt was fruitless. Later, he visited her after a sleepless night, apologizing for resorting to the controversial therapy. Giving Lana a photograph of Wendy, he swore they would leave Briarcliff together at the end of that week.
In order to help his case, Kit let Thredson record him describing and admitting to the murders even though he still did not fully believe he committed them nor recall them. Thredson then helped Lana escape, taking her to his home. However, inside his seemingly cozy house, Lana began to notice several macabre objects, including a bowl seemingly carved from a skull and a lampshade hand-made from human skin. Excusing herself to go to the bathroom, she accidentally opened a room filled with tools and human body parts while searching for an exit. Thredson, discovering her, admitted they were all his; as a "hobby", he constructs furniture - primarily human-skin lampshades. He then pushed a button, sending Lana down through a trap-door. When she awakened, she found herself trapped in the clinical "Playroom" that Thredson kept in the basement, with another companion: the frozen, preserved corpse of Wendy. Thredson entered, encouraging Lana to continue her therapy by kissing Wendy. When Lana refused to do so, he said that Wendy won't bite. He then put on a leathery mask partially decorated with teeth, pointing out that he took Wendy's teeth. Lana started to scream in horror uncontrollably when she realized that Thredson had been the real Bloody Face killer all along. By "treating" Kit Walker at Briarcliff, Thredson had been attempting to frame Kit for his own barbaric crimes.
Lana awoke the next morning, still in the "Playroom". She lay chained to a metal bed, as Thredson prepared a croque-monsieur for her. He proceeded to tell Lana that his mother abandoned him at a young age, and he grew up in the orphanage/foster home system. Though ostracized by his peers and made to continually feel 'different', an event in medical school changed his life: an encounter with a female cadaver who had been the same age as his mother when she abandoned him. It was then that Thredson realized that his problems stemmed from a lack of a mother-figure, causing him to continually seek out "replacements". All of his previous candidates proved inadequate, and he used his medical training to carefully skin and then decapitate them; he became convinced that Lana was "The One", the maternal replacement he had long sought.
Later Kit called, confused that Thredson had given the taped "confession" to the police. When Thredson refused to help him, Kit became angry, calling him a liar and a bastard. Enraged, Thredson returned to the basement, catching Lana in the middle of an escape. This infuriated him further, making him feel abandoned by his "mother" again. As he donned his "Bloody Face" mask and prepared to kill Lana, he began to cry. He revealed that he had overheard Lana "before Briarcliff" saying that even a monster such as Bloody Face had once been someone's baby. It was then that he believed that she would be the only one to understand him. Lana, grasping his meaning, attempted to play along with his fantasy, calling him "baby". Emotionally overwrought, Thredson removed the mask and tearfully began to breastfeed from her.
Thredson later raped Lana while she was in a near-catatonic state, and having completed this action felt that their relationship had reached an "impasse" and that he must kill her. In the ensuing struggle, Lana stabbed him in the leg with his own hypodermic needle and escaped, only to become involved in a car accident and returned to Briarcliff. Thredson took care to destroy all of the physical evidence of his crimes, as he feared that Lana would go straight to the police. Upon reading of her car accident in the newspapers, he cornered her in Briarcliff, intending to use her skin to create a new Bloody Face mask and begin again. Before he could accomplish this, he was knocked out by Kit. Kit and Lana then imprisoned Thredson in a disused room close to Briarcliff's bakery, in the hope that they could find a way to expose him as the real Bloody Face.
When Lana discovered that she had become pregnant with Thredson's child as a result of his raping her, she visited him. She informed him of her intent to have the child adopted, as Sister Mary Eunice would by no means allow it to be aborted. Horrified at the thought of his progeny experiencing the same torments he did as an abandoned orphan, Thredson pleaded for Lana to give him one more chance, to be honest. To prove it, he confessed his crimes as Bloody Face and admitted why he performed each of them, only for Lana to reveal that his confession was being tape-recorded by Kit. Lana and Kit had utilized the same trick that Thredson had previously used to frame Kit. Lana further claimed that she had already aborted Thredson's child, an act that he deemed more despicable than any of his murders. When Lana later sneaked out of her room to kill Thredson, she found that he had been released by Sister Mary Eunice, who also revealed that their child was still very much alive in Lana's womb.
After his escape, Thredson returned to Briarcliff, having been offered a more permanent position by Sister Mary Eunice. Using this new authority, he intended to wait until Lana gave birth, then murder her, keeping her alive only until she had breastfed the baby. He claimed that this was because "the health benefits are myriad". Knowing that Kit had hidden the taped confession incriminating him, Thredson implied that he intended to torture the information out of him as "therapy". Later, while searching for Dr. Arden's sodium pentothal, he discovered Grace giving birth in the doctor's surgery, with Pepper acting as midwife. When Grace's baby was delivered, Thredson used it and Grace as leverage against Kit, blackmailing him into telling him the location of the tape. When he went to find it, however, it had already been replaced with a copy of "See Spot Run". Lana had hidden the tape again and used that secret to blackmail Thredson into not harming Kit or anyone else.
When Thredson attempted to convince Kit into finding out the location of the tape in return for his freedom, Kit stalled him to hide Lana's escape from Briarcliff with the aid of Mother Superior Claudia. Thredson caught on just in time to see Lana get into a taxi, hold up the tape and display her middle finger at him. When he returned home that night, he found Lana had been waiting for him with a loaded gun; her tape had already been delivered to the police, and they were on their way to arrest and collect him. Seemingly relieved that his secrets were at last out, Thredson went to mix a martini. He claimed that he wanted to taste alcohol one more time before imprisonment. At gunpoint, he admitted to Lana that he used Wendy's corpse for "practice", attempting several times to have intercourse with it before finally turning it over so that she did not appear to be looking back at him. Following Lana's escape from the Playroom, he confessed that he dismembered Wendy's body, burned it and publicly disposed of most of the ashes.
As Thredson went for a refill of his martini, he speculated that Lana would never keep her baby; she agreed but stated that even if she gave birth, he would be executed before he ever got to see it. Disagreeing, he pointed out that he is mentally ill, and therefore more likely to live under care than be sentenced for his crimes. Thredson eyed a gun in his drinks cabinet, intending to make Lana his final victim before he was arrested. Before he could reach the gun, Lana vengefully shot him through the back of the head, preferring his death to the thought of him being confined to Briarcliff or imprisoned and potentially released.
- He is the second and so far the most recent character to be portrayed by Zachary Quinto in American Horror Story. For a complete list of his characters, see Cast. Quinto's portrayal of Thredson earned him a Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie.
- Oliver Thredson has been absent in only one episode throughout the season, the premiere, "Welcome to Briarcliff".
- Commentary: Jensen, Jeff (2012-11-15). Zachary Quinto on this week's shocker and 'the most brutal, unsettling, affecting stuff I've ever done' (en). Inside TV.
- To Sister Jude: "I realize you're likely unfamiliar with the work of B.F. Skinner but positive reinforcement is proven to be far more effective. In lay terms, Sister, a little compassion would go a long way."
- To Sister Jude: "You have quite a suspicious mind, Sister, bordering on the delusional. Or maybe it’s just a form of projection; a defense to protect your own guilty conscience."
- To Lana Winters: "Don't worry, she won't bite. I took her teeth."
- To Lana Winters: "Baby needs colostrum."
- To Lana Winters: "Now that you're here, all of that work is behind me, Mommy."
- To Lana Winters: "Nutmeg makes all the difference in the world."
- To Lana Winters: "Living with secrets is not healthy."
- To Lana Winters: "I hardly think so, Lana. I'm clearly insane! I'll be institutionalized. At the very worst, I'll live a long life in prison. Maybe I'll even start some therapy groups. God knows, there are some disturbed individuals behind bars."
- See also: Oliver Thredson/Media