As a horror film fanatic, I was ecstatic a year ago when I first learned of a cable television series that would fit into this genre. Still, I had my doubts. The realm of horror is watered down by flicks filled with cheap scares, terrible acting and generic, unexciting plots. Bringing a show in this genre to cable television where viewers expect award-winning acting and intricate, interesting plots, seemed destined for cancellation midway through the first season.
Not to mention that the creators, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck, also created “Glee” -- perhaps the furthest thing imaginable from horror. If successful, this risky venture would be bound for hash tags on Twitter every night it aired. There has certainly never been a show like this in the history of cable television.
Yet there is good reason that horror has stayed off of the small screen. It's not a very well-respected genre amongst critics and viewers alike. And for many non-horror fanatics, it's not a very appealing genre in the first place.
But against all odds, the first season of “American Horror Story” delivered in all aspects. The scares were certainly there, and so was the plot. The acting, headlined by Jessica Lange, was excellent. The cinematography was also outstanding (although not quite “Breaking Bad” outstanding). But don’t just take my word for it; its 17 Emmy nominations tied “Mad Men” for the most of any television show. Needless to say, I could not wait for the second season to debut.
After watching the premiere of “American Horror Story: Asylum,” I have to say my mind was blown. The second season of FX’s hit series is centered on an insane asylum called Briarcliff Manor and fittingly explores the concept of sanity. Like last year’s pilot episode, the season two premiere presents a lot of questions that will hopefully be answered as the season progresses. For now, there are five questions in particular that I am itching to see resolved.
1. Aliens?! Seriously, aliens?
I honestly would have never guessed that little green men would be a factor this season. I guess the writers want to incorporate as many sub-genres as possible (monsters, aliens, next week an exorcism…what’s not to love!) I’m extremely curious to see how this storyline develops. It appears now that Kit Walker, aka “bloody face,” is a far cry from the serial killer he is accused of being. Let’s examine the evidence: From what we know, it seems that Kit and his wife were indeed abducted by aliens.
Early in the episode, Kit is blinded by a bright light while a deafening screech renders him unable to help his screaming wife. He is then lifted to the ceiling before the scene ends. Later, while in the chair of the creepy Dr. Arden, we see flashbacks of him in what appears to be a similar chair on a UFO of some sorts. Arden removes a strange chip from his neck, which promptly sprouts legs. It must have been placed there by the aliens. But before jumping to conclusions, we must remember that this season deals with sanity. Perhaps Kit is insane.
2. What is the connection between the present and 1964?
The episode begins with Leo (Adam Levine) and his girlfriend Teresa “sexploring” Briarcliff in the present day.
Leo has his arm ripped off by what appears to be the same monster created by Dr. Arden in 1964. Other than a few brief scenes, the entire plot occurs in 1964. Are these present-day events simply for effect and cheap scares? I seriously hope not, as that would digress toward the quality that can make horror incredibly cheesy. But because this show is plot-driven, I would guess that these scenes are significant in some way to the overall theme of the season.
3. How crazy is Dr. Arden and what on Earth is that monster he created?
Dr. Arden embodies the prototypical mad scientist. I mean, the dude has jars of human brains on his shelves.
His desire to find the neurological origin of mental illness would be completely fine…if he wasn’t absolutely insane. He is pretty much synonymous to the doctor from “Human Centipede.” Okay, maybe not quite as insane, although I think that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of the unimaginable things he has done. For starters, what is this “thing” he has created and how did he create it? What about the four missing patients that he claims died naturally? Were they test subjects who died and were fed to the monster by Sister Mary Eunice? I would take an educated guess and say that the monster that makes a cameo at the end of the episode (in the present) is the same creature from 1964. And let me say, with that face, I certainly would not want it as a pet.
4. How will the character of Sister Jude progress?
Played by Jessica Lange, who won an Emmy for her role as Candace last season, I thought for sure that Sister Jude would be the most evil character in the show. Yet after the first episode, it seems that Dr. Arden is the main antagonist. Yes, as the head of the asylum, Sister Jude is certainly twisted and sadistic, but even she is suspicious of the doctor’s doings.
Sister Jude claims to be pious and chaste, yet in one scene, we see her put on red lingerie as she imagines romanticizing with Monsignor Howard. Maybe this hints at future transgressions of the nun. Could Briarcliff drive the Sister insane herself? How ironic that would be.
5. How will the theme of sanity play out?
Last season was based around the theme of infidelity, as the Harmons met their demise through the indiscretions of both Ben and Vivien. This season, I’m curious to see how Briarcliff and its inhabitants will affect Kit and Lana, who appear sane on their initial admittance to the facility. It seems that Dr. Arden represents the benchmark of complete insanity, possessing an irrational view of reality while being an extreme danger to others. But will the asylum drive Sister Jude, the aforementioned Kit and Lana, and others, to a similar mental state?
Stay tuned and hold onto your seats; it’s going to be an insane ride!