American Horror Story: Asylum – Season Premiere
FX’s scaretacular serial drama/mini-series/whateveryouwannacallit (if the Academy refused to hand down a ruling on what exactly this show is I’m going to forego labels as well) premiered its second installment on Wednesday, injecting a little bit of well timed Halloween spirit into the cable lineup.
The sophomore series trades season one’s creepy “Murder House” storyline for an all new haunted adventure set against the, at risk of being premature (but not really), WAY more terrifying backdrop of Briarcliff Manor, a psych ward that makes Shutter Island look like a great place to take the wife and kids for spring break. If you passed on the first go around, this is the perfect time to pick things up since the new story requires no previous AHS experience. That said, fans of the original have nothing to fear (see what I did there) as the show’s trademark voyeuristic aesthetic, creepy violin score and a handful of familiar faces are all back for round two.
Here’s what you missed:
Kick things off in the present with Leo (Adam Levine) and Teresa (Jenna Dewan), newlyweds with a serious hard on for getting freaky in haunted places. They break into Briarcliff as part of their honeymoon plans to tour the twelve most haunted spots in the country, re-consummating their marriage in each one (which, by the way, is something that normal people who aren’t trying to find themselves pinned to their significant others with a serial-killer-who-just-won’t-stay-dead’s (insert sharp object here) do… like all the time.)
Before long, the duo stumbles upon some restraints and things start to get hot and heavy when a noise distracts Teresa and she, in typical “about to get stabbed” fashion, just has to find out what’s behind that big, locked, metal door. She hits Leo with a kryptonite-esque offer and he agrees to put his arm through the door’s metal flap to take a video with her phone. All I’ll say about what happens next is that from now on, it’s going to be way harder for Levine to work that spinning chair of his, unless he learns how to hit a button with his left hand…
After the kick-ass new main titles, we hop back in time to 1964. Gas station attendant, Kit Walker (Evan Peters), closes up shop and after setting some good-for-nothing sort-of friends straight, heads home to his beautiful black wife Alma (Britne Oldford) who he was forced to marry in secret due to the unkind socio-political climate of the era. After some passionate love making, a bright light, which Kit assumes is his good-for-nothing sort-of friends being a pain in the ass, prompts him to load up his shotgun and head outside. He finds way more bright lights and some questionable shaking and rushes back to the house when he hears Alma cry out for help.
Once inside, he can’t find her, but possibly of greater concern is the fact that his living room furniture is floating towards the ceiling and, here’s the kicker, so is he. We get a few fleeting shots of Kit in a blindingly white examination chamber and an even quicker shot of what might be an alien finger reaching towards him before.
Cut to Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) pulling up to the Briarcliff gates. She’s allegedly there to do a story on the asylum’s famous bakery, but once Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) leads her to Sister Jude’s (Jessica Lange) office (where the beneficent nun in charge of Briarcliff is shaving a nymphomaniac named Shelley’s (Chloe Sevigny) head as punishment for some sort of sexual transgression) her line of questioning betrays an interest in a Serial Killer nicknamed Bloody Face and an offended Sister Jude kills the interview.
A prolific killer of women, Bloody Face earned his moniker by wearing a mask made out of human skin, so naturally he’s headed to Briarcliff that very afternoon. As he arrives we come to realize that this demonic killer is none other than the charming gas station attendant (who may or may not have had a recent close encounter) Kit Walker… But how could that be? He seemed like such a nice guy!
Walker doesn’t buy himself as a serial killer either and, from the restraints of a reclining examination chair that welcomes all new Briarcliff residents, protests his innocence to a stoic Sister Jude. She immediately shoots down his “little green men” excuse and proceeds to break out her wonderful cabinet de corporal punishment, exposing a heinous collection of canes, whips and other stuff that would come in handy in an S+M dungeon. Kit gets a solid lashing and is sent to meet with the other residents.
Unfortunately, Kit, who, despite the accusations levied against him, seems pretty well put together, doesn’t really fit in with the carnival of crazies in the asylum rec. room. Before long, he gets in an altercation with hot-headed Spivey (Mark Consuelos) and winds up in solitary confinement.
There he gets a visit from Grace (Lizzie Brochere), the most normal person we’ve encountered so far. She delivers his evening meal and confesses to getting her one-way ticket to Briarcliff for chopping her family into tiny pieces. Like Kit, however, she claims to be wrongfully accused.
We jump back to Sister Jude who’s mad as hell and unleashes her fury on Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell). Unlike the rest of Briarcliff though, Arden dishes it back and the religious zealot and questionably mad scientist duke it out over the deaths of a series of inmates, none of whom had any family outside of Briarcliff. Arden protests that people get sick and die every day, but cutaways to some indistinguishable gore reveal that just because he’s standing up the good Sister doesn’t mean he isn’t hiding some demented secrets of his own.
Lana Winters then gets a little more back story as she discusses the frustrations of being a talented female writer relegated to writing the local cooking column with her live in girlfriend, Wendy (Clea Duvall), a local teacher. Follow that up with a very interesting scene that cuts back and forth between Sister Jude showing off her Cordon Bleu grade cooking skills and engaging in a bizarre ecclesiastically orgasmic prayer in nothing but her habit and a red negligee.
She then dines with the Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes), Briarcliff’s head honcho, and expresses her concerns regarding Dr. Arden’s activities. The Monsignor quiets her discontent with an infectious yarn about the two of them one day running the New York Diocese as Cardinal and Mother Superior. His sexual influence over Jude is illustrated with a brief fantasy sequence (shedding some light on Miss Orgasmoprayer) and it’s pretty clear that the Monsignor, far from a savory character, is more than willing to exploit that hold for personal gain.
While they finish dinner, Sister Mary heads out in to the grounds with buckets of god-knows-what to feed god-knows-what on Arden’s orders. And she would’ve gotten away with it to if Winters hadn’t show up in pesky reporter mode. Winters, aware that she’s caught Sister Mary doing something under the radar, takes her chance and blackmails the nun for a look around the asylum at night. Back inside, Arden drags a delirious Kit out of solitary.
It’s time to check back up on Leo and Teresa in the present where Teresa quickly realizes that trying drag her armless, bleeding husband to safety isn’t very productive. She runs down the stairs to get help and finds the entrance locked. Desperate for a way out she finds an underground tunnel and sprints down it.
A nifty match dissolve sends us back to the 1964 where Sister Mary leads Lana Winters into the Asylum through the same tunnel. Winters, a kid in a whacked out candy store, pesters Sister Mary for Bloody Face’s whereabouts.
Meanwhile, Bloody Face himself is restrained on Dr. Arden’s table, and after he delivers the chilling line “I hope you don’t mind if I don’t use anesthetic” we get the impression that this is the last place anyone would want to be. Kit is plagued by some abduction flashbacks, clearing up any doubt that aliens are a part of this season’s story, and Arden pokes around with his scalpel, uncovering a mysterious computer chip in Walker’s neck. Once he pulls it out, the chip sprouts legs and runs away.
Winters makes it over to solitary, but puts her face up against the wrong door in hopes of getting a word with Kit. A mangled hand grabs her head and before long she’s in restraints with Sister Jude welcoming her to Briarcliff. When Winters claims that Sister Jude will never get away with it, a flashback shows the Nun threatening Wendy – Winters’ lover – with exposing their homosexual relationship and stirring up a scandal if she doesn’t sign papers committing Lana to the asylum.
The episode rounds out in the present with Teresa running down the same tunnel. She’s almost out when a Leatherface type monster pops out of the shadows and we end on a cliffhanger.
If this episode was any indication of what American Horror Story Asylum is going to be like, then we’re in for a great 13 episodes folks. There’s loads of potential here, so don’t miss out on the craziest show on television.