“Just remember… if you look in the face of evil, evil’s gonna look right back at you,” Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) menacingly warned in the Jan. 23 season finale of “American Horror Story: Asylum.” In a show fixated on pushing the limits, creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk succeeded in leaving viewers uneasy even after the credits rolled.
For those of you unfamiliar with the structure of “American Horror Story,” each season enters a world entirely separate from the season previous: new characters, new setting and a new storyline. In Season 2, viewers are transported to Briarcliff, a morbidly inhumane insane asylum governed by the Catholic Church. Within Briarcliff, horror manifests itself in multiple forms—some of which include alien abductions, exorcisms, homicidal psychopaths and countless grotesquely mutilated patients.
The highly-anticipated second season of “American Horror Story” opened with a short flash-forward to modern-day Briarcliff, which has obviously met an unfortunate demise. Viewers soon discover the asylum has been placed on the map as one of America’s “most haunted” locations. A thrill-seeking couple on their honeymoon arrives on the scene (Adam Levine and Jenna Dewan-Tatum) and, as any horror junkie knows, it does not take long for disaster to strike. The majority of the season, however, is set in the year 1964 and focuses on the horror Briarcliff once was, paling in comparison to the modern-day asylum.
Not but an episode in, viewers are already subjected to nightmares only a twisted imagination could dream. Kit Walker (Evan Peters), the show’s main protagonist, is wrongly admitted to the asylum after his wife is abducted by aliens and he is accused of being the infamous Bloody Face, a psychopathic killer of women. Quickly following Kit’s misfortune, Lana Winters (Sara Paulson), a journalist determined to uncover the story of the century, is also locked away in the dreary holding cells deep within the belly of the beast after an unpleasant encounter with the asylum’s head nun, Sister Jude. From here, the show continues to snowball, putting viewers through a marathon of murder, plot twists and mind-benders ultimately aimed at exploring Briarcliff’s inevitable demise.
The character development throughout the entire season was phenomenal and many of the actors and actresses gave wonderful performances. Lily Rabe, in particular, who played a once-innocent nun possessed by the devil, had several scenes in which she seamlessly acted out both extremes of her character with amazing gusto. Unfortunately, the finale came across as rushed and unsatisfying. Several characters met a less-than-rewarding fate. There were several subplots that felt unnecessary and were far from relevant to the development of the story. Murphy and Falchuk claim to have aimed at presenting a “happy ending” of sorts after tackling such a dark season, but the attempt at fairytale denouements fell flat. Even the long-awaited downfall of America’s most sinister asylum felt stale.
Regardless of the obvious season flaws, my fondness for “American Horror Story” remains. Several of the cast members have already agreed to return for Season 3, which is speculated to be a modern romance centered around an exceptionally evil villain. It is my hope that Murphy and Falchuk are able to break free from the pointless scare tactics used as space-wasters in “Asylum.”
Fear not, “American Horror Story” fans—just because the insanity no longer resides in Briarcliff, it does not mean it is nonexistent. For now, it lurks in the shadows, but I assure you it will return in full force this October.