Thursday, October 18, 2012

American Horror Story: Asylum (episode review)

The second season--and new story arc--of American Horror Story launched on FX last night, and the series got off to a terrific start with the mauling of Adam Levine (if only that meant I wouldn't have to hear Maroon 5 on the radio anymore).  Seriously, though, it was great to see that the show will be utilizing a fractured chronology once again.  Whereas last year the technique involved brief yet poignant flashbacks from the present day, Asylum promises to be set predominantly in the mid-1960's, with periodic flash forwards to the 21st Century.

In both its modern-day dereliction and its 60's height-of-operation state, the titular sanitarium for the criminally insane (Briarcliff, in western Massachusetts) furnishes a wonderfully creepy central setting.  The hulking Gothic edifice carries echoes of Ashecliffe in Shutter Island, right down to the plot point of illicit experiments conducted inside by possibly ex-Nazi doctors.  Shades, as well, of the film Silence of the Lambs, particularly in a scene where a Briarcliff inmate mimics jizz-flinging Miggs.  Throw in secret tunnels and trap-door chutes, and Briarcliff stands to provide plenty of chilling surprises.

Least surprising of all after watching last night is the fact that Jessica Lange is going to absolutely flourish in her new role.  This time out, she plays Sister Jude, a cane-cracking, autocratic nun and closet sexpot who lusts after her priestly superior.  The scene where Sister Jude bullies a schoolteacher (by threatening to expose her lesbianism to the community) into committing her lover to Briarcliff perfectly demonstrated the menace and malice that Lange' character exudes.  And her New England accent adds extra flair to her sinister and sarcastic remarks.  Simply put, another Emmy nod for Lange appears imminent.

With aliens, mad scientists, woodland mutants, and a Leatherface-esque killer all in the eclectic mix, AHS's storyline figures to be a complex one.  It will be interesting to see if, and how, the threads all tie together.  I know I'll be tuning in every Wednesday night over the next few months to find out, because after one eerie episode, Asylum already has me locked in. 


Santeesa said...

I totally understand about being sucked in by this show. There are so many creepy elements and facets of the story yet to be revealed that I don’t want to miss anything. That’s why I’ve got my Hopper timer set to record each new episode this season. I think that Jessica Lange’s character was written just for her. She effortlessly slips into that overpowering, command all Sister Jude. It is amazingly convincing and she lands every line in a way that makes you afraid to challenge her. This is the reason why she won an award for her amazing acting. My DISH co-worker was really excited to see Evan Peters in the show and she was really surprised that he wasn’t a bad guy this time. Well, in my opinion, he can’t be the crazy guy in the rubber suit all the time.

Joe Nazare said...

Well said, Santeesa. And you're right: it's cool to see Evan Peters playing a protagonist figure this time around.