American Horror Story Asylum: Welcome to Briarcliff

Finally, American Horror Story has returned.  Asylum, premiered on October 17 with quite a spectacle.  The follow-up season deviates from the original and has a new approach in the way that a series runs.  The show is completely different as it takes place in the past and on the other side of the country, with all new characters but much of the Season One cast is returning in new roles.  I was fascinated with this concept and couldn’t wait to see how it would work.  Before I get into the meat of the episode below, I will just say that I am disappointed with the first episode.  Maybe it’s because of the fact that it is in an Asylum and seemingly sticks to the abuse and torture of an Asylum in the 1960’s or maybe it is because they seemed to force way too much into it to start.  Continue to read below for an overview.

Asylum takes place on the east coast at a mental institution in 1964, mostly.  The opening sequence is set in the present with a morbid couple honeymooning throughout the US, visiting and screwing in the 12 most haunted places in the country.  While exploring the asylum, they encounter some of the former residents and the husband ends up having his arm torn off.  The wife soon discovers that they are trapped and that something is stalking them. Throughout the episode, it flashes to and from the couple while telling the story of the asylum’s main characters.

1964.  The first flash to the past introduces us to Kit Walker, (played by Evans Peters who was Tate in Season 1) a gas station attendant who is secretly married to Alma, a black woman; a taboo at this time in history. Returning home after work to his wife, Kit experiences a horrific event.  A strange light bores down from the sky and a loud noise busts out all the windows in the house.  Then a mysterious force pulls everything in the house to the ceiling.  The next scene shows Kit in a brightly lit room being fiddled with by…aliens?  I didn’t read anything about this season other than the basic premise and the casting notes, so I wasn’t expecting this twist.  And I’m really not sure what to think.  Shortly after this, we see Kit being taken to the Asylum in shackles for a psychiatric evaluation after being accused of skinning and killing 3 women including his wife.  He has been dubbed ‘Bloody Face’ and is now at the mercy of Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) and Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell). Another weird thing happens when Arden is experimenting on Kit, he finds a microchip in his neck which when extracted, sprouts legs and runs away????

Another returning actress is Sarah Paulson who played a psychic in Season 1, and is now Lana Winters; a reporter trying to get the scoop on Bloody Face.  She is a lesbian in love with a school teacher, played by Clea DuVall, and must keep their relationship a secret.  Again, a stigma of the era.  In an attempt to speak with Bloody Face, Lana enters the asylum at night after finding the somewhat slow minded Sister Mary Eunice (played by season 1 actress Lily Rabe) in the woods feeding something…Lana gets into the asylum and is caught by Sister Jude.  Jude blackmails Lana’s lover into admitting her into the asylum. Doom, doom, doomdy doom.

So that’s a quick overview of the first episode.  And I mean quick and by no means complete.  There was a lot packed into this first episode, almost too much I think, in an attempt to start the season with as much weirdness as possible.  I think it would have been better to stagger some elements and develop others.  And the thing with the aliens, I just don’t know what to think.

This was the first episode and while I’m a little disappointed, I am looking forward to seeing how it will develop and seeing what other types of spooks are to come. My high hopes are dashed but perhaps now that my expectations are lowered, I will get back into it. It was just one episode and perhaps I should watch it again to give it another chance. The cast is stellar and features the above mentioned as well as Zachary Quinto, Joseph Fiennes, Chloe Sevigny and the recently announced return of Dylan McDermott.

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