American Horror Story Season 2 Lives Up to Lofty Standards

American Horror Story

American Horror Story

Jamie Ferguson

American Horror Story Season 2 Lives Up to Lofty Standards.

It is not often that one leaves a horror movie completely fulfilled. There is always something the film should have added, a resolution never fully explained, and a character introduced too late to fully develop. For horror movie fans, this is perhaps the most frustrating part of watching a film. Like reading a book with only a few pages left, viewers soon learn that there is just not enough time for everything to happen that needs to happen. Thankfully, FX’s American Horror Story provides a solution for the age-old problem.

American Horror Story is an anthology miniseries, which means that each 12-episode season stands on its own as, more or less, a long horror movie. As described by creator Ryan Murphy, the season is structured around a “beginning, middle, and end.” Premiering last October, the first season generated quite a buzz with its eerie and often controversial story of the Harmon family. After a stillborn child and the father’s affair with a student, the Harmons move to Los Angeles in hopes of rebuilding their broken family. Despite learning the fate of the last family who lived there (an apparent murder-suicide), the Harmons still agree to buy the beautiful restored mansion. The catch? The house, dubbed by sightseeing tours as the “Murder House,” is haunted by its former inhabitants. What the audience soon learns is that everyone who has ever lived in the house was murdered, and anyone who dies on the grounds is left to haunt the mansion forever.

A departure from the first season, season two of the show is called American Horror Story: Asylum, appropriately titled due to its location at the fictional Briarcliff Institute in 1964. Though the plot completely differs from the previous season, viewers of season one will recognize a handful of cast members who return as  new characters. Evan Peters, known for his role as the charismatic psychopath Tate Langdon, plays Kit Walker, a young man accused of being the serial killer known as “Bloody Face.” Jessica Lange, widely praised in her role as Constance Langdon, plays Sister Jude, a coldhearted nun who runs the titular asylum. Zachary Quinto, Lily Rabe, and Sarah Paulson all played small parts in season one, and they return as starring roles in Asylum. This season, Quinto returns as Oliver Thredson, a doctor who disagrees with the methods used at Briarcliff and whose ideas cause tension between him and Sister Jude. Lily Rabe plays Sister Mary Eunice, a young, pretty nun who soon becomes possessed by a demon after witnessing an exorcism. Paulson takes the role of Lana Winters, a reporter who is committed to the asylum due to her homosexuality. The season also introduces fresh faces to the show, and James Cromwell’s character Doctor Arden and  Lizzie Brocheré’s Grace are just a few of the new actors to the series this season

Asylum centers around multiple plot lines in order to keep the show interesting, and this is one of the show’s best decisions because if, for example, a viewer gets bored of one storyline, he or she does not have to suffer through it for too long. The stories of Leo and Teresa, a modern day couple, in addition to characters such as Lana, Kit, and the asylum’s staff, keep the show interesting for the entire 60 minute episode. And unlike many current shows, each storyline develops over multiple episodes, all while wrapping things up before they get too stale. Additionally, the multitude of characters has something for everyone, though they are significantly less likable than those of the previous season.

American Horror Story quickly established itself as a show not widely received by the faint of heart. Gay characters, sex scenes, school shootings, and self-harm victims are only a few of the controversial elements that shocked viewers in the first season. These horrors are only heightened by the return of season two, as rape, abuse, anti-Semitism, exorcisms, and blasphemy are all introduced within the first few episodes. Despite the show’s definite shock value, it is all introduced skillfully and purposefully, as the show succeeds at creating three-dimensional characters that are adored and abhorred by viewers, but for all the right reasons. Unlike many modern horror films, the show focuses on terror rather than gore, though there is by no means a lack of gory scenes throughout both seasons. Because of this, the show succeeds at creating a spooky mood that lingers after each episode concludes, all while showing just enough blood to keep things interesting.

For viewers of both seasons, season two currently lacks the attachment to main characters that was established almost immediately in the first season. The charming Tate and the self-destructive Violet Harmon became a couple widely received by viewers, and season two lacks a couple that the audience can vote for. Similarly, Tate’s likable personality and charisma soon made him one of the most popular characters on the show despite his dark and even murderous tendencies. In season two, the evil characters are simply evil, and there are few characters that the audience can root for. For example, though Kit Walker is the writer’s attempt at Evan Peters’ former role as Tate, Kit lacks the blend of tenderness and insanity that made viewers fall in love with Tate. Similarly, Lana Winters, though pitied by audiences, is a boring and one dimensional character for the majority of the show.

In contrast, season one’s often cliché but still successful haunted house storyline is inferior to season two’s asylum plot, as the first season’s theme of ghosts and infidelity grew stale towards the end of the season. However, the second season provides a thrilling new storyline heightened by the eerie setting of the asylum.

Despite being a stark change from season one, as a whole, the second season goes above and beyond the expectations most viewers had for the new season. With its complex characters, haunting setting, trademark spine-tingling scares, and a fresh new storyline, Asylum proves that the horror genre is not quite dead.