Stars: Zachary Quinto, Joseph Fiennes, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Evan Peters, Lizzie Brochere, James Cromwell, Jessica Lange, Chloe Sevigny, Adam Levine, Jenna Dewan Tatum, Clea DuVall
Writer:
Jennifer Salt, series created by Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk
Director:
Michael Uppendahl
Network:
FX, Wednesdays @ 10 PM
Original Airdate:
October 31, 2012

The first season of AMERICAN HORROR STORY was OK. It had a lot interesting elements, mostly trying to figure out who was a ghost and who wasn’t, and there were plenty of creepy moments and enough gore to entertain a lot of fans of the genre. The series also had a lot of domestic situations and dysfunctional relationships between husbands and wives, parents and kids, and just familial drama period. That was the big detraction for me about the series. I got tired of all of the he said/she said elements of the show and wanted more of the creepier elements.

Now with AMERICAN HORROR STORY ASYLUM, a new story has started with the bulk of it being set in the past, making this show not only horror, but period horror which gives it elements that you would have to think about in a modern setting. There are all kinds of older world views, lack of technology, and costume and set elements that add to the suspense of the setting; which is the Briarcliff Asylum. So far we have aliens, demonic possession, a mad scientist and his sub-human creations, and of course a serial killer that still is around in modern day. This gives us a much broader pallet to work from and lots more pathways to danger, death, and dismemberment; the new episode “Nor’easter” only gives us more glimpses of the horrors of this world.

I thought I was going to have issues with this being essentially an anthology series, where each season is a new story, and many of the cast from the previous season return, but as new characters. Honestly, when I’m watching ASYLUM, I don’t think about any of the prior characters that the actors portrayed in the first season (OK well maybe a little bit here and there but not much). The nice thing is this series is allowing the actors to play different characters for the same audience that watched them last year, and if done correctly it showcases the actors’ talents in a different light. Plus the addition of new fantastic actors like James Cromwell never hurts a show.

There isn’t any single actor in the show that I feel is stealing the spotlight away from the others, and this is a really solid ensemble cast. Jessica Lange as Sister Jude does a wonderful job playing the tormented ex-alcoholic, ex-prostitute converted nun. Lange always excels when there are multiple levels to a character for her to play, and many of them have to be expressed at the same time through Sister Jude’s fugues. Of course, I’m also enjoying the demonically possessed Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe). I can’t wait to see where she ends up by the final episode of this season.

All of the design elements of this show are exceptionally done. The sets and dressing are perfect and for once I’m pretty sure this is a show set in a decrepit old hospital that isn’t being shot in the Linda Vista Hospital. The costumes are bang on in period style, and I like the contrasts between the stark colorlessness of the world of Briarcliff and the more colorful look of people existing outside of the asylum in the everyday world. Plus there’s great use of color to denote people that are part of both worlds and are warring with themselves as to where they belong; like Sister Jude’s bright red undergarments a couple of episodes back.

Ultimately, this series will be about the mystery and unmasking of the seemingly unstoppable Bloody Face, and I figure the past will continue to parcel out clues to help us figure out the present scenario that starts each episode. All in all I think this second season is a much more solid and engaging show that the first time around. There’s certainly a lot more elements to hold my attention, and I’m watching eagerly to see what dark passage of the mind our characters will stumble down next.

Related:TV Review: AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM – Season 2 – “I Am Anne Frank – Part 1”

Related:TV Review: AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM – Season 2 – “Welcome to Briarcliff” – Season Premiere

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Article:TV Review: AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM – Season 2 – “Nor’easter”

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