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[Editorial] A Look Back At “American Horror Story: Asylum”!

This year’s season of American Horror Story has finally arrived at an ending, and what a wild ride it’s been. Unlike season one, which often felt like it was being written by a deeply stupid child, American Horror Story: Asylum offered a more thought-out story with the added weight of minor themes and emotional resonance, as though it had been written by a deeply stupid teenager. It was a better show. Maybe a less accidentally entertaining show, but a better show all the same.

Now all we can do is shift through the bones of American Horror Story: Asylum and see what we turn up. Warning: None of this will make sense to those who have not seen the show, and only 30% will make sense to those who have.

Welcome to Briarcliff:

Right off the bat Asylum let us know we were back in American Horror Story land, a place where you don’t realize how insane events are until you hear yourself describing them to your dentist the next day. For instance, the big opening this time involved Maroon 5’s Adam Levine having his arm hacked off while receiving fellatio from one of Megan Fox’s clone army members. This show is a gift.

Almost immediately after this we’re thrown into tons of plots. Similar to the first season of American Horror Story, Asylum can’t be troubled to focus on just one horror type: It wants to host as many as possible. We get aliens, a mad scientist, obviously some institutional horror (electric shock therapy, yo!), a serial killer, as well as lots and lots of crazy religious gags running throughout.

But we also get social commentary to go with it. Wrongfully imprisoned reporter Lana is a lesbian. Kit and his doomed wife Alma live in a secret racially mixed marriage. Sister Jude must struggle against patriarchal rule. It’s all pretty heavy handed, but at least it’s there for more than mere titillation.

Tricks and Treats:

Things settled down significantly with episode two. Though this is where the show introduces one of its longest running stories, the possession of Sister Mary Eunice by either satan or some lesser imp or demon.

One of the bigger shocks offered by “Tricks and Treats” had nothing to do with American Horror Story‘s frequent dirty dances with bad taste, but rather the fact that the show intended to stick around this present tense story starring Adam Levine and his girlfriend. Granted, it featured Bloody Face, so it stands to reason the show would want us to learn why there’s a Bloody Face in our times when the show takes place in the 1960s, but it stills seems like an artificial extension of episode one’s shocking opening.

Let’s talk about Bloody Face, while we’re on the subject. Clearly meant to stand in for last year’s Rubber Man, the conceptually disappointing and uninspired Bloody Face doesn’t offer much to anyone who has never heard of or seen Texas Chain Saw Massacre. He’s a serial killer who wears a face made of human skin. That’s nothing compared to a ghost who inexplicably wears an S&M outfit and rapes people.

Nor’easter:

“Nor’easter” was another minor episode, but a much better minor episode than “Tricks and Treats.” The episode focuses largely around a massive storm and Sister Jude’s exhibition of Sign of the Cross, during which something like 100 patients escape, though the three we really care about all end up right back where they were.

This was the week we discovered how evil a character James Cromwell’s Dr. Arden would provide. First he tries to rape Shelly, then when she laughs at his little wiener, he cuts off her legs. On a show like this, it’s not impossible that we could eventually find ourselves with sympathies for the bullying Sister Jude. But this Dr. Arden guy is rotten to the core. Thank God. Without him we’d never have an insane asylum protected by a league of cannibal mutants. And then where would be as a species?

Sister Jude’s alcoholism makes a return a lot earlier than I remembered. This show moves through stories so quickly, it’s hard to remember how far back some of these plots went.

I Am Anne Frank, Pt. 1:

Here it is, the first really great episode of American Horror Story: Asylum, which is funny because it’s largely a digression. Franka Potente shows up at Briarcliff claiming to be Anne Frank. It seems pretty crazy but then she fingers Dr. Arden as a Nazi war criminal, and she’s actually right.

Meanwhile, in what is far and away my favorite scene of the season, Sylar attempts to un-gay Lana via a low grade Clockwork Orange that involves tons of vomit, sexy pinup girls, and one hot male inmate’s “tumescence.”

We’re not really swimming in plot here, but “I Am Anne Frank, Pt. 1” does inspire viewers to throw up their hands and cry: “I have no idea what’s going on but I love it,” which is the only reason to watch this horribly awesome show.

I Am Anne Frank, Pt. 2:

This is why I love American Horror Story, whether or not the mystery regarding Who Is Bloody Face? intrigues us hardly matters because, love it or not, they’re going to wrap it all up with remarkable haste. Spock was Bloody Face. There. Now we don’t have to worry about that anymore. Still don’t know about the damn aliens, though.

Poor poor Shelley. Legless and covered with syphilitic tumors, somehow Shelly ends up in an elementary schoolyard, poised and ready to ruin a good handful of childhoods.

We also had Grace’s alien abduction and impregnation, which would be the centerpiece of any other show, yet feels like an afterthought on this one.

The Origins of Monstrosity:

So many origins! Bloody Face, Doctor Arden, Sister Mary Eunice, even some dumb little girl who shows up here and never matters again. This was an episode filled with dramatic monologues I can barely remember because I was complaining about it on Twitter at the time.

The only great thing to come out of this episode is Monsignor Timothy Howard’s magic rosary beads, which have both strangulation uses and a fast whipping action against enemies.

Dark Cousin:

As if there wasn’t enough going on, the Angel of Death shows up this week. Apparently, this is how death works on American Horror Story: If you’re about to die, an old lady will approach you and ask if you’re ready to die. If you say no, you get to live. Hypothetically, one could gain immortality merely be repeatedly denying her. If you say yes, she has a wing erection and kisses you, thus shuffling you off this mortal coil.

The best part about this is if you’re feeling suicidal, you can just call her up, as Sister Jude does over and over again. She never fails to appear when called, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to accept her kiss. You can change your mind at anytime. In other words, it must really suck to be the Angel of Death.

Speaking of Sister Jude, this is where we find that the little girl she ran over in a drunken stupor didn’t actually die. Which means this whole plot line can finally matter to the show as little as it matters to us.

As far as crazy stuff that seems normal yet sounds really strange when you tell your mom about the show later goes: Kit stabs a cannibal mutant with a massive dough hook. Its guts spill out all over the place. I shouldn’t have to sell you on how awesome it was.

Unholy Night:

Another digressive episode! This one starring Ian McShane! Sounds like Christmas to me!

Ian McShane really screws things up this episode. In a good way, I mean. In an effort to assassinate Sister Jude in a manner most befitting a high ranking Batman villain, Sister Mary Eunice unleashes Briarcliff’s most Christmas-obsessed lunatic and locks both he and Sister Jude in a room together. Amazingly enough, the altercate ends with Jude kicking his ass.

As for everything else, this is where American Horror Story: Asylum starts running out of gas and feeling more like a fume-inspired dream where you just accept stuff that doesn’t make sense, such as Spock’s return to Briarcliff to nab Lana as if the massive events between them were not all that big a deal. She and Kit get the drop on him but fail to finish the job. Did that even just happen? Who knows? This is American Horror Story.

The Coat Hanger:

In a scene that truly baffles the mind, Lana stands over a tied up Skylar and threatens to kill his unborn child by jabbing a wire coat hanger into her vagina. She takes her undies off and everything. Bowlegged and ready, she means business. I love this show.

The Al Swearengen one-shot turns out to be more of a two-parter, as the crazy bastard manages to crucify Monsignor Timothy Howard. And… well that’s about it, really.

There is one more thing: Arden talks Kit into letting him almost die as a way to bait the aliens to show up, instead of doing that, it just brings back the pinhead girl who is now really smart thanks to the aliens (?) and a fully pregnant and living Grace. Jeez.

The Name Game:

Even if you don’t watch American Horror Story: Asylum, surely you heard about this episode’s big musical number, a perfect representation of why we all watch this show each week despite its being provably horrible by nearly every measurement we have for such things.

This big moment kind of overshadows the fact that this was actually the last episode of American Horror Story: Asylum as we know it. With both the beautiful death of Sister Mary Eunice and the inexplicable suicide of Dr. Arden, everything changed this week. After this point it’s all epilogue. Lots and lots and lots of epilogue.

Spilt Milk:

Lana FINALLY kills Threadson, and it fails to matter much. Kit and Grace get to leave Briarcliff, and it fails to matter much. Jude is still stuck in Briarcliff, and it fails to matter much. The only thing that matters to me is that great bit where Bloody Face Jr. drinks milk from his BBW prostitute, and I’m not 100% sure that was supposed to matter much.

Continuum:

American Horror Story‘s take on Sister Wives ends with one chopping the the other up with an axe. Jude is crazy, and Lana’s grown into a fame whore. Next!

Madness Ends:

I cried so much I died of dehydration.

In Summation:

I hate to fault a show for improving, but that’s the kind of backwards thinking American Horror Story inspires. This was a better show, and a less exciting one as a result. Furthermore, the idea of ending a show three episodes early and wallowing in epilogue for nearly a month is an idea that intrigues me so much that I want to forgive the attempt. But I can’t. Because it was boring.

Bring on the new craziness next year. Supposedly it will be a more romantic season that’s also a little lighter and funnier than Asylum was. That sounds awful. I can’t wait.



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