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American Horror Story Review: Stumped!

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Halloween came to Briaricliff Manor on American Horror Story this week and the result was... a relatively calm episode of the FX thriller.

No, really. By comparison, "Nor'easter" was a tame hour of television, spending far more time delving into the background of various characters than attempting to frighten those watching these individuals in action.

The Patients Break Out

We learned just how badly scarred Sister Jude is by the death of that little girl 15 years ago, as she was driven to drinking once again by a mysterious phone call and the front page of a 1949 newspaper.

How did either of those occur? We have no idea at the moment, of course, but I've enjoyed the Asylum chapter of this story so far specifically because that kind of question doesn't matter to me at the moment. I'm far less concerned with the how than with the who. And these unexplained happenings shed a great deal of light one seriously warped nun.

I maintained last week that Jude really does want what's best for the inmates, and I feel the same way now, but she clearly wants it for selfish purposes. She believes it's her only path to salvation.

Then there's Dr. Arden and... yeah. He's way past the point of any salvation. What is he doing with those creatures? What was he rambling on about in terms of being followed and spied on? We aren't meant to have any clue just yet.

But we do now have a much clearer idea of his motivations, which are inspired by a damaged piece of equipment. And, no, I'm not referring to anything on his experimental operating table. The physician feels emasculated and over-compensates (correction: WAY, WAY over-compensates) by demonstrating his power in other areas. It's seriously disturbing, the scenes with him and women this season, as well as the final shot of those amputated stumps.

Which brings me to my overall feelings on American Horror Story: Asylum and how torn I am three episodes in. I'm fully on board for how well grounded it seems, how much better I know the characters than last year, how events go far beyond random ghosts going bump in the night and simply feel more... real.

But along with that realism comes a feeling of legitimate displeasure. This isn't a fun show to watch. It's intriguing and it's unusual and it's suspenseful, but enjoyable? Pleasureful? Far from it. I recoil often, especially when it comes to the beatings and the abuse.

Sister Mary being seemingly possessed by Satan? Eh, whatever. That just feels fake, nothing I actually think happens in real life. But an insecure man taking out his sexual frustrations on defenseless females? We all know that is far too common.

Is this a good thing? Does it simply prove the series is having its desired effect on me? I don't know. I really don't.

What about you, TV Fanatics? Are you finding the Asylum far more disturbing than the haunted house? Sound off now: Which season do you prefer?

 

Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0 (70 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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What's with them using the same actors from last season? If they were going to use a totally different story line, then they should have used a totally different cast. I prefer season 1 to this season.

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Can this show get any more BORING this season?? The Anne Frank episode was a nightmare, I couldn't even stop YAWNING!!!! In a million years I never thought I would yawn through an episode of AHS. Last season was a revelation, this season is just pathetic. Whatever (or whoever) decided to mess up this sure thing needs to be sent far far away because they have managed to destroy a perfect thing! I seriously hope it doesnt continue this way because if so, I have no intentions of staying on this boring, slow sinking ship. Seriously, stop trying so damn hard and get back to the real basics: horror!

Richard3

@Aleitheia: "Also, the theme is supposed to be “sanity� but haven’t seen anything mind-bending yet relating to doubting one’s sanity." I was just saying this the other day. It doesn't seem like anyone in the asylum is actually "insane". The best we've gotten is that mentally handicapped girl. Maybe that's the point? That back in the day people who were outside the norm (read: gay, etc) were locked up as insane even though they weren't? Plus there is the whole "inmates running the asylum" idea they're going with...the people in power are worse than the patients. Still, there has definitely been an emphasis on supernatural elements affecting sanity instead of actual plain old insanity.

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UGH I feel like so far, AHS Season 2 isn’t lighting the spark that Season 1 did for me that got me hooked on the show. I feel like they’re including way too much gore “just for the sake of gore� and it’s becoming more like the new “Silent Hill� movie or “Saw� than anything else. This season is also turning out to me much more gory than Season 1. Also, the theme is supposed to be “sanity� but haven’t seen anything mind-bending yet relating to doubting one’s sanity. Also WTF was with Shelley losing her legs? (And having them show it? *gag*) Dr. Arden could have just severed her Achilles tendons with the same effect, without all the gore. Also, doesn’t he need more meat for the monsters? If so, why didn’t he outright just kill Shelley? (Cutting off a leg is most likely to cause death from blood loss from the femoral artery, as compared severing one’s Achilles tendons.)

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I'm hooked but... there's too much, really too much. In the first season there was a kind of inner continuity and constant - the house of ghosts, and all gravitated around the house of ghosts. Now we have aliens, and alien technology, and zombies in the woods, and nazist doctors and nun possessed and leatherface lookalikes and kids emulating leatherface lookalikes in present days... I'm hooked but not fascinated and enthralled like last yerar

Richard3

I'm enjoying this season more than the 1st, mostly because I find the directing and pacing better. I also think it is more "character oriented" vs the ghost of the week stuff. I do agree with @Flatin that I think I'd have preferred they stuck with real madness. I could even deal with the mad scientist / "zombies". The aliens and demon are a bit over the top. I'm still enjoying the show, I've just adjusted my expectations...as in I don't expect all of this to pull together into any sort of cohesive whole. (unless we get aliens vs demon vs zombie...which would be crazy!!)

Ilkvomit

@Micheele Killed it with the DISH bullshit

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Season 2

Aries93

Aliens, possessed by demons and what looks like zombies in the woods? Though I'm not ignorant to what DID go on back in the 60's in Asylum's, I highly doubt THAT happened in the 60's.
I am enjoying this season, but I feel as though Ryan Murphy has taken fiction a little too far this season. Nevertheless, I'm still interested in what appears to be Anne Frank next week. Haha.

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I agree! This season is a bit much and over the top but I'm not complaining. It's entertaining to watch and keeps me on the edge of my seat because you don't know what's to come next!

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