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?

Nor'easter Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0 (72 Votes)

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

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