Enough time since the finale of American Horror Story's second season, subtitled Asylum, has elapsed for me to rabble my thoughts together. Here goes.
As crazy ridiculous as the first season was, I have to again praise Ryan Murphy and company for outdoing themselves here. As I said before about not envying anyone subsequently attempting a haunted house story following the first season, this now also applies to the canon of the insane asylum. This season, rather than being tied down to just ghosts inside a suburban home, saw all manner of antagonists, including serial killers, Nazi scientists, genetic mutants, angels, demons, and even aliens. I find it incredible that a show that consistently stays cranked at eleven still manages to maintain a (somewhat) coherent narrative. Though in regards to Ryan Murphy’s other allegiances, I do have to commend his restraint for waiting until ten episodes into the second stanza to inject a musical number.
What I find deliciously unique about American Horror Story is how they recast certain actors as new and unrelated characters from season to season. Jessica Lange, Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson all returned for Asylum, in roles with large sweeping arcs. However, these were but three that inhabited this amazing season, which also included the likes of James Cromwell, Zachary Quinto and Lily Rabe as Sister Mary Eunice.
Perhaps most astonishing about American Horror Story is, unlike other genre shows on television, it never seems to wane. It maintains its primary arc as well as throwing in these awesome side plots, like Ian McShane’s turn as a killer Santa. I also hope that the show continues to feature a random appearances by historical figures. This season, to echo Mena Suvari’s cameo as Elizabeth Short (aka The Black Dahlia) last year, Asylum brought in the criminally underused Franka Potente as Anne Frank (yes, that Anne Frank).
Although there are a lot of similarities in aesthetic between the two seasons, I found Asylum to be of a considerably darker pedigree. The absurd comedic beats sprinkled into the first season are almost completely replaced here with a jet black sensibility. I’m not saying this show doesn’t go over-the-top, just that my reaction to said occasions was not guffawing laughter. There are images involving supporting characters (namely the ones portrayed by Chloe Sevigny and Clea Duvall) that will not leave my consciousness for a very long time.
|Sarah Paulson (left) as Lana Winters & Franka Potente as Anne Frank.|
Though some of the major storylines were wrapped up rather quickly toward the end of the show, I have to say I adored the Six Feet Under-style flash forwards of the finale that showed where every character ended up.
Asylum was a resounding success, so it is no surprise that a third season has already been announced. The rumoured “Salem” storyline has me a little concerned, as the connotation of limiting itself to witchcraft seems like a step back to me. True Blood lost me during its “Season of the Witch”, so hopefully Salem does not. As of this post, Lily Rabe & Frances Conroy are already onboard to return, so that’s a good start at least.