by Willie Clark
If you aren't a rabid follower of all things "American Horror Story," the premiere of Season 2 may have left you a little confused. Any questions you still had burning from Season 1? Well, you're going to have to live with them, as for better or for worse, S2 is a fresh start for the series.
It's an interesting approach -- resetting the cast and setting each year -- and throughout the course of the season we will see how well it pays off for the show. Can a series completely reinvent itself and tell only season-long arcs? Can the actors and actresses be versatile enough to play completely different people? It's a bold experiment for the show, but if there's one thing "American Horror Story" is, it's bold.
The show kicked off in what can only be assumed is "current" time, with a newlywed couple, Leo (Adam Levine, yes, that guy from Maroon 5) and Teresa (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) on their honeymoon, touring the most haunted spots in America. It brought them to the run-down Briarcliff facility, an old mental institution, where the couple irreverently jokes and fucks around (and literally fucks) until, gasp!, Leo went putting his hand where it didn't belong and it got chopped right off. That'll teach you to go from music to acting.
The show then cut back to 1964, where it seems like most of the actual story is going to be taking place (which is an interesting decision, given that Season 1 stayed mostly in the present and had things in the past unravel via flashbacks), during the height of the asylum's power as run by the church and the iron first of Sister Jude (Jessica Lange). A starry-eyed, and lesbian, reporter, Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), began investigating the facility, feeling that something strange was going on, and after being attacked by some sort of beast (who knows at this point), she was committed by Sister Jude (forcibly, of course). Fan-favorite Evan Peters returns to the show as Kit Walker, who just got committed, and named Bloody Face for his apparent murdering and skinning of several women, including his African-American wife. Adorable as always.
Of course, Kit is convinced that the whole thing was the work of, what? Aliens. What I'm wagering is going to be the most controversial new inclusion is the very heavy alien encounter vibe, even to the point of some kind of chip removed from Kit's neck. I'm not sure how well it will fit into the mythos as a whole, but I'm a sucker for alien paranormal shenanigans, so I'm all for it at this point.
We also got introduced to Dr. Arden (James Cromwell), who is clearly up to no good and conducting questionable experiments of some kind or another on the patients, and Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe), who just can't seem to get anything right, but is feeding some mysterious forest monster somethings at the command of Arden. The show sure knows how to set up suspense and tease, that's for sure.
Where Season 1 worked best for me was as one giant metaphor and condemnation of modern culture. Sure, the show is over-the-top sexually, full of moments that will make you cringe and shudder, but the scariest parts were the inner demons tearing apart the Harmon family. One episode into Season 2 it appears that the themes have shifted. The sex is still there, more so then ever, but Sister Jude has a fierce religious and spiritual element thrown into the mix, and her confrontations with Dr. Arden are lining up the religion versus science debate already. And clearly what is real and what is imagined is going to play a huge part in everything, as we've already seen two patients committed for what could be innocent reasons, or at least for things we could not commit people for today.
The choice to include most of the events in the past, with only a little time spent with our newlywed (and newly three-armed) couple, seems like a disconnect from the spirit hauntings that, well, haunted the first season. It does allow the show to dive into the horror that is America's past, and the ending of the episode showed that events from the past, and Bloody Face, are still somehow around in the present. I'm a little worried that it's sticking to a formula and trying to hit some of the same notes -- Rubber Man has been replaced by Bloody Face, for example, and whatever was clawing its way around the room that was being cleaned at the end smells vaguely of early interactions with the infantata. But, setting the locations side-by-side, an asylum, and the human mind, are rich territories for the show to delve into, and have way more potential then a simple haunted house ever did. And the places that Season 1 went were hardly foreseeable from the get go. Season 2's kick off was a successful foray into new territory: it whet my appetite for what's to come, but it's going to take some time for the show to prove to me that theme can trump characters, plot, and location season after season.
What did you think of the premiere? Is Season 2 off to a good start so far? Let me know what you thought in the comments below.
Willie Clark is a giant scaredy cat, and if he can watch "American Horror Story" and still sleep at night, so can you. But, you can always cuddle up with him in the dark of the night on Twitter or Facebook.