American Horror Story: Asylum Review: “Welcome To Briarcliff” (Season 2, Episode 1)
It’s unnecessary to remind readers that American Horror Story was one of the most stunning breakout releases of last year. Not only was it unique in its execution, but it was also quite terrifying at times. This was the type of drama that managed to create new opportunities for the horror genre on TV, crafting a “psychosexual” experience that was different from anything else on air.
The announcement of a second season was met with both praise and worry. The Harmon’s story was completed, so where could the show possibly go from there? Ryan Murphy’s announcement that each season would be a localized experience, completely separate from the rest of the series, was a breath of fresh air. Here was an idea that could be taken in so many directions. Luckily, Murphy and company went with the most depraved and twisted route they could: an insane asylum.
Although characters and plots from the first season wouldn’t be returning, a few familiar faces would be rejoining the crowd, among them the angsty Evan Peters and the absolutely brilliant Jessica Lange. Zachary Quinto is also scheduled to make an appearance, but the season premiere doesn’t give away too many details just yet. In a similar fashion to the pilot episode of this excellent program, American Horror Story: Asylum rips open multiple storylines, and very few clues are given as to just what is happening. And of course, it’s all fantastic.
Opening with a couple exploring (and having sex in) an abandoned asylum, we see overly handsome/charismatic Leo (Adam Levine) get attacked by some shadowy creature. His wife runs away to find them some help, but encounters a terrifying villain named Bloody Face (we’ll get to him later). Before all of this, we’re transported back to the past, when the asylum was still functioning. The year is 1964, and the mystery of Briarwood asylum is just beginning. Kit Walker (Evan Peters), a gas station worker in a forbidden marriage with a young black woman, is assaulted by bright lights, creatures eerily similar to aliens and an anti-gravity effect. He’s hauled off to Briarwood after his wife is discovered to be missing, presumably at his hand.
Kit’s not the only unlucky stranger to get committed to the asylum, however. Muckraking reporter Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) stumbles upon quite a few oddities in Briarwood. Her initial interviews with Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) hint at more sinister goings-on within these derelict walls. Lana also has a short lived encounter with some sort of beast that is being kept in the woods surrounding the asylum, living off a healthy diet of buckets full of bloody body parts. After a night of trespassing in Briarwood, Lana is captured and insitutionalized by Sister Jude, claiming that Lana’s homosexuality is enough reason to keep her there.
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