So far, the whole new season, new story format that American Horror Story: Asylum has undertaken has proven to be successful. The Harmons are a thing of the past (or future, depending on how you look at it), and we’ve moved onto bigger and better horror stories. Last week’s introduction to Briarwood and its inhabitants, both insane and seriously insane, has proven that there is still plenty of energy and character left in the show to easily carry through what’s looking to be an insanely addictive season (pun intended).
The second episode gives us double time with Bloody Face, this time as he swiftly takes out Lana’s lover Wendy and continues to pursue the unfortunate couple from the present. Briarwood isn’t treating Lana kindly, as she’s put through intense shock treatment early on. As expected, the scene and its aftermath is filmed with the usual American Horror Story aplomb, and it’s absolutely twisted. With her memory shot, Lana relies on Grace to help her try and escape. Lana’s not quick to trust her, however, and she uses the information she has about the secret tunnel she discovered as leverage to keep Grace wrapped around her finger.
She’s also nowhere near warming up to Kit, who isn’t having an easier time in the asylum. After his meeting with Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto), he is deigned clinically insane, meaning that he’s not going anywhere soon. Dr. Thredson stumbles upon quite a few disturbing instances of mistreatment, and although Sister Jude tries to squelch his investigation, he worms his way into the asylum by taking on the case of a supposedly possessed farm boy. Medical science is discarded in place of an exorcism, which is uncontrollably wild and easily stands up to some of the best scenes from last season.
Sister Jude takes a stab at curing the boy, which leads to some interesting flashbacks hinting at her past. As a singer at a club, she spends her nights drinking and searching for a man to take her home. While driving home from the club, she hits and kills a little girl. Not much else is exposed past this, but it hints at much bigger secrets being hidden by the asylum’s chief saint.
As the possession becomes much worse, the power goes out in Briarwood, opening all of the patients’ doors and giving Grace and Lana their chance to escape. But when Kit makes an appearance and tries to escape with them, Lana screams for the guards, getting them all caught. She now rests firmly on the “hate” list of characters for this season. Perhaps she can somehow be more annoying and useless than Violet was? After the group is caught, the possessed boy dies, the power returns, and Sister Mary promptly faints.
Dr. Arden also has quite a few interesting moments in this episode, as he hears the story behind Shelly the nymphomaniac (Chloe Sevigny) and refuses her advances, something that the guards have been unable to do. Later on, he treats a prostitute to dinner before taking her to his room, where things get weird, American Horror Story style. After discovering a box filled with creepy, perverted pictures, the prostitute manages to escape.
Dr. Arden returns to the asylum to take care of Sister Mary after her fainting spell. She asks about the beasts in the woods, but she never receives an answer. Just what will happen if they miss one of their feedings? There are also more than a few hints that the demon has escaped into her body, which would be an interesting twist, and there’s always room for a little more exorcism in the series.
Lana is called to Sister Jude’s office, where she is forced to watch Kit and Grace be punished for their escape efforts. At the last moment, Kit takes the full rap for the escape, earning him 40 lashes and a quick ending to the episode. I’m guessing 40 solid smacks on the tush won’t make escape as easy next time.
Although the season premiere was a little shaky simply because it took us away from the familiarity of last season, Tricks and Treats was the perfectly disturbing episode that hints at what the rest of the season is going to be like. The performances were strong as expected, as Jessica Lange keeps Sister Jude the standout character to keep an eye on. Zachary Quinto’s return as Dr. Thredson is fantastic, as he plays the character with conviction. The bouts between the doctor and Sister Jude are some of the best moments of the episode, simply because of the talent both actors embody.
At only 45 minutes long, American Horror Story: Asylum has already provided an exorcism plot that was better than every film about exorcism released this year. The unrelenting energy and fearlessness of the show will prove necessary to carry the second season to completion, but everybody involved is more than up to the task. American Horror Story: Asylum is on track to meet the high standards created by the first season, if not completely surpass them.