thoughts on american horror story: welcome to briarcliff

We’ve heard for months now that American Horror Story and American Horror Story: Asylum are two related, yet separate entities, and whether or not this concept is a good one is definitely debatable. For my two cents, I think it’s a brilliant idea.

We’ve seen that Ryan Murphy’s best seasons are typically his first, (take a second to compare Nip/Tuck and Glee during their first seasons to the season that followed and tell me I’m incorrect) and this means every new season is just like the first time. Specifically to AHS, this concept also allows for the return of great actors — Evan Peters and Jessica Lange as my personal favorites — in new roles. Sure, Tate was great and Constance was remarkable, but it’ll be just as fun to see them develop new characters under the twisted direction of Mr. Murphy. But most important of all, setting the second season (and all that follow) in a new place means that you don’t have to remember all the various twists and turns of the first season, which could be great for new and returning viewers alike.

After reading a bit about what we can expect from this season, I knew that for the next few months, I’d spend my Wednesday nights scared to make the quick (yet dark) journey from the living room to my bed. Fortunately, this first episode of the second season didn’t disappoint.

WHO WE MET

  • The Newlyweds: Teresa (played by Jenna Dewan, Step Up/the very lucky wife of Channing Tatum) and Leo (played by Adam Levine, Maroon 5 and The Voice)
  • The (alleged) Killer/Bloody Face: Kit Walker (played by Evan Peters)
  • The Wife: Alma Walker (played by Britne Oldford, Skins)
  • The Journalist: Lana Winters (played by Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story)
  • The Dumb Nun: Sister Mary Eunice (played by Lily Rabe, American Horror Story)
  • The Nympho: Shelley (played by Chloë Sevigny, Big Love)
  • The Head Nun: Sister Jude (played by Jessica Lange)
  • The Wise Patient: Grace (played by Lizzie Brocheré)
  • The Crazy Doctor: Dr. Arthur Arden (played by James Cromwell, Six Feet Under)
  • The Girlfriend: Wendy (played by Clea DuVall, The Faculty)
  • The Reverend: Monsignor Timothy Howard (played by Joseph Fiennes, Shakespeare in Love)

WHAT WE KNOW

Briarcliff Manor was built in 1908 and is located on the East Coast. Over 46,000 people have died there and it’s considered one of the twelve most haunted places in the country. It was used as a sanatorium in 1962 and has an underground tunnel. Overall, it’s the perfect backdrop for this year’s horror story.

Sister Jude, under the supervision of Timothy Howard, runs Briarcliff. Sister Eunice is her right-hand nun, but is also helping her adversary, Dr. Arden, do something evil (?) to the patients. While Jude is on the far end of religiousness, it seems that Arden is deep into the mad part of science. Suffice it to say, they don’t get along.

Leo and Teresa are the first victims of Briarcliff that we meet in present day. To be fair, they knew the place was haunted, so that was a knowledgeable (albeit idiotic) choice they made. Bonus points: Leo was receiving oral sex when he had his arm ripped off by Bloody Face (assuming that was who committed the arm-removal), so it wasn’t a fully horrible experience, one would imagine.

Kit and Alma Walker were married in a time when their interracial love was completely frowned upon. So much so that they had to keep it a secret from their friends and family. They were postcoital when Kit heard a sound outside. Upon inspection, he finds a UFO-looking light in the trees and runs back into the house to find his wife. Everything, including his body, levitated to the ceiling, and we see an alien. During this time, Alma was skinned and killed. Kit is named as Bloody Face and accused for this murder, along with a few others. He swears he’s innocent.

Lana Winters wants to write a story on Briarcliff. She goes above and beyond the call of journalism to sneak back into the asylum and steal a few seconds with Bloody Face. Unfortunately for her, she is caught and checked into Briarcliff against her will. She is betrayed by her girlfriend, Wendy the teacher, who signs off on all of this. In Wendy’s defense, she was forced to choose between her career and the love of her life. Hard decision.

Overall, not everyone who’s checked in Briarcliff should actually be there. People are dying, guards are sleeping with patients, morals exist in a weird grey area and something lives in the forest. It’s all very sordid and scary.

What I Can’t Wait to Find Out

  • Was the baby doll we saw at the beginning of the episode significant?
  • Is the bakery relevant or was it just used to explain how Lana got her foot in the door?
  • Does Sister Jude really not know about the underground tunnel?
  • Does the French song that is played on repeat in the common room have some hold on the patients?
  • What is in the forest?
  • Where did the little chip that Arden pulled out of Walker’s neck go?
  • Does Sister Jude always wear red lingerie under her habit?
  • Why does Dr. Arden think the devil is in Walker’s brain?
  • Is Sister Eunice really as stupid as she seems?
  • Most importantly: WHO IS BLOODY FACE?! (I may be biased by my love for Evan Peters, but I’m 75% sure it isn’t Walker)

Quotes

“What are we going to tell our kids about the honeymoon?” – Teresa
“We tell them the truth. We visited the twelve most haunted places in America and screwed our brains out in every single one.” – Leo
“Or that mommy is a horror freak and daddy lives to make mommy happy.” – Teresa

“Mental illness is the fashionable explanation for sin.” – Sister Jude

“He believes the tonic for a diseased mind lies in the three Ps: productivity, prayer and purification.” – Sister Jude

“All monsters are human.” – Sister Jude

“Did you murder your wife?” – Grace
“No, and I’m not crazy.” – Walker
“That’s unfortunate. If they decide you’re sane, you’re going someplace way worse than this.” – Grace
“What could be worse than this?” – Walker
“You think it’s bad not having a chair, just think of the one they’ll strap you into.” – Grace

“Let me give you fair warning, I’ll always win against the patriarchal male.” – Sister Jude
“Bully for you.” – Dr. Arden

Nicole is a TV junkie and TVDM helps her feed a lifelong addiction. She can be found here, providing biased commentary (sprinkled with a few Pop Up Video-esque insights) on her favorite shows, every week.

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