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American Horror Story: Asylum – S2E1 – Welcome to Briarcliff

The first season of American Horror Story centered on the Harmon Family and this wacky house they had just moved into; a house that happened to be all haunted up. Laughs were had, tears were shed, weird masturbation was practiced; it was really a full season of horrific, leather bodysuit shenanigans. After the season finale, though, everyone was left wondering just how the series would go on because things had pretty much ran their course. Not long after the finale, we learned that season two was going to be in a completely new place, with completely new characters, and would probably go an entirely new direction tonally. And all that would be returning from the first season was some of the cast members. The season two premiere “Welcome to Briarcliff” delivered on most of that.

“Welcome to Briarcliff” opens with a newly married couple named Leo and Teresa (Adam Levine and Jenna Dewan, respectively) moronically “exploring” an abandoned sanitarium for the criminally insane. Perfect honeymoon, right? After a few moments of wandering around, they eventually get down to business–sexy time business. I don’t know about you, but nothing turns me on more than abandoned insane asylums. What they’re doing is visiting the “12 most haunted places in America” and “screwing their brains out” in them. How romantic. The guy straps his wife down on an electroshock therapy table and almost launches the meat rocket before she stops him because she heard something–of course she did. They go off trouncing toward this unknown noise–of course they do. Much to his chagrin, Teresa is way more interested in what’s behind some door than what’s behind his zipper. She makes a concession, though: if he will find out what’s behind the door, she’ll “blow him” (her words). Of course, he goes for this. What does he get for his troubles? While she gets started blowing him, he gets his arm ripped off by something on the other side of the door. Worth it!

When a woman says “Strap me down”, you listen.

Now we’re introduced to a gas station attendant named Kit Walker (Evan Peters), some time in the past (1960s?). He heads home from the gas station, and it turns out that he’s a newlywed, too. At this point, I’m wondering if everyone on this show has just gotten married. This happy couple promptly bangs the drum slowly, if you know what I mean. This season is sure to have plenty of sex, like the first season. At least this sexy time isn’t interrupted. No, it’s only after they finish that shit gets unreal. The windows are filled with strange lights and gravity reverses; things start floating, and eventually, we see that it’s aliens. Wait, aliens? Seriously? That’s… different…

The story jumps again, back to Briarcliff. This time it’s a thriving, veritable metropolis of crazies. A journalist named Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) comes in all sunshine and lollipops doing a story on the asylum. This is when we get our first look at the returning Jessica Lange; she plays Sister Jude, the headmistress of this nun-led nuthouse. As it turns out, Kit is being admitted to the asylum on the suspicion of being a murderer. I guess the aliens kept his wife and spit him back out. He’s also accused of murdering other people, but I suppose we’re not supposed to understand that part yet (I don’t). He gets into a fight with some guy who wants to “test” the “most dangerous guy in here”. The fight results in Kit being thrown into some kind of solitary confinement.

I think maybe she should just take “No comment” and get out of there.

James Cromwell is in this season! Sorry, I just wasn’t aware of that until I was watching the show. He’s a doctor here at Briarcliff, Dr. Arthur Arden, and he’s apparently murdering patients and feeding them to… something. If it’s a pig named “Babe”, that would be the craziest mindfuck ever. Of course it isn’t a pig; it’s something dangerous, though, and that’ll do American Horror Story; that’ll do.

Cromwell’s beast isn’t the only secret this asylum holds–the show would be kind of boring if that was the case. It turns out that Sister Jude is one freaky bird. She entertains wild sexual fantasies about the asylum’s Monsignor Timothy Howard, played by Joseph Fiennes. She’s also involved in punishing the patients in borderline torturous ways, but I’d imagine the show is set in a time when that was an acceptable form of treatment for the mentally ill. Apparently, Sister Jude is our moral center, as she is very concerned about what Dr. Arden is doing. Speaking of what he’s doing: it’s feeding time for whatever his creature is. He sends one of the other nuns out to feed it. While she’s outside, she runs into Lana who convinces the nun to tell her what is going on in exchange for keeping quiet about what she’s seen. Never mind the fact that she didn’t actually see anything. This nun is apparently pretty stupid, so she leads the reporter through some secret tunnels and into the asylum’s men’s block, a place where a woman does not want to be; this is quickly found to be evident by the fact that one patient flings one of his many bodily fluids into the stupid nun’s face. It’s presumably semen (if I had a nickel for every time I’ve said that). This causes the nun to run off, again, this time leaving Lana to fend for herself. The way she fends for herself is to immediately get attacked by something, quite similarly to Adam Levine in the beginning of the episode. It turns out, as we’re briefly shown, that couple from the beginning of the episode is trapped in the asylum by some mystical voodoo witch lady. Okay, that’s not true, but we’re not told why they’re trapped, so it’s open to whatever wild guess you can come up with. Bubblegum flavored unicorns? Could be. I’m just saying: it could be anything. With that said, it’s similar to whatever thing that kept the Harmon family trapped in that house in season one.

Then we get a weird scene where Sister Jude is berating the stupid nun for being, well, stupid; that’s when the stupid nun starts calling herself stupid, takes the whip Sister Jude was going to beat her with, and exchanges it for a larger one; she begs Sister Jude to punish her, but Sister Jude just puts the whip back and tells the stupid nun not to call herself stupid anymore. I guess it takes the fun out of beating someone when they’re literally asking for it. This place really puts the “S” & “M” in “Asylum”.

She’s in the habit of inflicting pain. Yes, a “habit” pun.

As it turns out, Lana didn’t die, though. You may think “Of course she didn’t die; she’s one of the show’s leads”, but this show has shown a willingness to kill characters and just keep them around anyway. Now, though, We see that Lana is being kept in a room, as if she’s a patient, but we know she’s not a patient; this will not last long, right? Someone will come looking for her, right? Sister Jude is way ahead of you. She trots her hypocritical ass out to Lana’s house; a home Lana shares with her lesbian girlfriend Wendy (Clea DuVall). Remember, this is the ’60s when that was even less accepted by society than it is today. This scene allows the show to make its first political statement of the season when Sister Jude uses her knowledge of Wendy’s sexual orientation to bully her; Sister Jude threatens to “out” her to the community, to cause a “small town scandal”, and to make sure Wendy can never step foot in her classroom again (Wendy is a teacher). Along with this, the show takes the opportunity to point out the fact that Wendy has no legal right to visit Lana, because they are not legally recognized as a couple. Way to bring down the show, guys! I mean, can’t we just stick to murderous creatures and sexually repressed nuns? Yes, I’m kidding. I liked it. Anyway, Sister Jude uses all of this to force Wendy to sign a paper committing Lana to the asylum. Of course, Wendy doesn’t have any actual right to do that, but this is just to get her out of Sister Jude’s hair–presumably, this will not keep Wendy out of Sister Jude’s hair for long.

At the end of the episode, Sister Jude confronts Dr. Arden. I’ll be happy if these two clash throughout the season because Lange and Cromwell are so great on screen together. Sister Jude lets Dr. Arden know she will find out what’s going on, and he regales us all with tales of how not to care for a pet ferret.

Warning: Keep away from small animals.

The season is off to a great–and royally fucked up–beginning. I can’t wait to see where this all goes. Just like last season, American Horror Story: Asylum is pretty confusing, and I hope this recap has not served to only confuse you further. If you noticed anything I missed, or if you notice any mistakes, feel free to point them out and laugh uproariously at my ignorance, because this shit is bananas.

About John Elrod II (285 Articles)
John is currently untitled. This complete lack of definition would drive most into abject bitterness and utter despair, but not someone of John’s virility. No, John is the picture of mental stability and emotional platitude.

9 Comments on American Horror Story: Asylum – S2E1 – Welcome to Briarcliff

  1. I noticed that they seem to be moving away from drama and more into horror. Which, I do not mind at all.

    I wasn’t too sure how much I would like a new story line because I liked the one about the house a lot but it’s really sucked me in already. And Jessica Lange is just a genius, I really couldn’t see anyone else in that role.

    I felt like the beginning was sooo cliche but the ripping off of an arm while getting fellatio was a nice touch. LOL

    Between this and TWD, its been a gory week….just the way
    I like it 🙂

    • I like the move closer to horror, too. I think Ryan Murphy has said that the first season was “family drama” and this is “workplace drama”, so they’ll probably throw in plenty of drama, but it’s definitely looking like they’ve ramped up the horror.

      With a seasonal anthology like this, it’s going to always be worrisome that they’ll spend an entire season creating characters just to abandon them next season, but I’m confident they’ll be able to keep it fresh (especially now that I’ve seen this premiere).

      I’m not a huge fan of gore, but this week has definitely been a fun one; this fall season is going to get even better.

  2. I just had the chance to watch my DVR’d American Horror Story: Asylum premiere yesterday, and I was not disappointed in any way. I think it’s going to be a good season. I’m excited about it, even! (:

  3. We’re not done with Adam Levine, are we? It seems that we are, but I’m hoping this season will be like the first one where we’ll see how the modern day haunting came to be. So far, it’s set more in the past than the current.

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