Jan 23 2013

Possession, Zombies, and Aliens: Why Season Two of American Horror Story Was Such A Horrendous Fail

Published by at 11:00 am under Editorials,Television

ah2

Before I start up this slight bashing, I would like to make something very clear. I truly enjoyed season one of American Horror Story. I thought the show was incredibly risky at times, and the payoff was a stellar cast of characters who kept everything quite motley.  And while it did spread itself a wee bit thin by having too many branching story lines from different time periods, that was also a huge part of what made the show work. Problem is, writers and networks see a success, and the want to see it repeated. But by the third episode of season two, Asylum, it was clear to see something was off. The writers obviously wanted to go in a multitude of directions regarding what would put the “horror” in American Horror Story.

The end result was the first time I can say I have seen a show more contrived and convoluted than Lost (which, by the way, I was an avid fan of until it became clear even the show itself had no idea where it was going). So this is just an examination of where American Horror Story  tripped up, and what it can do to bring us back for season three, which has already been green lit even though season two was an absolute joke. So if you thought demon nuns who rape priests in an asylum while aliens and serial killers are on the loose was all a bit too much, than this article is for you. I can’t be the only one who thought this was all super silly, right? American Horror Story, what happened to you?

ah22

Oh, a nun carrying red buckets of body parts! Look how EDGY that is!

Remember in high school, that one friend you had who tried to be everything to everybody? The kind of person who would act accordingly depending on who he/she was hanging with at the time? And remember how much respect you loss for the person every time you witnessed them being fake, to the point when you could no longer call them a friend? That is my experience with season two of American Horror Story. It was THAT person.  Granted, season one had quite a number of interweaving plot lines, they all made sense with the story. School shootings and haunted houses may sound like a lot to take, but it somehow worked. Yet, for season two, it is like the writers had a fish bowl that they filled with little pieces of paper with “scary ideas” written down on, and then they just decided to keep pulling ideas out until the bowl was completely empty. How can you get attached to one story line,w hen they jump around so much that you can’t? For those who haven’t seen this season of American Horror Story, allow me to list just a few of the “horrors” from this season:

Serial Killer

Zombies

Aliens

Rape

Abortions

Evil Nazi Doctors

Evil Psychiatric Doctors

Demon Possession

Evil Santa

Angel of Death

Killer Kid

Mistreated Patients

Insane Asylum

Human Experimentation

Adam Levine

fuck you adam elvine

” Hey, we should put that Adam Levine guy in this show for absolutely no reason other than to bring in female viewers.”

I know it seems weird putting Adam Levine on the list of horrors, but is it really? To me that just shows, in one simple move, how contrived this show really was. He did not play a crucial character at all. No, he was a reason to put oral sex into the first four minutes of the first episode. NO, really, that was it. You see, the show effortlessly shocked people with season one. I, for one, had never seen such graphic television before (and I loved it for that) but you need to understand, season one had no precedent.  Yet season two did, and it was season one. You could see their entire angle for season two was to live up to season one, which is why this season sucked so much. It is the idea of why people hated The Hangover 2. Part one worked so well because it had not been done like that before. The dichotomy between the guys in that first film was genuinely fresh and entertaining. So what did they do for the sequel? They rebooted the first movie in a different location, and it sunk for that reason. How can you give people something so wholly original, and then, in the next breath, insult us with something so see-through?  I ask that of The Hangover series, and American Horror Story.

blumpkin

I will admit, some of the performances on the show this season were pretty remarkable, regardless of the silly story.

I will ask all of you now, what was the main story line in American Horror Story: Asylum?

Was it the lesbian reporter who got mistakenly locked up because she knew too much about the asylum and how it was being run? Was it about the kid who was accused of being a serial killer and his interracial relationship that ended in his wife’s death (and aliens)? Was it the story of Jessica Lange (the one bright, shining star that managed to make the show watchable this season) and her redemption as she saw her own faults and had to suffer them as well? Was it the story of the nun who got possessed by the devil, and took over the asylum? Was it the Nazi doctor doing experiments on the patients for his own sick means? Was it the story of how aliens were knocking up chicks after they died? Was it all a metaphor for the archaic standards people lived in back then, were everything people did was considered morally wrong?

I mean, honestly, at one point in this show we had Anne Frank. No, I am not kidding, Anne f*cking Frank was a character on this show. And to anyone who feels obligated to take to the comments and quickly tell us all that she was not Anne Frank, but rather, a patient who THOUGHT she was Anne Frank, how the f*ck did she remember the Nazi from the concentration camp, and know his name? See what I mean? It is like some bro’s who don’t know horror got their hands on a huge pile of coke and decided to write a horror show, but couldn’t find one idea to run with, so they went with them all.

fine is

When I heard Voldermort’s brother was on this show as a priest, I was so excited to see how it played out. Long and short, they gave him nothing to do.

And what about that subplot of creating zombies and leaving them shackled out in the woods?  And then Chloe Sevigny becomes one at the Nazi’s hand, and crawls off to a school, where she is discovered by kids? WHAT?! And don’t even get me started on the alien subplot, because there is not a single person I knew that thought that element worked. Not one. Even fans of the show let out a massive WTF regarding that.

There was one episode this season that really shined, though. And it shined for one reason. Ian McShane. The Christmas episode was f*cking dope, and could have been a stand alone evil Santa film by itself.  But there is one reason that worked so well, and it’s name is Ian McShane.

ian

He was Ho Ho Horrifying. GET IT?! I made a Santa joke!

But even that single working element was the result of an amazing actor giving his soul in his performances, and not the shoddy writing and ridiculous number of interwoven plots. You see, what worked at the heart of season one was the transition this family was making into a new home, and the how the fucked up history of the home before them, bled into their lives once they got there. And what was the single thing that linked season two? An asylum? Oh sorry, I forgot about the asylum while trying to keep track of the 742 plot lines, and 3000 characters they threw at me.

So here we are, with season three already approved and in its earliest stages of plot development, and I feel the need to intervene. Please, FX, do not try to one-up your show by having coat hanger abortions (which they literally showed this season) and masturbation scenes. Instead, focus on a (GASP) single, great, atmospheric, creepy plot-line, and weave a few interesting characters and twists off of that, but keep it minimal. You don’t need to insult your audience by throwing everything you can at them and hoping it overwhelms. You have literally already tapped every horror trope in your first two seasons, except for werewolves and vampires.

Oh no, please, no……

anal

Season three is about a time traveling werewolf who needs to stop a race of evil vampires from impregnating a group of marauding, flesh eating robots. It actually sounds kind of dope.

Speaking of scary asylums….

 





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26 responses so far

  • http://www.mandyatlarge.com Mandy

    Sorry, I couldn’t disagree more. It’s an ASYLUM, with hundreds of freaky people and dark secrets under it’s roof that I’m very glad I got to know..

    I enjoyed keeping up with subplots, twists and turns, and I completely agree there were many, but that’s the magic of the show… it was able to wrap it up nicely together in this one horrible place – the Asylum.

    (Okay, I will admit, the alien angle was a bit weird, and I could have done without it.. Up until the last episode or two, it has not had much focus, other than being the reason Kit ended up in this place. We’ll see where it goes in the final episode tonight… )

    I agree, there is a LOT to this season, but that was what made it so interesting and intriguing. First.. The asylum.. ran by crazed nuns and an egotistical monseigneur. You almost expect to see demon possession. I loved the way Sister Mary Eunice’s character transformed after the possession. She was wonderful, this story arch accounts for the rape, demons, further mistreatment of patients, and even Evil Santa.

    The Nazi doctor.. Another brilliantly acted and executed character. Sure, he killed prostitutes (think you forgot to add this to your list), but he did seem to have his own set of morals and truly thought he was trying to save the world with his horrible experiments. He was creating these ‘zombies’ from patients he deemed unworthy of life in order to make a cure-all vaccine. I truly loved the way he worshiped Mary Eunice up until the very end. When Chloe S. was found by those school kids… ahh, my heart stopped. What a wonderful scene. Yes, the Anne Frank episode was a little strange too, but was well-done. I’m still not sure if she was real, or just saw him in the photos she collected.

    Serial Killer… probably my absolute FAVORITE part of this season. When Threadson took Lana to his home and she saw the nipples on the lamp shade… my heart just about exploded. That entire scene with the frozen body of Clea D. was some of the best TV I’ve even witnessed. To me, it really pushed the show to the next level of horror. Going from the horrors of the asylum to the basement of Bloody Face… What a woman. And then BACK to the asylum after all of that.. and now with his baby?! This story accounts for the abortions, serial killer and Adam Lavine.

    So .. how does Adam Lavine fit into the story? Well duh, he’s the unaborted child who loves titties. He has obviously the same cravings as his father and knows who he was, as well as Lana. He’s our only link to modern day where these horrors are obviously still going on. That scene with the prostitute and her milk… Ah! Another moment that was hard to sit through, but in a good way. I can’t wait to see his confrontation with Lana!

    And then there’s the aliens and axe murderer (you left that off your list too.) Kit’s just a good guy who loves women. He was blamed for the Bloody Face murders, but the last one was actually not a murder at all, but an abduction.. that’s how he got into the asylum in the first place. That’s how the story developes with him and Threadson, as well as the nazi doc. This story line is the only one I think that doesn’t actually fit, other than getting him into the story. But because this one is still not completely revealed, I’m can’t say if it’s a complete waste or will prove to be profound. I really liked the character of Grace and I like Kit too… Sad that Alma killed her, but that brings her to the asylum, and Kit back to it as well.. this time with Lana, possibly to help those she’s left behind.

    The angel of death… (not really part of the story) I was just excited to see that lady from last season back. She makes a beautiful angel of death. I think she is there to add a little beauty to such a grim show. She comes when people are at their lowest, and suffering greatly. It’s comforting to see these amazing characters receive a peaceful end to their suffering, or sometimes a little encouragement. My favorite was when she came to the monseigneur hanging on the cross.

    Sister Jude… What more can I say? She’s amazing and her transformation as a character this season was outstanding to watch. Her intentions were always good, throughout, but she was betrayed along the way and now we only hope someone comes to save her as she’s done for many already. The Name Game scene was one of my favorites, as well as many others. The cruelty and pain mixed with the cheery delusions made it just heartbreaking to watch her downward spiral.

    All in all, I absolutely loved this season, probably just as much as last season. Also, I’d say this show is probably one of my favorite shows of last year. I would constantly think about what was happening and couldn’t wait for the next episode to see I couldn’t have been more wrong with predictions.

    There are too many shows that stay in a comfort zone or do exactly what people expect. This show does what it wants, and I for one, appreciate every second of it.

  • http://remycarreiro.com/ Remy Carreiro

    Mandy, I do agree with you completely on the level of talent involved, and while some of the characters were superbly acted (Nazi Doctor, for one), for me it just felt like too much, but you made some brilliant points, and like I said, I am definitely interested in what season three will do. They by by no means lost me as viewer, they just lost a wee bit of my unbroken attention is all.

  • Lo

    Mandy: You do realize Adam Levine and Dylan McDermott are not the same actor, right??

  • Lantaar

    I actually enjoyed this season a more than the first one. As far as the overall story goes, yes, the first one was better. For the second, they brought out one of the biggest cliches of all: and insane asylum in the sixties. But for some reason the numerous plots created this strange feeling, as if the show had multiple personality disorder. Was it intended? Probably not, but for some reason it was really entertaining for me. Is the season completely over the top? Yes, but even with that we got some great acting and in my opinion, that’s what really works in this. The story is important, but here what really sell the whole thing is the great acting. I mean it was just great to watch Quinto, Lange, Rabe and the others act and I’m actually excited about the third season to see what they’ll come up with next.

  • http://www.run4covers.com Linkovich Chomofsky

    I couldn’t agree with this more

  • http://www.mandyatlarge.com Mandy

    @Lo.. Um yes? Not sure where you’re even getting that.

    —-

    Also, I really like how they are saying there are ‘clues’ in this season for what season 3 will be about. The entire idea of each season being it’s own separate story is wonderfully mysterious and refreshing.

  • DJ

    Other than the zombie/mutants, everything seems to tie in and be explained, but there is still one last episode tonight.

    As for the aliens, people are upset because it’s sci-fi not horror. Personally, I think aliens are terrifying.

    I love this show. I love the actors. I feel like people are just upset with it because it is so completely different than the first season that they were thrown off. I feel it is incredibly smart that each season is a different story/characters because the viewer doesn’t get emotionally invested with it to have it end a few years later.

  • SpyKi

    Yeah, I thought this season was better than the first because it had so much crazy shit going on. It’s supposed to be a batshit crazy show and I find that entertaining.

  • Al

    That wasn’t Anne Frank… it was someone who though she was Anne Frank. She was so fixated on Nazi’s that she obsessed over them, she kept focusing on that one picture that had the doctor in it, that’s how she recognized him. Why do you think they zoomed in on the picture at the end of her story.

  • Emmet

    Remy you sly dog, you slip in links to your site in every article

  • http://saraclemens.com Sara Clemens

    @Mandy You’re mistaking Adam Levine, the guy with the girlfriend who gets his arm ripped off (and is killed) in the modern-day frame story, with Dylan McDermott, the modern-day Bloody Face and the son of Thredson and Lana. That’s what Lo is getting at.

  • wevs

    I’m sorry Remmy I didn’t read the article since I want to avoid spoilers, because I stopped following somewhere along the lines of episode 7 and I do intend to finish the season, but not any time soon.
    That being said, I waited for each and every episode of season 1 to air, so yes, I did enjoy the first one a lot more. The story is just so detached in the second season I found it boring. There’s nothing believable about it, and it’s not fun. That’s not to say that ghosts are more real than aliens, or vice versa, but the writer(s?) just did a lot better the first time around.
    At the very least season 1 had likeable characters, despite their flaws and secrets, now everyone is a jerk.

  • http://www.mandyatlarge.com Mandy

    @Sara Ah ya, that’s right. They look so similar. I had forgotten that guy was some singer or idol or something. ;)

  • Lo

    ^What she said, LOL

  • http://remycarreiro.com/ Remy Carreiro

    @ Al,
    You trolling me? Please tell me you’re trolling me, because you said exactly what I asked NO ONE to say. I addressed exactly what you said in the piece.
    Other than that, this thread is fantastic, per usual.
    Also, someone spelled my name, Remmy. It always baffles me when people spell my name wrong when it is written right there, but still, good times.
    @ Emmet,
    I do try to do that as subtly as possible, and have it tie in to this piece, and sometimes it is harder than it looks. Hahaha, good observation, my friend.

  • trashcanman

    Weak, sauce, man. You’re main complaint was that this season was too much like the last season you loved. In fact, almost every one of your complaints was contradicted by you yourself here. You loved the first season for being so wild and random, but you hated this one for being wild and random. You loved how convoluted the first season was, but you hated how convoluted this one was. You loved how offensive the first season was, you hated how offensive this one was. And no, saying that it hadn’t been done before is not a valid excuse. Otherwise we’d all have hated The Empire Strikes Back. I agree that the aliens were out of place, but I very much enjoyed most of this season with it’s allusions to horror classics far and wide ranging from Shock Corridor to The Exorcist to the real life horrors of the holocaust and everywhere in between. Also: Insane Asylum Name Game musical dance party. Check. And. Mate.

  • Steve p

    I too loved season 1. I had a very hard time getting into season 2 and decided to, instead of watching it as they aired, to DVR the whole thing and watch it when it was all done.

    So now that’s its over, can someone tell me, with NO SPOILERS, if I should bother investing my time in watching it? So far I have seen only up to episode 3

  • http://unrealitymagazine cadettssk

    THIS was a TV SHOW, peeps. It was supposed to be contrived, silly, over the top etc. That’s what the actors did, they emoted to make it all seem contrived, silly, over the top. I think the unexpected element the writers came up with was the glue that held the watchers tuned in. Just my opinion. I loved it. Can’t wait for Season Three.

  • Louis

    Well I can see how this season rubbed you the wrong way. I can relate to the point that many storylines kinda went nowhere like the zombies and whatnot (well, to be fair, their part was to “guard” the back entrance, remember when Kit, Lana and Grace i think tried to escape but couldn’t because of a little rendezvous with them?). And Ian Mcshane simply disapeared after he was done doing his mischievous part in the story (altought they did mention him in a later episode). I also though sister mary eunice’s death was absolutly out of the blue (that’s my major criticism to this season), but then they did that final scene with the cremation oven and it totally blew my mind. I must confess I adored this season. And I know i’m not alone. If you check Tv.com you’ll see that all episodes are very well graded overall, and some people down at Pajiba which your site frequently mentions also enjoyd the show (at least so it seems by their reviews). I’m not in any way suggesting our opinion overways yours, you are of course absolutly entitled to have disliked this season. However I don’t know if that wasn’t because of your attitude towards it. Maybe if you had had another state of mind you’d have trully enjoyed it. Look, it really was lots of fun. Wonderfully acted (Jessica Lange is a godess and golden statues should be risen in her honor everywhere!!! And of course McShane and actually pretty much every single actor at one point or another had at least one excelent performance). In second place the visuals where astounding. The way they filmed and edited some scenes was trully mesmerizing. But of course all style and no substance always falls short of a work of art. But that’s where I don’t agree with you. You say this season was a convoluted mess, and I get where you’re coming from, but… most epidodes I was stuck to my chair just thinking what the hell? This is so much, I don’t get anything, how does this turn out like that? How? Where? When? WOW! It was a trully crazy ride (which seems fit since it took place on an asylum). Suspention of disbelief aside, I don’t think thematic incongruence undermined the show. I think its part of what makes it so great. Oh well… i’m just sorry you didn’t get to enjoy such an amazing experience like people who liked the season. It really was fantastic.

  • Louis

    Also, can you look me in the eyes and say this wasn’t the greatest, most unexpected scene on television for a long time?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3e37NtAYb5g

  • wevs

    @cadettssk: There are a lot of shows and movies that take overthetopness to an awesome level and pull it off. This show is not one of them – have you even seen season 1? It’s not about the show being over the top, it’s about being provocative with an outlandish plot that in the end makes you think “why the fuck not?”. Season two, to me, seemed like a Scary Movie instalment, but taking itself completely serious.

  • john v.

    I liked as the season was progressing that I was saying things like, “Holy crap! Now they’ve added demonic possession on top aliens & zombies, Nazis, etc…. what’s next?” “Anne Frank!?!” That part of this season was fun, the issue I have is that they didn’t tie into together very well. So I guess I agree with the core of your article.

    @Louis – I agree that Mary Eunice’s death seemed abrupt, but to me, Dr. Arden’s seemed even more so. It seemed like he accepted who she had become (the demon) and then all of the sudden he flip flopped back again – total hardcore one minute to big softly the next. And it was shocking to watch him ride with her into the crematorium oven, but didn’t wrap his story up very well for me.

    And maybe we’re looking at a tie in for season 3, but why were the aliens so interested in Kit? I don’t think that was ever explained.

    One scene I did absolutely love though was when Lana shot Thredson in the head. That seemed real. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a movie or TV show and shouted “Stop talking and just shoot him!!” She did.

    And finally, Jessica Lange…. what a great actress, huh? I thought the whole evil for the sake of good theme between her and Dr. Arden was the best theme of the show, but once again, I don’t think that was brought to its full potential.

  • Beanbags

    I disagree, the second season was much better than the first, story and acting wise. Is it just me or is Dylan McDermott a shocking actor? It seems that a lot of viewers were confused by the amount of information throughout the 2nd season, or maybe it involved a lot more thought than most modern day TV and we are falling behind haha.
    Anyways I thought the 2nd season was much more interesting than the 1st and would like the see Dylan McBadactor gone from the show…
    I cant understand how any of those things can be bad besides the assumption that it is too much thought to handle…

    Psyco Santa = good
    Nazi doctor making mutants = good
    aliens doing alien things = good
    Devil possessed sexy nun = …
    Evil nun gets payback like never before = awesome (acting was insane)
    and more crazies than you can poke a stick at = good

    plus all the other insane stuff in between

  • Bob Saget

    Look, the people who made this show also made Nip Tuck. That pretty much tells you that the whole show is going to be a bunch of fucked up things happening for no reason other than shock value.

  • Tricky2000

    This review is dead nuts on. You are not the only one who thought this season was a mess. I also enjoyed watching this season but the plot was just a train wreck. However, I’ve talked to more than one person who though this season was great.

  • RemyCarreiro

    And I hafta say, no matter what ANYONE says, The Name Game scene was an embarrassment. I know they were trying to show Lange’s insanity in an offbeat, original way, but it looked force, and felt silly, and not in a way the show could afford this season.
    I really love all your passion, though, even if we agree to disagree about this one.

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