I signed on to write about American Horror Story: Asylum knowing three things: 1. Clea DuVall plays a lesbian. 2. Jessica Lange is my favorite actor of her generation (sorry, Meryl). 3. It was co-created by Glee‘s Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck. Those guys blew their whole terror arsenal when they hit Quinn with that car and showed Finn dancing, so it couldn’t be that scary, right? WRONG. I watched the first two episodes of season one and was so terrified I almost backed out of recapping this season. But then I repeated “Clea DuVall, Clea DuVall Clea DuVall,” and I found the strength to plunge into this, slightly less scary episode.
We begin with two newlyweds sneaking into Briarcliff Manor, an abandoned asylum for the criminally insane. Apparently the lady is turned on by horror (obviously, she married Adam Levine) so their honeymoon has consisted of “screwing their brains out” in the 12 most haunted places in America. Ah, love. With very little preamble they get down to business on an old electroshock chair, like Adam Levine licks his fingers for lubrication and everything.
They are interrupted by some mysterious banging (actual banging this time) which the woman insists they investigate. The lovebirds come to a sealed-off door which the lady persuades Adam Levine to stick his hand through, and someone or something rips his arm right off. WELCOME TO THE SHOW.
Then, after a suitably disturbing title sequence we go back in time in1964, where a nice young man named Kit is just trying to lead an honest life, which is really hard, because his marriage is a little ahead of its time
They’re so in love it seems even the bigots can’t get them down, until, that is, ALIENS SHOW UP AND REVERSE GRAVITY. Yeah, I didn’t see it coming either. This show loves to use flashy, seizure-inducing editing to avoid telling you exactly what is taking place during the scarier scenes, but assures you it is something terrible. I caught a glimpse of a long, nonhuman finger, a flash of light, and some nudity so I’m guessing there’s some old-fashioned alien probing afoot.
Fast forwarding a bit, Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), arrives at Briarcliff, ostensibly to write about their bakery but really to get the inside scoop on their newest inmate, a woman-decapitating fiend known as “Bloodyface.”
Before that can happen though, she meets Sister Jude, played by the always amazing Jessica Lange, who is punishing Chloë Sevigny for her nymphomania by giving her a hipster haircut.
When we finally do meet Bloodyface, he turns out to be none other than Kit, the guy who got beaten up (literally) by gravity. The plot thickens. That night at the asylum, Kit is reliving his last happy memories with his wife when Grace, (Lizzie Brocheré) a bewilderingly pretty French woman, offers him some food and tells him to keep his chin up. She says she’s helping him because she was also falsely accused of murder, and I want to believe her, but all the horror movies I’ve ever seen (and there must have been, like, three to five of them) have taught me never to trust the conspicuously helpful girl, no matter how charming her accent is.
Another Briarcliff mystery: apparently patients have begun to die suddenly, with their bodies “cremated” before they can be examined, and Sister Jude suspects Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) is behind it. I really don’t want to dislike the same face that told my childhood self, oh-so-comfortingly “that’ll do, pig,” but then the show does the rapid-fire editing again, and…
Also determined to get to the bottom of the Briarcliff mysteries is Lana Winters, who’s at home tonight with her partner, played by the queen of the asymmetrical haircut, Clea DuVall. Within three minutes they give us more physical affection than every Brittana scene combined, PLUS they’re both allowed to smoke indoors, so maybe the sixties weren’t so bad after all. On the other hand, though, they’re forced to shut the blinds every time they want to make out, since it could jeopardize Clea’s career as a schoolteacher. Overall though, they seem so happy and functional that I just want to save them from this show.
So I have a question for my Catholic readers out there on the interwebs: are nuns allowed to wear perfume and red lingerie under their habits? Are they even allowed to make this face?
Well Jessica Lange does all these things and more with the raw, visceral power she brings to every role. She cooks a “decadent” meal for the Monsignor (Joseph Fiennes), for whom she apparently feels a forbidden lust. Even more taboo than her sexual feelings is the fact that she dares to have opinions while simultaneously in possession of a vagina. The Monsignor shuts down her criticism of Dr. Arden, telling her that if she falls in line, she could rise to power as his right-hand nun.
Taking advantage of Sister Jude’s absence is the malevolent Dr. Arden himself, who is doing some experimenting on poor Kit. The experience seems to activate some of Kit’s memories of alien abduction or possibly Doc Arden is an alien himself. I’m not sure, but when Arden cuts a microchip out of Kit’s neck which then sprouts legs and scuttles away, his surprise level is about on par with finding salad dressing that has been in your refrigerator since the Bush administration.
Meanwhile out on the grounds, Sister Mary Eunice is completing her nightly chores–you know, washing the dishes, scrubbing the bedpans, feeding the monsters that live in the woods–when she is accosted by Lana, who has somehow decided that sneaking into the asylum is a better use of her time than sex with Clea DuFuckingVall. Mary Eunice sneaks her inside through a secret tunnel. Lana is in the middle of some investigating when a huge pair of arms grabs her by the neck and knocks her out cold. She awakes the next morning in the clutches of Sister Jude, who has no intention of letting her go. Whether she merely wants to keep Lana from writing about all she’s seen in the asylum or really want to “cure” her of her homosexuality, remains to be seen, but her methods for committing her are the first truly scary thing this season has to offer. She journeys to Lana and her partner’s apartment and threatens to force both of them out of the closet unless she signs the commitment papers. Trapped in a Catch-22, Lana’s partner reluctantly signs the papers, totally breaking my heart in the process.
It’s a funny thing when history is scarier than aliens and axe-murderers and even Adam Levine. Going into this, I was really just hoping Ryan Murphy wouldn’t kill Clea off in the first episode, but betrayal might be a fate worse than death. Now,
Back in the present day, which I had completely forgotten about up to this point, we have Adam Levine slowly bleeding out on the floor while his girlfriend frantically searches for a way out of the asylum. It looks like she might be home free when she comes face-to-face with this friendly fella.
So next week I fully expect Clea to lead a mission to liberate the inmates (and Sister Jude’s sharp but twisted mind). Here’s hoping, anyway. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find my teddy bear, because like hell am I sleeping alone after THAT.