*Claire - don't read this until you've caught up with the season*
After the sometimes promising but ultimately disappointing Season 1, I decided to give Season 2 a chance in the hope it would have learnt from its mistakes and figured out how to take itself to the next level. And I'm so glad I did because, without a doubt, this was one of my top 2 must-never-miss tv programmes of 2012/2013.
If you've never heard of it before, American Horror Story is a horror, television anthology series aired on FX (recently renamed Fox). Each season is a self-contained mini-series featuring its own characters, settings and storylines, which means you can jump into a season without having seen any of the others.
The first season "American Horrory Story: Murder House" had some great moments but was really quite ropey. By comparison, "American Horror Story: Asylum" had me completely gripped from beginning to end.
Set in 1964 in the Briarcliff Mental Institution, it touched on themes such as religion vs science, nature vs nurture, Nazis, alien abduction, demonic possession, twisted experiments, the abuse of power and attitudes towards both race and homosexuality. I think it speaks volumes that it's managed to cover such diverse themes without me once raising a sceptical or questionning eyebrow.
As always, you never know who will survive the season and without a doubt, the one character that anyone who's been watching this season has been rooting for is Sister Jude, played by the incredible Jessica Lange.
Alcoholic songstress and seductress:
Believing herself to have killed a child while driving drunk, she seeks redemption by transforming herself into the strictly devout, yet sadistic, Sister Jude:
Only to find herself admitted as a patient and driven insane by electro-shock treatment:
Lange has been absolutely phenomenal this season. I really can't praise her acting enough and I am so EXCITED to hear she'll be taking a lead role in the third season of the franchise. The range of emotions she's displayed and the journey her character has taken has really driven the season forward and created the emotional depth and connection with the viewer that the show was so badly lacking in the first season.
Then there was Lily Rabe in the role of Sister Mary Eunice; Jude's innocent and loyal second-in command. She effortlessly moved from being a faithful and devoted follower into a demonically possessed master-manipulator.
With some wonderful lines, such as:
"We'll be watching The Sign of the Cross. A movie filled with fire, sex and the death of Christians... what fun!"
"This is the beginning of a whole new era. All you need to do is trust me with
your entire soul and I promise you everything will work out"
"I know everything. I'm the Devil"
Kudos to Rabe for not straying into the realm of an evil caricature and keeping the sinister menace ratcheted high.
I know the way her character came to an end is probably a contentious subject, particularly as it happened a lot sooner than I thought it would and yes, probably was a bit easier than it should have been. But lets face it, it had to happen that way and I can't believe there's anyone out there that didn't gasp when Dr Arden, lost, broken and defeated, chose to cremate himself along with her body. It was like the ending to a Shakesperian tragedy and a fitting conclusion to their sort-of-but-not-quite-yet-maybe romance.
I could be here all night singing the praises of Evan Peters as Kit Walker, Sarah Paulson as Lana Winters, Zachary Quinto as Dr Thredson, Chloe Sevigny as Shelley (poor, poor Shelley who most definitely did NOT deserve the horrors inflicted upon her by Dr Arden), Franka Potente as Anne Franke and Britne Oldford as Alma. Instead, I'm going to end this post with a couple of images relating to one of my favourite characters, the Angel of Death played by Frances Conroy. She may have only had a minor role but she played the character with such dignity and, dare I say, sweetness that it really made an impact on me.
Roll on season 3. And if you've never watched American Horror Story, what are you waiting for? Get hold of season 2 now, Now, NOW!