American Horror Story: Asylum

8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Better than first season

Still weirdly paced and somewhat anticlimactic in some storylines


Enter the Asylum!

It is 1964, and the mentally unstable go to the Briarcliff Mental Institution in Massachusetts when no one knows what else to do with them.  Run by Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), all hope is lost when one enters the asylum.  Kit Walker (Evan Peters) finds himself institutionalized pending a trial for the death of his wife and others as the Bloody Face killer, and an undercover reporter named Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) discovers she too is trapped in Briarcliff when she’s accused of being a lesbian.  Things in Briarcliff are darker than expected…Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) has a darkness residing inside of her, Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) is hiding his own past and secrets in his lab, and visiting psychiatrist Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) could be both Kit and Lana’s only hope…if he doesn’t have a secret himself!


The gang’s all here!

American Horror Story:  Asylum is the second season of FX series which was revealed to be an anthology series after the first season (American Horror Story—Season 1 was relabeled American Horror Story:  Murder House).  The series aired from October 17, 2012 to January 23, 2013 and won Primetime Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie (James Cromwell) and Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (“Welcome to Briarcliff”) with nominations for Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie (“I Am Anne Frank—Part 2”), Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie or Special (“Madness Ends”), Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries or a Movie, Outstanding Main Title Design, Outstanding Makeup for a Miniseries or a Movie (Non-Prosthetic), Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie or a Special, Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie (“Welcome to Briarcliff”), Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie (“I Am Anne Frank—Part 2”), Outstanding Miniseries or Movie, Outstanding Single-Camera Editing for a Miniseries or a Movie (“Nor’easter”), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie (Jessica Lange), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie (Zachary Quinto), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie (Sarah Paulson), and Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special.


Well that was unexpected…and unnecessary

I enjoyed the first season of American Horror Story…until the last episode.  With this fear in mind, I approached American Horror Story:  Asylum with caution.  While series does show improvement this season, it is still a very oddly paced series that just doesn’t get that surprising viewers with random shocks doesn’t equal strong writing…especially if it is at the cost of two to three episodes of the season.  Due to the writing of the story, a *****Spoiler Alert***** is in effect for the rest of the review.

The series is going smoothly and dramatically changes with the tenth episode “The Name Game”.  Cromwell and Rabe’s characters are killed off…leaving a big hole in the series.  The story tries to develop the Monsignor character at this point who has mostly been a smaller role, but the two meaty characters are gone…along with a weak conclusion to both the demon storyline and the mutants storyline.  Yes, it is surprising, but it hurts the overall flow and feel of the series.


Ok, they are kind of scary looking but what was the point of this whole storyline?

The final episode of this series does bring the story together much better than the last episode of American Horror Story:  Murder House.  It shows the conclusion of all the main characters’ storylines and it is relatively satisfying.  I just wish some of the above mentioned drama had been saved for these episodes…losing both Lily Rabe and James Cromwell was too much and too early.  Their characters could have added some extra pep to the ending.

This series is primarily a great showcase for actors.  Not only are the leads fantastic (I would argue that Jessica Lange is better this season), but the show has a lot of great guest stars including Ian McShane as the psychotic Santa hating killer Leigh Emerson, Chloë Sevigny as the doomed Shelley, Clea DuVall as Lana’s lover, Franka Potente as the potential Anne Frank, Dylan McDermott as the mysterious killer, Adam Levine as one of his victims, and Frances Conroy as the Angel of Death.  There really isn’t a weak actor in the bunch and the acting does raise the level of the storytelling as a result.


Pepper!!! Underused and underdeveloped

For a story based around horror, the story doesn’t have as much horror and visuals as possible.  I do find the style of this show odd because it shifts around from pretty standard shooting to stylized shooting likes scenes involving just canted Dutch angles…it is rather inconsistent and weird in that effect.  I almost feel that the series needs to be streamlined and could be better if it was.

American Horror Story:  Asylum shows some improvement but also has some of the same mistakes that the previous season.  I enjoy the series and I want to love the series, but I just can’t.  I hope that American Horror Story continues to improve and I like the idea of a modern anthology series.  American Horror Story’s third season is entitled American Horror Story:  Coven.

American Horror Story:  Asylum Complete Episode Guide:


“Welcome to Briarcliff”

2.1       Welcome to Briarcliff Airdate:  10/17/12

In 2012, a couple (Jenna Dewan-Tatum and Adam Levine) find themselves in the ruins of the Briarcliff Mental Institution…and are promptly attacked by an unseen creature.  Kit Walker (  ) finds himself committed to Briarcliff with accusation that he’s a serial killer named Bloody Face and responsible for the death of his wife Alma (Britne Oldford).  Also arriving at Briarcliff is Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) who’s big plan to expose the secrets of the hospital backfire when she’s kept for being a lesbian by the asylum’s Sister Jude (Jessica Lange).  All is not well at Briarcliff however and Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) has a few secrets of his own in the lab.


“Tricks and Treats”

2.2       Tricks and Treats Airdate:  10/24/12

Wendy plans to recant her story against Lana fails when she’s attacked by Bloody Face.  Sister Jude learns that Lana is keeping notes about her events at the asylum and turns to Dr. Arden for means to shatter her memory.  Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) is appointed to Kit to determine his sanity and finds conditions at the asylum are worse than he expected.  A boy named Jed (Devon Graye) is brought to the asylum with fits and rages indicating possession.  Lana plots her escape with Grace (Lizzie Brocheré ) but faces a problem when she learns Grace wants to bring Kit.  Dr. Arden’s date with a prostitute goes wrong when she sees his secret obsession.  As the exorcism continues, Sister Jude’s secret past is revealed and the demon finds a new host.



2.3       Nor’easter Airdate:  10/31/12

The couple in the asylum finds themselves facing multiple Bloody Face killers who learn that there is something more lurking in the madhouse.  Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) finds herself possessed by the demon and begins to let it take over…leading to murder.  Sister Jude is haunted by her hit and run in 1949 and finds someone in the asylum knows about her crime.  Dr. Arden learns something is wrong with Sister Eunice which leads to a confrontation with Sister Jude.  Lana takes a gambit by giving Dr. Thredson a message for Wendy and learns her suspicions about the serial killer might be wrong.  Kit and Grace plot another escape with Shelley during the film night.  Sister Jude returns to drinking and sees something in the halls of the asylum.  Kit, Grace, and Shelley’s plan hit a snag when they encounter Lana…but escape leads to a darker discovery.


“I Am Anne Frank—Part 1”

2.4       I Am Anne Frank—Part 1 Airdate:  11/07/12

The arrival of a woman (Franka Potente) claiming to be Anne Frank along with his brush with the prostitute leads Dr. Arden to come under the suspicion of the police and even more questions by Sister Jude when Anne Frank accuses him being the Nazi doctor Dr. Hans  Grüper.  Kit finds himself growing closer to Grace and learns the secret of why she is at the asylum.  An attempt at aversion therapy by Dr. Thredson on Lana leads to a surprising plan by the doctor.  Anne Frank’s attempt at escape leads her discover just what Dr. Arden is doing to Shelley.


“I Am Anne Frank—Part 2”

2.5       I Am Anne Frank—Part 2 Airdate:  11/14/12

With revelations that Dr. Arden could be a Nazi, Sister Jude hires a Nazi hunter (Mark Margolis) to look into Dr. Thredson, but the revelation that Anne Frank is a simple housewife with postpartum depression could change Sister Jude’s plans.  Plans to sterilize Grace leads Grace to an encounter with Kit’s aliens and a shocking discovery.  Dr. Thredson’s plan to liberate Lana from Briarcliff goes off without a hitch…but Lana finds out Thredson’s dark secret.


“The Origins of Monstrosity”

2.6       The Origins of Monstrosity Airdate:  11/21/12

The Monsignor (Joseph Fiennes) visits the hospital and discovers the real horror unleashed by Dr. Arden on Shelley.  Sister Jude learns that the recent problems at Briarcliff has lost her job, but the information from Mr. Goodman that Dr. Arden might indeed be a Nazi provides hope for revenge.  Lana is held at Dr. Thredson’s home and tries to escape Bloody Face.  Kit finds himself transferred to jail due to his confession to Thredson and tries to convince people that Grace saw his wife alive.  A young girl named Jenny (Nikki Hahn) arrives at Briarcliff with a dark secret…and Sister Mary Eunice is there to help!  In the present day, the police find Bloody Face’s work at the remains of Briarcliff and learns that Bloody Face has a hostage in Teresa.


“Dark Cousin”

2.7       Dark Cousin Airdate:  11/21/12

The Angel of Death (Frances Conroy) is haunting Briarcliff and its inhabitants.  Sister Mary Eunice takes control of the asylum and reveals her true self to Dr. Arden.  Sister Jude finds herself framed for the murder of Goodman and recalls the events that led her to become a nun.  Lana fights to get away from Thredson but finds herself back where she started.  Kit’s desperate attempt at escape leads to an unexpected death.


“Unholy Night”

2.8       Unholy Night Airdate:  12/05/12

Christmas has come to Briarcliff and things are going to get bloody.  With the death of Grace and the discovery of one of Dr. Arden’s monster by Frank (Fredric Lehne), Dr. Arden and Sister Mary Eunice realize Frank must be silenced.  Sister Jude questions what to do about Sister Mary Eunice and finds an unlikely ally in Dr. Arden.  Lana discovers Kit is back at Briarcliff and sets out with him to prove that Dr. Thredson is the real Bloody Face…leading to a surprising capture.  Dr. Arden learns that Kit’s alien fantasies might not be fantasies at all.  Leigh Emerson (Ian McShane) has always hated Christmas and Sister Jude and now might get his chance at revenge!


“The Coat Hanger”

2.9       The Coat Hanger Airdate:  12/12/12

In 2012, A man named Johnny Morgan (Dylan McDermott) finds a trip to the psychiatrist (Brooke Smith) might reveal more about his childhood.  In 1964, Lana gets bad news about her time with Dr. Thredson but realizes it can be used as a bartering tool to force him to tell the truth.  Sister Jude discovers Leigh has survived her attack and now she’s a patient at Briarcliff on his word along with the testimony of Dr. Arden and Sister Mary Eunice for the murder of Frank.  Dr. Arden’s decision to trap the aliens using Kit as bait leads to a surprising discovery.  A converted Leigh leads to hope the Monsignor…and a tragic turn.


“The Name Game”

2.10     The Name Game Airdate:  01/02/13

Grace has returned and Pepper (Naomi Grossman) is protecting her from the dangers of Dr. Arden.  The Monsignor tries to get over surviving Leigh’s attack, he’s faced with a new question of how to release Sister Mary Eunice of the Devil’s grasp.  Sister Mary Eunice uses her powers at the asylum to have Sister Jude treated with electroconvulsive therapy leaving Sister Jude a shell of the woman she once was.  With Dr. Thredson working on the staff of Briarcliff, Kit and Lana must find a way to prevent him from getting ahold of their evidence against him.  A confrontation between Sister Mary Eunice and the Monsignor leads to a big decision by Dr. Arden.


“Spilt Milk”

2.11     Spilt Milk Airdate:  01/09/13

Briarcliff is coming down!  With an escape attempt and evidence to sink both Briarcliff and Dr. Thredson, Lana might just have the key to take apart the asylum.  Freedom is imminent for Kit, and he finds he might be able to make a move to free himself, Grace, and the baby…but he could discover a surprise at home.   With Dr. Arden and Sister Mary Eunice dead, the Monsignor is in charge of Briarcliff and must deal with the public outcry and a problematic Sister Jude.  Lana deals with her pregnancy and decides she must make a decision about the child’s future.



2.12     Continuum Airdate:  01/16/13

Juggling two wives and two children becomes a challenge for Kit, and Alma comes up with a solution to the problem.  Sister Jude begins to see the Angel of Death everywhere in Briarcliff and learns that time is passing faster than she thought.  Lana lives off the fictionalized account of her life at Briarcliff but finds herself haunted by her past including a return visit from Kit.  Johnny seeks out his mother’s book and prepares to have a few choice words with her for abandoning him.


“Madness Ends”

2.13     Madness Ends Airdate:  01/23/13

While Lana remembers her past and what happened when she decided to shut down Briarcliff using her new found celebrity she recalls what happened to Kit, his children, the Monsignor, and the disappearance of Sister Jude from the asylum.  The past is about to meet the present as Johnny tracks down Lana for an ultimate confrontation.

Related Links:

American Horror Story:  Murder House (Season 1) Review and Complete Episode Guide

American Horror Story:  Coven (Season 3) Review and Complete Episode Guide

American Horror Story:  Freak Show (Season 4) Review and Complete Episode Guide

American Horror Story:  Hotel (Season 5) Review and Complete Episode Guide

American Horror Story:  Roanoke (Season 6) Review and Complete Episode Guide

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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