Sticking: American Horror Story

Posted on October 31, 2012

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FX presents some pretty edgy entertainment with Sons of Anarchy, Justified, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Louie, Wilfred, and Archer. So when they announced a horror series, there was a chance it wouldn’t be watered-down pablum. It might actually be provocative, chilling, and scary. So of course, we watched.

We Watched It

The current season is set in the Briarcliff Mental Institution in 1964. All of the inmates claim to be unjustly incarcerated. Frankly, the state of the art for treating mental illness in 1964 was pretty frightening by today’s standards. Meanwhile, there’s a serial killer roaming outside the institute, attacking women.

 

Sticking

We really enjoyed the haunted house story told in Season 1, but we didn’t understand the transition to Season 2. Because it was so different, it really felt like they had to sell us all over again, and somehow they didn’t manage it.

Personally, I thought that was because Jessica Lange’s brittle character from the first season was so raw and tough that featuring her in the ads for Season 2 was actually off-putting.

Now we’ve watched episode 3, and we’re hooked. We have no idea who is crazy and who is not. The writers are putting tough choices in front of the characters (for example, Lana Winters must decide between escaping and keeping an accused serial killer from escaping). Honestly, I have no idea if the serial killer outside the Institution is real or a story to frighten the inmates; or if real, which of the characters is the killer.

WTF?

My WTF moment stems from the re-use of several actors from the first season. Jessica Lange, Zachary Quinto, Sarah Paulson (who I’ve loved since American Gothic), Lily Rabe, and Evan Peters were all in the first season. They’re playing unrelated characters now. Are they playing their own parents? Is something else going on? Is it completely meaningless?

It’s distracting.

Hopefully that will go away as we watch more episodes and the new characters establish themselves in our consciousness.

Thoughts

How many shows have you watched that threw out everything – characters, setting, story – and started over?

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Posted in: television