American Horror Story: Asylum: “Tricks and Treats”
Zachary Quinto makes his entrance to the show just in time for an exorcism.
October 25, 2012 3:59 pmGeorge Solomou
First of all, apologies for not doing a run down like like Hayli last week, whom I am taking over for, but judging from the effect that the show has had on her, I'll take the safe approach and rant in between commenting on the episode.
The second episode of American Horror Story: Asylum, like the first one, starts with a glimpse of the asylum circa 2012, picking up from where it left off last time, making the running time of the part of the story no one cares about (yet) to about five minutes. Seriously though, if Bloody Face is a) immortal, b) a copycat, or c) a ghost a-la the first season, I’ll be slightly disappointed. Hopefully the writers have plenty of aces (and axes and daggers) up their sleeves for a fleshed-out storyline for those two, now one, horny-for-horror lovers.
While the first episode setup the setting with hazy introductions touching plenty of themes during its one hour - racial segregation, gender issues, religion vs science 101, aliens! - "Tricks and Treats" offers us three strong plot lines that rather from advancing the story (and answering some bloody questions), lay the foundations for character development, future conflicts and a hell of a convoluted turn of events.
First, there was my favourite kind of horror or thriller on screen; that of the exorcism. A couple brings in their teenage son to be treated for a severe case of speaking in tongues and eating raw meat (in Greece where I was born that is called Sunday dinner). Zachary Quinto’s appearance (psychiatrist Dr. Thredson) was very much anticipated ever since his name rolled out in the first episode’s credits, but unfortunately other than the introduction of his character and some minor scenes during the exorcism, his talent was meagrely materialised, perhaps being overshadowed by the acting of Jennifer Lange (Sister Jude). Quinto’s character also sought to remind us that outside the asylum a rational world still exists but like the Murder House from season one, there’s a sign outside paraphrasing Dante with "Abandon all reason ye who enter here". The exorcism worked pretty well in terms of revealing some of the strict Sister’s past, other than the dressing-up-in-red-lace-and-fantasizing-about-boning-my-boss-who-also-happens-to-be-a-priest part. Sure, the whole thing could have been longer, an hour or two perhaps, but it gave us a not so nice ending with the patient/victim dying and also putting an additional horror trope to this brickhouse of horror fiction clichés. So we have the crazy Christian people, the mad scientist, the growling, snarling creatures in the woods (I call dibs on zombies), the serial killer, frigging aliens, frigging demons and everything taking place in an asylum, giving the writers plenty of opportunities to come with even more severely demented background stories about the patients there.
For the second plotline we have the only sane people in the asylum (so far) plotting some sort of escape. After all Sarah Paulson’s story (Lana Winters) is the only linear hero quest here: she needs to get from point A (detained in the Asylum) to point Z (Zieg-freedom) with a lot of old school journalist investigating in the middle. And while Evan Peter’s story (Kit Walker) was the instigator - the starting point of the show - it seems, for the time being to be in the back seat. Of course the ever lingering question remains about his circumstances, whether he hallucinated the aliens or not, and whether his wife is alive. The flashbacks were unreliable and the little mechanical spider has not been addressed so far, except the obvious scar on his neck. The choices made by these two main characters felt kind of blunt, but I guess they serve their purpose for some future character building even though both of them are quite likable and redeemable, until we actually seem them in their flash backs performing vile and despicable things, like shooting up a high school.
The third and final interwoven storyline concerns James Cromwell (Dr. Arden) whose intense performance is so far the highlight of the ensemble cast for me. The moments where he shone were all the scenes he was in, in the episode, from the brief electroconvulsive therapy session to the ominous scene where he made Sister Eunice bite a candy apple against the backdrop of the forest bordering the asylum. After a little run-in with Chloë Sevigny, who plays the nymphomaniac Shelley, and after berating her and showing his disgust for her, we next see him trying to have a romantic dinner with a hooker, exhibiting sings of a well-mannered schizophrenic killer. The little scene at the end with sister Eunice seals the deal for the perversity of his character, setting us up for future and more interesting storylines. All these layers make a rather spherical character, and all around a well written one, making him the opposite of Sister Jude.
Remember how the ghosts stopped being scary in the first season when there were more dead characters than live ones? Or how death was okay since, hey, we’re all a bunch of ectoplasmic psychopaths just chilling over here, playing pranks to the meatbags? Somehow I doubt that this will be the case this time. No, this time around things will be ten times more serious with the writers fondling our primal fears even further. My only problem would have been with the plot since I like things to be story shaped with a clear beginning middle and end. But sometimes I forget that some of the best horror stories are a collection of cool scenes rather than a complex thread of plot twists. I believe it was the writer Charlie Anders who wrote something like that in an article on io9 although I must be paraphrasing. Either way, like Cain from the Sandman once said, it’s not about the secret but about the mystery. And to end with another perplexed metaphor, at the carnival we ride the horror train through the horror house, not to get answers but to get scared.
|FIND YOUR GEEK RATING
out of 10