American Horror Story, season 2

Alright.  Despite the way the last one ended[1], I’m watching the first episode of the second season.  Bunch of the same actors; after the open, it looks like they’re going with a period piece.  The location for this season is an asylum–initially a tuberculosis sanitarium, turned into an asylum for the criminally insane run by the Catholic church. Given how they handled psychiatric help in the last season, I am the antithesis of optimistic.  (Credits do feature Clea Duvall, who I am glad to see, but I’m not sure that’s enough.)

Okay.  The light of my life refers to Mad Men as being a show that boils down to “look at these primitive savages, see how savage and primitive they are”.   I think there’s more to Mad Men than that.  Watching this episode, I am not yet sure I am seeing more than that here.

The woman running the asylum is vomitous.  The doctor brought in to run the medical side of things is arguably worse.  We’ve seen five patients talk so far, and the characterisation is… thin.  Particularly for the three who haven’t proclaimed their innocence.

Common elements in our protagonists: relationships deemed socially unacceptable and kept secret.  The self-proclaimed innocent murderer was a white man married to a black woman[2]; the reporter is a woman with a girlfriend.  Hmh, even Sister Jude, the woman running the asylum, is a nun lusting after her monsignor.

Betting that the doctor is either operating on patients to turn them into a strange new species or grinding them up to feed them to wolves.  Probably the strange new species thing.  There’s a real Nazi eugenicist vibe off him when he’s talking about creating new species.

(Flashback to the contemporary open!  That’s kind of cool.  I hope they make it out.)

Right, so, both the religious figures and the scientific figures are sources of horror.  The reporter’s been incarcerated; her girlfriend Wendy’s being blackmailed into cosigning the recommendation that she be committed with the threat of revealing the fact that she’s a lesbian (she’s a third-grade schoolteacher); and of course no-one that we’re invited to feel any sympathy for is actually insane.  Kit Walker was either possessed or framed by aliens (seriously, the doctor pulled a little metal bug out of him that then got up and ran away), and Lana Winters was locked up because Sister Jude figures she can get away with it.  Grace (the woman who warns Kit that the other inmates will rat him out if he turns off the Muzak in the common room[3]) claims she’s not crazy, and it says a lot about the show that given that she’s white, attractive, and accused of murdering her family (kind of like Kit!) that I am inclined to buy it.

There’s also Shelley.  She’s been diagnosed with nymphomania, which (1) given the time period is a diagnosis I am looking at with a great deal of suspicion, and (2) does make me wonder how she ended up in an asylum for the criminally insane.

Everyone else?  The people who we presume are actually mentally ill?  They’re scary decorations.  The first one we meet is a woman suffering from microcephaly who, we are told, drowned her sister’s baby and cut off his ears.  And there’s poor grooming, twitching, throwing around bodily waste…

So we’ve got a show set in an asylum, where all but three and two-halves (the Monsignor and Wendy) of the characters are patients, and we still can’t actually get a protagonist who’s mentally ill?  I mean, I knew it was too much to hope for, I just hate being reminded of that fact.


[1] In a fest of Biblical Roanoke magic spell therapy-is-all-lies and women-are-baby-crazy shit that had me earnestly explaining to the dog that if she ever meets a therapist like the one in the TV show she should bite him and she would be a good dog for doing it.

[2] She died.  Horribly. Probably.

[3] He’ll get five more blows with a cane, they’ll get a piece of candy.

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