Wednesday, November 7, 2012

'American Horror Story: Asylum' Review - 2.04 I Am Anne Frank, Part 1 (Plus Thoughts on Season 2 So Far)

        On the newest episode of FX's American Horror Story: Asylum, a new patient to the asylum claims to be Anne Frank and exposes Dr. Arden's past as a Nazi; and Kit learns why Grace was admitted to Briarcliff.
        Plus I'm starting things off tonight with my thoughts on the second season so far.

        Season two of FX's American Horror Story has been a very unique experience throughout its first few episodes. From what I have seen so far this year,  Jessica Lange continues to absolutely shine on the program even though her Sister Jude character is completely different from season one's Constance. These first few episodes have done a brilliant job of shading in the tragic details of both her present and past character. James Cromwell has been the only other really impressive acting force this season. He has been able to sell everything about his villainous and disturbed doctor with so much conviction. That has also made me overlook some of his cornier lines because he delivers them so well. Unfortunately, all the other characters haven't left a very impressive and lasting impression. I mean how many more times will we have to sit through Lana, Grace and Kit plotting to escape and failing at it? Lily Rabe's innocent character was fun albeit one-note and her transition into a didactic devil was very pleasurable to see in episode three. Similarly, the big noteworthy twist at the end of episode 3 with Chloe Sevigny's Shelley excites me with that character's prospects more than the stuff she was doing in episodes one and two. Finally, Joseph Fiennes and Zachary Quinto's characters have the potential to be interesting. They just haven't been given anything compelling to do yet.
        My biggest complaint with the season arc so far however is that there is soooooooooo much plot and overdone horror tropes going on. There's aliens, the creatures in the woods, devil possession, surgical experimentation, the battle between science and religion, Bloody Face, the (terribly boring) 2012 story, and the tragic character backstory of every single character in an overstuffed cast. I'm confident by the end of the year we have a much better understanding of how everything/one is connect but right every thing feels very scattered and separate.

        And now, on to my exact thoughts on the fourth episode of the season. This hour I actually found to be quite enjoyable because of the simplicity it exhibited consistently throughout. It didn't touch on any of the more out there horror/supernatural plot points and was set entirely in the 1964 story. This really did allow the show to breathe and well service all of its characters. This hour was much more of a character piece than a moving the plot forward episode and I loved that it took that approach.
        The hour predominantly featured backstory reveals for Dr. Arden and Grace. The show decided to revive Anne Frank (because why not?) to show that Arden may in fact be a Nazi war criminal. This character may be on a tragic path at the moment as he is spiraling downward as the people around him learn more about him and what he's really doing to the patients. There's still a lot of pieces for this character to go and I'm intrigued to see how his pact with the Joseph Fiennes character (whose name I do not recall) will shape things up moving forward. And on the other hand, we got a much more concrete insight into Grace's past and why she is in Briarcliff at all. Her being just the normal character amongst a ton of crazies made her really boring throughout the first three episodes. Here, she is given a very compelling and humanizing backstory that allows her to become a more nuanced character.
        The Lana did annoy me in the past two episodes because in both she was subjected to the exact same plot of trying to escape this asylum and failing both times. Neither of which were done especially well or did anything to make me appreciate or like this character. However, this hour actually got me to care for her as she had to go through inversion and conversion therapy. That sequence had some rough stuff and the ideals like that are what scare me / make me uncomfortable more than the horror tropes the series is trying to pull off.
        I didn't appreciate the fact that the show had to reshow the random flashbacks of Jude running over the girl or Dr. Arden romancing the prostitute. We saw these images and plots weeks ago and yet the show doesn't trust us to remember them?

So what does everyone think of the season as a whole so far? Should it evolve into more of an acting sparring match between Jessica Lange and James Cromwell? What the hell is going on with Shelley? Share your thoughts in the comments.