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Monday, December 3, 2012

"Dark Cousin" visits American Horror Story: Asylum

Overall, I have been disappointed with season two of FX's American Horror Story, subtitled Aslyum. Season one had awesome characters that I really cared about, the Harmon family. They were what drove the plot, and kept me returning week after week, even as all the craziness went on around them, constantly adding new players to the story, much as this season is doing. They were decent people (for the most part), who didn't deserve what happened to them.

By contrast, the characters that populate season two make much of their own trouble. I'm not saying that Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) deserves to be kept in the basement by Dr. Thredson (Zachary Qunito), or that Kit (Evan Peters) should be in Briarcliff at all. But, the characters this year are more flawed, do not always do the smartest thing, and put themselves in danger. They are also less relateble than the Harmons.

That being said, the deeper we go into the season, the more I begin to appreciate them. Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), who started out the season looking like a villain, almost cruel in the way that she ran the "hospital," is now almost as much a victim as the others. Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) has become so much more intriguing when possessed by the devil.

This past week's installment, "Dark Cousin," was fantastic! A lot of the credit should go to Frances Conroy as the Angel of Death. Here is this character dressed in black that can kiss you and take away your life. And yet, she is kind, non-judgmental, and is here to bring relief, not cause suffering, a stark contrast to the others around who have power over people. As Briarcliff dissolves more and more into chaos, and there doesn't appear to be a happy ending possible for any of the characters, death may be the best release. Coming at the midpoint of the season, "Dark Cousin" offers a desperately needed ray of hope, even if the result is permanent sleep.

It is also cool to see Death clash with Satan, as he lives inside Sister Mary Eunice. Clearly, Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) doesn't realize what he is dealing with in Mary Eunice, and Sister Jude is in no position to save anyone. This has made Briarcliff a sort of playground for Satan, and Death may just be the only one who can stop her.

This is good, because Lana's plot is pretty depressing in "Dark Cousin." She escapes from Briarcliff, ends up somewhere worse, and then escaps back to the asylum. Even should she get out completely, her lover is dead, and her secret homosexuality, a major scandal in the 1960s, could hurt her professionally. While she is the one I most want to see get out, and I would hope that she gets to publish an article blowing the lid off of the facility, I could also see her dying instead, and that might actually be a blessing.

Grace (Lizzie Brochere) actually did die this week, and I'm conflicted as to how I feel about this. On one hand, I don't know where else her character should have gone, and she was the most expendable, in my opinion, of the series leads. On the other, I was somehow rooting for her, even once she has been revealed to actually be a murderer, and she has sex with Kit after telling him that his wife, Alma (Britne Oldford), is still alive. This kind of makes her despicable.

What will be more interesting than Grace's death is what the effect of it will be on Kit. I honestly can't predict this.

So, despite a rocky start, American Horror Story: Aslyum is finally picking up the pace, and making itself worthy of the title. It's not that the first part of the season wasn't good; it was still better than most shows. It just didn't live up to season one. With a third outing already ordered, hopefully season two will only grow from here, continuing the trend of improvement.

American Horror Story: Asylum airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.

Want to read some of my fiction? It's on my website, JeromeWetzel.com! Also, for the latest updates and article links, as well as commentary on episodes I don't fully review, please follow me on Twitter!

This article first posted on TheTVKing

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