|Country of origin United States|
Original network FX
|No. of episodes 13|
|Starring Zachary QuintoJoseph FiennesSarah PaulsonEvan PetersLily RabeLizzie BrocheréJames CromwellJessica Lange|
Original release October 17, 2012 (2012-10-17) – January 23, 2013 (2013-01-23)
American Horror Story: Asylum is the second season of the American FX horror television series American Horror Story, created by Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy. It originally aired from October 17, 2012 to January 23, 2013. The premise of the second season marked a departure from that of the series' first season, featuring all new characters and a new location, thus marking American Horror Story as an anthology series at the time.
- Special guest stars
- Critical response
- Awards and nominations
The season begins in 1964 at the fictional mental institution, Briarcliff Manor, following the stories of the staff and inmates who occupy it, and intercuts with events in the past and present. Returning cast members from the previous season of the series include: Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Dylan McDermott, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Zachary Quinto, and Lily Rabe.
Like its predecessor, Asylum was well received by television critics and fans. The performances of Jessica Lange, James Cromwell, Zachary Quinto, Sarah Paulson, and Lily Rabe were particularly praised. The season garnered seventeen Emmy Award nominations, more than any other show, including Outstanding Miniseries and four acting nominations for Lange, Paulson, Cromwell, and Quinto, with Cromwell winning for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. In addition, Quinto and Paulson won their respective supporting categories at the 3rd Critics' Choice Television Awards.
Despite being formerly anthological, some of the cast members reprise their roles in the series' fourth and sixth cycle, Freak Show & Roanoke, such as: Lily Rabe, Naomi Grossman, Sarah Paulson, and John Cromwell, portraying Sister Mary Eunice McKee, Pepper, Lana Winters, and a young version of Dr. Arthur Arden, also known as Hans Grüper, respectively.
In 1964, at Briarcliff Mental Institution in Massachusetts, Sister Jude Martin (Jessica Lange) and Sister Mary Eunice McKee (Lily Rabe) maintain the institution that was founded by Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes) to treat and house the mentally and criminally insane. Psychiatrist Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto), and scientist Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell), treat the patients within the facility, which include lesbian journalist Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), accused serial killer Kit Walker (Evan Peters), and alleged murderer Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré).
Sister Jude was once a philandering nightclub singer who unintentionally killed a young girl in a drunk-driving hit and run accident in 1949, leading to her becoming a nun and being selected to work at Briarcliff. Sister Jude is terrorized by the memory and goes to see the family of the dead girl, only to learn that the girl survived the accident with only a few broken bones. She figures that God had a plan for her all along, and decides that it is her job to destroy all the remaining evil at Briarcliff. Sister Mary Eunice is a shy and innocent nun who fears Sister Jude, and becomes possessed by the Devil during an exorcism of another patient, becoming cruel and willful.
Dr. Arden is a former Nazi whose experiments have produced "Raspers", mutated former patients, who lurk in the woods surrounding the institution, and who are fed the flesh of dead patients. Dr. Thredson is assigned to evaluate Kit, who is accused of being the infamous serial killer 'Bloody Face' and believes his wife Alma (Britne Oldford) was abducted by aliens. Thredson also tries to "reform" Lana, who was an ambitious journalist attempting to expose Briarcliff's mistreatments of patients. She was in a relationship with Wendy (Clea Duvall), who was blackmailed by Sister Jude into committing Winters, before being killed by Bloody Face. Thredson helps Lana escape from the asylum, but she learns that Thredson is actually Bloody Face, and is kept prisoner. He rapes her and tries to kill her, but she manages to escape, only to end up back at Briarcliff. She later learns she is pregnant with Thredson's baby.
Meanwhile, believing his wife is dead or missing, Kit has taken up with inmate Grace Bertrand, who has murdered her family as her father was sexually abusive towards her and her stepmother ignored it. Kit is arrested after Thredson hands in a taped confession that he tricked Kit into saying and Grace is taken to be sterilized after the pair are caught having sex. However, she is abducted by aliens and is later returned, very pregnant and ready to give birth. Kit escapes custody and returns to Briarcliff, where he blackmails the Monsignor into letting Grace, himself, and their baby go. The three arrive at his old home to find his wife Alma, alive and with her own baby. The possessed Sister Mary Eunice, with the help of Dr. Arden, has Sister Jude deposed and committed, and takes over Briarcliff. Monsignor Howard tries to exorcise her but instead is sexually assaulted by her. Out of options, Howard kills her by throwing her off the third floor balcony, and Dr. Arden, having become loyal to Mary Eunice, cremates her while immolating himself. Lana successfully captures a confession from Dr. Thredson, but decides to confront him in his house to say she has turned the tape over to the police. He states that because he is insane, no jury will convict him and that she will be his last victim. As he reaches for a hidden gun, Lana shoots him in the head.
In the present, Lana has become a famous television investigative reporter and gets Briarcliff closed down for its inhumane treatments. Lana reveals that Monsignor Howard committed suicide after she threatened to expose his neglect of the patients, and that Kit took in Sister Jude after Alma was committed to Briarcliff for killing Grace. Jude spends her remaining years bonding with Kit's children, before dying, leaving the family devastated. Kit also develops pancreatic cancer and is abducted by the aliens again. Lana and Thredson's grown son, Johnny (Dylan McDermott), has vowed vengeance against her, angry at being rejected as a baby and wanting to finish his father's work. He confronts her at her house, where she ultimately convinces him that he is not like his father, before taking his gun and shooting him in the head.
Special guest stars
In October 2011, the FX Network renewed the series for a second season. In December 2011, series co-creator Ryan Murphy announced his plans to change the characters and location for the second season. He did say, however, that some actors who starred in the first season would be returning. "The people that are coming back will be playing completely different characters, creatures, monsters, etc. [The Harmons'] stories are done. People who are coming back will be playing entirely new characters," he announced.
In May 2012, Murphy revealed that the setting for the second season will be an institution for the criminally insane that Jessica Lange's character operates in the 1960s, called Briarcliff Manor and located on the East Coast. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Murphy spoke about originally wanting to set the season in a prison, "I think at one point as we were spitballing season two before we landed on the asylum idea, we had actually talked about doing the second season in a prison but then Alcatraz came along and stole that idea. It was never very definitive but I always liked that idea. I think an insane asylum for us was probably much more effective."
Talking about the season, Murphy commented, "It's a completely different world and has nothing to do with season 1; there's not a mention of season 1... The second season is set in a completely different time period." He later said, "Everyone looks so different, people who were enemies last year are allies this year. The sets are amazing. It's 1964, so everything looks very different."
Murphy had also told TV Guide that there would not be any ghosts in the second season, "I think the story is horrifying," he said. "The story is a period piece in a mental institution based largely on truth and truth is always scarier than fiction."
In August 2012, Murphy announced the season's new name by stating, "We picked 'Asylum' because it not only describes the setting – an insane asylum run by Jessica Lange's character which was formerly a tuberculosis ward – but also signifies a place of haven for the unloved and the unwanted," he said. "This year's theme is about sanity and tackling real life horrors."
Previous consulting producer Tim Minear was promoted to executive producer and continued writing for the series, beginning with the season premiere. He also scripted the season finale.
In March 2012, Murphy revealed that the second season had been conceptualized around Jessica Lange, saying, "This will really be the Jessica Lange show so I'm very excited about it. We are designing this amazing new opposite of the Constance character for her. She and I have spoken about different things. She has a lot of ideas, and has a lot of input into her character. She told me some things she has always wanted to play as an actress." She portrayed Sister Jude, an apparent sadistic nun. Zachary Quinto, who had a recurring role as Chad in the first season, was confirmed as one of the leads in March 2012. He portrayed Dr. Oliver Thredson, a psychiatrist with groundbreaking treatment methods that go against Sister Jude's. Comparing his new character to his previous one, Quinto said, "He's much more grounded and in control." At the PaleyFest 2012, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, and Lily Rabe were confirmed to return as main cast members for the second season. Paulson portrayed Lana Winters, a lesbian reporter whose girlfriend is coerced by Sister Jude into having her committed to the asylum, Rabe portrayed Sister Mary Eunice, an innocent and loyal second-in-charge to Sister Jude, and Peters portrayed Kit Walker, a man who's accused of murdering his wife, Alma (Britne Oldford), but he claims she was abducted by aliens. Murphy had stated that Peters, "who was last season's ultimate badass bad boy", would be the hero of the show this season.
It was reported in March 2012 that Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine was in final negotiations to appear in the second season, and that he would play Leo, a "contemporary character and half of a couple called "The Lovers," according to Tim Stack of Entertainment Weekly. Levine revealed to E! in June 2012 that his character is "newly married" and would go with his wife on their honeymoon. "I don't want to tell you too much... but it's gory." Jenna Dewan-Tatum played his wife, Teresa. In April 2012, Lizzie Brocheré was cast to play Grace, a character described originally as "a fierce, ferocious, extremely sexual, and dangerous wild-child sexpot" to rival Jessica Lange's character, but the role was later heavily revamped. In May 2012, James Cromwell signed on to co-star as Dr. Arthur Arden, a man who works in the asylum, and who is revealed to have been a Nazi. Chloë Sevigny played the role of Shelley, a nymphomaniac whose husband has her placed in the asylum.
In June 2012, actor Joseph Fiennes joined the main cast as Monsignor Timothy Howard, a possible love interest for Jessica Lange's Sister Jude. Later that month, Chris Zylka was cast to play Daniel, who was touted as "the most beautiful boy in the world and a deaf mute"; however, Zylka was later replaced by an unmentioned actor, due to his reluctance to shave his head for the role. Britne Oldford was cast in the recurring role of Alma, Peters' character's supposed dead/missing wife. In July 2012, Mark Consuelos was cast as a patient named Spivey, who was described as a degenerate bully. Also in July, Clea DuVall was cast as Wendy, a school teacher and Lana's girlfriend, and Franka Potente was cast in an unspecified role, which was later revealed to be Anne Frank / Charlotte Brown.
In August 2012, Blake Sheldon was cast in the dual role of Devon and Cooper, both described as "tall, thin and psychopathic." Ultimately Sheldon wound up portraying only Cooper. Season one alum Frances Conroy guest starred as Shachath, the Angel of Death. Eric Stonestreet was scheduled to guest star again, this season as a killer, but the appearance never came to fruition. Mark Margolis recurred as Sam Goodwin, while David Chisum and Amy Farrington guest starred as a caring husband and a troubled mother, respectively. In mid-October, Ian McShane joined the season in the recurring role of Leigh Emerson, a psychotic man who murders people while wearing a Santa Claus suit; he has a vendetta against Sister Jude. Former series co-star Dylan McDermott appeared during the second half of the season as Johnny Morgan, the modern day Bloody Face.
Principal photography for the second season began on July 17, 2012. The exteriors for the second season were filmed in Hidden Valley, Ventura County, California, a rural area outside Los Angeles. The exterior filming of Briarcliff was done at the old Orange County courthouse. Series production designer Mark Worthington stated, "It's referred to as Richardsonian and Romanesque. It's named after an architect named Henry Hobson Richardson. He developed the style in the 19th century. It's circular arches, heavy stone. It's creepy, great for horror. It's dark, dark shiny brick. That's how we got away from all the hospital light stuff. There's still an institutional feel to it."
American Horror Story: Asylum has received generally positive reviews from critics and scored 65 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 23 reviews. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported an 86% approval rating with an average rating of 6.6/10 based on 43 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "American Horror Story: Asylum crosses boundaries to shock and scare with sexy subplots and some innovative takes on current social issues." James Poniewozik, from Time, said of the early episodes of the second season, "AHS: Asylum feels like a more focused, if equally frenetic, screamfest. It's also gorgeously realized, with a vision of its '60s institution setting so detailed you can smell the stale air and incense."
Maureen Ryan of The Huffington Post said, "It's to the credit of Asylum's writers, directors and cast that the emotional pain of the characters often feels as real as their uncertainty and terror." However, Verne Gay of Newsday gave the season a C grade, writing that it "has some good special effects, just not much of a story to hang them on." Linda Stasi of the New York Post thought this season was "over the top", stating, "I need to enter [an asylum] myself after two hours of this craziness."
In a round-up of outstanding entertainers and programs of 2012, Jess Cagle of Entertainment Weekly praised "its ballsy, go-for-broke, don't-tax-the-attention-span-of-any-gnats-who-might-be-watching approach", writing, "You know a show has a lot going on when the occasional appearance of extraterrestrials is no more surprising than spotting a Prius on Modern Family. FX's grand experiment American Horror Story came howling back for its second terrifying season with less of a story...than a macabre, unforgettable, discordant symphony of images and characters... American Horror Story: Asylum, set mostly in the 1960s, took the current zeitgeist – with all its free-floating fear, nefarious undercurrents, and outrageous anxiety – skinned it alive, and turned it into a lamp to illuminate our collectively twisted psyche and voracious appetite for distraction."
Awards and nominations
In its second season, American Horror Story: Asylum was nominated for 89 awards, and won 28.
* The Pan-American Association of Film & Television Journalists never announced the winners.
The first episode of the season gained a 2.2 ratings share among adults aged 18–49 and garnered 3.85 million viewers, marking the highest numbers for the series and the highest numbers for the night's cable competition.