After dreaming (or more accurately, having nightmares) about the return of American Horror Story, with its blood-spattered cameras, its psycho sex, and Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Asylum successfully takes everything we love about the original and amplifies it. In the most nightmarish (that’s a good thing) of ways.
This post contains major spoilers from the American Horror Story: Asylum premiere. For more on Wetpaint Entertainment's philosophy on spoilers, click here.
The first two characters we meet are horny newlyweds Leo (Adam Levine) and Teresa (Jenna Dewan-Tatum), who are hungrily ravaging the decrepit remains of Briarcliff Manor as part of their honeymoon. The time is present day. Teresa is a self-described “horror freak” who gets her kicks from creeping around the scariest places in the world and having sex with Leo on top of them. Leo just gets his kicks from Teresa.
During the romantic interlude, Teresa fills us in on the Briarcliff basics: A Catholic church bought the place in 1962, and legend has it that “once you were committed, you never got out.” Its most famous resident was a serial killer named Bloodyface. Cue: a suspicious noise. Like anyone in the Scream franchise, they fall victim to interruptus coitus, and head towards the noise.
It seems to be coming from behind a door, and Teresa dares Leo to put his hand through an opening. Something behind the door suddenly rips his entire arm off, and if you’re suspecting the ghost of Bloodyface, well, hold that thought.
On with the show! The year is 1964, and the place is a suburban gas station. Kit Walker (the excellent Evan Peters, an AHS alum) is the attendant closing up. He performs a very Elvis-inspired routine to “There Goes My Baby,” and we like him right away. Some local kids come by looking to borrow Kit’s gun, saying that some N-words messed with one of their sisters. One eats a piece of chocolate and says, “Mmm,” in an insulting way, to Kit.
We soon find out why. Kit heads home to his modest little farm, where his African-American wife Alma (Britne Oldford) awaits, preparing dinner. They, too, are horny, but first Kit puts on his secret wedding ring. He wants to tell everyone about their marriage! But Mrs. Walker is wary of the times and people’s judgment. After some more (albeit, much more loving) sex, the happy couple lays in bed. Cue: another suspicious noise.
Seeing some lights shining through the window, Kit thinks it’s those mean kids. But once he heads outside with a rifle, a blinding white light appears overhead. He runs inside, looking for Alma, but the light fills the whole house, and a deafening sound has him on the floor, gripping his ears. Suddenly, everything stops. The sound of a large magnet overhead means everything is thrust to the ceiling, including Kit.
Catch your breath, because now we’re at Briarcliff. Lana Winters (the returning Sarah Paulson) is visiting the asylum as a journalist, under the pretense that she’s writing a story on the Briarcliff bakery (the existence of which is dubious). After meeting Sister Mary Eunice (another alum, Lily Rabe) and a curious, odd-looking mental patient named Pepper, Lana enters the institution, seeing other patients wandering the stairwell.
In Sister Jude’s (Jessica Lange!) office, the mother superior is busy shaving the head of Shelly the nymphomaniac (Chloe Sevigny). Sister Jude explains that a preposterous psychiatrist diagnosed Shelly with nymphomania, but “mental illness is the fashionable explanation for sin.” Quickly, we realize that Lana has no interest in the bakery, but in Bloodyface, who is reportedly checking in any minute. Bloodyface allegedly decapitated and killed dozens of women, and he’s the serial killer du jour.
Outside, state officials take Bloodyface into Briarcliff, and his face is revealed: It’s none other than poor Kit. He’s chained to a bed and given a shot to sedate him. Kit maintains his innocence, but Sister Jude tells him that he is there to repent. “Your story, about little green men, won’t do in here,” she tells him. “Did her dark meat slide off the bone any easier than your other victims?” she asks. She beats him with an enormous whip, and he’s taken to the patient lounge, where Shelly swiftly hits on him. He’s not interested. French pop is playing on the record player, and Grace (our favorite character so far, played by French actress Lizzie Brochere) warns him never to turn it off. Grace claims that she isn’t crazy. She’s accused of “chopping up [her] family,” but she, like Kit, says she’s innocent.
After Sister Jude finds out that another patient has mysteriously died in the middle of the night, she finds Dr. Arden (James Cromwell, bald and menacing) and demands an explanation. He establishes himself as a man of science, one who trivializes women and their religious nonsense. “Where are the bodies?” Sister Jude demands. It turns out that Arden was hired by the Monsignor, Father Thomas (Joseph Fiennes), who Sister Jude considers a gentleman. In her brittle Boston working-girl accent, Sister Jude only manages to annoy Arden. “Patients committed here suffer not only diseases of the mind, but of the body,” is his only explanation. She warns him, “I will always win against the patriarchal male.” We believe her.
Over at Lana’s house, we discover she’s in a sweet, committed relationship with her girlfriend Wendy (Clea Duvall). Wendy is a teacher, and Lana’s all wound up about her sexist boss who won’t let her write about anything except cooking. They begin to make out, but Wendy wants to close the blinds. “You think the PTA is gonna be cool if they find out that a dyke is teaching little Bobby and Suzy science?” Word.
Sister Jude is preparing dinner and praying at the same time. Bless the onions, the mushrooms, and bless the super-sexy red lace nightie she wears underneath her habit. Father Thomas is over for dinner, and Sister Jude is clearly verklempt. “Your cooking reveals a decadent palette,” he tells her. She purrs, coarsely. Because what Sister Jude really wants to talk about is Dr. Arden. “He is not a man of God,” she says. “You mustn’t be so fearful,” says Father Thomas. He credits science with curing tuberculosis, and points to “people better equipped than” her who have validated Arden’s work. As Father Thomas tells her that she is his “right hand,” Sister Jude fantasizes about removing her habit, pouring out her long, blond curls, stripping down to that red negligee, and straddling Father Thomas. Churchly music plays, but alas, it is only a horny nun’s live-action wet dream.
Next we see Sister Eunice wandering through the woods carrying a dripping, heavy bucket and a flashlight. She’s performing an errand for Dr. Arden, who she clearly worships. He tells her that “they’re getting hungry,” and that “the weather’s changing. They need more meat.” In the woods, Sister Eunice can barely get to the end of the trail before she drops the buckets and books it back. But she bumps right into Lana, who shows up demanding entry, and Sister Eunice hurries her inside.
In the patients’ lounge, guards beat Kit up after he accidentally gets into a fight with Kelly Ripa’s husband (Mark Consuelos plays a ‘roid rage patient known as Spivey), and he’s taken to a solitary cell. Dr. Arden wakes him up to give him a shot, telling him “there’s so much to learn.”
Fast-forward to the Lovers’ world in present day, where bloody and incapacitated Leo and desperate Teresa are struggling. She’s trying to drag her no-longer-virile man outside, but the doors have been chained shut.
Back in 1964, Sister Eunice takes Lana through a hidden tunnel towards the cells. Lana convinces Sister Eunice to let her sneak around, promising not to tell Sister Jude about the secret tunnel. Meanwhile, Arden takes Kit into his laboratory, telling him, “I run this institution.” Kit says, “I thought Sister Jude ran this place.” Arden smiles, “So does she.”
Arden tells Kit that “the devil resides” inside Kit’s “beautiful brains,” which he needs to open up by strapping Kit to a bed and taking creepy, old-fashioned readings under bright lights withClockwork Orange-esque eye clamps. Dr. Arden locates a strange hard mass inside Kit’s neck. He digs in, and pulls out... a bug. Yes, a bug, you read that correctly.
Down on the cell block, Kelly Ripa’s husband throws feces at Sister Eunice, and she runs away. Lana hides from Sister Jude’s threatening footsteps by ducking into a cell. She’s hunting Bloodyface but doesn’t want to get caught. Sister Jude goes to her office to chastise Sister Eunice, who is in a permanent state of repentance. Sister Eunice asks to be whipped, calling herself “weak and stupid” and pulling out the whip herself. “If I ever hear you call yourself stupid again, I’ll cane you bloody.” Clearly Sister Jude has a soft spot for little lamb Mary.
As for Lana, she’s the next one to be strapped to a bed. Sister Jude has captured her, and she’s the newest Briarcliff patient. Turns out that Sister Jude did some investigating and discovered Wendy and Lana’s “charming home.” Obviously Sister Jude thinks that the only way to “cure” Lana is to keep her at Briarcliff. Threatening to expose her “spinster” lifestyle to her students and the school, Sister Jude forces Wendy to sign away Lana’s life to the institution. Lana, of course, is devastated. “We’re going to slay that monster together, you and I,” assures Sister Jude.
Sister Jude has Sister Eunice steal the keys to Arden’s lab, inside which she finds Arden doing a little “spring cleaning.” The room has scratch marks on the walls, and the odor is overpowering. “Something’s been living in here,” she says. “This room’s been empty for years,” he counters. “You may think my mind is closed, Doctor, but my eyes are wide open, I promise you,” she yells after him.
Fast forward to the Lovers, who are trapped inside the crumbling remains of Briarcliff Manor. Teresa runs and runs through the halls, until she comes face to Bloodyface, shining her flashlight on a malformed, misshapen figure with no skin and eyes that do not close.
Is it Kit? Or is it one of the surviving creatures that used to get fed in the woods? Or is it just Adam Levine, having totally punked Channing Tatum’s wife? We’ll be watching, because these are the kind of nightmares we look forward to.
American Horror Story: Asylum airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.
Molly Friedman is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @MollyFriedman.
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