During the opening sequence of Episode 2, I couldn’t help but think this:
INT – ASYLUM – NIGHT
A young woman SCREAMS in the face of terror. She runs, stumbling onto the floor, then drags herself up and away from [insert killer name here]. She runs to her [friend/boyfriend] who is [incapacitated for some reason]. She tries to drag this person with her but suddenly the killer arrives and she has to abandon her loved one and hide in a [closet/small room/cupboard] with full view of her loved one and the killer.
CLOSEUP OF EYE WATCHING IN HORROR
Killer looks to make sure young woman is watching. [Friend/boyfriend] UTTERS one plea for salvation before the killer stabs [him/her] repeatedly. The young woman helplessly WHIMPERS, clutching her hand to her mouth.
I’m honestly not trying to make fun; one of the reasons why horror works is because you play into the conventions we’re all used to. We take a special delight in screaming at the people walking right into the spaces that we – in the safety of our homes or theatres – know better not to go into. I’m not the only one who is enjoying it either, although I do have a concern that what seems fresh initially will devolve into something trite, like an overwrought horror sequel (I’m addressing you, Jason X). We can even tick these things off: guest star musician turned actor killed early, check. Character who sparks up a doobie then is killed, check. So the question becomes, do we then start writing a list of what we can expect next and, as we check them off the list, are we doing so with a shaking hand because they are still making the expected scary?
The advantage the Show has is the evolution of attachment to certain characters, which then makes the demise of any more powerful; that is, of course, if you care about any of them. And with AHS, you don’t get perfect people. Even the nuns arrive with unclean hands, as we learn that Sister Jude’s red negligee is courtesy of her once upon a time profession as lounge singer (and possible prostitute) who was involved in a drunken hit and run. We learn this when Jed, a young man, is interred at Briarcliff because he’s possessed by demons, and we get a hands on view of an exorcism, which is always creepy, down to the ancient text language and low octave electronic gargle of insults hurled at anyone too close to listen. In the end, the boy dies, but the demon doesn’t. I’ll get to who it transfers to in a moment.
First, we can be sure that Kit isn’t Leath…I mean Bloody Face because Lana’s lover, unfortunately, becomes his next victim. Lana may or may not care, as she’s convinced that she’s been betrayed. I’m surprised and disappointed in Lana fully embracing that Wendy just signed the papers without some sort of arm-twisting; just knowing Sister Jude briefly you can see her means to an end would involve coercion, no matter what Greater Good she tries to hide behind. Lana confesses this trust issue to Grace, and, to be fair, it might just be the holes in her memory that Sister Jude helped punch in by electro shock treatment. Lana is fervently writing things down to not forget, but what remembrance she does cling onto is that Kit is a serial killer and deserves to stay incarcerated.
Kit, meanwhile, is being evaluated by court-appointed psychiatrist Dr. Thredson, to determine if he suffers from “acute clinical insanity” or if he’s cognizant enough of the murders to warrant a jail cell instead of an asylum one. Zachary Quinto gets some of the most fun reactions, as his proclamations of “This is 1964!” to address the horrific things he sees, such as treating homosexuality with electro shock, are so behind the times (more poignant still that a gay actor gets to say so). He is invited to be a part of the exorcism, and although we don’t get to see if his mind is changed about the existence of demons when all is said and done, I’m sure he has a lot to consider about things outside of science.
We peel the layers back a bit on Dr. Alden, who shares a sweet bond with Sister Mary Eunice, at first, her being so innocent around him, harboring his secret of the creatures in the woods that she helps to feed. Dr. Alden’s bond is a complicated infatuation; while he rebuffs nympho Shelley’s overt sexual advances, he does hire a prostitute to play-act with him, culminating in her dressing up in a nun’s habit and his request to see her “mossy bank”. Unfortunately for him, the faux Sister has stumbled upon some disturbing photographs he keeps of bondage and blood, inferring that he could be Bloody Face. Faux Sister escapes, so we’re left to wonder what Dr. Alden would want to do to Sister Mary Eunice. And he might get his chance, as, at the tail end of the exorcism she happens to be standing in the doorway, and what is dismissed as a fainting spell I’m confident is the transference of the boy’s demon into a living vessel. (See, I told you I’d get to it).
Another plot point involved Lana and Grace’s attempt to escape, but Grace won’t leave without Kit, and Lana is adamant that he not be involved. When the lights go out and mayhem ensues during the exorcism, the two women start to go to the tunnel that Lana stumbled upon in Episode 1. Since Kit had taken Lana’s notes, he too knows about the secret tunnel and wants to join them. Grace says yes, Lana says no and, to prevent Kit from leaving Lana alerts the guards of the escape attempt, thereby “gifting” 20 lashes to Kit and Grace via Sister Jude. Lana burns the friendship bridge she was building with Grace while Kit honorably takes Grace’s 20 lashes to spare her.
And, to circle back to my screenplay excerpt from the beginning: modern day Theresa is the young woman; her husband Leo, incapacitated because Bloody Face took his arm, is stabbed to death, and Bloody Face is still alive and well, almost 50 years later. And limber too: instead of the steady drag of most serial monsters in movies, Bloody Face walks with purpose. His only purpose seems to live long and kill, but I’m sure we’ll get more as the season progresses.
I am hoping the reveal of Bloody Face’s true identity isn’t something of a letdown the way that Tate being Rubber Man was in Season 1. Rubber Man just possessed a finesse that Tate didn’t, and while I understand it was a disguise, it was still disappointing (though it became more acceptable as the means to Vivian’s twins). And we have enough in the horror trope to potentially figure it out – it’s Kit, who really is deranged, and maybe his wife is his accomplice. Or it’s Dr. Alden, since all the compass needles are quivering his way. Or it’s a nun. Or someone we haven’t met yet. Right now everyone is a suspect and it’s still a genuine mystery, as long as it isn’t Dr. Alden, since it feels too obvious. And yet, the obvious can still work when done right. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that AHS keeps on that track of right.