As someone who has developed a familiarity with Ryan Murphy programming in between “Nip/Tuck” as well as “Glee,” we went into Wednesday night’s second-season premiere of “American Horror Story” knowing one thing: the track record has not been good when it comes to a sophomore slump.
However, we have to admit that by and large, we actually found this to be a step above what we saw from the show the first time around. Buoyed by some great mysteries coupled with a fantastic performance by Jessica Lange, who vaguely reminded us in some ways here of a brutal version of Angela from “The Office,” as well as Evan Peters as a man who could either be the biggest hero or villain of the whole season.
This episode served largely as an introduction to the characters as well as to Briarcliff, the institution where Lange’s Sister Jude helps to oversee patients and slowly shove the word of God down their throats in an effort to “cure” them. Just the array of patients alone was interesting, in particular how we were told some of the stories of them through the lens of two people, whether it be Peters’ “Bloody Face” or Sarah Paulson’s Lana, an entertainment reporter set up because she largely knew too much. While there were some scenes here and there that either dragged on or were a bit too herky-jerky with Murphy’s editing, there was enough in the way of story threads to make this part of the story completely captivating.
Flash forward to the present, and that’s where the good news largely stops. We loved the twist at the end of the episode showing what could very well be a present-day Bloody Face, but Adam Levine and Jenna Dewan Tatum saw their roles as lovers marred by some subpar writing. Neither one of them did a particularly bad job with what they were given, but their scenes felt like the start of the horror movie that you sit through just to get to the big kill.
These small missteps aside, there is really so much to love about the product Murphy has put on the show this time around. Visually it’s stunning, and we do not thankfully sit here and compare the actors to who they played on season 1. We just hope that Murphy does keep the story focused in coming weeks, and that the scares do start coming more and more; after all, we never really found ourselves startled or really even spooked here, though we did enjoy it.
What did you think about this episode?