creators: Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy
starring: Evan Peters, Jessica Lange, Lily Rabe, Sarah Paulson, James Cromwell, Zachary Quinto and Joseph Fiennes
number of episodes: 13
first aired: October 17, 2012
Following an already successful and groundbreaking first season. It would be difficult to top, no matter who you are. Nonetheless, the challenge was well enough for the creators to attempt to go above and beyond. For some this challenge was accomplished with this season being the better of the last. For me it comes close yet, even if it dosen't. It still is the best horror you will find on TV. With scary events and gory practices that will make you chill and possibly not sleep well at night. A season full of mystery that you will be trying to desperately figure out and hope that redemption or safety is possible for any of the characters this season.
In season 2 we follow a new set of characters in the setting of an insane asylum called Briarcliff in the late 1960's. The asylum is run by the duo of Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) with the iron grip of malice and the secret Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) pulling the strings for unknown and experimental purposes. Overseeing their work is the high priest monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes) who he himself has many skeletons hidden away in his closet.
At Briarcliff there will be inmates such as Kit Walker (Evan Peters) that may be wrongly accused and others that will get to close to the truth as with reporter Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) and will have to spend time in the nuthouse until justice prevails.
As with last season the show constantly moves back and forth through time to give more back-story, enormous amount subplots of various degrees and natures that don't let up on quality or a wide array of colorful characters. That all enhance the story of power gone haywire, ambition reaching sky high and psychosis leading to many people reaching their grave sooner rather than later.
Compared to last season, season 2 is a bit more difficult to get into. This is not in regards of quality, pace or value, but in the fact that season 1 had three main characters to follow with the Harmon family. They were much more sympathetic in their turmoil, given the more focused attention and time from the get go. Also the fact that this season's material, isn't as grounded or contained as the first proves to be another reason.
Together the lack of time & focus to the new characters, the more open nature of supernatural events, the wider array of characters and the multi-layered story thread structure being even more vast than before. Makes the introductions to the new players and the sympathy we will feel towards them. Not settle in until a couple episodes later on. Combined also with this season's villains that are even more unapologetic in their evil compared to before. Leaves you not lost, but in state of unevenness. Not knowing what could be the characters fates and who truly deserves redemption amongst them until a little later on again.
Moreover and same as last season this show continues in pumping out episode by episode with an insane level of quality and passion. From the actors pitch perfect performances, to some of best & most artistic direction seen on TV. With experimentation of film types, camera placement, TV scenario cliches of life and especially the incredible and well thought out scenes of violence, suspense and drama. Which always feel edited to perfection, guided to the smallest detail and felt by the audience to be either heartwarming, disgusting and agonizingly terrifying.
However this season did have its moments of complete and unexpected oddness. One in particular is the song and dance sequence. While it did remain true to the specific character and her state of mind, it didn't remain true to the tone or atmosphere of the show. This is by far the worst mistake on part of the creators and they should have been a little bit more headstrong and left the "Glee" moments out of the show.
Also some of the character fates are questionably abrupt and most would have thought that they would have played a bigger role in the end. Alas they didn't and even though they didn't. The ending was once again a moment of pure genius. Bringing the show full circle to the beginning. With the ultimate truth being that violence begets violence, we change with trauma and ambition may lead us to our grave.
The way things are going, it won't be any surprise for this series to end up on best of lists even from now. Some might still pass it off as dirty fluff entertainment with nothing in particular to note. But that's just plain wrong and ignorant. "American Horror Story" is a step ahead of the curve and one of the only few shows in almost 50 to 60 odd years of TV entertainment. To be amongst the alumni of the Twilight Zone, X-Files and Twin Peaks in terms of mixing horror, mystery, and the darker sides of life and humanity to an almost perfect degree. So if blood is your kink, danger is your vice and your in agony to root for the characters survival. A more enthralling and nail-biting show than this you won't find.