After a first season that ranged from campy to genuinely disturbing, "American Horror Story" upped the stakes -- and the storytelling -- with a sophomore outing ("Asylum") that brought lunatics, serial killers, possessed nuns, Nazis, Santa Claus, the Angel of Death, and even aliens from outer space together in quite possibly the worst mental asylum ever depicted in pop culture. But before we start looking forward to next year, here's a look back at this season's craziest moments.
Adam Levine… Actor?
We should have known how insane the season would get when the "Asylum" premiere opened with the acting debut of Maroon 5 frontman and "Voice" judge, Adam Levine. And the craziest thing? He was actually pretty good! Granted, Levine's role as Leo Morrison -- one-half of a pair of newlyweds who get off on touring (and having sex in) famous murder sites -- didn't require him to do much more than make out with co-star Jenna Dewan-Tatum (a brave act in and of itself, considering who her hubby is), scream when his arm is sliced off, and then getting shot by a bunch of psychotic pranksters. But throughout his mini arc, he was totally convincing as a moron that's at least partially responsible for his own (presumed) demise.
Watchers in the Woods
While attempting to flee Briarcliff in the midst of a Nor'easter, Grace, Lana, and Kit come across a tribe of deformed creatures living in the woods surrounding the asylum. But these monsters aren't the products of the supernatural -- they've been created by science. Specifically, the scientific experiments of Briarcliff's resident mad doctor (and former Nazi) Arthur Arden, who set out to prove that he could create a race of radiation-proof superhumans… only to wind up with these woodland savages.
After having his manhood insulted by Briarcliff's resident sex queen, Arden repays her for the insult… by amputating both her legs. But that's only the start of the torture that the poor woman is forced to endure at Arden's hands. It's no surprise that she begs for death when she's discovered by "Anne Frank" -- the void would be a preferable fate to Arden's closet. And speaking of Anne…
Anne of a Thousand Face
There are a number of sob stories within the walls of Briarcliff, but few were as sad or as twisted as the tale of one Charlotte Brown, a housewife who was so taken with the tale of Anne Frank that she came to believe that she really was history's most famous diarist, inventing an elaborate story for how she survived the death camps that sounds just crazy enough to be true. But of course, it isn't. Even when her husband comes to claim her, though, Charlotte can't accept her real identity and, in the end, is only cured of her illusion by mind control -- by which we mean, a lobotomy.
A Clockwork Thredson
In an attempt to "cure" Lana of her Sapphic tendencies, Dr. Thredson subjected her to a graphic (for cable TV) crash course in aversion therapy, forcing her to stare at slides of naked women and then bringing in a male inmate for her to touch… in his special place. Making this scene all the more disturbing is the fact that both Zachary Quinto and Sarah Paulson are openly gay in real life and they're re-enacting a treatment that some so-called medical professionals might actually have tried at the time.
The Man Behind the (Bloody) Face
There's never a good way to learn that your doctor is actually a serial killer with a taste for carving and wearing human flesh, but Lana's discovery of Thredson's second career is especially creepy, given that it involves her being dropped through a trap door into his personal (human) meat locker. Adding insult to injury is her discovery of her dead lover's body, which has been mined of its teeth so Thredson can make Bloody Face's mask even more unpleasant to look at.
Riding in Cars With Boys
After escaping Bloody Face's clutches, Lana ends up in an even crazier situation when she plays hitchhiker and climbs inside the car of a seemingly ordinary guy (who is played by William Mapother, which is a big clue that he's anything but ordinary) who subjects her to a rant about the fickleness of women before blowing his brains out while the car is in motion. The resulting car crash puts Lana back in the hands of the law and, inevitably, back at Briarcliff.
You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, we're telling you why. 'Cause a Santa Claus-suit-clad Ian McShane will shoot you in the head. The image of the former Al Swearengen from "Deadwood" sporting that familiar red-and-white ensemble was one of the craziest things we saw all season.
Get Down Off the Cross, 'Cause Somebody Needs the Wood
Monsignor Howard gets a little closer to the God he worships when, after baptizing McShane's supposedly repentant Leigh Emerson, he ends up promptly nailed to the enormous cross in the Briarcliff sanctuary. Joseph Fiennes has gotta be relieved that scene wasn't being directed by Mel Gibson.
My Demon Lover
Lily Rabe's devil-infused nun Sister Mary Eunice was a reliable source for creative, catty, and just plain crazy comments all season long. But her most insane bit of devilish tomfoolery had to be forcing herself upon the prone body of a spiritually, emotionally, and physically wounded Monsignor Howard. That action backfires, however, by giving the priest the courage he needs to cast the demon out once and for all into the waiting arms of Lady Death.
Death Becomes Her
We weren't sure how Frances Conroy could possibly top her "American Horror Story" Season 1 role as the Murder House's ghostly maid, but casting her as the Grim Reaper (now with wings!) was a crazy beautiful move on Ryan Murphy's part. Memo to Neil Gaiman: Keep Conroy in mind in case you ever get that "Death" movie off the ground.
Not content to fill the season with lunatics, Nazis, serial killers, and crazy nuns, Ryan Murphy also threw aliens into the loony mix because… why not? Mostly relegated to the sidelines for a chunk of the season, the E.T.-plot paid off when it was revealed that both of Kit's lovers, Alma and Grace, have given birth to alien/human hybrids. Even crazier than that twist, however, may have been the revelation that our outer space pals decided to make Briarcliff's resident microcephalic Pepper the protector of Grace's unborn kid, upping her intelligence quotient -- and sarcasm meter -- in the process.
A Hunk, a Hunk of Burning Love
Taking it upon himself to see to the disposal of his dead would-be demon lover Sister Mary Eunice's body, Dr. Arden loads her coffin onto the track leading to the crematorium furnace. Then, just before the flames consume her, he climbs on top of the freaking pine box and burns himself alive. There's probably not a more appropriate way for a Nazi war criminal to exit this world.
The Name Game
Words can't properly describe the deranged awesomeness of this candy-colored musical sequence, scored to the tune of the classic Shirley Ellis-sung chestnut. Just watch it.
And you thought you had mommy issues. Johnny Thredson, a.k.a. Bloody Face Jr., has been so warped by the complete lack of love his mother, Lana, showed him that he's developed a breast-milk fetish that can only be satisfied by employing lactating prostitutes. Now Dylan McDermott can add "suckling at a hooker's breast" to the list of things Ryan Murphy has forced him to do on camera.
We always knew Kit was progressive, based on his decision to marry an African-American woman at a time when those relationships were frowned upon. But it turns out he's even more of a free-love fan that we expected, settling into a polyamorous family with his wife, Alma, and his Briarcliff sweetheart, Grace, as well as their two adorable kids. Knowing Ryan Murphy, this is probably a teaser to a future "AHS" season set entirely on a polygamist compound.
Get a sneak peek at this week's "AHS: Asylum" season finale right here:
The season finale of "American Horror Story: Asylum" airs Wednesday, 1/23 at 10 PM on FX.
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