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Thursday, January 24, 2013

From Nun to Nana, my review of the 2nd Season of American Horror Story


With both of my jobs, as both a police dispatcher and an author, I live a life somewhat outside the realm of regular people, especially since I work from two in the afternoon until ten at night. My exposure to the ‘daywalker’ world is fairly limited. That’s more by choice than chance, since I seem to think better in the dark—the wee small hours of the morning make for better copy—but the whole ‘normal folks/normal schedule’ thing passes me by in terms of relatability.

The thing that really connects me to the rest of the world, and my guilty pleasure—aside from the writing, of course—is my DVR and the collection of shows I’ve recorded during the day. I’m a dedicated soap fan from the womb, so my inclination is less about flash and reality, and more character and story driven. Right now my not-so-closeted addictions are Justified and American Horror Story. Since last night was the AHS finale for season two, I feel moved to discuss it, because I’m still conflicted.

As someone who tells stories for a living, I tend to approach the actual act of storytelling in a linear fashion. I usually get an opening scene in my head, play it out from all angles and characters, until I get the thread I’m trying to grab and follow it to the end of the strand, so to speak. I know that not everyone does that, but given how last season of AHS progressed, I’d hoped for the same kind of thing and was somewhat disappointed. There was very little in the way of logic or causation and for the majority of the season, while the vignettes were cool, they really didn’t make a whole lot of sense to the story overall.

The characters, in terms of their structure and overall motivations, also didn’t work for me. As a viewer, I don’t necessarily need every little piece of backstory given to me explicitly, but I do need the characters to eventually make sense. In the first season, that wasn’t really an issue, since they all made a fair amount of sense in their own twisted ways. In season two, that was definitely not the case. In season two, I found myself watching because, like any true addict, I needed to know how the story ended, even though the characters and overall plot were disjointed and not as engaging. There was just enough of a hook to keep me interested, but not to the fervent level of the previous season.

The one character that I did find intriguing in season two was Sister Jude, played by the incomparable Jessica Lange who won an Emmy for her work in season one of AHS. Her journey this season from sadistic, no-nonsense nun to prisoner of her own machinations, to inpatient mental health case, to finally a grandmother-type figure to the children of one of her former patients was as impressive to see as it was difficult to watch. She was a character to root for, which is really what I want in a show that takes up my Wednesday night and leaves me so unsettled.

I would explain the ending, but that would require layering pieces from the whole season that really aren’t the point. It did an okay job of resolving most of the storylines, though a couple of the pieces were either, in my opinion, cop outs, but that’s simply another indication of a sub-par season. As to whether or not it was worth getting that damn song they’d had playing on repeat in the mental ward stuck so far into my subconscious that I dreamt about it to distinctly creepy effect remains to be seen, but I am reasonably certain that if they get their act together for season three, I’ll be back. 

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