Clearly, the life-imitating-art duet of Superstorm Sandy and the “nor’easter” featured in episode 3 freaked out other AHS reviewers and recappers as much as it did me—I’ve seen at least five posts this morning with leading with mentions of the eerie correspondence. But eerie is not the same thing as scary, and many fans are starting to question the manic tone of the show. Slate commenter Lassie wrote that “This season isn't scary. Gross is not scary. Writing scary is hard, takes skill—anyone can put on a gruesome mask and go 'boo'.” Tis’ true, and if a horror show can’t deliver the goods on Halloween night, something’s probably not working.
“Not working” is precisely how HuffPo’s Joey DeAngelis described the wild, woolly, and ever-expanding cast of baddies we viewers are expected to keep track of every week: “It's only been three episodes and besides demons, they've introduced Bloody Face, an indestructible, deformed serial killer; aliens, which have now infiltrated the asylum; and zombie-type creatures that live in the surrounding woods. That could have been three separate seasons of ‘AHS.’”
He’s got a point. One of the pleasures of the first season was the feeling of being totally immersed in a singular supernatural cosmology with its own set of rules to be discovered. Why were some ghosts aware of their demise while others were not? Were there limits on how much these ghouls could interact with the physical world? And, on a related note, what, exactly, is the biological explanation for spirit-sperm fertilizing living-lady eggs? While it’s true that Asylum has mysteries of its own, they seem to be wider and, as a result, shallower, than their predecessors. Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate the True Blood-like attempt to draw in other horror tropes, but control of the material is crucial, and I fear I’m experiencing a little “of-course-there’s-an-alien-puppet-in-the-corridor” nonchalance too early in the season.
Still, certain questions continue to pique my interest, like what plans Sister Mary Eunice and Co. have for those woodsy creatures (which apparently many recappers thought were zombies? I still say mutants, but we shall see). And thanks to WaPo’s Jen Chaney—in the interrogative mood as ever—new quandaries haunt my dreams. Chaney suggests that perhaps Dr. Arden is a former Nazi, returned to Briarcliff to continue his ghastly military experiments. Well, why not? She also blew my mind with the theory that Sister Mary is actually the little blue-dressed girl that Sister Jude drunkenly ran over, all grown-up and possessed by the desire for revenge as well as that pesky demon. The latter clearly knows Jude’s past sins in detail, but whether that knowledge comes from Sister Mary’s brain or the Registrar’s Office in Hell, we can’t say…yet.