American Horror Story season premiere recap: Horror Freaks In Bedlam

'Welcome to Briarcliff,' where nutbags and nunsense, monsters and mad men abound. Also: Aliens. Seriously!  
Ep. 01 | Aired Oct 17, 2012

This love has taken its toll on me... AND THIS MADHOUSE HAS TAKEN MY ARM! Leo (Adam Levine) gets marooned inside The Asylum less than five minutes into the season premiere of American Horror Story. It was a Rocky Horror Clockwork Orange Leatheryfacey Freaksfest, with a dash of X-Files thrown in.

Michael Yarish/FX

So no, Lana ain’t getting three minutes alone with the archetype of every single outrageously sadistic serial killer that will soon flood the popular culture in the post-Ed Gein/Psycho era, from Leatherface to Hannibal Lecter. "You're out of your depth, Miss Lana-Banana," Sister Jude spits.

But she does throw Lana a meager bone by allowing her to join the entire Briarcliff staff as they gather at the door to greet the fiend accused of being Bloody Face. Lana is primed to scribble notes, but she can’t seem to move her pen as she beholds the alleged incarnation of true evil:

It’s Kit Walker.

We bear witness to his institutionalization. He is stripped, power washed, powdered with stinging disinfectant. He is incarcerated and bound. And then the worst of all: Sister Jude. She informs the alleged mass murderer that he’s been remanded to her care for “observation” and “storage” until his trial, provided the he's deemed him mentally fit for one. But Sister Jude wants something more from Kit Walker. She aims to make him repent to “the only judge that matters, almighty God.”

But Kit is no believer. He can’t embrace any God that would allow him and his beloved to be abducted, probed, worse. “They weren’t human,” he says. “They were monsters.” Sister Jude ain’t buying his bulls—t little green men blame-shifting. “All monsters are human,” she says. “You’re a monster.”

Of course, so is she, and she proves it with some monstrous offensiveness. “I wonder:  Did her dark meat slide off the bone any easier than the other victims?” She means Kit's secret wife, his beloved Alma; it seems she, too, was butchered by Bloody Face.

Kit spits in her face. Sister Jude canes his ass bloody.

Kit meets the other inmates in The Asylum during a respite in the Common Room, where, by Sister Jude's orders, the 1963 novelty hit "Dominique" by Belgium's "Singing Nun," must be played, over and over and over. Koo Koo Bird Heather. Shelley the Nympho, who offers herself to him whichever way he likes, French or Greek. "Checkers" Willy. And Seemingly Sane Grace, who allegedly chopped up her family, and who warns Kit to not do what he wants to do, which is to turn that damn music off. She broke that rule once, among others. She tells him it isn't worth it. (Kit -- the budding Randle P. McMurphy to Sister Jude's Nurse Ratched -- does it anyway.) Later, Grace will try to help Kit again by visiting him in the night with food, smokes, and more advice. Why? Because: "What you put out in the world comes back to you." This, from a woman named Grace.

And then there's Spivey, a spunky mid-century he-man with a slick Don Draper haircut, who decides to take the measure of his manliness by challenging Bloody Face to fisticuffs. Sister Jude intervenes, puts the needle back on the record, then motions the orderlies to administer Kit's punishment. The first baton blow goes right to Kit's head. If he wasn't bloody face before, he is now...

And even more so after meeting the acquaintance of Briarcliff's other major power player, a man who happens to share Kit's conviction that Sister Jude is a nothing but a brutal backwards-thinking meanie.. but also happens to share Sister Jude's view that Kit is a whole lotta wrong that needs to be put right. Meet Dr. Arthur Arden, The Asylum's newly installed chief physician. He's also a veritable Dr. Frankenstein. A former Nazi scientist, too? We were given to wonder. He is, at present, the man of science counterpoint to Jude's woman of faith, yet he is equally warped, the avatar of dehumanizing, reason-based modernism. In his short time at Briarcliff, four patients have died in his case, including "Checkers" Willy, whose passing leaves both Sister Mary and Sister Jude distraught -- a rare flash of genuine humanity from the latter. When she demands answers, Dr. Arden shows her a pot of beautifully Hulked-out plants. "This particular strain of alstroemeria has never existed before," he says. "It was created by bombarding the plant with gamma rays. It is an affirmation of the power of science over nature." Sister Jude -- clearly threatened -- pretends to be unimpressed, and continues to press Arden for explanations. What did you do to Willy and the others? Is it just coincidence that all four of them happened to have no family, who have no one who will miss them or grieve them? Where are the bodies? Her unspoken accusation: He was experimenting on them. In a fleeting cutaway, we see a proof: A bowl of bloody chopped-up flesh -- and some off-screen carnivore gobbling it up.

"I've dealt with far bigger monsters than you," says Sister Jude. "Let me give you fair warning: I always win against the patriarchal male." Arden's ironic kiss-off: "Bully for you."

NEXT: Date Night With Monsignor Timothy

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