American Horror Story: Asylum is the second season of the American FX horror television series American Horror Story, created by Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy. It originally aired from October 17, 2012 to January 23, 2013. The premise of the second season marked a departure from that of the series' first season, featuring all new characters and a new location, thus marking American Horror Story as an anthology series at the time.
The season begins in 1964 at the fictional mental institution, Briarcliff Manor, following the stories of the staff and inmates who occupy it, and intercuts with events in the past and present. Returning cast members from the previous season of the series include: Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Dylan McDermott, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Zachary Quinto, and Lily Rabe.
Like its predecessor, Asylum was well received by television critics and fans. The performances of Jessica Lange, James Cromwell, Zachary Quinto, Sarah Paulson, and Lily Rabe were particularly praised. The season garnered seventeen Emmy Award nominations, more than any other show, including Outstanding Miniseries and four acting nominations for Lange, Paulson, Cromwell, and Quinto, with Cromwell winning for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. In addition, Quinto and Paulson won their respective supporting categories at the 3rd Critics' Choice Television Awards.
Despite being formerly anthological, some of the cast members reprise their roles in the series' fourth and sixth cycle, Freak Show & Roanoke, such as: Lily Rabe, Naomi Grossman, Sarah Paulson, and John Cromwell, portraying Sister Mary Eunice McKee, Pepper, Lana Winters, and a young version of Dr. Arthur Arden, also known as Hans Grüper, respectively.
In 1964, at Briarcliff Mental Institution in Massachusetts, Sister Jude Martin (Jessica Lange) and Sister Mary Eunice McKee (Lily Rabe) maintain the institution that was founded by Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes) to treat and house the mentally and criminally insane. Psychiatrist Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto), and scientist Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell), treat the patients within the facility, which include lesbian journalist Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), accused serial killer Kit Walker (Evan Peters), and alleged murderer Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré).
Sister Jude was once a philandering nightclub singer who unintentionally killed a young girl in a drunk-driving hit and run accident in 1949, leading to her becoming a nun and being selected to work at Briarcliff. Sister Jude is terrorized by the memory and goes to see the family of the dead girl, only to learn that the girl survived the accident with only a few broken bones. She figures that God had a plan for her all along, and decides that it is her job to destroy all the remaining evil at Briarcliff. Sister Mary Eunice is a shy and innocent nun who fears Sister Jude, and becomes possessed by the Devil during an exorcism of another patient, becoming cruel and willful.
Dr. Arden is a former Nazi whose experiments have produced "Raspers", mutated former patients, who lurk in the woods surrounding the institution, and who are fed the flesh of dead patients. Dr. Thredson is assigned to evaluate Kit, who is accused of being the infamous serial killer 'Bloody Face' and believes his wife Alma (Britne Oldford) was abducted by aliens. Thredson also tries to "reform" Lana, who was an ambitious journalist attempting to expose Briarcliff's mistreatments of patients. She was in a relationship with Wendy (Clea Duvall), who was blackmailed by Sister Jude into committing Winters, before being killed by Bloody Face. Thredson helps Lana escape from the asylum, but she learns that Thredson is actually Bloody Face, and is kept prisoner. He rapes her and tries to kill her, but she manages to escape, only to end up back at Briarcliff. She later learns she is pregnant with Thredson's baby.
Meanwhile, believing his wife is dead or missing, Kit has taken up with inmate Grace Bertrand, who has murdered her family as her father was sexually abusive towards her and her stepmother ignored it. Kit is arrested after Thredson hands in a taped confession that he tricked Kit into saying and Grace is taken to be sterilized after the pair are caught having sex. However, she is abducted by aliens and is later returned, very pregnant and ready to give birth. Kit escapes custody and returns to Briarcliff, where he blackmails the Monsignor into letting Grace, himself, and their baby go. The three arrive at his old home to find his wife Alma, alive and with her own baby. The possessed Sister Mary Eunice, with the help of Dr. Arden, has Sister Jude deposed and committed, and takes over Briarcliff. Monsignor Howard tries to exorcise her but instead is sexually assaulted by her. Out of options, Howard kills her by throwing her off the third floor balcony, and Dr. Arden, having become loyal to Mary Eunice, cremates her while immolating himself. Lana successfully captures a confession from Dr. Thredson, but decides to confront him in his house to say she has turned the tape over to the police. He states that because he is insane, no jury will convict him and that she will be his last victim. As he reaches for a hidden gun, Lana shoots him in the head.
In the present, Lana has become a famous television investigative reporter and gets Briarcliff closed down for its inhumane treatments. Lana reveals that Monsignor Howard committed suicide after she threatened to expose his neglect of the patients, and that Kit took in Sister Jude after Alma was committed to Briarcliff for killing Grace. Jude spends her remaining years bonding with Kit's children, before dying, leaving the family devastated. Kit also develops pancreatic cancer and is abducted by the aliens again. Lana and Thredson's grown son, Johnny (Dylan McDermott), has vowed vengeance against her, angry at being rejected as a baby and wanting to finish his father's work. He confronts her at her house, where she ultimately convinces him that he is not like his father, before taking his gun and shooting him in the head.
- Lana Winters
- Wendy Peyser