main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Series: American Horror Story: Asylum
Asylum cast.note 

At the completion of the first season of American Horror Story, it was announced that the creators planned to have a whole new cast and story for the next season (and seasons after that), effectively telling an all new American Horror Story. Later on, they confirmed that some of the first season's actors would return in new roles.

Season two of American Horror Story, titled Asylum is set in the Briarcliff Institution in 1964, and deals with the administration of the asylum, led by Sister Jude, and its two newest inmates, Lana Winters and Kit Walker. Kit has been accused of being the Serial Killer Bloody Face after his wife's disappearance, but Kit claims that he was abducted by aliens. Lana was going to write an expose on Briarcliff, but Sister Jude got her institutionalized on the grounds that Lana is gay. Meanwhile in the present, the ruins of Briarcliff are still being stalked by Bloody Face.

Among the returning cast members are Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Zachary Quinto, Sarah Paulson, Frances Conroy, Lily Rabe, and Dylan McDermott. The new cast members include Adam Levine, Jenna Dewan, James Cromwell, Chloe Sevigny and Joseph Fiennes.

American Horror Story: Asylum provides the following tropes:

  • Abandoned Hospital: Part of the series is set in the present. Unsurprisingly, the hospital was worse with inhabitants.
  • Absentee Actor: A full cast list is run in the opening credits, but Zachary Quinto (Dr. Thredson) does not show up until episode 2, and Joseph Fiennes (Monsignor Howard) does not appear in episodes 3, 5, and 7.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Sister Jude and Dr. Arden are both rather pitiful figures by the time their respective stories end.
  • Alien Abduction: Kit's backstory. Other characters end up being snatched as well.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Happens so often it might as well be the season's title. Zig-zagged in "Spilt Milk," where the psycho finds himself alone with (and at the mercy of) the victim.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Lana, Sister Jude, the Monsignor, and even Dr. Arden all play to some shade of this or another.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Leo's arm gets torn off within the first five minutes of the very first episode.
    • Dr. Arden assures his latest "patient" of his surgical pedigree after "clipping her wings." Brrr.
  • Anti-Villain: All of them, with the (possible) exception of possessed Sister Mary Eunice.
  • The Anticipator: In the episode Spilt Milk Lana plays the Anticipator trope straight; Lana is having an interview on the final episode. Unbeknownst to TV crew someone is hiding amongst them. Bloodyface, Lana's son, is among the crew masquerading as a worker. After the crew leaves someone stays behind, and tells the hiding person to emerge.Lana, who knew Bloodyface was there all along, tells him that he can come out now, as she anticipated his presence.
  • Anyone Can Die
  • Art Shift: Some flashbacks are shown through old film reels as if they're home movies, such as Anne Frank's and Sister Mary Eunice's respective flashbacks, giving an eerie vibe.
  • Back from the Dead: Grace is seemingly ressurected by the aliens after being shot. Though, she soon ends up dead again, for real this time, courtesy of an axe-wielding Alma.
  • Bad Santa: "Unholy Night"
  • Batman Gambit: Dr. Arden invokes this in Episode 9/"The Coat Hanger", where he deduces that since he would never let a subject die mid-experiment, the aliens wouldn't either and will intervene should Kit's life be in danger.
  • Bath Suicide: How Timothy Howard dies when Lana goes public with her Briarcliff documentary.
  • Beauty Inversion: Elaborate prosthetics were required to transform Naomi Grossman into Pepper.
  • Bechdel Test: Passes. The series has an unusually plentiful and prominent female cast.
  • Bedlam House: Briarcliff Manor. They could have called it Bedlam House: The Series.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Despite being in a horrible setting filled with villains, Dr. Thredson remains surprisingly nice. It's because he's serial killer Bloody Face.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The season starts with Dr Arden, Sister Jude and Bloody Face. Later on, this grows to include a possessed Sister Eunice, the Monsignor, and the new Bloody Face. The aliens remain a more remote menace with an agenda rather difficult to parse.
  • Bittersweet Ending: All the bad guys get punished...but so do most of the good guys.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Sister Jude starts out as the season's power-mad antagonist, but shortly emerges as a surprisingly sympathetic figure. In fact, nearly every villainous character becomes at least briefly more sympathetic when confronted with an even more potent evil.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Kit and Alma have to hide their marriage to avoid retribution from the neighbors.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Really, just what are these aliens even doing? Anybody's guess, really.
  • Body Horror: Dr. Arden apparently got his degree in Body Horror.
  • Book Ends: Kit's story both begins and ends by being abducted.
  • Boom, Headshot: Four different named characters get it this way by series end.
  • Break the Cutie: This is practically Briarcliff's job. Lana gets it, Kit gets it, Sister Eunice DEFINITELY gets it, and even Sister Jude gets a little of it.
  • Bury Your Gays: Wendy barely makes it past the credits.
  • But Not Too Black: Alma Walker. Ironic considering she and her husband has to hide their mixed race relationship when she's not much darker than him, and the actress herself is biracial.
  • Calling The Old Lady Out: Defied. Johnny tries to pull this on Lana, but Lana is ready for it.
  • Camp: While the first season was a standard haunted house story with several homages, Asylum revels in the number of Horror stories it can cram into one setting and play them without irony.
  • Casting Gag: Several of the recurring actors in season 2 have character arcs that relate back to season 1.
    • In Murder House, Zachary Quinto played a Camp Gay ghost. In Asylum, he is a psychiatrist on the cutting edge of homosexual conversion therapy.
    • In Murder House, Jessica Lange's daughter is killed by a hit and run drunk driver. In Asylum, she plays a woman who dons the cloth of over the guilt of her own drunken hit on run of a young girl.
    • In Murder House, Evan Peters plays an outwardly innocent kid who is actually guilty of committing a Columbine-esque massacre. In Asylum, he plays an outwardly guilty kid who is actually innocent of being a serial killer.
    • In Murder House, Dylan McDermott played a psychiatrist treating an Ax-Crazy mass-murdering patient. In Asylum he plays an Ax-Crazy serial killer whose first major on-screen action is to murder his psychiatrist.
    • In Murder House, Frances Conroy plays a ghost tormented by her inability to pass on. In Asylum, she plays the Angel of Death Shachath, guiding others peacefully into the afterlife.
    • In Murder House, Sarah Paulson plays a medium who immediately indicates that she's a Rich Bitch. In Asylum, her character eventually morphs into one.
  • Central Theme: Sanity; guilt; duplicity; ambition.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The shock therapy machine.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: As noted in this article (, minor character Pepper disappeared as a subtle hint that the aliens are real.
  • Corrupt Church: Sister Jude, the Monsignor, and Sister Eunice once she is possessed. Mother Superior Claudia is benevolent but hushed up by the archdiocese to protect their image.
  • Could Have Avoided This Plot: Lampshaded in Episode 11/"Spilt Milk":
    Lana: [shakes head] It was the story. I was going to do anything to get that story. I just didn't realize how much it was going to cost.
  • Crapsack World: Murder House was downright pleasant compared to Briarcliff.
  • Creepy Child: Jenny, a little girl left at Briarcliff who is almost certainly a budding serial killer.
  • Cure Your Gays: The pretense for committing Lana.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to the first season, Asylum is much darker in setting, the characters suffer much more, and most of them are liable to end up dead.
  • Daydream Surprise: In Episode 7/"Dark Cousin", Sister Jude runs a razor down her forearm and bleeds to death, only to reveal it was all in her head.
  • Deadly Doctor: Dr. Arden.
    • Dr. Thredson, in Bloody Face mode, is also just as deadly.
  • Death by Despair: Alma struggles being incarcerated without Kit and their children, and later dies because her heart stops without warning.
  • Death by Irony
    • Dr. Arden, a former doctor from a Nazi concentration camp, kills himself by climbing into a crematorium. Alive.
    • Grace, killed in the same manner in which she killed her parents - by axe murder.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The views of homosexuality, miscegenation, and sexual freedom are a far cry from today. For example Kit has to hide his marriage to Alma for fear of violence from the town folk.
    • Played with in the case of Dr. Thredson's views on behavior modification and corporal punishment for homosexuality, as he finds it too severe despite it being commonplace at the time.
  • Demonic Possession: One of the patients is brought to Briarcliff because his parents think he's possessed. Turns out they're right, and in fact they've just delivered a huge problem to the asylum.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Averted; it seems like Dr. Arden is going to rough up and possibly kill the call girl he hires, but instead she nails him where it counts, gets away, and sics the police on him.
  • Don't Fear The Reaper: The Angel of Death, who always comes reassuringly to ease the pain.
    • It's inverted in an interesting way though: the possessed Sister Mary Eunice is terrified of Shachath since she's a powerful angel who never fell. Though the angel of death never attacks the possessed Mary Eunice, she does ultimately cause her death by telling the Monsignor about her, and takes both the sister and demon.
  • Doomed by Canon: We already know that Lana won't successfully terminate the pregnancy even before we find out she's pregnant.
  • Double Agent: Dr. Arden plays both sides in "Unholy Night."
  • Dramatic Irony: Lana backs out of her professional abortion, stating that she doesn't want any more killing. The audience knows that this is rather self-defeating.
  • Dramatic Thunder:
    • Two occurrences during the "Nor'Easter" episode, neither of which are serious. The first one is when Sister Jude confronts Dr. Arthur about giving Sister Mary red lipstick, and the second is when the group is about to watch The Sign of the Cross and Jude drunkenly mentions that she heard that Charles Laughton might have been a whoopsie.
    • Played for Drama in Episode 9 when during the coathanger abortion scene.
  • Driven to Suicide: I like to call this "American Horror Story's Season of Suicide." The members of the church were not having a good year.
    • Monsignor Howard slashes his wrists while taking a bath.
    • Sister Eunice enlists Monsignor Howard to assist in her suicide when she has a brief break from the literal Devil inside of her.
    • Sister Jude fantasizes about killing herself. The way Shachath talks to her hints that this has happened before.
    • Dr. Arden's reason for living was Sister Eunice herself. After she killed herself, he found that he had nothing to live for any longer. He climbed atop her body as it slid into the fire of the crematorium.
    • There's some irony in that suicide is considered one of the worst sins anyone can commit, yet everyone in the church either kills themselves or considers it (with the exception of Mother Superior.) Sister Eunice and Monsignor Howard also die "outside a state of grace" and cannot be buried the way Catholics are supposed to be buried.
  • Dropped A Bridge On Her: Almost the entire cast?
  • Enfant Terrible: The little girl left at Briarcliff by her mother.
    • Lana and Thredson's son, who admits to spending his pre-teen years skinning animals both dead and alive.
  • Enemy Mine: In Episode 8, Dr. Arden agrees to help Sister Jude. He also saves both Kit and Grace, albeit for his own purposes. Sister Jude and Lana eventually rescue one another as well.
  • Epic Fail: The Monsignor uses almost this exact term after his failed exorcism attempt, which given the period setting pretty funny.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The story has many antagonists, each with their own agenda. The primary one for the first half of the season is the fight between Sister Jude and Dr. Arden over control of Briarcliff.
  • Eye Scream: A flashback to Kit being abducted cuts away just before a needle enters his eyeball.
    • We also get that delightful icepick lobotomy scene.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • Grace.
    • Also the possessed Sister Mary Eunice.
    • And finally, Sister Jude.
  • Facial Horror: His name is Bloody Face for a reason.
  • Face Heel Revolving Door: The Monsignor.
  • Fan Disservice: Zachary Quinto's beautiful rear end turns out to be a rather unwelcome sight.
  • Foreshadowing: Lots of foreshadowing is present in the cast poster: the noose around Arden's neck with the end held by Sister Eunice, Leo's positioning on the bed ([showing only one arm), Monsignor Howard possibly giving last rites to Shelley, the blue coat, and ( Bloody Face being in Dr. Thredson's shadow ).
  • First Episode Spoiler: Lana is committed in Briarcliff against her will. And Second Episode Spoiler: Sister Mary Eunice gets possessed by the devil.
  • Flaying Alive: Bloody Face's MO.
  • Genre Savvy: Barb, Wendy and Lana's friend, warns them not to answer the knock at the door because there's a serial killer on the loose.
  • Genre Shift: From the spiritually neutral ghosts of the first season to the notably sci-fi aliens and explicitly religious demons of the second season.
  • Generation Xerox: Present day Bloody Face grew up in almost identical circumstances to his father and, after discovering his lineage, wants to emulate his father's skills.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Interestingly zig-zagged. Lana subverts this when she fails to abort her unwanted child in "The Coat Hanger", but when given the chance of a more sterile and safe backroom abortion after she escapes, she plays it straight by backing out at the last minute.
  • Heel Realization: Sister Jude, eventually.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Sister Eunice does this by allowing herself to be thrown down three stories to save Briarcliff from the demon who possessed her.
  • Hiding Behind Religion: Sister Jude fesses up to this in "Dark Cousin."
  • Honorary Uncle - Kit's kids call Sister Jude "Nana" (an affectionate term for grandmother)
  • Human Resources: Used in a light-hearted-albeit-creepy fashion in the Christmas episode; due to a shortage of decorations, Sister Mary Eunice decorates the tree with clippings of patient hair and dentures.
    • The lampshades, of course.
  • I Love the Dead: Bloody Face does seem to have a thing for his cadavers.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Though to be fair, Briarcliff is specifically meant for the criminally insane.
  • Interrogation Montage: Inverted in "The Coat Hanger." A small number of officials, plus the Monsignor and Dr. Arden, question Leigh about why Sister Jude would try to kill him.
  • Ironic Echo: After current day Bloody Face is revealed to be Thredson and Lana's son, he mentions that he was placed in an adoption/foster system that didn't work, and blames it for his condition. Several scenes later, and Thredson warns Lana she needs to keep the baby as the adoption/foster system doesn't work, and it's the reason he is Bloody Face.
  • Jack the Ripoff: There are not one but several modern day Bloody Face copycats.
  • Kill 'em All: Not every character dies. But close. Very close.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Thredson's point about the foster care system turns out to have some weight to it.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Grace.
  • Killed Off for Real: Don't get too attached to characters, as they have a tendency to die suddenly and permanently.
  • Knight Templar: Sister Jude is utterly convinced of her righteousness. She is also the coldest thing to run a mental asylum since Nurse Ratched.
  • Like Parent, Like Spouse: When Dr. Thredson kidnaps Lana, he explains he captures women because he wants bodily contact with someone like his mother, who abandoned him. A few episodes later, and Thredson is shown raping Lana.
    • Also invoked with modern Bloody Face, who hires a lactating prostitute to pretend to be his mother.
  • Mad Scientist: Arden, of course.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: Dr. Arden. At one point, in a truly bizarre scene even by the standards of this serial, he puts makeup on a statue of the Virgin Mary, calls her a whore, then pushes the whole thing over.
  • Male Gaze: The camera spends a rather long moment focusing on Grace's naked behind during "Tricks and Treats".
    • In this case it's really more of a female gaze, since Lana is the only character in the hydrotherapy room with Grace. She is a lesbian, after all.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Kit and Alma.
  • Meaningful Name: "Dr. Arden" comes from the Latin verb "ardeo, ardere," meaning "to burn." This foreshadows his death by cremation oven.
  • Mood Whiplash: D"The Name Game," where yet another dull and dreary moment in the common room segues into a bizarre Eli Stone-esque song and dance fantasy number
  • Morality Pet: Sister Eunice for Dr. Arden. Interestingly, he's entirely aware of this, and in fact it's the entire basis of her appeal for him.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Thredson appears helpful but given the period even his holistic approach is...creepy. Dr. Arden, of course, is straight out of his pointy little mind.
  • Murder by Cremation: Dr. Arden climbs on top of Sister Mary Eunice's dead body and rides into the cremation oven with her, killing himself.
  • Name Drop: In Lana's present-day interview, the interviewer casually mentions a number of her controversial exposes and interviews over the years, including a prison interview with Bernie Madoff.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Bloody Face.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice going, Lana.
  • Offing the Offspring: Johnny finally confronts Lana and in the end, she kills him.
  • Oh Crap: Lana noticing the lampshade.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Evan Peters' Boston accent that he affects for Kit is completely strong at times and then will totally disappear at others.
    • Other viewers have noted that Jessica Lange's Boston accent sounds just as wobbly.
      • Though with Lange it seems more deliberate, as her accent picks up the strongest when the character is drunk or suffering some kind of overwhelming emotional turmoil, implying that she represses it in her day-to-day life to sound more professional.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Well, they're a little creepy, anyway.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Zachary Quinto, Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe. Inverted by Dylan McDermott.
  • Rape as Drama: Twice.
  • Religious Horror.
  • Right Through His Pants: Granted, they're in an abandoned asylum, but Leo only removes his jacket for sex despite Teresa stripping right down to her underclothes.
  • Scare Chord: Though the show itself makes effective use of it, a few exist in the title sequence.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: In truth, a lot of these plots just kind of peter out by the end. Dr. Arden's monsters, for example, really never did much of anything.
  • Shout-Out: There appears to be some kind of Name's the Same theme going on, as one of the patients at the asylum is named Kit Walker.
  • The Sixties: Where most of the series take place.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Dominique" by Sur Sourire, the French song that plays relentlessly in the asylum.
    • The pleasant-sounding orchestral piece that plays during the lobotomy scene.
    • Bilingual Bonus: "Dominique" is a song from the 60's written by a group of French nuns, also used in a Gen2 episode of Skins with Pandora. Besides the very light-hearted tone, the lyrics are about a joyful, pious, innocent man (Saint Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order) who goes around everywhere spreading the word of God. This obviously contrasts sharply with the characters of Sister Jude and Sister Mary-Eunice, and accentuates the already jarring Soundtrack Dissonance. Then there's the fact that the song has become something of a Camp hit in contemporary France because of the phrase "Dominique-nique-nique..." being repeated at each chorus; "niquer" being one way to say "to fuck", the song sounds like "Dominique fucks, fucks..." and thus tells a very different story.
  • Taking the Bullet: Grace.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Lana is rather good at this.
  • Thirty Gambit Pileup: There are several villains in the show, with all their plans colliding. Sister Jude is a Nurse Ratchet Expy who wanted to use brutality and Old Tyme Religion to cure people, even if they don't need curing. Dr. Arden is an mad doctor who wants to create perfect humans, even if his only results have been cannibal monsters. Bloody Face is a serial killer who wants...well, you can figure this one out on your own pretty easily. The aliens want to keep kidnapping and studying Kit and his lovers/children. And the Devil is just in it For the Evulz.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: A woman claiming to be a still-living Anne Frank shows up and accuses Dr. Arden of being a death camp doctor. She isn't really Anne Frank. But she's right about Arden.
  • Trauma Conga Line: A lot of characters have shades of this, but from the moment we see him Kit probably gets it the worst.
  • Trespassing to Talk: Lana breaks into Thredson's home and casually lounges on an armchair with a gun awaiting his entrance. It becomes a Lightswitch Surprise once he crosses the threshold.
  • Unreliable Expositor: In "Continuum", the Monsignor promises to return for Jude, and she finds herself top of the patient hierarchy and best friends with Pepper. Cue the return of the Dark Angel/Shachath as an inmate, and Jude soon discovers several years have passed, the Monsignor is now Bishop and left over two years ago, the escapees have forgotten her, Pepper is dead, and everyone is calling her Betty Drake.
  • You Look Familiar: Several first season actors return to play different parts.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Sister Jude.
  • Wham Episode: "I Am Anne Frank, Part Two": Sister Jude cracks up, the truth of Anne Frank's identity is revealed, Grace meets the aliens, Bloody Face's true identity is revealed, Kit is arrested, a lobotomy is performed, and we may finally get some clue who Dr. Arden really is.
    • "The Coat Hanger". In the present day, the new Bloody Face is revealed to be the son of Thredson. In 1964, Lana discovers she is pregnant with Thredson's son, Jude is admitted to Briarcliff and forms an alliance with Lana, and Arden, after realising the aliens are real, teams up with Kit to make them return. This works, resulting in the reappearance of the previously-disappeared Pepper, and the previously-dead Grace, who is now pregnant. Also, Leigh crucifies the Monsignor, and the episode ends with him begging for help from The Angel of Death.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Between the fake-out escape, car crash, and reincarceration, "Dark Cousin" is basically just an excuse to mess with Lana even more.
American Horror Story: Murder HouseCreator/ 20 th Century FoxAmerican Horror Story: Coven
American Horror Story: Murder HouseHorror SeriesAmerican Horror Story: Coven
American Horror Story: Murder HouseCreator/FXAmerican Horror Story: Coven
American Horror Story: Murder HouseAmerican SeriesAmerican Horror Story: Coven
American Horror Story: Murder HouseThe New TensAmerican Horror Story: Coven

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy