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Series / American Horror Story: Asylum

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Taking Only Sane Man to terrifyingly literal levels.note 

"If you look in the face of evil, evil's gonna look right back at you."

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, Chloë 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.
  • Aborted Arc: Dr. Arden extracts a living alien computer chip from Kit's neck, and the thing later is said to want to reunite with Kit somehow. Despite that set-up, nothing ever comes of it.
  • Actor Allusion: Jessica Lange mentions having dealt with "even bigger monsters", a reference to her role in King Kong (1976).
  • 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.
  • Aloof Leader, Affable Subordinate: Sister Jude, who runs the Briarcliff asylum is very stern and traditionalist in her management style. She treats the patients cruelly, using techniques that are considered harsh even by the standards of The '60s. Her Number Two Sister Mary Eunice is kind and warm, if a little meek. A flashback shows her befriending one of the patients.
  • 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 in the final episode. Unbeknownst to the 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: Big time. To give you an idea, every character in the poster on this page, bar two are dead by the end. And one of those two survivors is abducted by aliens, leaving only one still around and confirmed alive.
  • 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 resurrected 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.
  • 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: Out of the various antagonists, the two greatest threats are Serial Killer Bloody Face and the Devil possessing Sister Eunice. While both are taken care of before the final episode, Bloody Face's influence remains the primary source of conflict.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Most of 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.
  • Calling the Old Man 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:
    • Zachary Quinto played Sylar, a scarily calm Serial Killer with parental and abandonment issues, on Heroes. Here, he plays Thredson, whose origin story, extensive crimes, and clear lack of remorse makes Sylar look positively angelic in comparison.
    • Brooke Smith played Catherine Martin in The Silence of the Lambs, and was imprisoned by a serial killer. Here, she plays a shrink who helps Johnny Thredson with his urges to skin women.
    • Jessica Lange received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of a wrongly institutionalized woman in the 1982 film Frances. Here, she plays Sister Jude, who runs the insane asylum. By the end, she's a patient there, who's been wrongly institutionalized for years.
    • Several of the recurring actors from season 1 (Murder House) take on new characters for season 2 (Asylum), with character arcs that mirror/relate to their previous role.
      • 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; science and religion both corrupted in similar ways by people seeking to control others and with selfish and sadistic motives.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The shock therapy machine.
    • The candy apple Dr. Arden offers Sister Marie Eunice. At first it just seems like a simple gift or at most a bit of Eve-and-the-Serpent symbolism. Her shy reaction to such a simple indulgence is how Arden confirms she's possessed later: offering her something even someone with much grayer morality would find troubling (the earrings, along with their backstory).
  • Chekhov's Gunman: As noted in this article, minor character Pepper disappeared as a subtle hint that the aliens are real.
  • Chekhov's Skill: When explaining who she is, Anne Frank says she survived for years in Germany as a pickpocket. She later uses these abilities to lift a gun from a police detective.
    • deconstructed when it turns out she's not really Anne Frank but a delusional house-wife (probably).
  • 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.
  • Crapsack World: Murder House was downright pleasant compared to Briarcliff.
  • Creepy Child:
    • Jenny, a little girl left at Briarcliff who was present for multiple murders and seems emotionally unaffected. Worse yet is by the end of her appearance, she's clearly becoming a budding serial killer.
    • Thomas and Julia, Kit's children born with alien intervention, are benevolent, super intelligent children who seem to know way more than they're letting on.
    • Notably averted with Johnny. Despite a history of killing and skinning animals, and growing up to do the same with humans he comes off like an ordinary kid who gets bullied a lot.
  • Crisis Point Hospital: Briarcliff Manor originally started out as a hospital for tuberculosis patients, where it quickly became known as one of these during TB epidemics: overcrowding and death were so common that Dr Arden reports that they'd sometimes end up disposing of more than a hundred corpses a week. Worse still, the virulence of the disease meant that some of the victims actually included members of the nursing staff. A combination of public apathy and a high death toll meant that it was safer to simply cremate the bodies on site rather than burying them, to the point that a specially-designed "Death Chute" was built to transport bodies to the crematorium. Eventually, the development of antibiotics gradually made TB-exclusive wards obsolete, prompting the Catholic Church to have Briarcliff redeveloped as a mental hospital... but thanks to Dr Arden's work, the Death Chute still gets plenty of use.
  • 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.
    • The new Bloody Face A.K.A. Thresdon's son thinks that Thredson being a doctor was what made him such a good Bloody Face, and he wonders aloud if he himself should go to medical school as well.
  • 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.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: When Lana initially escapes Dr. Thredson's home, she flags down a car and jumps in. As she talks with the driver, it becomes clear that he has a serious grudge against women, and it's revealed that he recently murdered his wife, and kills himself by eating his gun. The car crashes, and when Lana comes to, she's back at Briarcliff. Even Lana's reaction to this isn't terror so much as "...Well, fuck."
  • 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.
    • Possibly played straight with Pandora, the postpartum prostitute who visits Johnny, in order to help play out his mommy fantasy. The last we see of her, she's getting strangled, although we never really find out what actually ends up happening to her.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Averted with Sister Mary Eunice and the Monsignor. It was, however, implied that the audience was supposed to be appalled not simply because there was non-consent, but because a vow of chastity was being broken.
  • 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.
    • Naturally, there could have been a twist that the child was a different one, for instance by Lana being forcibly impregnated once more. In the end though, this was not the case.
  • 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: 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.
  • End of an Age: The season chronicles the end of the Catholic Church's control of Briarcliff Sanitarium. By the end, most of the characters' stories have come to a permanent end, and the world is a very different place than when the season began. The final scene, a flashback to the first episode, is a poignant reminder that things have changed irrevocably, for better or worse.
  • Epic Fail: The Monsignor uses almost this exact term after his failed exorcism attempt, which given the period setting pretty funny.
  • Evil Desires Innocence: Psychopathic Mad Scientist Dr Arthur Arden is drawn to the naive and sweet-natured Sister Mary Eunice, not only trusting her with his secrets but playfully offering her a candy apple, taking great delight in watching her struggling with the temptation to have a bite. By contrast, when Mary is possessed by the Devil and tries to seduce Arden, he's repulsed, bringing his Madonna-Whore Complex to light. As the possessed Mary becomes more openly villainous, Arden only grows more despairing and more fearful of her - to the point that he's reduced to Mary's slave in all but name.
    Arden: I admired her purity. Her innocence. I never had any, even as a boy. Now it's gone. It's been taken from her.
  • 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.
  • Expy: Bloody Face is a combination of Ed Gein (one of history's most infamous grave robbers who exhumed and skinned many corpses and had severe mommy issues) and Hannibal Lecter, because his civilian identity is the court-mandated psychiatrist.
    • Dr. Arden is an expy of the real life Nazi Josef Mengele [1] who had an obsession with twins and actually did the things Dr Arden is stated to have done like bringing sweets to the children's barracks as an excuse to identify people he wished to perform these cruel experiments on as well as much worse and like Dr Arden escaped capture and prosecution by changing his identity.
  • 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.
    • the possessed Sister Mary Eunice.
    • Sister Jude.
    • Kit, faced with a terminal cancer, refuses to be a burden to his children. Of course, in the end he doesn't "die" as much as he is finally taken back with the aliens...
  • 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. Because it happens as Thredson is raping Lana, in a very dark and uncomfortable scene.
  • Fetishes Are Weird: Both generations of Bloody Face have a breastfeeding fetish. One of them attempts it with one of his victims, the other hires a prostitute for that purpose. It's used to show both of them as Psychopathic Manchildren with mommy issues.
  • 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).
    • During Sarah Paulson's name in the credits, electricity can be seen passing behind her name briefly. Her character receives shock treatment to scramble her memories very early in the series.
  • First-Episode Twist: 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.
  • Flipping the Bird: Lana does this to Bloody Face when she's leaving the asylum with his confession tape..
  • 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. The Devil is just in it For the Evulz, not to mention the Serial Killer who dresses up like Santa Claus, the mechanic framed for a crime he didn't commit, the intrepid journalist, the Angel of Death, the Nazi Hunter, the axe murderess and the mysterious woman who claims to be Anne Frank. Season Two is a very good example of this trope.
  • Gay Guy Dies First: Wendy barely makes it past the credits. However, Lana makes it out of Briarcliff and Bloody Face's home alive and, if you count Jude's death from natural causes and Kit's disappearance, is the sole surviving main character at the very end.
  • Genre Refugee: Period Medical Horror? Makes perfect sense. A deranged Serial Killer? Yeah, that follows with the first season. Explicitly supernatural demons? Well, there's only a short jump from "ghosts" to "demons". Anne Frank? Well, okay, as an Alternate History setting, that's a plausible if somewhat unexpected possibility. Grey aliens? What the fuck, Murphy?
  • Genre Shift: From the spiritually neutral ghosts of the first season to the notably different 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.
  • Go Among Mad People: Several of the inmates were sane, only becoming unhinged due to their association with Briarcliff.
  • 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.
  • Gothic Horror: Deeply flawed characters in an insane asylum run by people abusing both religion and science to their most inhumane extremes with occasional visits by enigmatic beings beyond human comprehension pretty much fits the bill.
  • 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."
    • Monsignor later Cardinal Howard is willing to cover up a LOT of abuses in order to get to Rome and become the first Anglo-American pope. Jude even calls him out on his blatant ambition, saying he's managed to convince himself of his own excuses.
  • Historical Domain Character: Anne Frank. Yes, that one.
  • 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.
    • Invoked by Pepper's brother-in-law. She's in Briarcliff for murdering and mutilating her sister's child. Her brother-in-law actually killed the baby and accused Pepper, who's not shown to hurt anyone.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Thredson's point about the foster care system turns out to have some weight to it.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Grace.
  • 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.
  • Marry Them All: Kit and Grace return home with their child after escaping the asylum to find Kit's presumed-dead wife — along with her child, Kit's daughter. Good thing he's already accustomed to having an unconventional marriage.
  • Meaningful Name: "Dr. Arden" comes from the Latin verb "ardeo, ardere," meaning "to burn." This foreshadows his death by cremation oven.
  • Mood Whiplash: "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.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Averted — Alma kills Grace, but out of paranoia and repressed trauma rather than jealousy.
  • 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.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Used by possessed Mary Eunice while forcing herself on Monsignor Howard. An interesting variant, since she's using it to hurt him, while she herself doesn't care.
  • No, You:
    • In "I am Anne Frank part 1" when sister Jude doesn't believe "Anne Frank"'s story.
    Sister Jude: Your story is indecent.
    Anne Frank: No, you are indecent! You have a Nazi war criminal working here!
    • In "Unholy Night", when Sister Jude confront a possessed Mary Eunice.
    Sister Mary Eunice: You made a big mistake coming back here.
    Sister Jude No, you made a mistake. And I'm about to send you back to the hell that made you.
  • Offing the Offspring: Johnny finally confronts Lana and in the end, she kills him.
  • Oh, Crap!: Lana noticing the lampshade at Dr. Thredson's, which is made out of human skin.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Evan Peters' Boston accent that he affects for Kit is 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. But they seem to be on the level. Except, well, that one.
  • Polyamory: Kit fathers a child with Grace, only to discover Alma and her baby are back from the dead. It's not ideal, but he tries to make the best of it.
  • Preserve Your Gays: Lana. She makes it to the end of the series and is public about her sexual orientation in the current day sections.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Zachary Quinto, Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe. Inverted by Dylan McDermott.
  • Red Herring: The Raspers' nature implies a possible origin of Bloody Face. But they've nothing to do with him, and really exist only to underscore Arden's evil.
  • Religious Horror: Much of the horror comes from religious hypocrisy (Sister Jude, Dr. Arden, Monsignor Howard), evil forces existing outside out the Catholic cosmology (the aliens), and the devil himself.
  • 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.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: Sister Jude has endured guilt, addiction, betrayal, defiance, and realizing her hero's true nature. After a particularly severe therapy session, they appear borderline catatonic until staggering over to the common room's jukebox, selecting "The Name Game", and hallucinating a cheery song and dance number featuring the inmates.
  • Scare Chord: Though the show itself makes effective use of it, a few exist in the title sequence.
  • Scenery Porn: The last two episodes after Lana and Kit get out of Briarcliff start to look more like a sweeping biopic rather than a horror finale.
  • Second Episode Introduction: Dr Thredson and the devil are introduced in the second episode.
  • "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 naming theme going on, as one of the patients at the asylum is named Kit Walker.
    • Lana's expose of Briarcliff is very similar to Geraldo Rivera's news segment on the notorious Willowbrook State School.
    • Two musical pieces used in the background of the first episode "Welcome To Briarcliff" are both tracks composed by Pino Donaggio for the film Carrie.
    • Bloody Face is a walking tribute to classic Slasher Movie villains. In addition to taking some inspiration from Historical Domain Character Ed Gein, his mask made from human skin recalls Leatherface of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, his profession as a psychiatrist recalls Hannibal Lecter, and his parental issues—both in Oliver Thredson's desire to find a mother figure, and Johnny Thredson's desire to follow in his father's footsteps—recall Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th. Even Johnny Thredson's origins as the Child by Rape of a doctor and an incarcerated patient in a mental institution are more than a little bit similar to Freddy Kreuger of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
    • Death Proof: Sister Jude calling Lana Lana Banana
    • Leigh Emmerson's backstory has shades of Billy from Silent Night Deadly Night (holiday trauma, killer Santa) and Les Miserables (stealing bread)
    • Emmerson misquotes R.E.M's Shiny Happy People though retaining the basic idea of the song.
  • The '60s: Where most of the series takes place.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Dominique" by Sœur 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 Gen 2 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.
    • We hear about half of the movements from Gabriel Faure's "Requiem" throughout, usually associated with Dr. Arden or the Monsignor. The ones used are: the Introit, Sanctus (during Leigh's baptism), Libera Me Domine, and In Paradisum (when Arden mutilates Shelley.
  • Taking the Bullet: Grace.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Lana is rather good at this.
  • 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 a Cardinal and left over two years ago, the escapees have forgotten her, Pepper is dead, and everyone is calling her Betty Drake.
  • 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 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 re-incarceration, "Dark Cousin" is just an excuse to mess with Lana even more.
  • You Monster!:
    • Sister Jude says this to Kit when he is brought into Briarcliff.
    Sister Jude: Your story about little green men? No, never will do here.
    Kit: They weren't human. They were monsters.
    Sister Jude: All monsters are human. You're a monster.
    • Timothy Howard calls Dr Arden a monster after he discovers what he had done to Shelley.
    • Bloody Face has the audacity to call Lana a monster after she claims that she aborted their child. This comes from a guy who's a serial killer, a rapist and a necrophiliac.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Arden expects Sister Eunice to be disgusted when he gives her ruby earrings swallowed by a Jewish woman in a concentration camp. If anything, the devil/demon is just fed up with his sanctimonious attitude.

Dominique, 'nique, 'nique, s'en allait tout simplement, routier pauvre et chantant...


Video Example(s):


The Name Game

In the episode "The Name Game", Sister Judy imagine she and the rest of the inmates singing and dancing to the song "The Name Game" by Shirley Ellis.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / BigLippedAlligatorMoment

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