Happiness and Caring in American Horror Story

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Though season two of FX’s anthology television series American Horror Story, Asylum, is darker and gloomier than its season one counterpart, retroactively named Murder House, it is the better of the seasons for two reasons: happiness and caring.

The problem with the Murder House main characters, the Harmon family, is that we never see them happy. So, we aren’t holding onto that moment of happiness we experienced with them and hoping that they can fight through all the horror and return to it.

That is season one’s first mistake, but show creator Ryan Murphy adds to it by forgetting to make the Harmons likable or related. After spending time with whiny, bitchy wife Vivien; cheating, lying husband Ben and annoying teenager Violet, I found myself rooting more for them to go away than mend their familial bonds.

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But, Murphy took that away from us too. Nobody goes away or dies during Murder House. They just become ghosts and join the ensemble of mostly one-dimension haunters of the house.

Asylum is different. When we meet the protagonists of season two, Kit Walker and Lana Winters, they are both happy in their forbidden relationships — only forbidden because it’s 1964 — and both seem like someone you would want to smoke a blunt before dinner with.

But, by the end of the first episode they are each wrongfully imprisoned at Briarcliff Manor, a mental asylum for the criminally insane. And because of what we have already seen we are given what season one lacked: caring and longing.

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The show has made us care for and like Kit and Lana, enough to root for them to get out of the asylum and defeat the villain who put them there. But, unlike the cut-and-dry ghost villains from season one, season two’s original villain, Sister Jude, makes an unexpected turn and becomes Asylum’s third protagonist.

Happiness and caring don’t seem like aspects needed in a horror show where almost everyone dies and ghosts, aliens, mutant creatures and the devil are roaming around, but they put Asylum a stack of bestsellers above Murder House.

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