Season 1 of American Horror Story (Wednesday, 11 p.m., FX) was a rip-roaring, over-the-top tale that was violent, scary, gory, sexy and borrowed liberally from other tales - real and imagined.
Compared to Season 2, Season 1 was subtle. Executive producer Ryan Murphy and his team waste no time in upping, well, everything.
In the first two episodes of "American Horror Story: Asylum," we get outer-space aliens, Nazis, a serial killer, mutants and more. There are bits and pieces of everything from "Halloween" to "The Exorcist" to "The Island of Dr. Moreau" to "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," all thrown at viewers hoping something will stick.
Season 2 opens in the present day as a pair of adventurous newlyweds (Adam Levine of Maroon 5 and "The Voice" plays the husband) visit the ruins of an insane asylum. Let's just say they shouldn't have gone there.
Then we flash back to 1964, when Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), who's channeling Nurse Ratched from "Cuckoo's Nest," rules over the place with an iron fist. And a bunch of torture devices. All under the supervision of Monsignor Timothy (Joseph Fiennes).
Clearly, the Catholic Church is not going to endorse this show.
Also on hand is Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) who, we are quickly led to believe, is conducting experiments on patients.
I don't want to give away anything more, because there are some genuine scares here. But after seeing the first two episodes, it looks like Season 2 is a step down.
Season 1 had a central focus - a family moving into a haunted house. Mysteries were revealed one layer at a time, and everything held together.
Season 2 doesn't have much in the way of focus. There's a big cast - including Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Zachary Quinto, Lily Rabe, Chloë Sevigny and Lizzie Brocheré,
There's an enormous amount going on all at once, and it's sort of a hot mess.
"American Horror Story: Asylum" looks like the writers took everything that ever scared them and tried to slap it all together in one show.
If Murphy & Co. can coherently bring it all together, they're miracle workers.