TV Club

American Horror Story recap: episode 3, reviewed.

A nor’easter blows into Briarcliff.

Evan Peters as Kit and Lizzie Brochere as Grace.


Every week in Slate’s American Horror Story TV club, J. Bryan Lowder will have an IM conversation with a different AHS fan. This week, he rehashes episode 2.3 with Jeff Bloomer, SlateV’s editor/blogger.  

J. Bryan Lowder: Happy Halloween, Mr. Bloomer! I’m feeling a little spooked-out that this week’s episode is titled “Nor’ester” just after Hurricane Sandy mated with one of those to become a SUPERSTORM and howl through my backyard. How are you holding up?

Jeff Bloomer: It was certainly a dark and stormy night here and at Briarcliff! The sudden storm was definitely an eerie development, but I think this one had more to do with lazy writing than with Mother Nature.

Lowder: Oh really, so I take it you were not gripped by this week’s howls and groans? Explain yourself! (I should say, I found the episode to be a fun, creaky romp, perfect for All Hallow’s Eve.)

Bloomer: I confess I am growing a little restless with this season. Though I love the characteristic all-in performances and the affectionate riffs on horror gospel, I am finding I have a basic issue: It hasn’t been very scary, and I’m not sure any of the characters are going in directions that aren’t obvious. The surgery sequences are the only ones getting under my skin, but even those feel a tad perfunctory.

Lowder: That’s fascinating. I’d agree that this season has me on edge a bit less than last, but I wonder how much of my anxiety then was about family drama amidst the Harmon clan and not Murder House’s ectoplasmic infestation. However, I do have to say that that last scene with a…cosmetically altered…Shelly gave me the shakes. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’d like to chat for a bit about the demon story line. It seems that Sister Mary’s little friend is taking on a puckish kind of instigator role, bringing out less supernatural demons among other characters, Sister Jude’s alcoholism being one. How do you feel about Mary/demon pulling all the strings?

Bloomer: I would also peg that as a lazy device, but Lily Rabe is biting into the role with such obvious glee, I can’t be anything but charmed by Mary. She has been unleashed and is having a deliriously good time. I did note, though, that in order for her to go wild, the writers promptly made Sister Jude into a pathetic, rambling mess. Wouldn’t it be more fun to see those two go at each other full throttle?

Lowder: Ooh, yes please! Though you’re right that Sister Jude lost herself a bit this week, I have a feeling she won’t give up so easily. I have visions of those two locked immortal combat, flying around in a supernatural death match for the souls of Briarcliff. (But maybe that’s beyond FX’s budget). In any case, I bet she will revivify herself next week.

Bloomer: Actual flying, let’s hope!

Lowder: This episode just felt so exposition heavy—we saw more of the aliens, finally glimpsed those creatures in the woods, found out that Dr. Arden has a small or otherwise unsatisfactory penis—that perhaps Jude’s domineering personality had to take a back seat.

Bloomer: Yes, let’s hope Dr. Arden’s black soul weathers down to more than a sadistic fetish for shame and an anatomical snub. But to harken back to the episode’s opening for a second: How are we feeling about the thrill-seeker subplot? I have to admit I was pleased to learn it would be more than loud screams and running in circles every week. Are we to believe they’ve been stalked by “real” Bloody Face, and these two guys just now turned up?

Lowder: HA, yes, as followers of this TV Club will know, I found the modern day plot tiresome from the get-go. And now, Maroon 5 and Channing Tatum’s wife are dead—I hope. But perhaps with the introduction of the Bloody Face imitators, we’ll expand out to actually learn something new about Briarcliff. As to whether that Bloody Face is the real one, I have no idea. Halloween shops are well-stocked with skin-masks this time of year, apparently.

Bloomer: I am always sad to see Jenna Dewan-Tatum lose work, but progress is progress. Other than that, I guess I am pleased the aliens aren’t being totally abandoned. I was surprised to read in an earlier entry that most people thought their inclusion was “weird.” Weird in a show featuring lusty demon nuns and multiple guys with skin masks!? I do hope they eventually come for poor Kit at some point.

Lowder: Yes, while I do maintain that their inclusion is dissonant with the overall tone of the show, I kinda like the slashiness of it. I’m especially into Dr. Arden’s bumbling experiments with the microchip bug. I’m hoping it jumps into someone’s ear soon and assimilates them into the Borg collective.

Bloomer: That is such a great idea! Briarcliff could definitely stand to have some bodies snatched. I feel like we’re jumping all over (much like this episode…), but should we also work in the obligatory mention of the Creatures in the Woods? That whole deal better not turn into an M. Night Shyamalan movie.

Lowder: Haha, yeah, it totally has that vibe. From what I could gather tonight, they’re some form of mutant human, who are perhaps fragile right now? Arden mentioned that he needed to nurse them through the winter. But surely they have more going on than just monstrousness. Mary’s demon seems particularly intrigued—I’m wondering if they don’t have some kind of powers or something.

Bloomer: Perhaps. I wonder why they quarantine them in the woods—seems like they would be right at home with some of Briarcliff’s (few?) real crazies.

Lowder: My sense was that Sister Jude’s snooping proved too risky to keep them in-house. But one wonders what keeps them from escaping the grounds? In any case, we know that Shelly’s dreams of escape are over—unless it was some kind of nightmare, Dr. Arden has straight-up cut off her legs! No trick-or-treating for her. Speaking of which, what are you going out as tonight?

Bloomer: My Halloween costume this year consisted of a few tablespoons of fake blood on my face and a lot of random guesses about what I was. The real answer was lazy. What about you?

Lowder: I am someone who has not left the house in four days due to the weather. Which means somewhat unkempt and a little stir-crazy. Given the lack of food in my fridge, hopefully the delivery guy won’t be too frightened.

Thursday: What other writers and Slate commenters thought about Episode 3.