Welcome to Briarcliff
|"Welcome to Briarcliff"|
|American Horror Story episode|
The titular mental institution of Briarcliff Manor in its present condition
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||Bradley Buecker|
|Written by||Tim Minear|
|Original air date||October 17, 2012|
|Running time||46 minutes|
"Welcome to Briarcliff" is the first episode of the second season of the anthology television series American Horror Story, which premiered on October 17, 2012 on the cable network FX. In its original airing, the episode was watched by 3.85 million viewers, the largest audience of the franchise thus far, 2.8 million of which were from the 18–49 demographic.
This episode won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special in 2013. It was also nominated for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie and Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie.
The episode introduces the season's main cast. It follows reporter Lana Winters' (Sarah Paulson) plight to expose Sister Jude's (Jessica Lange) sadistic insane asylum and Kit Walker's (Evan Peters) unjust commitment to the institution. Chloë Sevigny guest stars as Shelley, a patient at the asylum. This episode is rated TV-MA (LSV).
Leo (Adam Levine) and Teresa (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) are two horror junkies visiting reputedly haunted sites on their honeymoon. They explore the Briarcliff Manor Sanitarium, an abandoned mental institution and once a tuberculosis hospital where many thousands died. Teresa having a fetish for the haunted, the couple begins having intercourse inside of the building. Teresa interrupts the session after hearing something move inside of the asylum, promising to make it up to Leo if they go investigate. They track down the sound to a locked door with a food hatch, through which Leo sticks his arm where it is severed by an undetermined cause.
With Leo in shock and bleeding, Teresa promises to go find help. She runs to the main door only to find it chained and padlocked from the inside. She discovers a hidden tunnel and while running through she encounters Bloody Face, wearing a mask of human skin.
Kit Walker (Evan Peters) is a gas station worker making a lean living with his wife, Alma (Britne Oldford). Unfortunately, fear of social ostracism has forced them to keep their marriage a secret, as Kit is white and Alma is black. A series of unexplained explosions, extremely bright light, loud noises and apparent anti-gravity occur during which Alma disappears and Kit is knocked out.
Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) is an ambitious journalist sent by her paper to report on the commitment of the famed serial killer "Bloody Face" to the sanitarium. Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), the asylum's authoritarian and sadistic administrator, does not take a liking to Lana or her persistent questioning. Unknown to anyone, Sister Jude harbors sexual feelings for the sanitarium's founder, Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes), an ambitious priest aiming to become Pope. When the alleged murderer steps out of the police car, it's revealed that Kit is the so-called perpetrator, accused of skinning three women – including Alma – alive and he is being held pending determination if he is sane to stand trial. He denies ever killing anyone, blaming Alma's disappearance instead on extra-terrestrials, which Sister Jude does not believe.
Kit later encounters the inmates of the institution in the common area, including a nymphomaniac named Shelley (Chloë Sevigny) who has sex with the orderlies at night. Grace (Lizzie Brocheré), a seemingly sane patient, warns Kit not to turn off a loud French recording of "Dominique", as the orderlies require it be played. Grace visits Kit in his cell. They get to know each other a little bit more and talk about their alleged crimes, to which they both claim innocence. Grace allegedly killed her entire family. Spivey (Mark Consuelos), a bully in the asylum, picks a fight with Kit by spouting off racist remarks about Alma. The two begin to fight and are broken up by Sister Jude blaring a screeching whistle. The guards drag Kit to solitary confinement.
Sister Jude has a conversation with Dr. Arden (James Cromwell), the physician of the institution's medical unit. She has a strong distrust of him, mainly due to their differing ideologies based on religion and science, respectively. She wonders why all of the patients who recently disappeared had no family or friends, to which Arden contends that they all died and were cremated. Later, Dr. Arden secretly sedates Kit and vivisects him, extracting a metallic object from his neck that grows legs and flees while Kit has apparent flashbacks to alien abduction.
Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) is sent by Dr. Arden with a bucket of offal to feed something in the woods. Lana encounters her there and joins her as she flees back through the secret tunnel. While sneaking around the asylum Lana is attacked by something in one of the isolation rooms, when she sticks her arm in through a feeding door as does Leo in 2012, and is knocked out. Upon waking, she is locked in a sanitarium room as its newest patient. She learns from Sister Jude that she visited Lana's partner, Wendy (Clea DuVall), and blackmailed her. Threatening to out both Wendy and Lana, thereby ruining Wendy's teaching career and having Lana committed for her homosexuality anyway, Sister Jude has Wendy sign papers committing Lana to the asylum.
The second season's premiere gained a 2.2 18–49 ratings share and was watched by 3.85 million viewers.
"Welcome to Briarcliff" received generally positive reviews from critics and scored 64 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 22 reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reports a 100% approval rating, based on 10 reviews. The critical consensus reads, "American Horror Story ushers in a new season as is to be expected: with a healthy dose of mysterious, gruesome fun." James Poniewozik from Time stated, "AHS: Asylum feels like a more focused, if equally frenetic, screamfest. It's also gorgeously realized, with a vision of its '60s institution setting so detailed you can smell the stale air and incense."
Maureen Ryan of The Huffington Post said, "It's to the credit of Asylum's writers, directors and cast that the emotional pain of the characters often feels as real as their uncertainty and terror." Verne Gay from Newsday gave the season a C grade, stating it "has some good special effects, just not much of a story to hang them on." However, Linda Stasi of the New York Post thought the season was "over the top", adding, "I need to enter [an asylum] myself after two hours of this craziness."
In February 2013, "Welcome to Briarcliff" won a Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing: Short Form Sound Effects and Foley in Television by the Motion Picture Sound Editors society. In September 2013, the episode won a Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special.
- "Ratings: Horror Story Returns to Crazy Numbers". TVLine. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
- Bibel, Sara (October 18, 2012). "Wednesday Cable Ratings: 'American Horror Story' Wins Night, 'Duck Dynasty', 'South Park', 'The Daily Show', Baseball & More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
- "American Horror Story: Season 2". Metacritic. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
- "Welcome to Briarcliff – American Horror Story: Asylum, Episode 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
- Poniewozik, James (October 17, 2012). "TV Tonight: American Horror Story: Asylum". Time. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
- Ryan, Maureen (October 16, 2012). "'American Horror Story: Asylum' Review: Scary, Freaky And Surprisingly Addictive". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
- Gay, Verne (October 15, 2012). "'American Horror Story: Asylum' not much of a story". Newsday. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
- Stasi, Linda (October 17, 2012). "'Asylum' is a 'Horror'". New York Post. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
- "2013 Golden Reel Award Winners & Nominees: Television". Motion Picture Sound Editors. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
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