Every television show has a certain structure in how the narrative is presented to the audience. Many programs begin an episode with “previously on” to remind the audience of what happened in previous episodes and create curiosity of what will happen next. However, American Horror Story: Asylum does not have a collage of scenes from former episodes. The show goes right into the lead-in or opening scene of the show. In the episode this blog post focuses on (Episode 3: Nor’easter), the opening is a continuation from a previous episode.
The lead-in to the episode helps set tone and scene for the rest of the episode. The show opens in present day with Bloody Face over injured Leo. Bloody Face then proceeds to stab him multiple times and the wife, Teresa begins to scream. Bloody Face then turns his attention to her and tries to get into the cell in which the door is closed. He eventually gets in and proceeds to hurt her as well. The husband somehow gets some strength to attack Bloody Face and he stabs him in the chest. They both get up to try and get out of the abandoned asylum. Teresa calls 911 when she sees Bloody Face and he shoots and kills both of them. Bloody Face takes off his mask to reveal a teenager under the mask. The other “Bloody Face” reveals himself and he too is a teenager. This teenager thinks nothing of them being shot while the other guy says that this has gone too far. At end of this scene, the true Bloody Face appears and walks towards the teenagers. This lead-in entices and confuses the viewer. It makes the viewer want to figure out what just happened at the beginning and how this scene in the present relates to past. The lead-in is exciting and dramatic, making the viewer to want to stay and watch the rest of the episode.
The end of this scene brings the audience to the opening credits. The music in the opening credits create an eerie vibe. The opening credits show small snapshots of different parts of Briarcliff asylum. Some of these images are the patients while others are objects in the asylum. The actors who play the characters are introduced in the opening credits. When they show the actors name, it makes a scratch type noise and has the actors name in an orange tint and a black screen behind it. They title of American Horror Story: Asylum is shown at the end of the opening credits with the sound of a closing gate. The titles are unique to the American Horror Story series. They are made to appear creepy. They are placed so the viewer knows what show they are watching and the actors involved. To watch the opening credits of American Horror Story: Asylum watch this video:
The lead-in and the opening credits evoke an eerie/creepy mood for the viewers. The lead-in provides the curiosity and fear of what will happen in this episode. The opening credits are creepy in-themselves and likely provide the “horror” mood that viewers are looking for from this show. These moods helps in getting the audience to want to continue to watch what will happen next.
This mood is also seen in the various scenes throughout the episode and how they build on one another. The scenes within this episode build on one another by introducing what the problem or issues are for various characters at the beginning of the show. In this episode, it takes some time to show each character’s involvement in the plot, but it helps the viewer to be able to understand what will happen later in the episode. After the show introduces these problems, the viewer sees throughout the episode how each scene involving that character deals with the issue at hand. For example, at the beginning of the episode we see how Sister Jude’s past is getting to be a serious problem. We see how flustered and angered she gets over receiving the newspaper in the mail. This scene is the starting point to how other scenes will build on her storyline. The viewer sees this when Sister Mary gives her the red lipstick and when she receives the mysterious phone call. The individual scenes come together to show the various storylines of each character interact with each other. An example of this is how Shelley takes one for the team and distracts the worker so Kit, Grace, and Lana can get out of Briarcliff. This ends up causing trouble for her in that she gets caught by Dr. Arden in the hallway and loses her ability to walk. In this episode, there are also no distinct connectives between the scenes, but rather individual scenes that may not relate to the previous scene (at the moment). An example of this is the scene with Dr. Arden examining Kit Walker in his lab and the following scene shows Sister Mary going into a patient’s cell who is praying the rosary.
Another aspect of the structure of a narrative is whether the episode has a beginning, middle, and an end. The beginning of Asylum shows the teenagers who are pretending to be Bloody Face. After the opening credits, it shows the beginning of what happens in the asylum. The opening shows Sister Jude receiving the mail and how the newspaper in the mail is from when she had hit the young girl when she was drunk driving. She will have these constant reminders of this incident throughout the episode. The beginning also shows how Grace and Kit are planning to try and escape the asylum once again due to the Nor’easter that will be hitting Briarcliff. There is not a clear and distant middle of the show since so much is going on within the episode. Time wise, the middle of the episode is when Sister Jude receives a call on the phone in her office. She answers it and she hears the voice of the girl that she ran over. This causes Sister Jude to panic and break down. The end of the episode shows how Grace, Kit, and Lana were unsuccessful in getting out of the asylum due to the creatures in the woods. The last scene in this episode shows Shelley waking up on Dr. Arden’s examination table. Dr. Arden explains how everyone thinks she has escaped the asylum and due to that he has amputated her legs from the knees down so she can no longer walk.
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Placement of commercials can be a major part in the organization of the program and how it is presented. Since I am watching this season of American Horror Story: Asylum on Netflix's, there are no commercial breaks. However, the scenes right before the commercials start typically end with music and they black out the screen. They cut off the scene pretty fast before the commercials. They do this to keep the viewers enticed to want to continue watching and see what happens next. The scene right after the commercials either continues from the scene before the commercials or is a completely new scene. They normally have some sort of sounds to go with the opening of the scenes. The sound will depend on how dramatic the scene is supposed to be. If they want the viewers to feel calm, they will open the scene slowly and with lighter music/sounds. If they want the viewers to be “on their toes,” they will open the scene fast and have faster and higher pitched sounds/music. The music and sounds used in Asylum help give the scenes continuity. They use familiar sounds throughout the episode that evoke some sort of mood/feelings for the viewer. These sounds help keep the scene consistent even though what is happening in the scenes might be very different.
The structure of the ending of the narrative for American Horror Story: Asylum often leaves the audience wanting more and little closure. When this episode comes to an end, there is not closure and the plot is left open until the next episode. The episode shows some closure for Grace, Kit, and Lana in that they were unsuccessful in getting out of the asylum. Besides them, the rest of the plot is left open and questions are left unanswered until next time. Once the episode ends, the preview for the next episode in the show is shown after some commercials. They do this so the viewers will have to watch the commercials in order to see what will happen next. After the preview, the program rolls the closing credits. The closing credits just show those involved in the production of the show such as co-stars, producers, directors, editors, and more. It is just the text on the screen and music playing in the background. The music is a little more upbeat than the opening credit music. Most often these credits are not readable since the network starts the next program and puts the credits in the corner of the screen.
Each of these elements play a part in the structure of the narrative. Reminders of previous episodes and lead-ins can help grab the attention of the viewers. The lead-in and opening credits of American Horror Story: Asylum evoke the creepy mood that the program wants the audience to feel. The scenes within this episode build on one another and creates tension and intensity for the audience. This helps to keep the mood of the show when the audience has to go through commercial breaks. This episode ends with little closure, making the audience curious to what the previews will show for the next episode.
FairlyHorror. "American Horror Story : Asylum - Opening." YouTube. YouTube, 12 Oct. 2012. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.