TV Review: ‘American Horror Stories’ Season 2, Episode 1

by Frank Martin

It’s almost surprising how successful American Horror Story has been as a franchise. It has run for 10 seasons and spun off into a separate show cleverly called American Horror Stories, which focuses on telling a new story every episode rather than throughout the entire season. As a huge fan of the early seasons of AHS, I was looking forward to this spinoff. It was a chance to get the series back to its roots and focus on compelling characters and stories rather than shock value. And the first season of it was great! So I was obviously eagerly looking forward to Season 2. But the premiere was a bit of a lackluster let down and has set this season up to a slow start.

The episode, “Dollhouse,” takes place decades ago and is about a deranged executive of a doll making company (Denis O’Hare) who kidnaps women in a search of the perfect mother for his son. Other than the creepy fact that he has the women dress up and act as dolls for his child, the horror of the episode is pretty light. The executive has the women undergo tests, the loser of which gets thrown down a well. In predictable fashion, the main character (Kristine Froseth) wins the contest but is later saved by a covenant of witches who detected her using her powers.

The first season of American Horror Stories was great in that its plots pushed the envelope and focused on doing something unique. A doll maker treating women like actual dolls is not something considered trailblazing in the realm of horror. And the episode’s inclusion of the witches seemed a bit forced in order to fit the story into American Horror Story’s greater mythology — which was unnecessary. If this were an episode of a new series it might be merely passable, but since the standards for American Horror Story are set pretty high, this installment fell short as a premiere. But as an anthology series, it doesn’t mean the entire season can’t pick up the slack.

American Horror Stories streams Thursdays on Hulu.

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