I'm a relatively new fan of AHS, having just finished "Cult" over my school's winter break. While "Cult" was extremely good, I still believe that season 2, "Asylum," is still the best season of AHS.
If you're looking to get started in AHS and want to start with one of the best seasons first, here's why "Asylum" should be your first stop.
1. Asylums are creepy to begin with.
Mental asylums ALWAYS have something deeper going on inside. While the patients themselves can be rather interesting, asylums always have a weird vibe to them. You hear of patient abuse, some patients escaping or going off the hook, and other unsettling stories about asylums all the time. Most of them end up haunted after they've been abandoned.
There's just something always off about the idea of a mental asylum, which makes horror surrounding an asylum unsettling from the get-go. This was definitely the most disturbing season of AHS for me, so if you're looking for something truly unsettling, this is the best season.
2. Sister Mary Eunice is arguably Lily Rabe's best performance of the show.
Without getting into any spoilers, Sister Mary Eunice is debated to be Lily Rabe's best performance in all of AHS. Lily Rabe is a phenomenal actress with a lot of killer roles in the show, so to say Sister Mary Eunice is the best truly means that she was something special. If you want to see a hell of a performance from one of AHS's key actresses, "Asylum" is the season for you.
3. The horror is plausible, which makes it even more... horrible.
The season takes place in an asylum in the 1960s, when mental illness very much had a stigma around it. There was routine abuse and inhumane treatment, such as electroshock therapy and isolation therapy, being practiced in the show. The worst part about including these treatments is that they actually happened at one point in time; they're grotesque enough to see on screen, but it's a whole new level of horror when you realize that it's not just imagined for the show.
4. Religious undertones make it even more sinister.
The Briarcliff Mental Institution is run by nuns. Again, in the interest of no spoilers, just know that there are some very un-Christian practices happening in the show. Even the people of God are cruel. I've always found churches and old cathedrals very creepy myself.
5. It's horror without being overly gory.
Several of the AHS seasons are identified as much gorier than others, specifically "Hotel" and "Roanoke." While I'm a fan of slashers and gory horror, there's often more horror in the cleaner shows and movies. "Asylum" is a good example. While a lot of the show is disturbing, it's disturbing in a way that doesn't need the gore factor to make it hard to watch. There's something cinematically powerful about horror with no blood.
6. "Bloodyface" is one of the best villains of the entire show.
"Bloodyface," the murderer they believe to have imprisoned at Briarcliff, is one of the most fascinating villains of the series. He has an intriguing backstory and there's a hell of a twist to it. You almost feel bad for him at some points... almost.
7. Lana Winters is one of Sarah Paulson's best characters, and you'll see her again later.
Alongside Lily Rabe's stellar Sister Mary Eunice character, Sarah Paulson truly outdoes herself with Lana Winters. You'll love Lana, there's no way you won't, and you'll be rooting for her until the very end. Plus, one of my favorite things about AHS is how often characters from previous seasons will make appearances in later seasons. The end of "Asylum" is not the last time you'll see Lana Winters, so you'll definitely want to know her story.
8. "The Name Game"
"The Name Game" is the title of episode 10 of this season, but it's also one of the most infamous scenes in the series. To keep from spoiling it for you, "The Name Game" is a lighthearted musical number that interrupts a very dark episode of a very twisted season. It starkly contrasts the rest of the season, but it makes so much sense -- you'll just have to watch, then you'll understand. ;)
9. Kit Walker.
I love every Evan Peters character, but Kit is far and away my favorite. He's the most charming of Evan's characters, and also another key role in Peters' career. I'd love to see Kit again as I move on to "Apocalypse," but I'm not holding out any hope.
10. Dr. Arthur Arden.
Dr. Arden is the villain you'll love to hate. He's sinister, he's mean, he's cruel, and he's evil. He's the most perfect villain, but boy, will you hate him with all of your heart.
I don't think "Asylum" is a perfect season by any means, but I truly believe it's the best season. It's a great starting place for anyone looking to jump into AHS.