Let's face it people: 2015's Hotel was just not good! The idea sounded thrilling at first, with the series returning to classic horror themes that is set at Los Angeles' tortured Hotel Cortez. The loss of Jessica Lange was the first blow to the show's potential, where Lady Gaga took her place as one of the season's main characters (and won a Golden Globe for her role as The Countess). Save for the demented Drilldo, Evan Peters getting to play a drastically different character as James March and Sarah Paulson's criminally underused role as Hypodermic Sally, there wasn't enough thematic meat to carry Hotel strong up until the vapid season finale. This was also the second season following Freak Show that was interconnected to previous ones, with Coven's Queenie, Murder House's Dr. Charles Montgomery and more popping up. But it felt more forced than exciting.
Despite some missteps in previous AHS seasons, at least they took chances. Hotel was just boring. The only memorable aspect of Hotel was the dazzling fashion and architecture, but it wasn't enough to make up for a flat storyline.
Freak Show (which premiered in 2014) is where things got a little weird. Apparently Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk gave up on trying to make sensical storylines, because this season went all over the place. Like Coven, Freak Show started out on a high note as we were introduced to a troupe of characters at one of the world's last remaining freak shows in Jupiter, Fla. in 1952. As they typically do, both Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson held the season together. They dove further with their acting skills by playing the determined Elsa Mars and conjoined twins Bette and Dot, respectively.
Dandy Mott (played by Finn Wittrock) also gave AHS one of its most promising villains of the entire series, who was a spoiled and highly disturbed man-child that didn't get proper character development towards the season finale. Freak Show also didn't give Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch) enough screentime (he shouldn't have been killed off so early), but luckily he'll make a return in Cult!
So here's the thing: Coven (premiered in 2013) started out on a very solid note. Yet it quickly got way too campy, strange and became a complete mess by the rushed season finale. This season also leaned heavier on dark humor, which wasn't a large hinderance, but it didn't feature the grotesque horror that made the first two seasons so captivating. There were also too many storylines that were either hard to keep track of or didn't make sense, and the witches themselves became lackluster as the episodes went on. The main highlights that kept Coven from sinking were the brilliant cast additions of Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates, as well as the Stevie Nicks cameo.
Ryan Murphy and the AHS crew teased 2016's Roanoke to no end, to the point where fans (and us at Fuse) conjured up possible theories of what the theme was going to be. The co-creator planned to make this season completely different than the previous ones, and thankfully he stuck to his word. Roanoke drove viewers wild with its meta theme of a show within a show, which reenacted the ominous 1590s Roanoke Colony disappearance before things got a little too real! Did we need the epilogue finale? Definitely not. But the rest of the season made up for that slight mishap with some of the best acting and consistent storylines AHS has seen since Asylum. Recurring AHS cast members like Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe and Kathy Bates completely owned their roles. New cast additions André Holland and Cuba Gooding Jr. also held their own throughout the madness.
The found footage theme was also epic, which brought back the fascinating but disturbing themes of cult classics like Blair Witch Project. While the themes were refreshing and the return to the show's gory roots was appreciated, the throwaway finale was one of the main things keeping Roanoke from becoming of the best AHS seasons of all time.
Murder House will always been the standard for AHS, as it is the first installment in the anthology series. It first aired in 2011 and introduced us to Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's sick, sick world. The main focus is on the Harmon family, who quickly descend into terrifying madness after moving into a haunted Los Angeles mansion. In a f-cked up way, it was very entertaining to see Vivien, Ben and Violet lose their minds. And will we ever get the image of Rubber Man scrubbed away from our minds? This season was also the first time many of us were introduced to Evan Peters (who plays the truly disturbed teenage Tate Langdon), which will always make it a special season. But the main reason why Murder House didn't make it to the No. 1 spot was because of its lackluster finale.
There's no argument here: Asylum is hands down the best season of the entire anthology. Yes Murder House was an attention-grabber, but Asylum is the reason why many diehard fans got sucked into the AHS world. Loved by critics and horror aficionados alike, there was a reason why Season 2 received 17 Emmy nominations! Okay, let's put the unnecessary alien abduction sub-plot aside for a minute. This was the season that took what it means to be batsh-t insane over the edge and placed the horror inside the minds of the characters instead of their hands. Set at the Briarcliff Mental Institution in 1964, we are introduced to disturbing things like Bloody Face, Nazi doctors, demonic possessions and the Name Game song. What makes Asylum so adored is its relatability in both the characters and the plot. Who wasn't rooting for Lana Winters throughout the season?
It is also quite consistent, which is something many of the other seasons lack. It also gave future AHS cast mainstay Jessica Lange more time to flex just how incredible of an actress she is (and why she is so missed in recent AHS seasons).
Ready for American Horror Story: Cult? Get prepared with The Complete Guide to AHS: Cult here.
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