Since its 2011 debut American Horror Story has become an iconic and dare I say it… groundbreaking television show. It’s not shocking since its creator, Ryan Murphy, also created the popular GLEE and NIP/Tuck prior to AHS. While AHS didn’t invent the anthology series, it certainly popularized the concept in modern-day television. Each season recycles most of the cast as different characters and switches up it’s theme to tell an (mostly) unrelated story. With its shocking imagery and taboo-pushing characters, everyone has a favorite season. Refreshingly the series has never shied away from showcasing various LGBTQ characters and actors
and didn’t push the in the background like The Walking Dead. With the upcoming seventh season, subtitled CULT I think it’s time to rank the previous season from worst to best.
6. Hotel (2015) I’m ranking this one last because I couldn’t make it through the entire season. The HOTEL season is a mixed bag of urban folklore, a study of real life infamous serial killers and vampires. Lady Gaga took over Jessica Lange’s role as the alpha female for this season with mostly mixed results, although she did win a Golden Globe for her performance. While some characters, like Dan O’Hare’s Lily Taylor, were truly inspired, others like Chloe Sevigny’s bland Alex weighed down the season. Also, like the previous seasons, the writing was all over the place and rarely presented a consistent story.
5. FREAK SHOW (2014) This is the first season of AHS that I gave up on half way through. FREAK SHOW presented an interesting story set in a 1950’s freak show attraction in Jupiter, Florida. Themes of systemic oppression, assimilation and greed are cleverly examined with the talented cast. Twisty the Clown also give’s Pennywise a run for his money in the “terrifying-clown department. Unfortunately, the writing was never focused and, like HOTEL, was all over the place. This was another season of too many storylines and characters to keep track of.
4. ROANOKE (2016) This sixth season is a slight return to form for the series. This season deals with themes of anger, fame and guilt. ROANOKE is broken into 3 segments. The first 5 episodes act as docu-series dealing with a couple who are tormented by the ghosts of the home. The next few episodes mixes up the formula by having the docu-series actors and actual participants stay in the house over a few days, only to find the hauntings were real. The final episode takes a bizarre turn where another docu-series about the house is being filmed and the hauntings happen…again. I think the ROANOKE season proved that AHS works best with 8-10 episodes a season, not 11 or 13. Until the final episode the writing was more focused and there was a clear narrative for the season.
3. Coven (2013) The breakout season! Coven marks AHS achieving mainstream success, in part thanks to adding Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates to the cast. This season’s theme dealt with greed, envy and vanity in the backdrop of a school of witches. An interesting subplot of Witchcraft versus Voodooism and the implied racial tension between the two was briefly touched on but never expanded which is a shame. Coven was more focused in its narrative compared to some of the other seasons, but again it just felt longer that it should’ve been.
2. Murder House (2011) The first season of the AHS is about the Harmon family relocating from Boston to Los Angeles. This season’s themes of lust and the breakdown of a family are set in a house that plays hosts to the ghosts of its past tenants. This is the series at its most sedated which is saying a lot. While many of the events in the season are bat-shit crazy, they don’t go off the rails like some of the later seasons do.
1. Asylum (2012) My main complaint with the AHS franchise is it’s lack of consistent writing and the schizophrenic narrative. However, this actually works in Asylum’s favor. This season had everything from aliens, to Nazi’s, possessed nuns, Ann Frank and a killer Santa Clause. This is definitely the darkest season as it deals with themes of homophobia, deception and mental illness while the season’s villain, Bloody Face still remains one of the series most vicious killers.