Dark bleetings everyone!
Ever since the first season of American Horror Story was released, I have been watching it faithfully. Religiously, even. I’m not blind to its flaws. I have a complicated relationship with the show overall (not nearly as complicated as my very serious long-term relationship with The Walking Dead, but that’s a conversation for another time): on the one hand, most of the time I really enjoy the general premise/theme of each season, but it’s undeniable that it tends to go… sort of off the rails at the midway point. With that in mind, behold my ranking of every season so far, from worst to best.
Now before you start yelling at me for placing this last, hear me out. I just don’t like it. The end.
Okay fine, you want me to justify this? Welllll, as much as I think that the cast is unbelievably great as an ensemble, this season just made me uncomfortable. This one is about the lives of carnival folk, in particular a “freak show”. It tackles empathy, chosen family, social exclusion, and discrimination. Initially, I liked the theme, and fell in love with several of the characters. However, the further into the season it went, the darker it got, until it became a horrific expression of on-screen splatterpunk savagery, suitable for the most hardened of horror-loving hearts. And my heart is squishy and, quite frankly, I will never forgive them for what they did to Ma Petite. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this type of horror, but I typically avoid it because I always cross over from “aw cool!” to “oh my god no what are you doing put down the knife oh my god nooooooooooo”.
I don’t think it’s a bad season, it’s just not to my tastes. It did have Twisty though. I would have liked it more if the whole season was about Twisty.
Again, I know this is a popular season but for me, there was just too much going on, man! It’s about an asylum run by nuns, a man who is sent there, and a reporter. I enjoyed it until the midway point (I mean, demons! Demons and nuns! I love demons and nuns!), but then it felt like they were trying to cram three seasons worth of plots into the back half, and it became so convoluted that I lost interest. I really wish they’d just stuck with the demons and nuns. Also, I’m sorry but I did not care for the musical scene. Yeah, I said it!
The thing about this one is that I just really can’t remember much about it. It’s set in 1984 and it’s an homage to the slasher films of the 80s… obviously. I do remember thinking that it was in poor taste to use a real-life serial killer as a character, and this is the first season that I almost bowed out of before the end. However, I’m a completionist so I felt compelled to keep watching, and somewhere along the line, I realised that actually, I loved it. I can’t quite remember why – it’s very possible there was some sort of demon or possession – but all of a sudden, I was on board and then I really enjoyed the back half. That in itself is very weird actually because in general, I find that the first half of any given AHS season is usually strong and then the second half all but obliterates it.
8. DOUBLE FEATURE
This was an interesting one because it was split in half into two completely separate stories, like back in the glory days of – you guessed it – double features. The first section is called ‘Red Tide’, and it’s about a screenwriter, his wife, and their musically talented daughter, who move to a seaside town in the off-season so they can all concentrate on their various professional pursuits. The second section is called ‘Death Valley’, and it’s about aliens. I liked ‘Death Valley’ – it was pretty tight, filmed in classic B-movie fashion, and full of conspiracies. But I much preferred ‘Red Tide’, and if this were the whole season, it would be ranked much closer to the top. I’m a sucker for a story about a struggling writer and the pursuit of their own supposedly natural talent. I think both parts of this season were much more coherent and satisfying at the end, which just goes to show these guys can write a tight, good plot if they just use half as many episodes. It had so many of my favourite horror elements that I just ate it up like a greedy little goaty. Also – Macaulay Effing Culkin. I never knew I needed him back in my life until I saw this but I am hoping so much to see him in future seasons because he was great.
This is the one about witches, and people seem to love it. I liked it a lot. I liked the magic, the coven itself, the characters, the drama (oh the drama!). I absolutely loved the concept of The Seven Wonders, and how they knew when it was time for the head of the coven to be replaced. It was great.
People hate this one, but I love it. I think it was received much worse in America than it was elsewhere, most likely because it was centred around the Presidential election that Trump won. This is a season that deals with extremism, both on the left and right of the political spectrum. It also deals with phobias, paranoia, and relationships. I think it does a pretty good job of reflecting how quickly and severely people will turn on each other over political and ethical differences of opinion. I, myself, am a lefty, but I did like that the lefty characters were equally as over the top and ridiculous as the craziest righty. I enjoyed the social satire and the dark and twisted humour of the whole thing was hilarious at times.
This is another one where the wheels started to come off halfway through, but I enjoyed the format and then did come to appreciate the change of pace. This is a “found footage” season about a couple who move into a house on cursed land. There are some truly creepy scenes (my favourite is when it rains teeth – really freaked me out!). I loved the reality TV aspect of it. I think it could have been stronger if they’d shortened it by a few episodes, but I enjoyed the ride and liked the ending.
Once again, a little too long for what it was doing. I didn’t really like the first episode in all honesty, and didn’t think I’d like the season. There is some extreme violence that I do think was included for the sake of being shocking. However, Lady Gaga saved the day. I found her absolutely captivating in every scene she was in, and couldn’t get enough of her. She is an absolute Queen, and I could have watched episode after episode of just her storyline forever. I love her. Additionally, as a big Denis O’Hare fan, I was thrilled to see him acting his ass off in this season in what’s probably my favourite role of his (except for Russell in True Blood – what a beast).
Oh yeah, this season is about a homicide detective who has to move into a hotel because of a pending divorce. But don’t even worry about that because…. Lady Gaga.
I know I’m in a minority with my love for this season because everyone else seems to rank it reeeeeally low, but if there’s one thing I f***ing love, it’s the apocalypse. And if there’s a second thing I love, it’s The Devil appearing in fiction. This season is about – what a shock – the apocalypse. I will say, unless you’ve also seen Murder House, Coven, and Hotel, a lot of this will be lost on you. It’s definitely a season made for AHS veterans. Cody Fern is just excellent (and made me desperate to see him cast in the role of Lestat, but alas, this was not meant to be). We’ve got El Diablo, a nuclear holocaust, a survival bunker, and a whole host of other madness, and I adore it. I’ve rewatched this season more than any other.
2. MURDER HOUSE
I bet you thought this would be first on the list, didn’t you? It’s the first season of AHS, and arguably the strongest in terms of story and plotting…. or at least, until recently, it was. It’s about a family that move into a glorious house that is super cheap on account of all the murders that have happened there. It’s one of the rare seasons that I didn’t find myself getting frustrated by one too many plot points halfway through. The cast is great, the story is layered and well-paced, and the twists and turns are really enjoyable. There are morally irredeemable characters that I felt conflicted about and I love fiction that does that to me. Overall, a great horror story!
This is the most recent season. It’s set in New York City in the 1980s and revolves around several gay characters as some sicko killer is tearing through their community, killing people left, right and centre. The police, unsurprisingly for this decade, aren’t really trying that hard to honour the dead by solving the case because of their stupid, bigoted, prejudiced views about homosexuals. I have never, in all the seasons of AHS, cared about the characters like I do about these people. Hell, I dare say I have never cared about a host of characters this much on any show ever. Every episode had me on the edge of my seat, panicking that my beloved new favourites were going to be killed. I quietly seethed as the police made jokes and didn’t bother to follow up leads, because this was the reality then. The cast is absolutely outstanding, each one of them bringing the kind of nuance to their roles that I personally think is award worthy.
This season surprised me because it’s the first one that felt like it really was about something deeper than murderous clowns and “bitchcraft”. It deals with perception, prejudice, injustice, and above all, love. I cried watching this season, actually cried.
I kept expecting it to take the typical weird AHS turn, kept expecting it to ruin all that it had so successfully created with some weird, out-of-left-field unnecessary addition to the plot, but it didn’t. It hit me with a gut-punch instead, and grounded all of the horror it had whipped up in something so real and hard-hitting I was bawling my eyes out.
I was shocked to be so deeply affected by American Horror Story, of all things, that NYC HAS to be number one. It is easily, in my opinion, the best season.
I really hope that AHS will continue in similar fashion because as it turns out, when they want to seriously explore something, they’re pretty good at it. I’d love to hear your rankings – let me know what your favourites are!
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