Back in September, I ranked the first five seasons of American Horror Story and promised you I would return to add Roanoke to the list once it finished its season. With the season finale of American Horror Story: Roanoke airing last night, the time has finally come! Where does Roanoke rank when compared to the other five seasons? Read on to find out!
If there was one word to describe Coven, it would be “mess.” Coven’s first half is great and it has it’s fun parts (it also has the best cast out of all the seasons), but it’s all too clear that Ryan Murphy and Co. did not plan ahead when writing this season. In fact, it almost seems like they made everything up as they went along. I stand by everything I said in my article from last year. The season arc of the new Supreme’s identity was never all that captivating, character actions lacked motivation and were inconsistent (LaLaurie specifically) and it was loaded with too many storylines while somehow still finding a way to leave some unresolved. It may have had a plethora of hilarious bitchy quips, but it’s still a sloppy series of television and definitely the worst offering from the series yet.
5. Freak Show
A lot of people seem to hate Freak Show. While it certainly lost steam towards the end of the season (as most seasons in American Horror Story are wont to do), it at least had more focus than the season that preceded it and served as a decent send-off for series mainstay Jessica Lange. Freak Show’s biggest crimes were completely wasting Kathy Bates and peaking too early with the Twisty the Clown sub-plot before abruptly killing him off. Dandy, obnoxious as he was, made for a supremely entertaining villain (his comeuppance is one of the season’s highlights). One could say that Freak Show, as a whole, was somewhat forgettable. It wasn’t overtly bad; the whole just never amounted to more than the sum of its parts.
While I maintain that Lady Gaga did not deserve the Golden Globe she won for Hotel (#JusticeForKirstenDunst, #NoReallySheIsAmazing), she did turn in an impressive performance in the series’s fifth season. Her story line as well as that of Kathy Bates’s Iris and Dennis O’Hare’s Liz Taylor carried the majority of Hotel. Unfortunately everything involving the Ten Commandments Killer and anything involving Chloë Sevigny ‘s character (can Ryan Murphy ever find a decent role for her?) dragged down the season. Angela Bassett’s vampire hunter and Sarah Paulson’s Hypodermic Sally felt like afterthoughts that never got their due, and don’t even get me started on that drill penis monster. Hotel was filled with plenty of good ideas, but had its fair share of bad ones too. If anything, it shows that a 10-episode season could benefit the show by forcing the writers to trim some fat off of the scripts. Speaking of 10-episode seasons, that brings me to…
Roanoke was so close to being great. Eschewing American Horror Story‘s penchant for pointless subplots and side characters, Roanoke used its shortest season yet (10 episodes as opposed to the usual 13) to the fullest. It was also the most focused out of all of the seasons. If only it had ended with Episode 9. The first half of the season focused on the show-within-a-show documentary “My Roanoke Nightmare”. Just when that shtick started to get old, the season pulled the rug out from under the audience with a devilishly clever twist in Episode 6. Those next few episodes put the first half of the season in an entirely new light, and it was fun to see the “actors” get to play themselves when put back in the house with the “real” people (Sarah Paulson’s grating Audrey was a highlight for me…she got some of the best lines!). It was gory, funny and (sometimes) actually scary. Too bad it petered out with a limp finale (as American Horror Story is wont to do, save for Asylum). Still, you have to give it credit for being the most focused out of all the seasons. And while it didn’t have a lot of depth or meaning over the course of the season, it sure was a lot of fun!
2. Murder House
Murder House is a strong season of American Horror Story, but the series was still working out a few kinks. It also represents American Horror Story before it really became American Horror Story. Still, Murder House is an effective piece of television that is marred only by a misguided finale that turned the entire season into a joke. It is definitely the most focused out of all the seasons. By concentrating on the Harmon family and relegating all other characters (including Jessica Lange’s Constance Langdon) to supporting roles, it allowed the series to build relationships effectively and naturally. The season just doesn’t have the same impact as Asylum, which is why it ranks just slightly below it.
Asylum is a near-perfect season of American Horror Story. Had it jettisoned the alien sub-plot, it probably would have been perfect (it admittedly took a kitchen sink approach to the storytelling). Asylum is the only season to truly embody the horror in the show’s title all throughout the season. There is a sense of hopelessness in Asylum (though it still gives its protagonist a happy ending). It also has the most consistent narrative throughout the season when compared to the other four. Characters are well-defined and their actions feel earned. The villains are deliciously evil without becoming caricatures. Still, many people don’t like Asylum, and I’m not exactly sure why. It is hands-down the best season yet.
Does your opinion differ from mine? Let me know in the comments below or feel free to challenge me on Twitter!