Even if you've never watched the FX anthology series American Horror Story, you are no doubt well aware of the fact that the show holds a different theme each season. Starting with the debut season in 2011, which was later re-titled Murder House, there has been an evolution regarding plots and themes — and we've since been taken through a mental asylum, a witch coven, a traveling freak show circus and a haunted hotel.
The show's sixth season, Roanoke, is still underway and has been filled with twists and turns that have kept even non-devoted viewers on the edge of their seats.
However, we are at a point with this show that begs the question: is American Horror Story even a true anthology series?
By definition, an anthology is a series of short stories, often tied together by one cohesive theme or turn of events. Regarding American Horror Story, they are definitely keeping true to the concept of short stories by having a different theme each season. However, the jury is still out regarding what the major connection is. Co-creator Ryan Murphy has said everything is connected, but all we've gotten so far is a bunch of small connections tossed into the three most recent seasons.
What Crossovers Have We Seen Already?
Since Freak Show, we have seen an abundance of season connections appear within the series. Let's take a look at the season connections we have seen since Season 4.
Freak Show meets Asylum
Freak Show was a strong start regarding connections, as it stayed true to one specific season. Within the fourth season, we saw two main connections made to the second season, Asylum. First we saw the fan-favorite character, Pepper, introduced 12 years prior to her brief appearance in Asylum. We not only learn the truth about what put Pepper in Briarcliff, but we also learn her heartbreaking history within the circus lifestyle.
In addition to Pepper, we saw a connection between the fourth season and a fellow Asylum character, Dr. Arthur Arden, who was one of the more controversial characters with his alleged Nazi history and fixation on human experimentation. The connection with Freak Show showed us a lot of the speculation was warranted given his involvement in how (and why) Elsa Mars lost her legs at the hands of Arden under his former identity, Hans Gruper.
Hotel meets Murder House and Coven
Hotel amped up the crossover momentum as we saw multiple connections to more than one season. Starting off with #MurderHouse, we catch a glimpse of Marcy — the sketchy realtor who sold the Harmons the infamous Los Angeles murder house. She appears once again in Hotel, doing what she does best while selling the Hotel Cortez to Will Drake.
Along with Marcy, we had cameos from Dr. Charles Montgomery and Billie Dean Howard. As you might remember, Dr. Montgomery was a key element in Murder House as he was a somewhat demented doctor who began performing illegal abortions in his basement. He reappears in #Hotel while dealing with the pre-vampire Countess during her early days in California.
As for Billie Dean, Sarah Paulson reprised the role of Constance's neighborhood psychic while simultaneously playing Hypodermic Sally. She appears in Hotel to communicate with the spirits and ghosts trapped inside of the Hotel Cortez. Billie Dean's return also brings back the notion first introduced in season one about ghosts appearing as normal people.
Unfortunately, the connection to #Coven was quick and rather unnecessary. Queenie, the "human voodoo doll," briefly shows up at the Hotel Cortez while waiting to attend a taping of The Price Is Right. The truth is, she really serves no purpose other than being a glorified season crossover.
'Roanoke' meets 'Murder House,' 'Asylum,' 'Coven' and 'Freak Show'
#Roanoke has been a wild ride so far and seems like a rather original idea after a few questionable seasons. However, the crossovers have only begun in regards to the sixth season and it seems they are going to continue until the finale.
Starting off, we have a minor connection to Murder House with (once again) ghosts appearing as if they were normal people. This was also touched on in Hotel and the trend doesn't seem to be letting up anytime soon. We are also set to get a cameo from the Asylum main character, Lana Winters, before the season is over. There's no telling what role Lana will play, but it's likely that the Roanoke house will be the subject of the television work she did after her expose on Briarcliff.
Moving on, there is also some connection to the third season, Coven. Ryan Murphy has already confirmed that Lady Gaga's character, Scathach, is the original supreme witch. How much farther they will delve into a Coven connection remains unknown as of right now, but the pathway has definitely been paved for more information.
Wrapping up our crossovers (so far), we have the now well-known appearance of Evan Peters as Edward Mott. Mott is a tie to Freak Show as he is an ancestor of the season's main antagonist, Dandy Mott.
How Many Season Crossovers Do We Really Need?
As you can tell, we have seen our fair share of thematic crossovers throughout the past three seasons. Not only have we seen the crossovers in general, but we have continued to see the abundance of crossovers elevate with each season. It's one thing to have a nod to a previous character or theme, but when you have multiple nods it can become overkill.
For me, personally, I feel like the thin line between fun and overkill was crossed a long time ago in regards to American Horror Story. With the first crossover we saw, it was a fun experience to be able to try and connect the dots between the timelines and how the characters fit into the same world. However, as the crossovers have continued to increase in abundance, it is becoming too much and it's doing nothing but distract from one unifying theme.
Will AHS Ever Again Keep A Cohesive Theme?
Speaking of which, this is one thing that American Horror Story has been struggling with for four straight seasons. Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk seem to have adopted a habit of starting strong but floundering about halfway through by introducing too many characters, too many subplots — and perhaps too many crossovers.
Although Roanoke started strong, it has already fallen victim to the crossover tradition. Like we mentioned before, Roanoke has already given credit to Murder House with the appearance of ghosts as if they're regular people (also in Hotel) and we now have confirmation that Sarah Paulson will be reprising her role of Lana Winters from Asylum. Not to mention the crossover from Coven of Scathach revealed as the original Supreme witch, and the appearance Dandy Mott's ancestor being the original builder/owner of the cursed Roanoke home.
The bottom line is this problem is getting worse as the seasons go on and it leads you to wonder if #AHS will ever keep a cohesive theme for any future seasons. I understand Ryan Murphy wants to tie everything together, but this has become overkill.
Perhaps the best thing that could be done moving forward is to have a solid, original theme with no obvious ties to previous seasons. It would also be wise to cool down on the connections for the sake of keeping the anthology format. I don't think they want to overcrowd or confuse whatever major connection is (hopefully) still coming our way.