So far we have had four seasons of the FX anthology series, [American Horror Story](tag:206668), with a fifth season, Hotel, on the way this October. In the four years of the show it has gained popularity among viewers, won Golden Globes and Emmys, and has even taken home some Screen Actors Guild statues. The style of the show is somewhat unique in the sense that a decent number of cast members return each season and play different characters despite the events relating to each other in some way.
However, any fan of AHS can tell you there have been high points and low points within the four existing seasons and some, including me, have gone far enough to hate entire seasons altogether. For me, the fact that the show is co-written and produced by Ryan Murphy is part of the downfall. The fact that his Fox show Glee was drawing to a close it seemed as though he then turned to AHS to implement aspects that he loved about Glee, such as random musical numbers and an overall campy nature, and the show has lost the elements that it once possessed, especially in the first two seasons. There were moments in Freak Show that I remember thinking to myself, "am I watching AHS or a Halloween episode of Glee?" The casting of Lady Gaga in the upcoming season, Hotel, furthered this notion for me.
But even with that I have continued to watch and with AHS: Hotel premiering on October 13th I figured what better time than now to reflect on the four seasons we have had so far. This is my personal ranking of the seasons and this is an opinion I have formed after watching each season multiple times. Unlike other lists I have done this is in order from worst to best and it will contain some spoilers so if you are not a regular viewer or have skipped a season or two, you might want to catch up before thoroughly reading. That is unless you don't care about having something spoiled.
Also, if you don't agree with this list feel free to start a discussion in the comments section! Let's just keep the comments respectful and remember everyone has a right to their own opinions.
Disclaimer: This list is in order from worst to best and will contain spoilers and adult content. You have been warned.
4. American Horror Story: Freak Show (2014)
This is a shame and it still is upsetting to reflect on this season as a whole. Freak Show had every potential to be the greatest season of AHS. The setting was perfect, there were truly some great characters, and some aspects of the plot were perfect if they had stuck on that path. BUT... as I mentioned before, this was the season where it became blatantly obvious that Glee was infiltrating this show. Between random musical numbers, musical numbers that didn't fit the time table of the show (sorry Mr. Murphy, but David Bowie and Nirvana weren't around in 1952) and the fact that the plot lines became overly twisted and made no sense, the show suffered greatly and Freak Show is often considered to be the worst season by many viewers. I almost stopped watching it mid-season, but I decided to stick it out just in case it got better... it didn't, but that was a decision I had to make.
The only redeeming quality for me regarding this season is the characters. This season really did have some great characters. We had the rare treat of the villains being far more enjoyable than the protagonists and in typical AHS fashion, the villains ultimately got the shaft. Twisty the Clown was probably the most recognizable from this season and was easily the most haunting overall. In an odd twist of events you kind of become on Twisty's team after his full story is explained and you find out just how tragic his story was. You feel sorry for him in the end. Dandy was also one of those characters that was so eccentric that you couldn't help but love him even though he was a villain. I had moments with Dandy where I was rooting for him simply because I didn't want to see his character exit just yet. He was that much fun to watch. This should have been the season where the villains won.
The freaks were also a real treat to see each week. The fact that they took the initiative to find real people who would have been considered the freak show attractions of the day was really awesome; Ma Petite, Meep, Amazon Eve, and Pepper were the best for me. I loved how they brought back Pepper and we got to see the tie into Asylum and how she wound up at Briarcliff. That's also when we first saw how these seasons were all beginning to tie into each other.
This is also where the standard of when, "the teasers are better than the show was," rose to its peak. Each season we get those awesome short teasers online and on TV that are creepy, uncomfortable, and just plain awesome. The sad thing is not only do they not reflect on the seasons at all in terms of horror, plot, or atmosphere, but they often are better and more fun to watch than the show itself. I remember being even more excited for Freak Show because of the abundance of teasers we had and that quickly wore off as just a couple episodes in, you realize that the show is going to be nothing like the teasers.
The bottom line is they know how to create an atmosphere and they know how to write great characters. They just don't know how to properly execute that created atmosphere and make it something worth watching over and over again. Freak Show is hands down the biggest television disappointment I have had in a long time.
3. American Horror Story: Coven (2013)
Honestly, I have a hard time ranking Coven vs. Murder House because they both had equal amounts of disappointment for me but at the end of the day I would rather sit down and watch episodes of Murder House as opposed to Coven. It's just the way the cards fall.
Coven marked my return to AHS after walking away after Murder House and I will admit really the only reason I decided to watch Coven was because I love witches. I really love witches. I also fell into the trap of great teasers, as we discussed back with Freak Show. Not to mention I had decided to give Asylum a chance on Netflix and absolutely loved it. The teasers looked great, the cast looked great, and it was about witches so I decided to give it a shot.
Coven quickly became the third season out of four to completely fall apart mid-season or right at the end and I was pretty disappointed with it. The plot started out strong with the search for the new supreme witch and the witches we were introduced to were fun and their powers were very interesting to see unfold. However, how quickly they all became nothing but power hungry teenagers was a bit surreal in the bigger scheme of the season and the multiple plot lines became difficult to follow at times. Also, the abundance of different clans became a bit convoluted; we had witch hunters, voodoo practitioners, the witch coven, and a dead fraternity including a now Frankenstein-like member and his abusive mother.
I really liked this season up until I watched it again on Netflix. About halfway through I realized how much it fell apart and it quickly fell down on my list. Like I said, there are things about Coven that I did enjoy and similar to Freak Show it was the characters. I really loved the witches for what they were and the introduction of Papa Legba was extremely unnerving. The dialogue was probably some of the most humorous and a lot of that had to do with Emma Roberts' portrayal of a typical addict child star. The voodoo aspect was cool, but just like everything else the heart of the season took a backseat to plot lines and characters that weren't important.
And I just have to say... Cordelia shouldn't have been the supreme. That was complete bullshit.
2. American Horror Story: Murder House (2011)
The first season of this anthology started strong, but a weak ending is what lands it at #2. However, don't misunderstand that by putting Murder House in the second place slot means it is leaps and bounds awesome because it's not. This season had a lot of problems and as I mentioned before, the ending upset me so much that I walked away from AHS entirely until Coven premiered in 2013.
Murder House has a great premise. A family moves into a house that is notorious in the area for being a "murder house" and the ghosts of all who have been taken in the house still wander and communicate with the living. The scariest aspect of this premise is it almost had a Sixth Sense type of vibe where they walk around like regular people. Not to mention that the living communicate with them as if they are alive because they do not know they are ghosts. You can touch them, you can eat with them, you can talk to them.
Kind of terrifying, right?
Well, it was for a while. Similar to every other season it was the characters that made it so enjoyable and not so much the plot itself. This season had one of the most heartbreaking characters of Tate Langdon, played by Evan Peters. The subject of evil was very present with this season and Tate was ultimately the manifestation of pure evil. It isn't until much later that we discover Tate's past and the fact that he was actually a ghost the entire time. What we eventually realize with Tate is although he is truly an evil character he did have a warm nature to him and he would gravitate to those in pain in an attempt to make their suffering weaken. We see this with him creating a new family so Nora Montgomery has her baby back and by starting a relationship with Violet so she wasn't alone. The unfortunate thing was how it all ended.
My main complaint about Murder House in the end was the predictability. I'm not bragging by any means, but I guessed just about every twist the final two episodes had weeks beforehand. The biggest prediction that I guessed weeks prior was Violet being dead. That I saw coming from a mile away and when it was revealed I was almost angry that they made it so obvious. It wasn't a surprise to me at all. Other guesses that came true were Tate being be shoved away, Violet discovering what Tate did to Vivien, and that Vivien and Ben would both die. I also didn't like how the end portrayed this house to be a happy, loving home full of ghosts now that the Harmon's were together forever with their dead baby. It was just plain stupid and it really pissed me off.
Looking back on it I still can't really get into the season as a whole because I know how it ends, but after repeat viewings I would much rather watch this than Coven or Freak Show. Even if the only reason is to shout, "BUT YOU'RE NOT A PRETTY GIRL!"
1. American Horror Story: Asylum (2012)
Asylum is just perfection. It is hands down the best season we have had so far. Aliens, murder, religion, deceit, sex, possession, evil, and hatred is what skyrockets this season to #1.
We are brought to a corrupt, Catholic mental institution called Briarcliff in 1964 after a television reporter, Lana Winters, arrives to try and get an interview with a convicted killer, Kit Walker. Walker was convicted of the Bloody Face murders and subsequently institutionalized after repeating claims that he did not kill his wife and that she was abducted by aliens. That premise alone is gold.
The difference between Asylum and the other seasons is the overall theme and plot was executed properly. This is what every season should have been. The underlying themes of religion in coordination with evil and insanity was written and acted perfectly. You see the struggles that even the most pious of individuals have and how it pushes you to the edge while you're trying to maintain control over yourself and other individuals. In addition to religion, undertones of old Nazi science and experimentation, extraterrestrials, murder, sexuality, and corruption made this easily the most interesting season to watch. There was never an episode where I felt bored.
Second to Kit's story, Lana Winters was just as intriguing as she is mistakenly institutionalized and held only to be abducted and raped by the real Bloody Face killer. My only real disappointment is that the season wrapped with Lana as the main focus and not the extraterrestrial aspect, but it was a fitting ending that I will admit surprised me. It remains to be the only legitimate surprise this show has given me with how Lana handled her past.
Similar to every other season, the characters are what made the season great. Aside from Kit and Lana, the patients and the Catholic leadership amplified the development and in my opinion these are the best characters the returning actors have portrayed so far. Lily Rabe's portrayal of a possessed young nun was chilling and to see the development of the character in a non-typical possession way was a treat to watch.
It's hard to fully describe what exactly makes Asylum so great, but the best way to get close is just plain execution. What they did right with this season was the execution. They paid attention, they didn't overload the viewer with too many plots, and they stuck to the theme of the season without straying too far away. Plus, everything was relevant. There weren't aspects of the plot included in Asylum without having a reason for it. You can't say that for the other seasons.
There we have it!
As you might be able to tell, after both Coven and Freak Show I am a bit skeptical about Hotel but I will give it a try. However, judging from the latest teaser for Hotel it looks like nothing but a Lady Gaga infused Glee wannabe and that is disappointing.