American Horror Story has been going strong, six seasons in. With the seventh season releasing later this year, and the eighth and ninth confirmed for 2018 and 2019, it’s safe to say that AHS won’t be cancelled anytime soon. Each season of the show focuses on a new set of characters and a new narrative, and that’s what’s exciting about the show and probably the reason behind its longevity.
Let’s list the good and the bad of each season and decide, once and for all, which season is the best. This is a ranking of the six seasons of American Horror Story.
UPDATE (12/24/17) : Cult added to the list. Ugh, what a joke of a season.
*Caution: SPOILERS ahead!*
The Good. The first half of Cult was amazing. If I were judging the season solely on the first six episodes, it would definitely be ranked third or second. What specifically made the first half of the season work was uncertainty of it all. What in the world was that green gas emanating from the truck? Was Dr. Vincent in on it? Were the clowns real? By not revealing much, Cult was able to make conspiracy theorists out of the audience.
The Bad. The second half was simply god-awful. All the mystery and subtlety the first half built up was for nil. Cult wasted it all and transformed into a platform for feminism. Evan Peter’s Kai was supposed to be this genius cult master one step ahead of everybody, but in the end his character proved to be as shallow as a puddle. Apparently that’s a thing with AHS. The season usually starts out great and then it crashes at the end. Cult’s crash was the worst of it all. Don’t waste your time on this.
The Good. I’ll be frank here. I don’t really like Hotel. I think that the season suffered from some really bad writing. The season is a lot more focused on style than substance. I think the cinematography and music of Hotel are nicely done, particularly the use of Hotel California in the first episode and the way Devil’s Night was shot. Another thing I like about Hotel is the dynamics between Liz and Iris. Iris’ video montage was funny as hell and their grand entrance to Hotline Bling was very memorable… But it’s obvious I’m grasping at straws here.
The Bad. As I said, generally bad writing. But if I have to point at two things, it would probably be the focus on sex and gore and the Lowe family. The first episode of Hotel set the tone for the season: Hotel = season of sex and gore. The season is more fixated on shock value than actual horror. The Lowe family is also one of the weaker points of Hotel – John and Alex Lowe are probably some of the worst, least-interesting, and poorly-written characters in the AHS mythology.
Why Hotel > Cult? While I think Hotel is awful as well, Cult was an incredible disappointment on top of being awful. Cult had incredible potential with its theme but it wasted it.
5. Freak Show
The Good. Jupiter, Florida in the 1950s, a very interesting setting. The world of Freak Show is such a stark contrast to the present-day setting of Coven, the season before it. Freak Show succeeds in immersing the audience in the setting – the way the characters talk, act, and react is really top-notch acting. Also, the show is successful in introducing an iconic monster to the series – Twisty the Clown.
The Bad. Twisty was killed off way too early. Freak Show had one thing going for it – its main antagonist (prior to episode 5), Twisty the Clown, was actually scary. However, for reasons unknown, the writers of the show made the decision to make Twisty sympathetic by giving him a heartbreaking backstory. Why in the world did they even do that? Twisty was absolutely scary; his replacement, Dandy, was not. From the moment when Dandy became the main villain, the show started going downhill and eventually reached the point that it became boring.
Why Freak Show > Hotel? Freak Show has better writing than Hotel. Hotel is just plain awful, so Freak Show > Hotel is not really a stretch.
The Good. Not taking itself too seriously. I consider Coven more of a horror-comedy than straight-up horror. (The opening credit of Coven is actually scarier than anything in the show.) Coven not being that scary and depressing is not really a bad thing, considering the preceding seasons (Murder House and Asylum) are depressing as hell. Coven stretched what it means to be horror and this opened up the show to a wider audience. The characters of the show are also very memorable and fleshed-out, particularly Myrtle Snow, LaLaurie, Madison, and Nan.
The Bad. The finale. Oh my god, who in the world wrote the last episode? Cordelia ending up as the Supreme is the most boring outcome of all, and the most predictable one as well. When I was watching the show, I didn’t really think that Cordelia would end up as Supreme because it was TOO obvious as an ending. I felt really disappointed with the show when it actually happened. It left me disappointed in the season as a whole since I was very invested in finding out who the next Supreme was, considering, you know, that it was the main storyline of the season. Cordelia becoming Supreme was Ryan Murphy dropping the ball. Literally any other outcome – Zoe, Madison, Misty, Queenie, heck, even Spalding being Supreme – would have been a better ending for the show.
Why Coven > Freak Show? Coven has some of the best characters in the AHS mythology, but it suffers from an extremely weak ending. Also, Coven is way more engaging than often-boring Freak Show.
3. Murder House
The Good. It’s genuinely scary. I remember watching the show for the first time and seeing the opening credits with the creepy baby pictures and all; I actually thought, at the time, that it was too much for me. The show had some creepy and memorable moments. Rubber Man as the antagonist and official season mascot is very effective and quite nightmare-inducing. Zoe’s death, in particular, is the highlight of the season and a really powerful moment.
The Bad. The show lost its course near the end. The ghost+human = antichrist final narrative I felt was too out of the left field. The story progression of the show’s first half made no mention of the antichrist storyline; it was only introduced in episode 9 by Billie Dean Howard. I felt that this storyline was too disparate from earlier events, and it bothered me quite a bit.
Why Murder House > Coven? Even though I said that the horror-comedy aspect of Coven isn’t really a bad thing, the genuine terror of Murder House trumps the campiness of Coven. Also, if you watch American Horror Story, you probably expect to be horrified. Murder House will do that for you.
The Good. The freshness and genuine scare factor. Roanoke was shrouded in so much mystery before it was premiered. It’s actually impressive how production was able to keep the show under wraps, with no one leaking anything significant. Watching the first episode, I felt that Roanoke was so much different from the previous seasons, and I didn’t know if this was a good thing initially. However, by the halfway mark of the season, I was fully engaged in Roanoke. Certain story elements, like the Polks and the Chens, genuinely made me feel scared, and this is something I couldn’t say with the two seasons before Roanoke. Roanoke reminds me quite a bit of Lake Mungo, which is a good thing.
The Bad. Like Coven, the finale. To be honest, the season would have been much, much better if the last episode was left out. The climax of the penultimate episode, with Audrey being shot by the police for going after Lee, would be an OK ending, compared to the cheesy mother-sacrificing-herself-for-her-daughter moment with Lee and Flora that capped the season. I think that it cheapened the season as a whole; a downbeat ending would have suited the season a lot better. Also, real-life Flora is annoying as hell.
Why Roanoke > Murder House? Roanoke is such a breath of fresh air. You gotta give some props to the writers for trying to reinvent the show. Roanoke gave some new life to the AHS franchise, which seemed to be running out of ideas prior to Roanoke. However, let’s all collectively forget the last episode.
The Good. The characters, unpredictability, and the ending. Asylum’s three main leads –Lana, Kit, and Judy – and the villains – Mary Eunice and Thredson – are some of the most interesting characters in the AHS mythology. The show succeeds in presenting realistic and morally gray characters. Lana, in particular, is my favorite lead in the series. Asylum often feels like a nightmare, but in a good way. Who would ever expect to see a show which has aliens and Nazis and demons and patriarchy rolled into one? Season 2 is the most surreal season of American Horror Story, and it’s certainly a gem of a TV show. If you can only watch one season of AHS, make it Asylum. In addition, the ending of Asylum is probably the best ending in all the seasons of AHS. I think the final moment between Lana and Johnny is a genuinely thrilling moment. It’s the only season whose ending I felt satisfied with.
The Bad. Personally, I think that Asylum is close to perfect. However, some people find issue with the many dangling questions that Asylum left unanswered. Particularly, what was up with the aliens and Kit? Some may find offense with Asylum’s throw-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to horror. Some wanted fewer storylines and a more focused narrative.
Why Asylum > Roanoke? Asylum represents the best of what AHS has to offer. It’s the most unsettling season and it has, in my opinion, the best ending of the entire franchise. Also, Asylum has the best musical number.
Do you agree with my ranking?