American Horror Story: Freak Show finally premieres tonight, and we’ll have a recap up for you sometime tomorrow. I’ve seen the first episode and I have to say, so far, it lives up to the hype. Cautiously optimistically, I want to say it could be the best season yet. But that’s also the inherent problem with American Horror Story: They all start out good. That’s why I have such a love-hate relationship with the series (although to be fair I’d say 75% love – 25% hate), because as promising as each season begins — Ryan Murphy always gets completely out of hand, shoehorning storylines that are superfluous or just plain don’t make sense.
Therefore, I’ve decided to take a look back at the first three seasons of American Horror Story to assess what worked, and what really didn’t — by picking the single best and worst storyline of each season. Feel free to agree or vehemently disagree in the comments.
The first season of American Horror Story was probably initially the most promising which also ended up being the most disappointing. I have written before here and here by how disappointed I was with the way it ended — but beyond that, the cast grew to a bloated, messy jumble of characters who were introduced near weekly only to be killed off to become part of the background of the murder house. There were at least a handful of characters that I had completely forgotten even existed before I delved back in to put together this article.
Best: Backstory of Dr. Charles and Nora Montgomery and the Infantata (Thaddeus Montgomery)
The closest we ever got to learning the origins of the murder house and why it was evil was with the backstory of the original owners of the house, “surgeon to the stars” Dr. Charles Montgomery and his wife, Nora. After his career took a dive and he started performing illegal abortions from his home, the boyfriend of a client took revenge by murdering and dismembering their infant son Thaddeus. Montgomery “resurrected” his son as a Frankenstein monster using parts from animals and aborted babies which resulted in his wife committing murder-suicide after she saw what he had done.
Disappointingly, we never did find out what about the creation of the Infantata caused the evil in the house to manifest itself, but none of the Murder House storylines really did wrap up in that satisfying of a way.
But still, look at this f*cking thing:
Worst: The Copycat Killer Home Invaders
Why? Out of all of the famous murders committed in the house, three young people fixated on the murder of two nurses in the ’60s when it was used as student housing — which was committed by some random serial killer and not by the forces of evil inside the home. They’re eventually killed by Tate and the ghosts of the two nurses and two out of the three wind up trapped inside the home where they have little to do for the next ten episodes. This storyline consumed nearly the entire second episode of the season.
There was a lot going on in Asylum. Time-traveling serial killer! Falsely-committed lesbian! Nazi doctor! Murderous Santa! But it was a lot to juggle around and some of it worked, and some of it didn’t. And while the concept of an illegitimate, product-of-rape child of a serial killer becoming a serial killer himself to get revenge against his mother was a pretty cool idea — Dylan McDermott is not a very good actor.
Best: Uh, Possessed Nun, Obviously
Sister Mary Eunice McKee, a young, naive nun working under Jessica Lange’s Sister Jude becomes possessed during an exorcism performed at Briarcliff and spends most of the rest of the season gleefully raising hell, superbly acted by Lily Rabe.
Worst: THE F*CKING ALIENS
The whole storyline of the aliens was a plot contrivance as to why Evan Peters’ character Kit ended up at Briarcliff in the first place — after his wife disappeared and his only explanation was that aliens took her — which was OK. But then HOLY BANANAS does this storyline go off the rails. After it is revealed that his wife was actually taken by aliens where she had safely given birth to the couple’s child; Kit’s asylum side-piece, Grace, is also taken after she becomes impregnated and subsequently shot. Then they all live together with their alien-enhanced babies in a happy, polygamous, mixed race family until THE BLACK WIFE KILLS THE WHITE WIFE WITH AN AXE.
Then Kit rescues Jude from Briarcliff, where she had also been falsely imprisoned, and takes her back home where his alien babies take her into the woods and “fix” her dementia and then they all live happily ever after until Jude dies of old age.
It was very dumb and let’s never speak of it again.
This was the season where nobody stayed dead, which made it a little bit hard to become emotionally invested in any of the characters. Typically regarded as the weakest installment of American Horror Story, I mostly still enjoyed it, despite Evan Peters was kind of wasted in an almost-entirely non-speaking role and I felt like the whole “Supreme” reveal was kind of a cop-out.
Best: Marie Delphine LaLaurie
Kathy Bates gave Jessica Lange a run for her money as scenery-chewer for this season of American Horror Story, and her sadistic portrayal of a slave-torturing socialite was balanced by comedic relief of a nearly two-hundred year old racist trying to adapt to modern society — even if the whole beheading thing was a little silly.
Worst: The Corporate Witch Hunters
It is eventually revealed that Cordelia is married to the son of a CEO of a company that secretly hunts witches, which seems like an overly elaborate and long-term commitment plan to gain intel on a bunch of witches. I don’t even remember what the motivation of the witch hunters was for hunting witches — if there even was any — and after a backstory is established they quickly kill off the witch hunters who end up having really nothing to do with the overall plot of the season.