American Horror Story: A Completely Subjective, Definitive Ranking of All 8 Seasons

As far as achievements go, the one I’m about to divulge certainly isn’t monumental or anything to be particularly proud of. Though in some circles it might be regarded as impressive, I assure you my next statement is not an attempt at bragging – not even the humble kind. Over the past six weeks, I’ve watched 94 episodes of American Horror Story, including those from the most recent and just wrapped season, Apocalypse.

Big deal, right? What may seem like a lot at first glance, only averages out to about 2 and a quarter episodes per day – which doesn’t exactly describe my experience, because, let’s be honest, who bothers watching a quarter episode of something? In some small way, though, I do still consider it an achievement. Not because of the volume of TV I consumed, but because of its content. As some of you may know already, I am a big old scaredy-cat when it comes to horror.

I spent years trying to prove to myself I could handle it. After seeing The Birds and the original IT miniseries at a young age, I assumed I was primed to handle anything. Every weekend I’d persuade my mother and step-father* to rent all the newly released horror films – probably from some Blockbuster-type store, so that’s how long ago we’re talking – despite knowing I was bound to be terrified and lose sleep. During that time I suffered from recurring nightmares, I couldn’t stand to see my breath in the cold because I was convinced dead people were close by, and I eventually reached a point where my nerves were utterly shot.

*Please don’t come for my parents. I played it pretty cool in front of them (I think) so they wouldn’t know how afraid I was. Also, mind ya business.

After seeing The Strangers back in 2008 – the first horror film I had seen in about five years, and only watched because the boy I was dating convinced me to do so (he’s dead to me now) – I made a conscious choice to avoid the genre altogether. The exchange between Liv Tyler’s character, Kristen, and one of the masked murderers, Dollface, really shook me.

Kristen: “Why are you doing this?” – Dollface: “Because you were home.”

The idea that such a brutal circumstance could befall someone simply for being at home was downright terrifying to me. I was home all the time! So, sitting through 94 hours of horror, in such a short amount of time was, in fact, a bit of a big deal for me. But I’m glad I did it, if for no other reason than it’s opened my eyes to an entire facet of television that I’d been missing out on; Haunting of Hill House on Netflix, here I come. (Maybe.)

Now, to be fair, not all of American Horror Story’s eight seasons are scary. Coven, in particular, was more campy than creepy; Freak Show more bizarre than bone-chilling. But I had more than my fair share of frights over the past six weeks, and, much to my surprise, I loved each and every one. I’ve become unapologetically infatuated with this series, its regular cast, and its iconic credit sequences.

Since the end of my binge happened to coincide with the conclusion of Apocalypse, it seemed like the perfect time to dissect my feelings on each of the series’ instalments and offer my entirely subjective rankings of them. In addition to a score for my overall affection, I’ve judged each season based on five criteria – scare factor, story and themes, characters, comedy and camp, and opening credits – with the highest score for each category being five; each season, thirty. Below are my rankings, from lowest to highest scores – spoiler alert, there’s a tie for first.

So, go grab your Crown Royal and Virginia Slims, a nutritious food cube, or perhaps some Kool-Aid (of the non-poisonous variety) and tuck in for the deep dive ahead.

7 – Freak Show (Season 4) – 18/30

FS
Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Horror_Story:_Freak_Show

Scare Factor – 2 / Story & Themes – 2

Characters – 3 / Comedy & Camp – 3

Credit Sequence – 5 / Personal Affection – 3

Freak Show started off so strong, I had myself convinced it was going to be the scariest season of AHS. I have a problem with clowns in general, and Twisty was truly horrifying when we first met him. The murders, the abductions, the strange sounds he made through his mystifying and grotesque jumble of masks were all very unsettling, but it was the mystery of Twisty that made him truly haunting. Once his (rather dull) backstory was revealed, the magic behind his act was stripped away. And while the very idea of someone like Dandy – a petulant and privileged White man with no appropriate outlet for his rage – will always be anxiety-inducing, I found myself feeling more pissed off with how real this type of man is than ever truly scared.

In fact, apart from a few of the secondary characters – Ma Petite, Paul, and Eve, to name a few – most of the Freak Show gang left a little something to be desired. Their motivations were muddled: remember how Maggie convinced the women not to kill Lizard Girl’s dad because they were “better than that” even though she herself was there to collect and kill them? Their development was half-baked at best: were Elsa’s gang stupid or just blind to their leader’s clearly shady ways?

Regular cast members like Evan Peters, Kathy Bates, and Angela Bassett did the best they could with what little they had, but I don’t look back on any of these portrayals too fondly. Sarah Paulson had a few standout moments as Bette and Dot, but even she could only elevate the material so much. It’s a shame this was Jessica Lange’s final season, as her talents were squandered on the second-rate character of Elsa Mars. At least her musical numbers were delightful, which is more than I can say for whatever it was Jimmy (Peters) did with Nirvana’s “Come As You Are.”

The entire narrative was chaotic; continuously favouring spectacle over structure. Like, honestly, what even happened in these 13 episodes? There is no clear and succinct way to summarize it, other than to say: there was a freak show, but even most of the actual shows took place off-screen. There were several instances where flickers of brilliance within the plot or character work would pull me back in and get me excited, but damn if they weren’t typically smothered by something too outlandish to ignore.

It got to the point where the only thing I looked forward to was the season’s opening credits. The delightfully nightmarish stop-motion sequence, with its eerie carnival tune overtop the regular theme, was reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas and unsettled me in the same way that film once did when I was younger. But the impressive credits weren’t enough to save Freak Show from becoming a shit show overall. Points for the front curl in Jimmy’s hair, though.

 

6 – Cult (Season 7) – 20/30

Cult
Photo Credit: http://americanhorrorstory.wikia.com/wiki/American_Horror_Story_Wiki

Scare Factor – 3 / Story & Themes – 4

Characters – 3 / Comedy & Camp – 3

Credit Sequence – 4 / Personal Affection – 3

Similar to Freak Show, Cult had me super spooked during its first few instalments. Creepy clowns doing home invasions? No, fucking thank you! Paulson’s portrayal of Ally was so raw and affecting, there were times I felt I was taking on her phobias; getting lost in her paranoia and enraged by her wife’s obvious gaslighting. Much like with Twisty, though, once the clown masks came off and we learned more about Kai and his group of idiotic followers, the terror morphed into something more akin to exasperation. Don’t get me wrong, the cult and its members felt entirely authentic and extremely relevant, but I’ve grown so tired of seeing this behaviour in real life that it’s become next to impossible to stomach in my entertainment.

Nevertheless, the topical issues and probing questions tackled by Cult were engaging. I loved its relentless dragging of Donald Trump and his ilk; its disdain for third-party voters and White feminists. Its discourse on the indoctrination of the vulnerable, and the chaos made possible by a broken system was pretty darn incisive. For a time. Towards the end of the season, it became clear a lot of this commentary would remain ultimately hollow. The narrative was, perhaps, trying to achieve too much, and in spreading itself so thin only ever managed to scratch the surface on many of the critiques it was making. And, for a while there, it seemed like Murphy and Co. were trying to say this was all the fault of women, which, like, huh?

While Adina Porter sold Beverly’s motivations in her commitment to (and eventual antagonism towards) Kai, Billie Lourd’s Mallory and Alison Pill’s Ivy were infuriating for their lack of consistency and overall rash stupidity. This was quite a season for both Paulson and Peters, though. Despite a few strange turns, Ally garnered my sympathy throughout most of the season, and she made revenge look sweeter than ever. I could honestly watch Paulson say the words “nasty woman” on a loop all day, every day. (TMI?) Kai embodied this never-ending loop of chilling charisma; I often found myself captivated by his monologues, unnerved by that fact, and then once again fascinated by Peters’ performance. Kai remains one of the series’ best villains.

The credit sequence was also a standout for the franchise. Like Freak Show and Hotel before it, Cult enhanced the regular theme music, slowed its pace slightly and added a horn section that offered it a distinctly authoritative-sounding vibe. Something someone might wave a flag to. I was always reminded of the House of Cards theme while watching. The images fit seamlessly, too; the perfect blend of political and ominous. Still, I have to wonder if a touch more levity could have rounded the season out, making it more palatable for the issues that hit so close to home.

 

5 – Hotel (Season 5) – 21/30

Hotel
Photo Credit: http://americanhorrorstory.wikia.com/wiki/American_Horror_Story_Wiki

Scare Factor – 2 / Story & Themes – 2

Characters – 4 / Comedy & Camp – 4

Credit Sequence – 5 / Personal Affection – 4

As has become a trend for me with AHS, Hotel had me on edge during its first few episodes. The addiction demon’s, uh, tool, made me squeamish, and the thought of someone being sewn inside a bed while still alive was disturbing, to say the least. The Glampires, while ostensibly dangerous and ruthless, were rendered almost desirable by Lady Gaga’s luscious portrayal of The Countess, and they wound up being a far cry from anything distressing. Once I got to know many of the ghosts roaming the halls of the Cortez, I didn’t find them all that creepy anymore.

What really got to me during the show’s fifth season, was James March’s Devil’s Night dinner parties. Serial killers are real, and the concept of them sharing a meal and swapping twisted, murderous fantasies before sacrificing someone to feed their psychotic needs, sat with me for days. Since they only show up for about 2 episodes, though, the overall scare factor for Hotel was just above average.

James March himself, though clearly meant to be a monster, was rather delightful. Evan Peters lent March’s sadism a healthy dose of camp, which, whether intended or not, gave me numerous laughs. As did Liz Taylor, (Denis O’Hare) who remains one of the series’ most loveable, relatable, and quotable characters to date. In fact, aside from John and Alex Lowe, pretty much every character, main or guest, provided some level of appropriate humour.

Hotel’s stunning aesthetic is part of why the season gets such a high score on personal affection; even when the story was a mess, I never once wanted to look away. The direction style, colour palette, costuming, and the Cortez itself offered the season a rich and luxurious feel. The oft blood-soaked carpet somehow added layers to the Art Deco vibes. The literal flashy nature of the credit sequence felt very much of a piece with the season’s visuals, as did the musical track – a classical yet sinister piece – accompanying the original theme.

But, man, the entire narrative of Hotel was such a mixed bag, a largely undesirable one that suffered from a severe lack of cohesion. There were some interesting ideas at its core – mainly the inability to cope with grief and loss, and a human desire for reinvention – but nothing was ever fully realized. The entire Ten Commandments murders plot was, at best, boring, and managed to suck more life out of the story than The Countess did from her victims. I’m not sure if Ryan Murphy and Co. lost interest in the anti-vaxxer critique introduced in the beginning, but the whole thing was super heavy-handed and muddled from jump anyways.

 

4 – Asylum (Season 2) – 22/30

Asy
Photo Credit: http://americanhorrorstory.wikia.com/wiki/American_Horror_Story_Wiki

Scare Factor – 3 / Story & Themes – 4

Characters – 4 / Comedy & Camp – 3

Credit Sequence – 3 / Personal Affection – 5

So, listen, that high score for personal affection is almost entirely based on my love for Lana Winters, Kit Walker, and Sister Jude. Asylum was the fourth season of AHS I watched, but it was during those episodes where I fell firmly in love with Paulson, Peters, and Lange. Despite all the cruelty surrounding and being inflicted upon both Lana and Kit, they brought so much heart to the season’s overall narrative. I loved watching their shared arc turn from antagonistic, to something more neutral, and finally into a real friendship.

Jude’s self-serving, callous nature was hard to watch at times, but that’s simply a testament to Lange’s talents. For Jude to have made a complete 180 in an entirely believable fashion – to the point where I sympathized with and cared deeply about her fate – further proves something went very right with not only the conception of this character but the execution, too. Apart from maybe Alma and Pepper, I honestly couldn’t care less about anyone else. Not even Mary Eunice, who, to be fair, Lily Rabe portrayed flawlessly, but she just never grabbed me in any significant way.

That might have something to do with the fact I don’t find demonic possession all that scary. At least not when it’s paired with the kind of religious reflections depicted in Asylum. Perhaps that has something to do with identifying as agnostic, but who knows? I don’t find body horror and mutilation particularly chilling, either. At least not in the moment; it always feels a bit too gratuitous to be taken seriously. However, the psychological and emotional effects of such torture will absolutely play on my mind well after the fact. So, while I found myself slightly bored with the Nazi doctor plot, the trauma of how he disfigured Chloë Sevigny’s Shelley will likely stay with me for some time.

As will the abduction and rape of Lana. As mentioned while examining Hotel, serial killers really get under my skin, and Zachary Quinto imbued Bloody Face with such dark and disturbed pathos I still find his stare hard to shake. The way he groomed Lana to trust and confide in him, only to turn on her was profoundly unsettling. I really could have done without his progeny’s present-day/flash-forward storyline, though. The entire thing was so ridiculous, and not in the customary and fun AHS way.

Still, Asylum struck a fairly decent balance between real-world and supernatural horrors. This was the first time I found alien abductions interesting. Though I do wish we had learned a little more about the minutiae of it all, what’s important is how it added to the atmosphere of the season. What resonated with me most about Asylum was its vibes. More than plot or character, the way this season made me feel is what stays fresh on my mind. While I might argue Hotel and Murder House did something similar, I always felt like I was at Briarcliff while watching Asylum. It was entrancing; I could feel the chill in the building’s air, the stench of decay, the effects of mind-numbing drugs and routines.

Finally, the excellent work Asylum put into exploring how society mistreats those deemed, unjustly, as outcasts makes me wonder why Freak Show could never quite achieve the same (or why it even bothered.) The malignancy towards mental health patients, the LGBTQ community, sexually progressive women, and anyone perceived to be vulnerable and easy to overpower, was more upsetting to me than a camera lingering on a severed leg for mere shock value.

Also, Lange performed “The Name Game” while Paulson and Peters served as backup dancers…and my life changed for the better.

 

3 – Apocalypse (Season 8) – 23/30

Apoc
Photo Credit:http://americanhorrorstory.wikia.com/wiki/American_Horror_Story_Wiki

Scare Factor – 1 / Story & Themes – 4

Characters – 4 / Comedy& Camp – 4

Credit Sequence – 5 / Personal Affection – 5

I was tempted to discuss how it might be difficult for me to not focus on this season’s finale, or something about how the season in general only ranked so high because of recency bias. I literally just watched this entire series, though, so technically they’re all benefitting or suffering from being so fresh on my mind. The fact is, despite having numerous issues with the final episode of Apocalypse, I had already pretty much decided its ranking prior to the finale, and it would have had to really shit the bed (or do something so spectacular and unexpected) to change its place on this list. For the record, I didn’t alter any of my scores after seeing the finale.

Much like another season still to be discussed – and I’m sure you’ll notice the particular throughline – Apocalypse was one hell of a good time. Did it prove Ryan Murphy and Co. like flashbacks more than anything in the whole world? Yup – linear structure be damned! Was it basically just Coven Part 2: Murder House Boo-galoo? Yup! And your mileage will vary depending on your patience level for these factors, but at the end of the day, this season provided 10 hours worth of highly entertaining content.

The visual style borrowed elements from both seasons one and three, allowing previously established sets to feel instantly familiar and comfortable, thanks to things like camera angles and colour palettes. But the marriage of these two styles created something entirely unique, giving Apocalypse its own distinct set of atmospherics – Miss Robichaux’s Academy felt more mature and established somehow. The mix of recognizable characters and new faces created an intriguing dynamic. Reunions between beloved people felt amplified, but the fresh bonds between old and new characters were even more exciting; Madison and Behold being the absolute standout.

While the fundamental theme of Apocalypse – Good vs. Evil – managed to steer clear of feeling trite, it certainly wasn’t anything groundbreaking. Despite its American setting, it was never exactly a Horror Story, either. Where this season succeeded most was in its world-building, particularly where witches and witchcraft were concerned. The introduction of the warlocks, and, subsequently, a better understanding of the hierarchy within that magical world, and a further explanation of magic in general, retroactively added some delightful layers to Coven. It also allowed for some truly delicious dialogue and banter; though most of the season, I’m sure, will be remembered for its myriad choice one-liners.

In the same respect, Apocalypse excelled at connecting the dots between a handful of the anthology’s narratives, pushing us closer to the epic AHS Multiverse we all clearly want. In doing so, it made room for the kind of closure on particular characters that would have been otherwise impossible and implausible. Of course, it’s up for debate whether or not the final episode changes everything that came before it, but I have neither the time nor the energy to deconstruct time loops and general timey-wimey nonsense right now. Perhaps I’ll come back to this in the near future, but, for now, I choose to believe what we saw did happen somewhere, in some timeline.

As frustrating as the end may have been – and bearing in mind that it slightly undermines a particular concept from Murder House – the idea that Evil will always find a way doesn’t feel bogus. And, perhaps the antichrist being defeated by an SUV, while extremely anticlimactic, isn’t that all that outlandish within the world of AHS. Also, couldn’t you just watch Sarah Paulson say, “my sisters are legion, motherfucker” all damn day? My Paulson bias is really showing, isn’t it?

2 – Roanoke (Season 6) – 24/30

Ro
Photo Credit: https://imgur.com/gallery/iwtG0/comment/725838209

Scare Factor – 5 / Story & Themes – 5

Characters – 5 / Comedy & Camp – 3

Credit Sequence – 1 / Personal Affection – 5

I don’t understand the hate and negative criticism I often see lobbed in Roanoke’s direction. Unless, of course, it has anything to do with the season’s lack of a credit sequence. Which I was profoundly offended by. Roanoke had the potential to be the scariest opener, too; just think of the Chen family hurtling distortedly towards the screen, as the theme song dropped one of its explosive-like sounds. Chilling. It was a missed opportunity, but I decided to give the credit sequence a score of 1 anyways because at least the title card changed to match the season’s different framing devices.

But, seriously, why all the vitriol for Roanoke? I loved the fact this season tried to be something different from what came before. It shook things up by introducing an entirely fresh format and steered the franchise away from feeling repetitive or stagnant. As the narrative kept shifting the lens in which we were seeing it through – from reenactment/documentary, to reality TV show, to social media videos, to court drama, etc. – each one of them managed to feel distinct yet cohesive.

While a few other seasons offered up some interesting cultural commentary, Roanoke’s rather inward examination of the entertainment industry and fan culture, was not only thought-provoking but felt especially coherent compared with previously explored topics. I was continuously impressed with how each narrative format peeled back its own layer, to reveal yet another reflection on our content-hungry society, and our willingness to produce and obtain that content at such a high price. The way these layers began to fold in on themselves as things got real meta, was rather compelling.

In general, the season’s arc was damn near perfectly constructed. The constant shifting of framing devices made for a propulsive and well-paced series of episodes. There was always new information to digest, and it never came at the cost of proper development. The characters themselves had layers to expose as these framing devices shifted around them. There was something so fascinating about watching the “real” Shelby, Matt, and Lee interact with Audrey, Dominic, and Monet. While they weren’t all likeable, they were convincing and I wanted to continue spending time with them. Even the bizarre accent work from Kathy Bates and Paulson wound up really growing on me. Bates as The Butcher felt appropriately over-the-top for the kind of D-List celebrity she was, and the brand of show she was working on – before My Roanoke Nightmare became so popular, of course. Paulson’s “British” accent lent Audrey the exact elements of camp and pretension, to elevate the self-involved and insecure actress from absurd to authentic.

Roanoke was legitimately scary, too. The gore and torture turned a little excessive towards the end, but the mythology of the lost colony was intriguing and just mysterious enough, the jump scares had purpose, the nurses were vicious, the Chens were terrifying, and a handful of deaths were truly surprising. When Shelby killed Matt, I had to pause and sit in my shock for several moments. Not since Asylum (which, again, I saw after the two seasons just ahead in the #1 spot) had I felt this high level of investment with certain characters, where I was truly concerned about their outcomes. I mean, one death in particular – I’ll let you wager a guess as to who – even made me cry.

 

1 – Murder House (Season 1) & Coven (Season 3) – 25/30

I considered coming up with some kind of tie-breaker so this would feel less like a cop-out, but I can’t seem to separate these two seasons. Every time I thought I had a clear winner – surely Coven would take the cake because I love witches and the season was so damn fun – I would always find a counterpoint – Murder House actually scared me (which is kind of the point) and its cast was one of the best. So, they’re tied, and we’ll all just have to deal with it.

Let’s start with Coven.

Coven
Photo Credit: https://www.amazon.co.uk/American-Horror-Story-Coven-Poster/dp/B00KHL9SIW

Scare Factor – 1 / Story & Themes – 4

Characters – 5 / Comedy & Camp – 5

Credit Sequence – 5 / Personal Affection – 5

Once in a while, a season of television so wildly entertaining comes along, and, despite messy narratives, or world-building rules that can be ignored or adhered to whenever necessary for the plot, the Rule of Cool takes over and everything I’d normally criticize quickly fades into the background. Would I consider Coven to be on par with shows like The Leftovers, The Americans, or Twin Peaks – the kind of television that truly embodies the art this medium is capable of – ? Not in the slightest. Is it one of my favourite seasons of television ever? Hell yes. If nothing else, Coven was fun, and, in some respects, I think a lot of TV has forgotten just how important that can be.

It is impossible, however, to examine Coven without pointing out its obvious problem with the depiction of race – White witchcraft vs. Black voodoo, and the deplorable, confusing, and borderline cartoonish character of Madame LaLaurie. It served no real purpose and I wish it had been handled differently. Without trying to excuse any of it, I’m still grateful for Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates’ presence in this season. It takes true queens like them to elevate such subpar material.

Honestly, much of Coven’s success can be attributed to the next-level performances from its predominantly female cast. Cordelia’s arc, in particular, from meek and sweet to badass Supreme, remains one of my favourites from the entire series. But nearly everyone was easy to connect and empathize with in a unique way. From Madison and Myrtle’s singular personalities and highly quotable dialogue, to Queenie’s take-no-shit and sharp attitude, to Zoe’s transformation from naïve to fearless, everyone offered a little something different to admire. Jessica Lange pretty much played the same type of character throughout her run on AHS – an older woman trying to maintain her relevance and power – but Fiona was an especially provoking version; one with more complexity than Elsa Mars, more commanding personality than Sister Jude.

I can understand how the seemingly endless death and reincarnation during Coven might have left some viewers cold. On nearly any other show, I would agree. The thing is, I had so much affection for these witches, had become so deeply invested in their characters, that I never felt a reduction or hollowing out of the narrative stakes and consequences. What reigned supreme were the relationships and interactions, the rivalries that pivoted into alliances. And, also, magic was a huge factor, not to mention how the concept of resurrection had been introduced so early on, it felt organic to the development of the story.

What I can’t defend is the season’s lack of actual horror. I guess the minotaur was creepy? I suppose the Axeman was intended to instil fear? I don’t know, I wasn’t scared for a single second. Angered and enraged by the racism and torture? Of course! Shocked by the dozens of slit throats and other deaths? A little! But Coven was definitely more of an American Dramedy Story than anything else. And what it lacked in scares, it more than made up for in aesthetics. The costumes, the set pieces, the direction and colour palette offered such an impeccable texture of dark and gothic opulence that steeped into the story itself. I should round this review out with something more definitive, but leaving you with this one final word just feels right – Balenciaga!

Now for Murder House.

MH
Photo Credit: http://www.horrorpilot.com/american-horror-story-staffel-1-ab-marz-auf-sixx/

Scare Factor – 5 / Story & Themes – 5

Characters – 4 / Comedy & Camp – 2

Credit Sequence – 4 / Personal Affection – 5

I had considered giving Murder House the edge over Coven, simply because it was the first in the series and it ushered the way for future seasons of the show. Ultimately, I decided that was a bit trivial but I do think this instalment deserves some recognition, not just for being the first but for being the first of something that was actually really good. Beginnings are difficult and not every TV show can boast a great first season, even when they turn out to be something amazing. Take Buffy the Vampire Slayer for example; its first season was pretty trash, but the series as a whole has a rightful place as a game-changer in TV history. Murder House is deserving of similar praise, at least within the AHS universe.

There’s something I think we humans find romantic about firsts, too. Even when the experience isn’t the best when compared with future endeavours, we tend to don our rose-coloured nostalgia glasses when reminiscing. Despite watching the series mostly out of order, Murder House was the first season I watched, and because it was my gateway drug into the rest of AHS, the season that cultivated my love for the show, it will always have a special place in my heart. However, I can honestly say that, even when I remove the nostalgia factor, Murder House set a very high standard for the series. It’s one of only a few seasons that has a coherent enough plot that can actually be summarized quite nicely. The Harmon family relocates to L.A. for a fresh start, only to find the house they moved into is haunted; chaos ensues.

Even as someone who knows little about the horror genre, I know the haunted house is a classic. It was used to such great purpose here, too, exploring themes of marriage and infidelity, loss and grief, family, and morality in general. And it wasn’t just the Harmon’s who we explored those concepts through; every single spirit who had lived and died (or was just brutally murdered) in the house had their own compelling narrative. It became this rich tapestry of ghost stories, all with their own significant connections to and questions about the human experience. Each of these shorter stories had a purpose within the larger picture, and by the end of the season, they had all become so beautifully interwoven with the Harmon centrepiece.

More than any other season, Murder House used its, sometimes quite sprawling, ensemble cast in all the right ways. There isn’t a single character I wish we had spent more or less time with. While I was never a huge fan of Dylan McDermott’s Ben or Kate Mara’s Hayden, I was never pushed to a point where I despised their time on screen. It’s a damn shame Connie Britton never continued on with the series; her performance as Vivien was so lived-in, so endearing. Taissa Farmiga’s Violet was such a relatable teen, and her romance with Evan Peter’s Tate always came across authentic and charming, despite how ill-fated and ill-advised it clearly was.

My favourite role for Denis O’Hare is still Liz Taylor, but his turn as Larry was both frightening and funny. Similarly, I adore Frances Conroy as Myrtle, but there was certainly something about Moira that resonated with me because her happy ending during Apocalypse brought me to tears. What can I even say about Jessica Lange that hasn’t been said already? She was simply fabulous as Constance, lending the character a kind of quiet vulnerability that made her loveable despite clearly being rather warped.

Perhaps most importantly for this kind of show, Murder House was truly scary. For the most part, it was a very subtle, discreet horror. The kind that made you feel like someone was always looking over your shoulder, that at any moment someone could pop out from around the corner, or that perhaps someone was already right next to you choosing to remain unseen by human eyes. It was discomforting. The disfigured ghost in the basement could get under your skin, the Rubberman could permeate your nightmares. Much like Asylum, there was a very specific, isolating vibe to Murder House. At times it felt inescapable – like Violet trying to leave through the front door only to end up walking in through the back – but in the absolute best of ways. Maybe that’s not a normal reaction, but, hey, normal people scare me.

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