American Horror Story: Roanoke has come and gone, so it's time to update our ranking of the FX anthology series' various seasons.
AHS: Roanoke concluded Wednesday night with a bang. The format was decidedly different, with the story of Lee Harris (Adina Porter) being told through various TV specials as she dealt with her past indiscretions and finally performed a selfless act for her daughter. And with that, another season of American Horror Story was in the books.
So where does Roanoke rank in our overall list? Here's our season ranking starting with our least favorite and concluding with our absolute favorite.
Hotel remains our least favorite season of American Horror Story due to weak writing, an underserved cast and the lack of a true anchor. It also had the misfortune of being the first season without commanding star Jessica Lange and while new "lead" Lady Gaga had her moments, she didn't exactly live up to the two-time Oscar winner's ability. The main plot line involving John Lowe (a rather wooden Wes Bentley) often dragged the show down, and stars like Angela Bassett and Matt Bomer were mostly wasted with underwritten roles.
5. Freak Show
Freak Show is one of the biggest examples of awesome concept, disappointing execution. This season had the makings of AHS at its full potential but like Hotel, it was ultimately squandered with average writing (how many times can "maybe normal people are the real freaks!" be underlined in one season) and weird divergences. For example: There was no real reason to have Neil Patrick Harris guest star at the end of the season and have so much screentime when other things had to be dealt with, but even still, most of the main characters didn't exactly pop like previous seasons. Kudos to a true compelling "monster" in Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch), though.
Coven is easily the funniest and campiest season of American Horror Story and does admittedly provide a lot of entertainment. With witches, a 200-year-old racist socialite and the great Papa Legba, there was a lot of fun horror happening in this season. But with characters coming back from the dead at a rapid rate and the Seven Wonders plot being rather uninteresting, there wasn't much impact as the season moved along and was ultimately the first in a line of seasons that started off strong but ultimately petered out towards the end.
Roanoke started off very strong with a unique show-within-a-show format, combined with some genuine horror - something that had gone missing since the early years of AHS. This season was ambitious in its satire on reality TV and the unquenchable thirst for fame, cast through the lens of horror tropes. The season also seemed more coherent from start to finish than we've gotten in recent years, with the various deaths feeling like they mattered, rather than having everyone turn into a ghost. Unfortunately, Roanoke lost a tiny bit of steam in the finale but it was a welcome return to form for the anthology series.
2. Murder House
The one that started it all. Back in 2011, it wasn't known that American Horror Story was going to be an anthology series, so each plot point had impact on a grand level. Murder House was a simpler story compared to the seasons that followed, with Connie Britton, Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters all turning in great dramatic performances. Of course, you can't talk about Murder House without mentioning Lange as nosy neighbor Constance Langdon, a divalicious role that propelled the actress back into the national conversation. Lange's performance (which won her an Emmy), the relative simplicity of the haunted house concept and the surprising amount of heart set AHS on the right track.
Asylum is our favorite season of American Horror Story even after all these years. This season took everything from the first season and built on top of it, creating a grand web of murder, intrigue, suppression, religious dogma, and the endurable quality of good fighting evil (with a healthy dose of aliens, a Nazi doctor and a devil-possessed nun). It also introduced Sarah Paulson as by far the best AHS character in its history, determined journalist Lana Winters and gave Lange the role of a lifetime as a hard-edged nun with a tragic past. There were a lot of plates spinning towards the end of Asylum, but its sheer ambition and execution are why it ranks as our no. 1 favorite AHS season.
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