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Series / American Horror Story

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"Murder. Madness. Magic. Misfits. Mayhem… Mystery?"
Season 6 "Anthology" Promo Description

American Horror Story is a horror anthology series created by Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck) and Brad Falchuk (who co-created Glee with Murphy) airing on FX.

Described as a "movie buff's delight", its plots, soundtracks, and visual style thrive on references to numerous classic movies and horror stories (including, but not limited to: The Shining, Frankenstein, Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Sixth Sense, Twisted Nerve, Taxi Driver, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Carrie), with some elements of supernatural soap operas (like Twin Peaks), as well as homages to American urban legends and folklore.

The seasons of American Horror Story to date are as follows:

    American Horror Story seasons 

As of Double Feature, the series has been renewed up to a thirteenth season, with the potential for more to follow. It has also spawned a number of spinoffs, one literal (American Horror Stories) and several spiritual (American Crime Story, Feud, American Sports Story, American Love Story).

American Horror Story is also known for employing a rotating cast of repertory actors, some of whom have appeared in every season to date as different (and in some cases, the same) characters:

     American Horror Story repertory cast 

American Horror Story generally provides examples of the following tropes:

  • American Title: The entire series in general.
  • And Starring:
  • Author Appeal: Judging by Dylan McDermott, Zachary Quinto, Joseph Fiennes, Wes Bentley, Finn Wittrock, Matt Bomer, Cheyenne Jackson, and Billy Eichner, the show's creator Ryan Murphy, like Hotel's Countess, has a thing for tall, dark, handsome men with stubble and "jawlines for days."
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The shows usually have multiple antagonists:
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Seems to be a default setting to the series. The protagonist(s) is/are usually Anti Heroes, with the unambiguously good character(s) characters either get themselves killed off immediately or end up not being the driving force of the story.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The rules for who gets into the series’ conceptions of Heaven and Hell seem to be inconsistent and arbitrary. Fiona Goode winds up in Hell while the also amoral, though not as bad, Elsa Mars gets sent to Heaven just...because.
    • Not to mention the characters who are doomed to the hellish fate of forever being bound to a specific location simply by virtue of being killed in a “cursed” location, regardless of their innocence or guilt in evil actions.
    • The Devil and the Antichrist are just as evil as you’d expect, but God is seemingly absent from this world and never interferes directly, not even to protect innocent souls from the aforementioned horrors of the afterlife.
  • Body Horror: Mutilations are common in the shows.
  • Continuity Creep:
    • Freak Show has several connections with Asylum (the circumstances behind Pepper's institutionalization as well as Elsa's past history with Hans Gruper).
    • Hotel is directly connected to Murder House (Marcy the realtor and Billie Dean Howard reappear, along with Dr. Charles Montgomery in the Countess's backstory) and Coven (Queenie reappears).
    • Roanoke is tied into Murder House (the references to Roanoke Colony's disappearance are expanded upon, and the origin of the Pig Man), Freak Show (Gloria and Dandy's ancestor Edward Philippe Mott appears), Coven (the first Supreme Witch appears) and Asylum (Lana Winters reappears and Briarcliff is mentioned).
    • Cult connects to Freak Show (Twisty reappears) and Hotel (Charles Manson, previously mentioned as a disciple of James Patrick March, appears).
    • Apocalypse features several characters from Murder House and Coven, and was billed as a crossover between them. It also has an appearance by the Hotel Cortez and Mr. March from Hotel, and the movie Bubbles McGee is seen filming scenes for was inspired by the Santa Claus killer from Asylum.
  • Crossover: Apocalypse is the long-rumored crossover between Murder House and Coven.
  • Crossover Cosmology: The series has accumulated an eclectic assortment of higher beings. To wit:
    • Michael Langdon, the Antichrist, produced from an unholy union between the living and the dead.
    • An unidentified demonic entity, possibly Satan himself, who possesses people to cause destruction. This entity was destroyed in 1965 by...
    • Shachath, a benevolent Psychopomp who can be summoned by the dying to ease their passage with a kiss.
    • Papa Legba, the guardian of the spirit world. He is a collector of souls and has the power to banish a soul to its own personal hell.
    • Edward Mordrake’s demon face. He bound himself to a 19th century nobleman at birth and drove him to suicide. Whenever a “freak” performs on Halloween, the demon and his host are summoned and must collect a soul, which joins their coterie. He also has the power to send a soul to its own personal heaven.
    • The Addiction Demon, a malevolent entity summoned to the Hotel Cortez in 1993. It punishes people for their addictions by raping them.
    • The Old Gods, who mark their presence by the October Blood Moon and are worshipped by the First Supreme Witch, who bound the ghosts of the Roanoke Colony to a curse that tethers them to the land they inhabit and commands them to commit annual human sacrifices in honor of the gods.
    • Hestia, the Greek goddess of the hearth and sacrifices, who is worshipped by a coven of malevolent witches who seek to bring her children into the world in exchange for their own wealth, power and immortality.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: If you can survive to the final ten minutes of a season, you have a chance of getting this.
  • Event Title: Technically Freak Show. Implied with Apocalypse.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Villains in this series are usually the biggest hams of them all which is no small feat.
  • Deep South / Southern Gothic : One of the recurring settings of the show.
    • Coven is a pure Southern Gothic tale, depicting a secret witch school in New Orleans, and making full use of its setting by introducing vodoo magic, zombies, religious fanatics, and several Historical Domain Characters (Marie Laveau, Madame Lalaurie, and the Axeman of New Orleans).
    • Freak Show takes place in Jupiter, Florida, in 1952, back when Jupiter was still part of the South. Tensions between close-minded but secretely-pervert townfolks and a freakshow with dubious morals, arise in the middle of a hot, humid, swampy setting, with a three different mentally-disturbed serial killers spicing things up.
    • Roanoke borders between this and Lovecraft Country, as it takes place in the rural area of North Carolina and has a family of inbred, murderous Hillbilly Horrors that act as a Shout-Out to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
  • Fake Guest Star: Played with. Some actors/actresses appear in guest/recurring capacity but as different characters, and are nonetheless "mainstays". Most of them are Promoted to Opening Titles below.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: The world of American Horror Story and its spin-off American Horror Stories is home to ghosts, Frankenstein-esque monsters, psychics, aliens, demons, angels, witches (of the classic, Voodoo and Druid varieties), zombies, loa, two variations of vampires, immortals, androids, mad scientists, cannibalistic mutants, ancient gods, and a Minotaur. Sometimes two or more of them will directly interact, too, like a cyborg aiding the Devil's son in causing the Biblical Apocalypse or a witch being drained of blood by a vampire after being stabbed by the ghost of a serial killer.
  • Final Girl: See here. Jimmy Darling from Freak Show and Bobby Richter II from 1984 are rare male examples.
  • Flash Forward: All the seasons have ended the season finale on a flash forward epilogue to wrap things up and finish any loose ends.
  • Foreshadowing: The opening of each season utilizes macabre imagery to foreshadow the events of its respective season.
  • Female Gaze: Let's just say that if you didn't know Ryan Murphy was gay before watching the show, you certainly will afterwards.
  • Genre Anthology: It started out as this, with each season being a self-contained Horror story. With the revelation in Freak Show that all the seasons take place in the same universe, the trope is less applicable, though each season still makes sense on its own.
  • Gorn: The violence in the show gets pretty messy and visceral.
  • Greater-Scope Villain:
    • Satan who was the Big Bad for Asylum is this for Murder House, Hotel and Apocalypse, therefore most of the series. however despite Roanoke definitely not having his influence, it's never said if his influence was in Coven and while Mary Eunice does appear as a cameo in Freak Show, she hasn't been possessed yet. Though the four seasons mentioned, Satan has influenced the actions of others, corrupting them and making them give into their sins and desires, driving them to commit crimes and heinous acts, not to mention fathering The Antichrist and having him bring about the apocalypse At least until time was reset.
    • The Old Gods in Roanoke as well as possibly the entire franchise as a whole. They are the masters of Scathach, the first Supreme Witch and progenitor of the Witches and covens to begin with. Scathach's motives and sacrifices are all to appease them, and it's stated that mankind used to worship them until the Abrahamic God arrived and make them not believe in the Old Gods anymore. It's implied that they want humanity to worship them again and that many occult factions, like the Witches and Voodoo, do worship them still. Papa Legba is quite possibly a member of their pantheon or a minor deity in their ranks.
  • Halloween Episode:The show made an habit of having seasonal Halloween episodes.
    • American Horror Story: Murder House, has the two-part "Halloween" episode, representing Halloween as the only night of the year when ghosts are allowed to leave the places they haunt.
    • American Horror Story: Asylum has the "Tricks and Treats" episode which depicts an exorcism taking place in Briarcliff the night before Halloween, in an homage to The Exorcist.
    • American Horror Story: Coven has "Fearful Pranks Ensues" and its sequel "Burn, Witch, Burn!" depicting the witch school undergoing a zombie attack during the Halloween night.
    • American Horror Story: Freak Show has the two-part "Edward Mordrake" episode, presenting the legendary figure of Edward Mordrake, a ghost visiting freakshow every Halloween night.
    • American Horror Story: Hotel has "Devil's Night" and its sequel "Room Service": the first episode depicts the titular Devil's Night (Halloween's eve) when the ghosts of famous serial killers gather at the Cortez Hotel, while the second has an outbreak of vampirism happen in a school during Halloween.
    • American Horror Story: Apocalypse has "Forbidden Fruit" with an Halloween masquerade ball being held in a post-apocalypse survival outpost, only for supernatural events to wreck havock - it is then followed and concluded after a long series of flashback-episodes, in the finale of the season, "Apocalypse Then".
    • American Horror Story: 1984 has "Rest in Pieces" happening shortly before Halloween.
  • Historical Domain Character: Almost every season has had some, either in the flesh or as a ghost.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The realistic, sometimes even mundane acts of evil perpetrated by human beings tend to be far scarier than any supernatural horrors. In the words of Sister Jude, "all monsters are human." This theme shows up in all seasons, though it is most prominent in Freak Show, Cult and NYC, the latter two even having very few supernatural elements in general.
  • Kill the Cutie: In a series where Anyone Can Die, the likable and adorable ones are usually the most likely to go first.
  • Lovecraft Country: It is one of the recurring settings of the show.
    • Asylum takes place in the Briarcliff Institute, a horrible Massachusetts asylum which, on top of hosting serial killers and mad doctors, receives the visit of supernatural entities such as aliens or the Devil itself.
    • Roanoke takes place on a cursed plot of land in the middle of the North Carolina woods. It is where the original Roanoke colony went to die, and it is now haunted by murderous ghosts, incestuous Hillbilly Horrors, creepy pig-men and a zombie-witch. This season also has several nods to other iconic movies depicting this trope, such as The Blair Witch Project or The Amityville Horror (1979).
    • "Red Tide", the first part of Double Feature is a huge homage to this trope, taking place in Provincetown, a dying seaside Massachusetts town where strange Nosferatu-like monsters roam and great artists come during the winter to make strange deals and commit hidden atrocities... However the typical idea of a close-minded, Puritan town is completely avoided as Provincetown is a former gay hub whose Dying Town status is due to the AIDS epidemic.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Anytime Emma Roberts or/and Alexandra Breckenridge appear on screen. That being said, they are not the only ones who offer at the table.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Shirtless Scenes and male butt shots are especially common.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Invoked by the promos for Season 6, the first season where the audience was left completely in the dark about the theme prior to airing.
  • Period Piece: Asylum takes place in The '60s, Freak Show mostly takes place in The '50s, 1984, appropriately enough, mostly takes place in The '80s, as does NYC.
  • The Place: Murder House, Asylum, Freak Show (technically), Hotel, Roanoke and NYC.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: While this is an anthology series, some actors/actresses usually get upgraded to main.
  • Rape as Drama: Pretty much every season has a graphic rape scene.
  • Retcon: Happened several times post-Coven. Up until Coven, the show was created to be a series of unrelated stories, each season an enclosed and independent world - hence the conflicting worldbuildings of the first three seasons. Starting with Freak Show, the seasons became a Shared Universe, resulting in a convoluted Fantasy Kitchen Sink.
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • In Asylum, present day Lana mentions having had an interview with an imprisoned Bernie Madoff. Hotel reveals that the Countess was among his many victims, and regaining her wealth is a major motivation of hers.
    • Cult is literally this, as it focuses on the 2016 presidential election.
  • Scenery Gorn: The series doesn't shy away from showing bleak environments.
  • Serial Killer: Very common on this show.
    • Murder House: R. Franklin
    • Asylum: Bloody Face, Bloody Face II, Jenny Reynolds, Leigh Emerson
    • Coven: Delphine LaLaurie, the Axeman
    • Freak Show: Twisty the Clown, Dandy Mott
    • Hotel: The Ten Commandments Killer, James Patrick March, Richard Ramirez, Aileen Wuornos, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Zodiac Killer, Gordon Northcott
    • Roanoke: Miranda and Bridget Jane
    • 1984: Mr. Jingles and Richard Ramirez
  • Shared Universe: Word of God has it that all seasons take place in the same universe (which led to some Retcon, see above).invoked
    • Freak Show includes Pepper from Asylum as the first character to recur in a significant role in multiple seasons, as well as cameos from Sister Mary Eunice and Dr. Arthur Arden from the same season.
    • Hotel features supporting appearances by Marcy the realtor, Dr. Montgomery, and Billie Dean Howard from Murder House, and Queenie from Coven.
    • Roanoke includes a cameo by Lana Winters from Asylum and an ancestor of Dandy Mott from Freak Show.
    • Apocalypse has main characters from both Murder House and Coven in its main cast, and also revisits the setting and characters of Hotel. It was explicitly advertised and promised as a Murder House/Coven crossover season.
    • Cult is a bizarre case. It includes Twisty the Clown from Freak Show, but he appears here as a comic book character, making it it unclear if his actions in the 50s were famous enough to be adapted in the media, or if he is in this season a purely fictional character. Similarly it reintroduces the Zodiac killer shown in Hotel, and reveals its identity, but only to create a Plot Hole.
    • The continuity of 1984 is just as bizarre as the one of Cult. It is definitively set in the same world as Asylum due to Margaret being said to have bought Briarcliff Manor, and we have a return of Richard Ramirez from Hotel: however the 1984 depiction and fate of Ramirez is wildly different from the one of Hotel, causing a new Plot Hole.
    • NYC features a cameo by the Angel of Death, Shachath, from Asylum (albeit portrayed by a different actress).
    • Currently only Double Feature has no explicit connection to other seasons. Its first half, Red Tide, explores a medically induced vampirism like Hotel but the two "infections" are wildly different in causes and effects, while Death Valley see the return of human-abducting aliens whose experiments leave people pregnant, but they are very different in behavior and appearance from the ones of Asylum.
  • Sinister Southwest: California is one of the worst places to live in, according to this show. Both Murder House and Hotel depict haunted, cursed buildings infested with demonic activity in Los Angeles. Apocalypse centers on a nuclear war shelter in Center California that used to be a school for warlocks that hosted the Antichrist himself. Camp Redwood of 1984 is your typical Slasher summer camp, with a talent for attracting all sorts of serial killers (plus, it is revealed to be haunted by the victims of the successive massacres). And Death Valley (the second part of Double Feature) explores alien abductions in the titular valley, the existence of Area 51 and the crash of Roswell.
  • Team Title: Coven, technically Freak Show, and Cult.
  • World of Ham: Subtle acting is not allowed in this series and every season has on ongoing battle between cast members to see who can devour the most scenery.
  • You All Look Familiar:
    • Given that Word of God said that the entire show has a Shared Universe, one might wonder why exactly certain characters looked alike. Pepper in particular encountered two characters played by Jessica Lange and Evan Peters each in the timeline, and three played by Sarah Paulson.invoked
    • Finn Wittrock, Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe each appeared as two different characters in Hotel (though one of Rabe's was just a photo). The resemblance between Tristan Duffy and Rudolf Valentino was a plot point, but no one who sees both Hypodermic Sally and Billie Dean Howard says boo or bah. For that matter, Queenie doesn't comment on any similarity between Iris and Delphine LaLaurie or Ramona Royale and Marie Laveau.
    • Sarah Paulson appears in the season finale of Roanoke as both Audrey Tindal and Lana Winters, with no comment on their resemblance.
    • In Apocalypse, upon Madison and Behold coming to the Murder House, they meet characters who look exactly like characters they conversed with only a few days prior but don't recognize them; also, Mead and Michael don't note Venable's uncanny resemblance to Cordelia.
    • note