American Horror Story Part 2
And now it's time for the second half of my adventures with American Horror Story. Unfortunately, I do agree with the majority in that this show goes downhill with every season. I still have hopes for Hotel, maybe it can finally get things back on track, but I really don't have many good things to say about Coven and Freak Show.
I was really into the first half of Coven, it was actually on track to be my favorite season. The cast was flawless, the soundtrack was awesome, and there was an extra dose of self-awareness and humor in everything that was going on. I also enjoyed that this time, the character arcs were much more focused, with nearly every single one aligning with the main storyline. The only one that diverged significantly was Misty's, and only for a few episodes. The trouble was, as time went on, the main storyline just stopped being that interesting. There's so much build-up to the witch hunters, but they get taken out so easily. Fiona could have easily killed Hank pre-massacre if she had known, the only fearsome thing about this group was their ability to keep a secret. And the secret to undoing a 300-year old voodoo queen, the other major antagonist of the season, is to simply knock her unconscious? While the other seasons had extremely convoluted plots, they still managed to have better payoffs than anything here. A few more thoughts in point form:
- Why did we never find out what was up with Zoe? It seems like figuring out how to have intercourse without causing death would be a high priority for her, but after the first episode it's never mentioned again. And Madison's explanation that Zoe can have sex with Kyle because, to paraphrase, "he's already died-it would take more than the thing between your legs to send him back to the grave", is incredibly stupid and makes no sense, given that none of the other resurrected characters have any special immunity to death.
- Following that, having resurrection be a common power among witches was a really terrible idea. They make a big deal of Misty's ability, but it's eventually revealed that every witch in the coven, sans Queenie and maybe Nan, can do the same thing and it just feels so ridiculous. Characters are dying left and right and just popping back into existence, so that the lengths the writers have to go to to actually kill off a character permanently are completely absurd (an example is a character's body being fed to alligators). Picking up on an encoded message in a pile of marbles is treated as the "ultimate" task and what ultimately causes Madison to fail, but resurrection would have been a much better pick for this.
- Evan Peters is a good actor, but I really don't know why he was even in this season. Did his contract mandate he be included? He has a compelling backstory, but everything about him post-resurrection is just... blah. His only function is to give Zoe a storyline, because he certainly doesn't have one-we never find out why he's so messed up, mentally, after being brought back to life (of course having his body parts replaced must be part of it, but Madison's skin was rotting and Myrtle was burned alive and they turned out just fine-"his body is not his own" isn't a good enough explanation).
- Cordelia was not a compelling character and having her be the supreme did not make for an enthralling finish. We start with her wanting to be a mother. This does not happen. Then she goes blind. Then she gets her sight back. Then she's blind again. Then she gets her sight back. Sprinkle in a few mommy issues and attempts to be a decent headmistress and, there's her character arc. Jessica Lange is great, but Fiona as a character proves that the writers are way too in love with her, to the point of focusing on her over what's really important. Asylum allowed Sarah Paulson to take over the last few episodes while Jessica Lange took on a supporting role, and re-using that approach here would have done wonders.
- The hell was up with Minotaur Bastian? Was it ever explained how the bull head literally became his head? ...No?
- Misty. Misty was an absolute gift-I powered through this season, expectantly waiting for her next appearance. She was my favorite character, hands down, but unfortunately she suffered the same fate as Lily Rabe's last character, Mary Eunice-under-utilized and killed off too easily. I admit some of my disdain for the season is born out of this, which isn't quite fair since I'm familiar with the show's track record of unceremoniously killing off their main characters-but I can't help it.
- Adding onto that, Madison! Her final death was so pointless, and really begs the question of how they're getting away with opening their doors to all these new young girls when a celebrity just disappeared while under their care. Wait until they start pissing off Kyle or the butler guy, they'll be dropping like flies. And what about the baby, nobody hears it crying? And when someone does, hello huge kidnapping lawsuit that destroys all the good faith people have put into the school.
- This was the first season without any major LGBT characters, which was unfortunate. It's a school full of pretty magical girls, lots of possibility there.
- To end on a positive note, showing a historical supreme test using silent-era photography and effects was pretty fun.
But that's nothing compared to my flat-out hatred for Freak Show. The promos for this season were what convinced me to start watching the show in the first place, but I very nearly gave up on it after episode 1. I decided to binge-watch it on a day where I had to get up 4 hours earlier than usual, because it wouldn't matter that I was pausing it every half an hour to doze off for awhile. It's also destroying my resolve to make this blog a positive space-movies and TV are my happy place and I really don't want to expel my energies on rants, but I can't talk about Freak Show without doing exactly that.
- It's so beyond time for this show to go the True Detective route and switch up the main actors every season. They go out and find this great group of charismatic, fascinating people to fill out the Freak Show and then... they die. I mean seriously, aside from a few very minor side stories, that is all that happens with these guys. And who do we get to focus on? A bunch of recurring actors who the writers are clearly sick and tired of writing for because their story lines are so bland and stupid that I was staring at the clock for the entire season.
- Before I rant about Jimmy, we have to talk about Meep. Meep as a character is proof of everything wrong with this season. The whole point of this season is that the "freaks" aren't any more monstrous than regular people, maybe even less so. None of them are especially dangerous, they don't cause harm unless they or their friends are threatened. And then we have Meep. Who bites heads off of baby animals. The writers are clearly aware that lack of remorse for animal abuse is a sign of future homicidal behavior, since they incorporate this into both Dandy and Marie Delphine from Coven's storylines, and yet we have to spend scene after scene of characters discussing Meep's innocence and how tragic it is that he died? I understand that this is a horror show, and Meep is a good horror character, but the whole point of this season is that the freaks aren't monstrous, and Meep is. It's extremely hypocritical.
- So, Jimmy. First he has angst over Meep, then he gets with Emma Robert's character, then he hates her, and then he mourns his dad. Who killed Meep and Ma Petite. He has one nice moment when he chooses to have his prosthetic hands replicate his lobster claws, but everything else about him is a disaster. It's really time for Evan Peters to leave-he struck gold with Tate but every character since is worse than the last.
- Jessica Lange once again inexplicably gets more screentime than everyone else. I might be the one person who's actually glad to see her go, hopefully if she returns the writers can find the restraint they had for her characters in season 1 and 2.
- And Sarah Paulson is again wasted. I actually really loved her twins this season, especially Bette, but they were absent so much of the time. And their ending just felt so contrived, like it was the only one left for them (which is kind of true, but still, they deserved better than Jimmy).
- Speaking of wasted potential, Neil Patrick Harris. That is all. (Though I got some laughs from seeing him finally be a magician after all of Barney Stinson's failed efforts, and he referred to Desiree as "Desi", his name in Gone Girl).
- So, the songs. I actually really loved them, but then they just... stopped. I mean what the hell? It was really disconcerting, especially after all the complaining I saw about them.
- Though Bette and Dot should have performed "Gods & Monsters", the Lana Del Rey comparison could finally be complete.
- Just like Coven, the "villains", if you could even call them that, were built up so much only to be so easily gotten rid of. Twisty was great, Stanley was fine, and Dandy was like nails on a chalkboard, but all of them were gone in a flash as soon as the characters figured out what they were doing. What a waste.
- Why are all of the gay characters on this show evil, morally grey, or killed in the episode they're introduced? It's getting ridiculous at this point.
- Pepper's episode. That's the one time this season was able to strike gold and reach the same emotional heights it did in seasons 1 and 2. I'm still conflicted about the idea of the whole show taking place in the same universe, but this was beautiful.
- Also Paul the Illustrated Seal and his lizard girlfriend were super cool.
So that was Freak Show. If nothing else, it made me thrilled to be finished with the series rather than sad? I don't know. What I do know is that Hotel better be better than this, or I'm going to have to be out. I've never seen a show get so bad so fast, it's really unfortunate. At least I'll always have Murder House and Asylum, I suppose.