There are some facts I need to lay out like tarot cards before we begin.
1. American Horror Story, in any iteration, is not a very good show.
2. American Horror Story, in any iteration, is a fantastic show.
3. Ryan Murphy is television’s answer to Michael Bay and he and Brad Falchuk high five and do air guitar after they come up with every idea, good, bad or otherwise.
On paper, I have a complicated relationship with this program, but each week, it is quite possibly the purest and simplest viewing experience I am privileged to partake in.
It is at once terrible and transcendent. It embraces and celebrates camp and still manages to take itself too seriously. It is woefully inconsistent with wildly frenetic character choices, badly managed and ultimately aborted themes, messages delivered with fists full of ham and the naively staunch, misdirected vigor of a Jezebel intern. But it is equally resplendent with moments of sheer perfection, replete with accidental and purposeful genius with no way of telling which is which.
I mean, take the opening from last night’s finale. Stevie Nicks singing “Seven Wonders” and it’s a music video but it’s apparently really happening while everyone is getting ready and she tells them good luck at the end like she just came over to sing while no one watches except Twirly Misty and then she just leaves. YOU GUYS. Amazing or terrible or terribly amazing, and does it mean to be? THIS IS WHY I LOVE.
In the beginning, there was crysturbating, pleather ghost rape and Violet’s hats. And it was clear the show didn’t know what it was, it didn’t know how monstrously hilarious it was. It was trying to be a Real Show. Then, there was a subtle (as subtle as this show gets, which is as subtle as a Mare Winningham wiggle dance of incestuous seduction) shift into self-awareness. It realized it must grasp the camp by the balls and embrace it. So it did. And it became fun. But the terrible always remained. And I loved it. It became this magical combination of hate-watch and love-watch. And, while the second season was genuinely good, the bad somewhat downplayed and the camp pumped up to 11, Coven has been back to season one’s all-over-the-place next-level bonkers. And I’ve loved every second.
I’ve long held a theory that Ryan Murphy and Russell T. Davies are actually the same person, intercontinental doppelgangers who write and show-run in the exact same manner. Wildly talented idea mean with questionable writing talent and the kind of feral ego that leads a whiplashing mix of utter nonsense and impossible excellence. That is why I’ve posited that all the show’s goodness stems from Tim Minear taking the helm with Murphy and Falchuk in the backseat yelling out directions like sugar-infused children, and the badness comes in when they climb into the front seat and push Minear out of the car.
And I love it. I hope it never changes. I hope it never gets better, never gets worse, never truly becomes as self-aware as it should be and never loses the self-awareness it has. I hope it is always rabidly uncertain of what kind of show it is while parading forward with the kind of blind moronic confidence only seen among the collegiate Young Republicans throwing an Affirmative Action Bake Sale. Stay hungry, stay foolish, American Horror Story you wonderful terrible twisted bastard of a television show.