After five seasons on FX, the freaky and shocking elements of American Horror Story began to have a numbing effect. The fifth season, Hotel, especially seemed guilty of delivering diminishing returns as it perhaps went too far over the edge in an attempt to make our jaws drop. And after each AHS season ended, the same “news cycle” would begin: We’d learn who’d be back (usually most everyone). We’d learn the time period and location. Then we’d tune in and watch Jessica Lange — before she decided to leave the series after the fourth season — lord over a collection of outcasts and oddities, occasionally grimacing at the bloodshed and overall ickiness.
In the show’s sixth year, however, things changed. We learned nothing about the new season beyond the cast. Where and when would the story take place? Who would the actors be playing? The hook to get you in wasn’t a hotel or an asylum or a freak show, but the mystery itself. The slew of teasers seemed to suggest that this year would involve everything under the sun – from possessed children to alien abductions. Finally, in Wednesday’s premiere, audiences found out what Season 6 would be about.
Check out what’s to come on American Horror Story…
For the first time since the show premiered, we didn’t know what was in store for us. And fittingly, a lot of Season 6’s story — a haunted house reenactment — echoes back to Season 1. Whether or not American Horror Story’s sixth season turns out to be a fiendishly rewarding journey in its own right is another matter, but it was a good decision to keep the story under wraps. The secrecy was worth it in the sense that it got us all wondering about the show again. It stirred up a buzz that almost every show struggles to create when it’s been on the air longer than four or five years.
Now, I do have reservations about this story, and this format, taking up the entire season. I enjoyed the premiere (you can read my review here), but its lack of actual scares makes me question the choice to have a docu-series, complete with the same talking heads each week, fuel the full Season 6 run. Might it be that this story won’t take up the whole season? One of the running theories about this season, based on the teasers, was that it would itself be an anthology – with each episode telling a new scary story. Maybe a part of that still holds true. Maybe “My Roanoke Nightmare” will only last two or three episodes and then everything will shift.
If that’s the case — and this is all just wild speculation on my part — then the idea to keep most everything about this season a secret was a really good idea. Not just because of the buzz it’s created for the long-running series, but because it would actually be hiding the fact that we’re getting more than one story.
I guess I’m just hoping deep down that this is the case because, as much as I appreciated the back-to-basics approach of the premiere (especially after the ghoulish gaudiness of Hotel), I can look ahead in my mind and anticipate the story getting old rather quickly. Still, it was the right call to keep us guessing and speculating about Season 6 if only because it rekindled interest in a show that seemed like it might have been too far gone.